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We're moving the start of Early Enrollment down the timeline one week to September 22.
We didn't get as many features into Alpha 7 as we had hoped and some of the features we did deploy need more work. We also had an extended unexpected downtime from Friday night to Saturday morning which reduced the amount of time we had to test various features. And a number of players were experiencing repeated crashes making it hard for them to participate.
Because of that, we're rescoping Alpha 8 and that rescope is sufficient reason to delay the start of Early Enrollment.
We are going to continue to run with the current client (Alpha 7) for this week's Alpha test. The fixes that the team is implementing to the problems we've diagnosed will not be integrated to the Alpha test until next week. So if you had problems with crashes last week you will probably have them again this week.
If you were having problems, we recommend using the Windows Control Panel to uninstall the client. Once fully uninstalled, download and reinstall the client. When you run the game, run it at the lowest quality settings. If you use a higher quality setting and you trigger a crash, you may continue to get crashes until you repeat this uninstall/reinstall process and run at a lower quality setting.
The issue is related to how the client is dealing with the need to render a lot of character models and the RAM that is consumed by the graphics system. Being in high-density Hexes (like Sotterhill) when there are lots of other people logged in can push your graphic card beyond its capabilities and the client does not fail gracefully.
We are working on transitioning play to the live servers we'll use for Early Enrollment but it is likely that we'll continue to use Zog for this week's Alpha test. If we are able to host the game on the live servers, we'll let the community know via the forums. There are no settings or options that you will need to use to access the live servers - if and when they're ready, we'll do some redirect magic with the DNS to route players to the right place.
That does mean that it is likely that the servers will be taken offline for brief periods during this week's Alpha test. We'll try to let folks know via a post in General when that's going to happen but some outages may occur without warning.
On Friday night the servers halted unexpectedly. We did not get them restored to service until Saturday. We are not moving to an operational tempo for server management until the week of the 15th so we may occasionally have unplanned extended downtimes until then. We recognize this is very frustrating and want to assure everyone it's not how we intend to operate when we're live in Early Enrollment. We will work on doing a better job of keeping the community in the loop about unexpected downtimes if and when they occur.
We have rescoped our Alpha 8 plan to relieve some pressure on the art team and the engineering team which means that we're making some changes to when we think certain features will be deployed and to the way the game will be played.
We are moving Companies into a release after Early Enrollment has begun. They are a prerequisite for the War of Towers but we don't need them until the War is ready to commence so we've shifted that feature down the timeline. We are currently planning on deploying War of Towers the week of October 9th and Companies may be deployed at the same time. How the War of Towers will start is still being discussed so we will probably come up with ways to ensure that you have time to engage in Company formation in an orderly way before the War commences.
Our Art Director is literally sleeping on the floor in his office trying to get all the Terrain ready for Early Enrollment. That's suboptimal. To ensure we don't Break the Mike, we are going to roll out the Early Enrollment Terrain in two steps.
We will have the top 1/3rd of the Early Enrollment map ready on Day One of Early Enrollment. This area includes Thornkeep. It would not be fair to have 1/3rd of the Settlements in operation and 2/3rds waiting access to their lands so we are not going to turn on the Land Rush Settlements when we begin Early Enrollment. Instead we will have approximately four NPC Settlements seeded around the area of the map and characters will be randomly seeded into those Settlements when they begin play. This should allow us to perform various load balancing tasks and avoid clustering so many players in one place that we break things. No, you won't be able to pick where you start. Yes we know that this means that some people will have to hike across the map to get to where your friends are. This is a short-term solution, not the way the game will be played forever so we ask for your forbearance for a limited time.
We plan to deploy all of the terrain the week after Early Enrollment begins. It may take longer but we are planning on a one week delay. When the full map is deployed, we will also deploy the Land Rush Settlements and remove the temporary NPC Settlements. We need to have the full map deployed before War of Towers can begin so if there is a delay on the full map, that will also delay War of Towers. We expect that many Land Rush Settlements will need to make a mad dash to transport all the stuff they've gathered and crafted in the iterim to their new homes. Luckily, encumbrence is not going to be in the first Early Enrollment builds so you can carry everything with one character and make one trip. Just don't die or all the stuff you're carrying that can be equipped will take some damage.
After we have deployed the full map we'll be working on a starting location system to replace the temporary random allocation described above. As soon as we have determined the best allocation system we'll communicate that to the community.
The key features that are now scheduled for Alpha 8 are the introduction of Elves and Dwarves, a number of economic support functions like storage, auction houses, and the ability to exchange items in the trade window in units smaller than a full stack, the introduction of item durability (items you can equip will degrade when your characters die while carrying them - but no threads yet), a new character creation screen, the ability to manage which of your characters is gaining XP, and a number of back-office functions.
We will be working on getting the Alpha 8 build live on Monday but due to the huge number of new features being integrated it is very likely that the release will slip a day. We will keep the community updated as to our progress. Once we have deployed the client, the Server will be on-line except for restarts, time to upload and refresh server code, and unexpected downtime until Early Enrollment begins.
The plan is to have two builds of Alpha 8 next week. After the first build, a second will likely follow on Thursday or Friday. We expect to make several minor tweaks and updates to the Alpha 8 game after the first build and we don't want to wait a whole week to deploy them.
Having two builds will be less onerous than it may otherwise have been because we are hoping to have the autopatching client deploy with the first build of the week. From that point onward, we'll be able to automatically upgrade your client when you connect to the system rather than asking you to download and install a new version each time we create a new release.
Our good friends, and Tavern Reward Backers at Fear the Boot are going to do a promotion with Goblinworks on Saturday at 3pm (Pacific). We've allocated them a large number of demo accounts and they're busy distributing them to their listeners.
During the event we're going to be talking with Dan and the Fear the Boot team live on our twitch.tv channel and talking about the game and how it is progressing. It should be a very interesting combination of a stress test and an interview and we hope you'll be able to listen and watch. If you'd like to participate and you don't already have Alpha Access, check out their message board forums to find out how to join their crew.
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In journalism class they teach reporters to never bury "the lede". The point is to put the most important fact in the story in the first sentence because many people stop reading an article after the first sentence and they'll miss the key info if you "bury it" in a following paragraph.
The term of art is "lede" (pronounced "leed"), which was used instead of "lead" (pronounced "leed") because newspapers were once printed using metal type that actually contained lead (pronounced "led") and people wanted to avoid confusion so they created a perfectly good word to replace another perfectly good word. Newspaper writers were nerds before anyone knew what a nerd was. :)