The last two weeks the team has spent catching its breath after our sprint towards an Alpha launch. There has been a lot of work done to our game development workflows, upgrades to our game/patch server infrastructure and the acquisition of a test server, and many things that we had to finalize before being able to delve into more game changing tasks. We appreciate all of the feedback we have gotten from our Alpha testers, including all of the bug reports and support tickets that we have received. This information allows our respective teams to uncover these problems and work towards resolutions.
This week's development blog goes into some detail on what our teams have been up to these past few weeks, including some initial changes to our UI and an update from the game design team.
We are still working on some of the inner workings of our design process so we can deploy faster iterations. We are also trying to coordinate some of the juicier changes to advance the UI and game into 2016. Although we would love to be able to patch everyday, some things take time. It is pretty awesome that the biggest complaint we have had is the game was de-sync’d due to being up for 3+ days!
We have also been able to dive into the game itself and get some feedback from new players to Rise of Agon so we can improve the new player experience and UI for the better. We are looking forward to getting some changes in and progressing with balancing as we get our additional hardware up and running!
This week we also started the work on some preliminary interface changes. The first major improvement will be geared directly towards reducing the need to script certain actions in order to be competitive in PvP. With the design of the feature complete, we have begun to implement the mechanic of being able to bind multiple spells (or items for that matter) to one hotbar spot.
In addition to being able to bind a one handed weapon and a shield on the same spot, players will be able to drop multiple items onto a hotbar entry to create a list. You can then click on the bottom right button to open the hotbar slot options window. This options window will allow players to manage items in the list (add/remove/swap) and select the mode for this slot. As of this writing, a player can choose between two modes (with more modes to come - feel free to suggest) :
Cycle mimics the functionality of a traditional cycle script, with each press of the bind activating the next in line skill/item.
First Available mimics the functionality of a traditional ray script, with each press of the bind activating the first available (not on cooldown, left to right) skill/spell.
You could bind your transfers to one key with priority using FirstAvailable…
Or alternate between your two hander and your staff with one key...
Or just create a long list of spells that will cycle on a single key press...
We have designed the mechanic to be very simple to use, flexible and expandable. Please note that the design has not been beautified, but we would love to hear feedback on what we have so far.
Lastly we are in full swing of balancing changes to rework Vendor organization and mob drop loot tables to help facilitate a better gaming experience. The plan is to fully implement/test these and progression changes in Closed and Public Beta so much more information to come on this one.
Web Dev and Dev Ops
The past couple weeks we have spent working on dev ops tasks. We finalized the branching model we are going to use and wrote a lot of documents to get some of our associate developers up to speed. We will be developing on two main branches to allow hotfixing of major bugs much more quickly than we have seen in the past on the production server. We are also using Gerrit for code reviews to make sure all of the code meets certain standards. This has been in place for a few months for the web dev team and now it is in place for the game dev team also.
We have also been working on our build servers and automating builds/tests etc. We have received more infrastructure this week, so our full test server which replicates the real server is going to be built from our development branch automatically once the code gets through review and testing. This will allow us much better turn around time on patches and should help us anticipate possible issues which have arisen in the past such as the bugs around max skills and enchanting.
Outside of that our time was spent mostly on bug fixes and tweaks on the website. Some new features were added, like the game login username which can be changed, which adds some additional security for player game accounts. Also syncing the website with the game db was made better. For example if you create an account, but for some reason the game REST server is down at that moment (it handles the ams db <--> game db syncing), your account is not created in the game db until you re-login to the website (assuming that the REST server is up then). There are still some random bugs that needs to be fixed, the most annoying being on the forum side, where some users cannot login unless they check the “Keep me logged in” box at the forum login. We will of course continue to work on addressing any remaining issues that our users encounter, so please make sure to report any issues you may have through our support ticket system and our forums.
With Alpha being up for just over two weeks, the work on quality assurance has been ramped up. We have cataloged a good amount of the old DFO bugs that need to be fixed and are working to finish uploading the rest of those to Jira. This will provide our devs with a good list of old/known bugs that need to be worked on. A lot of world building issues/bugged monster spawns are being worked on or have already been fixed on our internal version - if you know of any mob spawns and would like us to track them down, please send myself SuicideSheep a forum PM or submit a thread in the Bugs/Glitches forum section with video/screenshots if possible. We have been reading the forums at length, especially the bugs/glitch/support threads and marking down everything that has been reported. You guys have really been doing a great job, keep it up!
On the support side, tickets have been slowing down which is a great sign as that means there are less and less issues our players are facing. We also have recently fixed the issue surrounding Alpha key activation/password resets that some of our players were experiencing. However, if you do have an issue or need your Founder pack title attached to your account, do not hesitate to submit a support ticket here:
Game Design (DestLocke):
This past week I took the opportunity to log in as a fresh character and go through the paces of maxing out a character, buying all the skills and spells and tried to do it from the perspective of a new player. This was a lot more insightful a process then I anticipated, and because of the speed of gains, it really highlighted a lot of the repeated pain points that a new player is faced with throughout the transitional process from newbie to experienced player. From the way things are organized on vendors to the absence of things as simple as crafting station icons on the minimap. We have identified and prioritized many of these simple but potentially impactful changes. Obviously, this is only one facet to improve the new player experience, but a necessary one nonetheless.
I have also been spending A LOT of time traversing the world, finding all sorts of interesting locations and cool spots in an effort to lay out the wilderness portal network in a fun, useful and unique fashion. This is taking a lot more time that I anticipated, and I’m only about half done, but it’s interesting to imagine how it will promote world activity as a whole once it is completed and implemented. One thing I have noticed that is lacking during this process is the annotation system. It is limited to 60 points of interest, and the only way to add annotations is via console commands! This could use a lot of improvement, and we have discussed and finalized a few improvements that will make them more “user friendly”.
As far as crafting, which is still our overarching focus at the moment, the results and discussions that stemmed from the poll were very extensive and helpful! As a result, we went back into the tank and came up with many alternative solutions using all the ideas that had surfaced. We are now leaning towards leaving all masteries open, but adding the ability to specialize in a limited number of them (Players will actually buy the spec’d mastery instead of the regular one). Each specialization will mean discounted crafting costs, as well as a variety of different perks depending on the mastery. This gives us flexibility to add value to crafting and reward those who specialize in something, but doesn’t restrict any content either. For instance, for weapons, it might mean getting the high end rolls on crafts much more and more often the higher the specialized mastery is as well as more durability than one who does not specialize. For Artillery, it might mean de-spawnable cannons with more shots and siege hammers with more durability. For ships it might mean faster despawn times and more health. Although all the details are not finalized, we feel like this route is much more in the spirit of Darkfall, yet still has the opportunity to make crafting more robust, unique and valuable overall.
We are also moving our Developer Blog to bi-weekly so that we can include more details of what the team is doing and to more align with our goal of a two-week patch schedule. Thank you for reading and join in the discussion!