We want to first thank all of you that attended our live Discord Q&A this Tuesday as Michael, Brad and Chris from our team had a great time and enjoyed answering all of your questions. For those that missed it you can listen to the recording or review the summary we put together for you below. We would like to thank @RagnarokDel for recording this for our team and @Fawley for going through and compiling the questions and answers for us. Seeing as this went very well, we will be doing more of these in the future, especially once we delve deeper into game development. More than likely we will be utilizing our official Twitch channel for future events like this, including other things we have planned like Developer Streams and Game Design Discussions on specific topics we are working on.
Security Issues, Obfuscation and Server-Up ETA:
As we mentioned last week, and as talked about during our Q&A on Tuesday, the development team has been hard at work since our servers came down last month addressing the security issues that were exposed. The team has a great grasp of what needs to be accomplished to not only secure the "holes" that were exposed last month, but make the changes necessary to make the game even more secure than it ever has been.
"Phase 1" as we call it internally, is going into testing this weekend. This initial project is focused on implementing steps, including additional ones that were not in game previously, during the login process to ensure that no old or modified software versions can connect. This phase also will be adding further enhancements to how the archive is accessed.
Now that Phase 1 is ready for testing, our development team has shifted gears to focus on "Phase 2". This part of the project is where many of these new authentication steps will be moved and packaged into the game client itself, adding more layers of security to both the game client and login process, further securing the game from potential hacks and exploitation. We plan to have this phase ready for testing in the next 1-2 weeks.
Alongside both of these phases of security changes, we have been working on the required obfuscation of the code. Our team has made great progress on this front, and although we have a few issues remaining to knock out, we are still on track to have this completed by our internal ETA.
The internal ETA that we have to complete all of these different projects, along with finalizing the necessary testing, is the end of June / early July. This is a rough ETA and we may have to push that date further back, depending on how our testing goes with these various tasks, but we will keep you updated if that ends up being the case. The servers will not come back up until we have the necessary security measures in place to allow us to move into the implementation of many of the game design changes that have been approved by the game design team.
Introducing the Lore Team:
We have from the beginning of this project had an internal goal to greatly expand upon the lore of Darkfall and find ways to tie that lore into the game world itself. We are very excited to announce that Fenris Rothagar has joined our team as our new Lore Lead and he has already been hard at work expanding on the lore of game. He brings a very creative and passionate mind to the team and was our second place winner in our first Community Competition. Fenris, along with Lars Conwall, will be leading the charge in giving much needed justice to the lore of Darkfall: Rise of Agon. We have begun working on getting the necessary assets and information ready to fill our upcoming "Lore" section of our official website, and also have plans to provide our community with videos, stories, and additional media to get you all more engaged and connected to the history and lore of Agon.
The goal is to create a complex lore that people can relate their characters to and help increase immersion in the game world. Although we will not be changing the "core" of the history of Darkfall Online, we do have many plans already to expand upon and connect the lore more closely with the various NPCs, mobs, locations and cities scattered throughout the world. We strongly believe that lore is a very important part of any successful MMORPG, and it will be our continued mission to expand upon this area of the game both within, and outside, the Darkfall: Rise of Agon game. Stay tuned for future updates on this front and we hope you are as excited as we are about this endeavor!
Summary of Tuesday's Live Discord Q&A:
The following is a compilation of the questions and answers from our live Discord Q&A we held this Tuesday. The answers have been summarized to condense this section for easy reading:
Q: Is it possible to look into a ping cap, so that everyone has 50 ping or 100 ping as an example?
Brad: I seriously doubt we would do anything like that. The disadvantages will be too great compared to the advantages of people with bad ping.
Q: I loved the dyes tied to alignment in Ultima Online. Have you been thinking about something like that?
Brad: We have definitely talked about it in our game design meetings, but with something more along the lines of having titles based on alignment.
Q: Are you guys looking into filling out the incomplete armor sets?
Michael: It is part of our plan to make crafting masteries more desirable which means adding more armor sets as well as filling out the remaining armor pieces for incomplete sets currently in game.
Q: Are you going to speed up the crafting at launch? It would take hours and hours to craft sets and it was kind of annoying.
Michael: We have discussed streamlining crafting to be not so convoluted. We think the amount of time it takes to level up your skills should stay the same but we have not discussed the length of time it takes to make a gear set yet.
Brad: We are lowering the crafting times it takes to refine resources though.
Q: What’s the difference between Closed Beta and Open Beta? Are you guys going to wipe the game between them? Or what’s the deal with that?
Michael: Closed beta will have gains set to test out the proper skill progression curves and new resource changes we are looking into. When it comes to wiping after Closed Beta, we have no plans to wipe until we go into commercial release.
Brad: We have no plans to wipe until launch after we start Beta but there could be technical reasons that would force us to wipe the game
Chris: We often wipe because it would takes about 30 hours of development time to implement a change into the data set. That is why the Alpha has been wiped a few times already.
Q: What do you guys define as success, like a year or two out from now?
Michael: The goal is to have enough subscribers so that the 30 of us that are working for free would have enough income from it. Everyone on this team aside from a handful of developers have been working for free since June of last year, many working 40+ hours for their day job and then another 40+ hours for this job as well. A lot of the team is looking forward to quitting their day job to work here for "full time" instead.
Q: Who is the best Darkfall player of all time?
Michael: That’s a good question, it depends on who you ask (it certainly is not me!)
Chris: Me of course.
Q: Have you had any plans to overhaul the graphics?
Michael: There is a lot of games that have graphics that are not nearly as good as Darkfall with millions of players. If we had the resources and money to do this then we definitely would but it’s a huge endeavor. We are more concerned with making a game people enjoy playing than doing a graphic overhaul.
Brad: Our first concern with updating the graphics is in fact not changing the art but changing the engine itself. We have a lot more important things to work on right now.
Q: Wouldn’t making the graphics more simple not really improve the graphics but take much less time to do? Like Overwatch as an example.
Chris: Right now the engine is using DirectX 9. When we bring in a better shader technology then it would make the game look a lot better. When we migrate out of DirectX 9 that will be the first major enhancement to graphics that you will see.
Q: Are you guys going to make siege equipment like warhulks, ships, cannons more accessible and easier to craft?
Michael: We have changed the costs for some of this siege equipment in our crafting re-work. Not only that but we plan on increasing the speed of ships on the ocean which inherently will increase the odds of finding another ship on the water. The main reason people did not use ships previously was because they were very slow and were extremely expensive. So if you are going to have this extremely expensive thing that is slow then it is conflicting with increasing their usage. Keep in mind that we are adding a shipbuilding mastery so the non-mastery ships will be a lot more viable for the average player to use.
Q: Are astrolabes going to be needed for those?
Michael: We visited that as well. Mastery ships are not going to be something you use everyday. Most of the ships you will use on a day to day basis will not have an astrolabe cost attached to it.
Q: In terms of content, what would be your priority? Like sea content, dungeon content, fluff?
Michael: I would say our first priority is to take the existing content and improve upon and enhance it. That includes enhancing dungeons, trade routes, sea towers, etc. When it comes to new content we have discussed a lot of new ideas and how long those idea’s might take. We discussed adding table top games like a poker table that you could place down and play poker, as one example. We are also planning on adding territorial content. Simply put, Darkfall needs more sand in the box and we plan to provide it.
Q: When are the servers coming up?
Michael: Psycho already went over the security issues that we have been working through. As for an estimated timeline, we are looking at end of June / beginning of July as a rough ETA.
Q: Are you concerned that New Dawn is setting up their servers June 28th?
Michael: Yeah we saw that, but we are two separate teams and are focused on finalizing the tasks we are working on internally.
Q: Does that not reflect that you guys have the same security issue as them? Are you guys not working together on fixing the security issue?
Michael: That is not correct. We are working independently on these issues.
Q: When people are buying the legendary packs, are those classified as them buying a game or as a donation with rewards?
Michael: There’s two different things here. We do not have massive internal investors that can come in and change the game. The Founder Packs provide you full access to Closed Beta and Open Beta, depending on what you purchase. We also do not have a box fee for the game. On top of that, you are helping us fund the project.
Q: Are you guys planning on changing the character creation at all?
Michael: It’s something we can definitely expand upon. That requires some things like new art assets. We feel though that there should be a lot more customization for Darkfall: Rise of Agon characters.
Q from Michael: Psycho do you want to give us a background on your actual experience?
Chris: I have been a developer in primarily c++ and game development for about 20 years. I am currently the lead manager at a small company where we make gambling games. I work with all the different engine technologies that are available and have a lot of different aspects of the game under my belt such as networking, security, game logic, art assets, AI.
Q: Is it possible to ban Jet Boom like Blizzard has where players have a hard time being able to play again?
Michael: We are going to be taking an extremely hard stance against hacking, exploiting, anything that’s going to negatively affect the player base. At the end of the day, Darkfall Online allowed too much of this to go on.
Chris: We will be moving more validation to the server side of things compared to how it currently is with the client validating too much.
Q: Is stealing clan banks still a viable thing to do?
Michael: I mean, that is part of the game.
Q: If team member of Big Pictures doesn’t like a member, will you guys just ban him and say he was hacking? Will you guys show proof that he was hacking?
Michael: We will not be banning members just because one of the team members does not like someone. I think Brad and Psycho can attest to this; we won’t have time to really play Rise of Agon much. The only time I’ve spent in game since we launched is re-rolling a character over and over and over again trying out the new player experience. We know that if we exploit our power at all then it will ruin the game we are working so hard to bring back. That said, I don’t care if you’re the most prominent player in Darkfall and you are the best player, if you get caught hacking, you will be removed from the game and our community.
Chris: When we take action, we will have a long list of details showing how that player hacked.
Q: With today’s technology is it possible that we could get to the point where we could lock on shadows for all players? A lot of players turn off shadows not only to get better performance but so they can see other players in shadows giving them an edge.
Michael: The current game engine as it stands is using DirectX 9 and it is not able to use multiple cores so it is holding us back from using the full capability of modern hardware. We would have to make changes to the engine first before we could make that change but we have certainly discussed (and I personally would love to see it in game).
Q: Do you have any other ideas you plan on implementing in regards to the new player experience like putting certain skills on the hotbar?
Michael: Yeah absolutely. Actually I am working internally on a revamp of the new player tutorial so it’s more in line with the game state when we come to commercial launch and so it is a better guide to get the new players acclimated to the game. The new player experience is the number one thing we are working on internally. If we can increase player retention then we have much more likelihood of success which will result in a larger playerbase that can generate it’s own content.
Q: Can you promise that you will not make safezones?
Brad: I can promise that we will not make safezones.
Q: Will you make it so you can die by fall damage?
Michael: It’s something that’s certainly been discussed internally and debated heavily. The thing with fall damage is that there is a lot of impact damage caused by knock-ups and I don’t think you should die just from fall damage in combat. The bigger thing regarding death by fall damage is bunnyhopping which would be affected hugely. The negatives have outweighed the benefits based on our discussions.
Brad: To add onto the bunnyhopping discussion: We are looking into tweaking bunnyhopping because it was a little ridiculous for people who were really good at it. It was also used as a tool to make the game unfun for a lot of people. We want to add an appropriate cost to bunnyhopping.
Q: Are you going to add a way to look at someone’s inventory without having to gank them?
Michael: We have actually talked a lot about this. It’s definitely something that we want to accomplish, it’s just difficult from a development standpoint. I think it would be great for the new player experience because it could prevent ganking of new players that have nothing of value.
Q: Are you going to remove blue-tails? All the other mounts are pretty useless.
Michael: We have talked about increasing the diversity between mounts. We are planning on increasing the speed of mounts in general to make them more desirable for traversing the land as well as making mounts run faster on roads.
Q: Do you plan on adding markets or auction houses to the game?
Michael: No we have no intention of doing that. We do want to expand on the ways players can trade with each other though. There really is no good system in game to promote trading right now, outside of player vendors.
Q: Are you guys planning on making any changes to how cities and hamlet locations are pre-placed? Are you going to make it more open world?
Michael: If we could, it would be great but there are a lot of things to think of. It can affect the performance of the game if you can add too much. We are changing hamlets so that they have all the crafting stations that cities do so that clans can live out of them. We have looked into adding deployables but the technical limitations are something we need to keep in mind.
Q: Do you think there should be changes to the portal chambers?
Brad: We’re removing portal chambers from holdings and creating a wilderness portal network, but not like Unholy Wars. It’ll be one way portals scattered all over the world creating a "wilderness portal network". There will be a lot of places used where you asked yourself, “Why is nothing here?”. The dungeon portals in the game are a reusable asset that will make this a very easy change technically.
Darkfall: Rise of Agon Subreddit - Moderators Needed:
We are in the process of putting some finishing touches to the Darkfall: Rise of Agon subreddit, after which we will be passing the control over to our community. We are looking for a couple of volunteers to become the official moderators of this subreddit, and if you have any interest please contact Michael by messaging him here on the forums @MWTaylor. The Darkfall: Rise of Agon subreddit will have our updates posted to it by members of our team, but this is a page we felt best ran and moderated by members of our community.
Next week we will be introducing our new Social Media Lead who will be in charge of all of our Facebook, Twitter and Twitch pages and the associated marketing campaigns we have in store. We will also be introducing our Digital Marketing Lead who will be working with the marketing team on the overall digital marketing strategy and the many things we have planned to bring in new players from around the gaming community.
We know you all have been eagerly waiting for the servers to come back online, and we appreciate your patience as we develop and test the upcoming security enhancements to the game. Once our servers get back online, we will be looking to our community to help test our upcoming User Interface and other game changes, and can begin putting all of our development focus back on implementing the approved game design changes already in the pipeline.
Make sure to join in the discussion and thank you for reading today's update. We hope you all have a great weekend!
- The Team at Big Picture Games