PvP PHASE III INBOUND!!
We’ve been doing a lot of talking regarding one of Alganon’s major features, PvP. It was so huge, that even the Gods didn’t anticipate what it would take this band of battle weary merry men to actually pull it off. Needless to say, once work began and the true scope was revealed, hilarity (and the pre-requisite nail biting) ensued.
It is quite an undertaking to implement such a major feature into any mature game, that to be quite honest we never thought that it would even be possible within the game’s current framework.
Though PvP was in the Alganon design notes as far back as 2007 (!), it ended up being just one of many features touted for the game and which, like much of the intitial game release, just didn’t happen. Once we released v2.0 in April 2010 and we started mulling over what to do next, PvP became a focus because we wanted to cater to people who like that sort of gameplay in their MMO.
One thing that lingered in my mind was just how many ways it could all go wrong. It is one thing to add features to a game, but it quite another to implement a feature that literally changes the dynamics (and in some cases the mechanics) of said game. To the extent that even before I even gave PvP the Greenlight, I had doubts that it would ever work within the game’s current PvE framework. In fact, below is exactly what I said to the team back in June 2010 once discussions got underway to actually have PvP in the pre-existing game world and with no instancing, separate server etc.
“Brian, I think this would be asking for trouble because we would have the PvP players in a world primarily designed for PvE. It could be a can of worms that I’m not sure we want to deal with.”
Further, implementing PvP into a game that was designed from day one to be purely PvE is the kind of thing that keeps lead devs and producers up at night. I slept just fine, as I’m sure did Brian Hughes (the Alganon team lead I appointed when I came to QOL) and Jeff Tench (the new the lead designer) knowing that the Alganon team currently in place would’nt dream of taking on something that they had no hope of pulling off. Then again, they probably would; just because. But that’s for another blog.
And so off they went and considering that I haven’t received any hate mail or crazy forum posts thus far, I think that things are turning out as expected.
Part of the reason that PvP progressed as it did is because we made the decision to do a “staggered release” of it. This allowed us to do each aspect of PvP in achievable chunks; each of which could be focused on exclusively and completed before moving on to the next aspect. Early on, I was concerned that phase 1 didn’t quite go far enough and most especially we couldn’t monetize it as best we could. This concern was further compounded by the fact that most of what we originally planned for phase 1, had to be cut and moved into phase II for time and technical reasons.
So several months later, here we are with PvP and about to release Phase III (Towers!) sometime this week – all things being equal.
Under normal circumstances, such extensive features were reserved for expansion packs or monetized to the hilt. Our approach has always been geared toward allowing our gamers to experience the game and then from that point on pay what they want through our [minimal] monetization options. Sure you can play PvP to your hearts content, but if you really like it and want to go all out, there are cash shop items which you can buy in order to extend and improve your experience. In doing that – no matter how little the spend – you continue to help us improve the game. So go ahead and indulge yourselves. We like that.
DOES THIS MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG?
Another item that I’ve had on my radar, besides the UI revamped which I had done early on last year as a pre-requisite for the game’s v2.0 relaunch, are the character models. Some people, well, shall we say, “dislike” (and that’s putting it mildly) them quite a bit and that sentiment sparked several threads on our forums.
Quite honestly, they’re not that bad; they’re just good enough for a 2009 game. Seriously, they were done according to the art direction that the original designers had for the game and the artists/modelers just ran with it – and without question.
For our part, when you’re working to actually finish a game, then focusing on implementing key features which would propel the game forward, things that actually work, are neither broken nor adversely affect the game etc are usually the last things on the list of things to address. And so it was that the character models ended up being pushed far out. Heck, we’ve been talking about redoing them as far back as May 2010!
Well, I’m happy to report that they are currently in development and we expect to see them implemented in the next major (PvP Phase IV – Keeps) patch due out in the early part of this year. In fact, we recently had one of them in the game for testing and it’s looking good. The guys have run some early UI and in-game (as a mob) tests and I’ve thus given the Green light to have all four of them created and implemented in the game.
As was previously mentioned in the thread above, changing these models is not as simple as having them done and then implemented in the game – just like that. A LOT of work needs to be done to actually have them work with the game’s pre-existing content. Remember, also that given the plethora of in-game assets which have to work with each of these models, we can only go so far without opening up a can of worms.
Anyway, compare the old with the new and draw your own conclusions. Sure they could be better, but given where we are with the game at this point, this is as far as we can go without spending a lot of time working on not just character models, but also all the combination of in-game assets required for them. Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll just close my eyes, ignore all common sense and just request a complete and total overhaul of the game’s character models and all the items associated with it. Stranger things have happened.
NEW (click for larger version)
OLD (click for larger version)
NEXT UP – ALL YOUR HOSTILES ARE BELONG TO US
With PvP Phase III out of the way, next up is our next major undertaking: localization of the game. I’m going to try – very hard – not to even think about this one; but you will read about the results in a future blog sometime in Mar.
When you’re the head of an indie company and dev team, and someone who cares what people think of the company you’re running as well as the games you’re in charge of, it pays to keep your ears to the ground. For my part, I monitor every.frigging.thing. Seriously. I think Google Alerts is the best thing invented since toothpicks. So it comes as no surprise that Massively’s One Shot featured a very nice shot from Alganon sent in by one of our gamers. Note that this is not even someone who is even active in our community. Just some random person who likes and plays our game.
But if this section were about the aforementioned screenshot, it would be a short post. No, quite on the contrary.
For sometime now, a few people (namely those we’ve either booted, banned, kicked, slapped, maimed or otherwise unceremoniously ejected from our community) have taken to posting fabricated and unfounded rubbish about the community behind Alganon. Contrary to the general consensus of course.
To be perfectly honest, given my industry exposure, tenure, history of dealing with online anti-social misfits etc, stuff like this doesn’t bother me at all; because for me it’s just another day at the farm and on the job. Though, yes, I’d rather be stranded on an island somewhere with my gorgeous wife.
Every community has it’s ups and downs; some moreso than others. But the fact remains that once you start taking actions which lead to banning people, deleting and/or locking threads etc, you’re bound to ruffle a few feathers. Usually the plumes of the very vocal minority. It’s the nature of the beast. In my case, I tend to disrupt the entire coop simply because I take – absolutely – no prisoners.
Some forum communities are so large and out of control that you will never – ever – find your way around any meaningful rhetoric without having to field an entire bus load of crap from the lawless denizens whose claim to fame is pure unadulterated anarchy and vitriol. When that happens, you have to ask yourself whether or not it is worth ruining the community for the sake of someone’s misplaced feelings.
Simply put, I have absolutely no intentions of compromising the integrity of the forum just because someone feels that their God given right is to disrupt the community with angst ridden rhetoric (aka nonsensical drivel) that serves absolutely no purpose other than to be rude to the developers or another forum member. Alganon is a niche game and as we work to build the community around it, we will continue to favor quality [posts] over quantity. So, please play by our rules and you won’t find yourself with ruffled feathers making your otherwise nicely groomed plume end up looking like you stepped in front of bus.