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Players, we’d like to take some time to talk about our plans for the start of 2015 to give you some visibility on what we’re going to be working on for the next several months.
Our overall strategy in the short term is to invest about 2/3rds of our resources on bug fixes, polish, and overall improvement of the game experience, and 1/3rd of our resources on new features.
Our primary focus for improving the game experience is focused on the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX), by which we mean the way that you interact with the game and how the game interacts with you. Our primary focus for major new features is adding the first layer of the Settlement Economy – Outposts and Points of Interest.
These major areas are not exclusively what we’re working on, but they represent the primary objectives we used when sorting the list of all the things we could work on to produce the list of things we are actually going to work on.
We are still in a mode where much of the work we are doing is “foundational”, getting basic systems into the game and working as designed. The next layer up from these foundational systems are the kinds of things that we’ll be looking to the community to help Crowdforge in more detail. As you’ll see, we are laying the groundwork for that effort early in 2015 as well, and expect it to start having a sustained and meaningful impact as soon as that foundational work is complete.
You may often hear members of the team talk about “the list” when they are discussing features and fixes, which implies that we have some kind of well organized superlist of all the stuff we envision for the game. In fact, we don’t.
Instead what we have is a series of progressively more detailed ideas based on the scope and the timeline. Our biggest (and least specifically defined) scope is “Open Enrollment” – the point where we think the game has progressed to the level of being feature-competitive with games produced in a less transparent, more traditional “release it when it’s done” methodology. We have been discussing and debating precisely what we mean by “Open Enrollment” for a while, and that will be the subject of a future blog. In general, we know that Open Enrollment has to feature a strong system for territorial control and conflict, coupled with a rich Settlement and Company system and lots of connective game mechanics to make those features robust and interesting. We also know that the game needs a lot of graphical enhancements like visual effects, animations, upgrades to the environment, and of course lots of work on the UI. We are discussing the scope of things like races and roles that we feel are necessary to certify the game as “Open Enrollment” ready, and we are also considering things like the number of different kinds of monsters, the capabilities of the monster AI, the size of the world map, etc.
Within the long process of reaching Open Enrollment we envision a series of shorter term milestones. Now that we’re in Early Enrollment and live operations we may alter those plans based on the needs of the game and the input we get from Crowdforging.
The Plan for the start of 2015 is the most detailed and that is what we’re going to talk about in today’s blog. The team had a number of specific tasks to complete that were mapped out prior to the start of Early Enrollment like turning on the War of Towers, adding Husks to the game, and enabling Game Time Management, which consumed most of January. Today’s blog is going to describe our plans for the next several months.
We have categorized the work we’ll be doing into several gradations of importance: Will Do, High, and Normal. Will Do are tasks that we expect to complete in the short term time frame. High priority tasks are things that we believe are important to complete and that we’ll place an emphasis on when making resource allocation decisions. Normal priority tasks are things that we will undertake if we have time & resources available.
A note about our internal process: We divide our work into 2-week “sprints”. At the start of this cycle the work the team will do for the next 2 weeks is determined by the leads for programming, game design and art. The staff is then given their scope of work for the sprint and they negotiate with their leads and between each other to determine who will do what work, when, and how. The output of this sprint is the new release that is deployed in the Test Server at the end of the 2 week period, and which is thereafter deployed on the Live Server 1 week later.
The following is our current list of Will Do and High priority tasks for Release v4.0 and beyond. Items already deployed in V1.0-3.0 are not included. There are also some bug fixes, server-side, and toolchain items that are not on these lists but will be included in the work done in this time period.
Some of these items will obviously raise a lot of questions and we’ll be addressing those in future blogs. There are a couple we wanted to touch on now.
Making the targeting system work better is something we’re going to spend a lot of time on in the near term and we expect to solicit a lot of feedback from the community on this topic. The comments many of you have already provided have been extremely useful.
We are going to have all new characters start in Marchmont. The other NPC Settlements are not going to be removed but we want to focus as much activity in one location for new players as we can in the short term. As the pace of new player acquisition increases we will consider reactivating additional NPC Settlement start points.
The addition of a cost in Coin to train Feats is designed to help spur the use of Coin in the economy by providing some value for Coin even for those characters that are almost exclusively using the barter economy. The price to train Feats will be set such that new characters are not unduly burdened but as the ranks accumulated increase so will the cost to train those Feats.
We are going to add the capability to poll players on the login screen of the client. This is going to be a major step forward for Crowdforging because it will ensure that a wide cross-section of the players are giving their input. We will likely harvest ideas for polls from the Ideascale system, so those two tools will create a nice funnel for generating then testing Crowdforging ideas.
We plan to add ammunition and ammo storage to the game in early in 2015. This means that you’ll need arrows to fire your bows, and gems to power your wands, staves and foci.
We are also planning on adding arcane spell failure to the game and that means that characters casting arcane spells and using arcane cantrips will not want to wear anything other than light armor.
There are some topics that we’re intentionally not planning to do any work on in the early part of 2015. We are not going to spend any time working on the Goblinworks.com forums. We know there are some features that people would really like to see implemented like a search function and profile avatars but we don’t have the bandwidth to address those issues.
We are also not going to spend any additional time working on Game Time Management. Other than bug fixes as necessary the current system is sufficient to provide a viable set of tools to allow players to manage their game time and subscriptions. More complex options and functionality will have to wait for a future period.
The biggest new feature that we’re working on right now is the first iteration of the Outpost and Point of Interest system. Those aspects of the plan are not included in the list of Will Do and High priority items. We’ll be posting a follow-up blog to describe what we’re planning to deploy and how those features will work and how they’ll segue through the current War of Towers system.
Of course we have a few surprises that we’re not disclosing right now. We always want to have a few “fun” things up our sleeves!