Today marks the first anniversary of the official launch of Rise of Agon, and close to three years since we first came together as a team to form Big Picture Games and start this endeavor. The journey has been long and difficult, with many lessons learned and challenges overcome along the way, and we stand as a team proud to be able to celebrate this first anniversary with all of you.
We hope the following brings some clarity to where we are today, how our team has evolved over the past year, and in what ways all of you can help ensure its future. It is the most in-depth and transparent update we have released to date, and lays down our cards for all of you fellow Agonians to see.
A Year in Review
We wanted to present an overview of this first year after launch and provide some insight as to how our team has evolved into what it is today. To do so it is best to start at launch and discuss those first few months.
Challenges at Launch
Launch for us was a lot more problematic than we had anticipated, and if we are being honest with ourselves we launched too soon and were not ready. We initiated a few marketing campaigns to coincide with it and we could not handle the initial demand. There were server crashes and errors we had never seen during any of our testing periods, and performance issues people were encountering.
Although we were able to isolate the issues for the server crashes, the stuttering and performance problems were much more difficult to track down. As many of you know, we rewrote how persistence works (which provides many tracking and statistical benefits that we utilize daily) but it ended up being the root cause of the challenges we faced. Solving the problem took a few months of work, which in turn delayed our game development goals and caused frustration from players experiencing the performance issues.
The initial two months of launch had days of over 2000 concurrent players on at a time, providing a very active world of Agon. Players started leaving or became inactive due to performance issues during these first few months, along with others (and their friends) leaving to play AAA titles that launched. They also left due to weak points in the game and areas we should have focused on more before launching, such as a better new player tutorial and alignment system.
In-game activity continued to decline and the morale on the team started to take a hit, especially with negativity growing on the forums from frustrated players. At that point, we realized we needed to take some action.
The Pivotal Moment
With a decline in activity, along with the (well deserved) dissatisfaction from our community on the roadmap we had presented, the team had a very long sit down. We went through all of the feedback we had received from the community during those first few months of launch, along with looking at how the team was operating and where we were falling short.
Although we may not be able to change the past, we certainly can learn from it. We realized that a few of us had been looking at the game through rose-colored glasses. We also were trying to walk a balance between a hardcore time investment MMO while appealing to the casual player, and it simply was not working. There was a lack of vision available to the public and our focus was not being placed where it should be.
TJ became the Director of Development during this time and took over how development operated. We made changes to our internal workflow, both in development and in game design, and started to see positive results right away. We implemented a few key patches to create a baseline for a more casual-friendly game, and released a revised and refined roadmap for our community.
The struggles we faced during launch and the lessons we learned along the way were pivotal (no pun intended) to what our team has evolved into. We had to face some tough realities if we were going to continue being able to develop this game, and through that process we created a much more efficient and versatile team.
With our pivot out of the way we started our focus on implementing new content and adding sand into the box. We added in new Village Capture and Champion Spawn mechanics, many new Title Quests, the global Market System, and numerous other changes. To see all of the recent changes and patch notes you can head over to the Patch Timeline and Notes section.
These past few months we also enhanced our development workflow to be more efficient and fluid. This now allows us to patch more frequently while continuing to work on larger systems.
With all of the changes since our pivot, along with more transparency and communication on what we are working on, there has been a consistent increase in our in-game activity from December of last year. It is also very nice to see our community excited about upcoming changes and to have people get involved in game design discussions. After all, we would not be here without all of you.
Supporting Development Staff
We are excited to see all the positivity from our community both in-game and on the forums these past few months. This momentum has doubled our in-game activity since the Market Patch with the trends continuing to rise. With that said, we also need your help to maintain and even increase our development pace.
The revenue generated from subscriptions and Nithron Coin purchases covers operational expenses sufficiently but little extra. This includes things such as web and game server hosting in New York, an internal and public test server in Florida, collaboration tools, various development services, email hosting and a myriad of other business expenses. We have been burning slowly through the small cushion of funds we received during the first few months at launch to fund development but that cushion is nearing an end.
Out of a team of close to 30 people, only two (our lead developers TJ and Neil) receive any income, both who put around 60+ hours of work a week into development. Other development staff such as Teemu (lead web designer and back-end systems developer), Sean (lead artist responsible for new and upcoming assets) and our newer developer Jesse (responsible for the Market UI and upcoming paperdoll/inventory UI updates) continue to work on a volunteer basis. These individuals, and many others, put in long hours each week which has helped increase patch rate and efficiency.
We hope you have seen a change since our pivot alongside an increase in patching, but the reality is we cannot maintain or ultimately increase that development pace without your continued support.
We aim to increase our monthly revenue to support the development staff in two ways, both driven by all of you in our community:
We will be launching a new Donations Page in the not too distant future. In it you will be able to find seven different donation tiers, each providing various rewards. Rewards will include unique in-game skins/items, forum tags, Nithron Coins and many others. Higher tier packages even include physical items in honor of the world of Agon and in-game recognition such as custom statues and global donation announcements.
All donations we receive will go directly to supporting our development and art staff, including the expansion of these teams when it is possible. We will also track and publicly display the top donators of the month and for all time, along with tracking how we are doing towards donation goals.
Nithron Coin Shop
The ACT Initiative, short for Agon’s Community Talent, is a community driven program that launched last Friday. This program provides our community a platform to submit entries, such as new weapon skins, in hopes of getting approved for our Nithron Coin Shop. Members who submit entries will be awarded with recognition along with monetary compensation based on how successful their entries sell.
We have been expanding the capabilities of the Nithron Coin Shop which allows us to add in more types of items and services for purchase. We are finalizing a few more changes to support the ACT initiative which will expand our capabilities to allow for weapon and armor skins, unique gravestones, and other exciting options available in the store.
Diversity and Conflict - Coming Next
The team is currently working on the next two major systems in conjuncture with one another, as one is rather development intensive (the Territory Control System) and the other requires a lot of game design (Combat Paths).
Combat Paths - Divine Diversity
We have started implementing the initial changes towards the release of Combat Paths - an expansion on specializations and combat diversity. This system will greatly increase the options characters have in how they diversify and specialize their characters, while staying true to the core of Rise of Agon’s combat.
We released the initial overview and design of this system and have already seen a lot of discussion come out of it from the community. As we get closer to implementation we will release the full details including all of the new specializations, spells, skills and changes that are coming along with it. The first batch of changes will be going on the Public Test Server soon and includes increases to armor protections, reduction of back-hit damage, and changes to how the staff formula works.
We look forward to testing these changes with you on the Public Test Server while we go through its development as our goal is to release the best system possible.
Territory Control System
Players will be able to place various sized claims out in the worlds of Agon, allowing them to build houses, villages and other structures in areas of land they own. You can read the details of how this system will work in the design thread and are encouraged to join the discussion.
Upcoming changes to clan warfare and territory control will provide clans the ability to expand their territories out from their own capital city. New deployable control towers and other various structures will allow territory expansion while providing rewards and incentives for doing so. Others, such as small groups of raiders or solo players, will have numerous objectives tied to territory control that they too can partake in, as well as personal deployables they can use. Join us in the discussion in the official design thread.
Our Commitment to You
If you have read this announcement all the way to this point, it probably means you recognize this game’s potential as much as we do. That is why we started this project 3 years ago, and why we have persevered through all of the adversity and growing pains we faced along the way.
Our commitment to you is to never give up and keep working as hard as we can to make Rise of Agon the best sandbox MMO on the market, and we will continue to do so for as long as we are able. The only thing that can put the brakes on this development pace and prevent us from achieving our roadmap is if funds run dry, but with your continued support that will not happen.
Thank you for being a part of the journey so far and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries to come.
- The Team at Big Picture Games