Countdown to Early Enrollment

[Updated 21AUG14:  We are not going to have Adventure Time with Bonny this week, so no Darksiders either - see below for more details.]

We are now in a countdown to Early Enrollment on the 15th of September. Last week the team mapped out various release milestones, in-game testing objectives, blog topics, and promotional events (i.e. Pax) between now and the start of Early Enrollment.

Remember, you can purchase access to the first month of Early Enrollment or the second month of Early Enrollment in the Goblinworks.com Shop! If you use coupon code GENCONPAX14 at checkout you will save $15 on Early Enrollment and $10 on Explorer Enrollment (for a limited time only!)

We have a week by week schedule roughed out. Of course, at any point we may determine that we need more time, or find some other condition (like a hardware issue) that requires us to delay the start of Early Enrollment. If that occurs, we will be very transparent with the community about the need for a delay.

Major Alpha Releases

There will be two major Alpha releases in our plan. The first will be next week, and the second will be two weeks following. Those releases are Alpha 7 and Alpha 8.

Alpha 7

This release is scheduled to include the first introduction of our Quest technology which is being deployed as a way to construct a sort of tutorial process to help new players learn how the game works. In this first iteration, the Questing system is going to be very similar to the kinds of Quests you've seen in Themepark MMOs.  

We are also planning to roll out Companies in this release. There has been some Company tech in previous builds but it has not been visible to most players and required the use of various codes and Devhax commands. Alpha 7 should have a fairly robust Company UI and underlying tech.

We expect to roll out a number of minor UI modifications. Some of these will affect the targeting system which should make PvP and healing party members easier.

Our stretch goals for this release are to introduce a substantial amount of new terrain - basically enlarging the "window" of the Alpha Test map to encompass more of the Early Enrollment map. This won't be a super-large increase in space but since it will happen around the perimeter, in absolute area it is a lot of new territory. Along with new terrain we are hoping to add several new Escalations.

Alpha 8

This is the big one.  

One of the challenges of Alpha is that many core systems and mechanics are interdependent and getting them deployed requires us to build a lot of those interconnections first. We've been working towards this release for the whole of the Alpha period so it is going to include a tremendous number of features.

First off, it's not going to run on Zog. Instead, we are going to transition Alpha to the servers that are going to host Early Enrollment. That means a change of hardware and a change of venue - our hosting solution is in downtown Seattle as opposed to down the hall. We'll be doing a whole blog about the server platform soon, complete with pictures.

Second, we're going to introduce elves and dwarves. In order to do this we needed to create elvish and dwarvish versions of all the suits of clothing and armor that we have in the game for two genders each. We also needed to build animation suites for both races and both genders. Learning how to take the work we did for humans and transition to other races has been one of the big tasks for this period of development.

Third, you will see a lot of graphical upgrades. We have been doing a lot of work on the animations and those new animations will be deployed in Alpha 8. We are also working on the technology we use to produce the terrain, the lighting model, and adding all sorts of new weapons, armor and other visuals to the game. They're all coming in Alpha 8.

Fourth, we'll be introducing Expendables. This is a big deal because Expendables is the system that we're using for spellbooks for Wizards. Once we have this feature deployed Wizards will be on a more equal role ability plane with the other four roles.

Fifth, we plan to introduce storage, the auction houses, and some fundamental "banking" services to allow players to buy and sell things.

Sixth, we'll continue the terrain expansion that we began in Alpha 7. In fact, we may take the servers down regularly to increase the amount of terrain we are hosting. We will be introducing Thornkeep, which will be the center of most player's experiences at least during their initial time in game - a large NPC controlled area that will be surrounded with content suitable for new characters.

The Cold Start

When Early Enrollment begins the game is going to be a lot different than it has been so far in Alpha. For the initial period of Alpha we started characters with a lot of gear, had monsters drop a lot of recipes, and then we amped up the amount of XP characters had so that they could test mid-range abilities.

Next week, we are going to begin testing conditions closer to what we'll be using when we actually begin Early Enrollment. We call this the Cold Start. Every character will begin play with simple townclothes and a wood club. Everything your character possesses and every ability your character learns after that point will be totally dependent on how you choose to play the game. Will you focus on training adventuring abilties so you can fight monsters (the source of recipes)? Will you train harvesting and crafting skills and work on becoming a source for more useful arms & armor for the monster fighters? Will you try to exploit weaknesses in other characters to take from them by force the fruits of their labor? Will you make a market, finding buyers and sellers for the various economic resources and earning a cut as the hub of a viable exchange? Or will you try to mix-and-match abilities and do a hybrid of more than one of these paths?

We need to test some critical assumptions about how fast the game can scale from "a bunch of characters with nothing to a bunch of heroic adventurers" and we're going to start that testing next week. In fact we are probably going to test it a couple of times, changing intitial starting conditions and the rate of XP being earned as well as other variables to see what makes the best combination.

Constantly Expanding the Alpha

We are going to continue to issue Alpha invitations to existing Alpha account holders so that we can grow the size of the player base regularly. If you're in the Alpha and you notice on goblinworks.com that you have outstanding Alpha invitations to distribute we highly encourage you to do so. The faster we ramp up the server population the better our testing of these features will be.

Return of the Darksiders

Yesterday in this space we announced our plans for the Darksiders for this week, but last night we determined that we'll have a promotion overlapping with the schedule for Adventure Time with Bonny so we're suspending the Darksiders plan for this week. Tune in next week for new info!

Fear the Boot

We are working on a promotion with Fear the Boot, one of the most popular podcasts about gaming and longtime friends of the Goblinworks team (and Tavern-level backers of the Kickstarter!)  We are going to have the opportunity to play the Alpha with many listeners of the Podcast and do some in-depth conversation with Dan and the hosts!

They'll be doing more announcements about this promotion Real Soon(tm).  Keep an eye on their forums for details.

New Build Required

We are making a new build for this week which Alpha players will need to download before being able to access the servers. To get it, visit https://goblinworks.com/installing-pathfinder-online/install-the-client/

Note:  Client not available until servers are live at 3pm on Thursday.

Let's Talk!

You can comment on this blog on the paizo.com forums and we'd love to hear your feedback!