For the last week, we've been working on power-coding. That took us through multiplayer sync models and enemy/character stats balance, to a whole new health subsystem, to the addition of continents and a whole new mana subsystem, to a new mission system, and finally ending up with the removal of tiers, the complete revamping of crafting, and the transition of the strategic map functions into the mission system. Whew! Busy week.
During that power coding period, we were essentially asking people to hold the bulk of their commentary until we got through with the power coding. We'd been in a huge design phase for a week or two prior, talking with players in the brainstorming subforum about a lot of different things. After all that talk, a lot of things had firmed up and it was time to actually implement! Which meant we had to take a step back from design for a while, and couldn't get sucked into long discussions if we had any hope of meeting our power-coding goals.
Now that the power-coding is done, we're pretty much back to our regularly-scheduled programming style. Essentially, where we mix together design, coding, bugfixes, new features, and enhancements to existing features. There area few specific issues I'd like to make a note about, however:
Enemy Balance/Difficulty, Mana System Stats Balance
This is something that we know isn't right at the moment. The power-coding phase got us a lot closer, and players are reporting that this is way more fun and interesting (and challenging) than before, but it's definitely not yet polished. This is definitely something we want feedback on!
Civ Level Relative To Region Level Balance
Right now, when you go up one region level relative to your civ level (so, you go to a level 5 region when you are level 4), the difficulty is increasing about 100%. This is something that we're doing because of how the missions are designed to play out, and it's something that I want to leave in the short term.
We need more meat on the mission system bones before we can really evaluate if this is working as intended or not. If we get to that point and it still isn't feeling right then we'll change it up, but for now this is working as intended.
Right now, minibosses and microbosses are still granting EXP, and EXP containers are still scattered out in the wild. Once the mission system comes better into its own, those sources of EXP will be going away, and only missions, overlords, and lieutenants will be granting EXP.
New Warp System
There was a brainstorming thread on potential new warp systems even back before we started power-coding, but that was basically one change too many at the time. Now this is going to be a focus again, probably with some form of Warp Statues that you can freely warp between in a region (once you've visited them), but without the current style of freeform warp.
We already took a few steps down the path of making the world feel more sizable by making the missions not allow warping in them at all, but then having a form of warp stone that takes you directly to the mission exit upon successful completion of the mission. That's something that, at the moment, we plan to keep indefinitely.
But not needing to have warp potions out in the wild would be a great thing, I think, and players have been pointing out the merits of making some terrain traversal necessary rather than being "too convenient." It's an interesting thread above, if you are inclined to read and comment.
The "Feel" Of Exploration, Specifically On The World Map
As has been pointed out by a few players, some of the feel of freeform exploration has been lost with the addition of the new mission system. Because of this, we're getting all sorts of suggestions on various ways to put back the feel of exploration, such as making missions optional, adding implicit missions, adding a fog of war to the continents, redesigning the entire flow of region levels... etc.
Whoa, folks! This is an area that is basically right in my wheelhouse, so to speak. For the moment this isn't actually one I particularly want any feedback on, because while in the short term exploration has indeed taken a hit, we already have plans on how to put it back better than it was before. Once we have those things in place we'll welcome commentary, but right now this particular aspect of the game is in too much transition for anyone to make much commentary on it.
Things that need to happen before we'll be soliciting feedback on this:
1. We need to get a really solid core of missions in place.
2. We need to get some of the planned "secret missions" in place.
3. We need to get crests and other elite loot in place (traps, other outfitter-type stuff, etc).
There might be a few other things as well that we also need (possibly some seafaring exploration for small hidden islands, etc), but the above should give us a solid core that will once again really reward exploration in a way that currently it isn't. Suffice it to say, we have plans upon plans for all sorts of cool ways to make exploration feel awesome -- it's one of my favorite things about any adventure game -- but I'm in no way wanting to reevaluate region levels, missions, or fog of war at the moment.
Crests Are Coming. Soon.
These have been one of those mythical features that we've been talking about for what seems like forever. We actually had them working in the game at one point, and they sorta kinda work in some dev builds even now. As noted above, these will be some elite loot that you can find.
The whole idea of enchants is something that we've revised a lot from our original plans. Emit Light is the first example of an enchant that is already in the game, actually, but at the moment it's all very freeform and nonstructured. You put on emit light and it lasts a certain amount of time, then you put it on again. Yawn.
What we'll actually be doing once we add some more enchants, is making it so that each enchant can only go into a certain Enchant Slot on your character. You'll have a finite number of enchant slots, and each one would have a certain type. So you might have a movement enchant type, which would let you run faster or jump higher, etc.
And you might have a couple of body enchant slots, which could hold a light source or some sort of defensive modifiers. Suddenly ball of light and the other light sources actually have some attractiveness, versus emit light beating them all out, right? Emit light would mean only one defensive enchant rather than two, potentially.
Anyway, some of the details are still not firmed up, but that's the generality of what we're planning on enchants now.
More Missions, New Mission Content!
This is a really huge one, and something we're going to be focused a lot on soon. Right now we only have three types of missions, and all of them use the exact same mechanics. We're going to have not only more kinds of missions, but new mechanics for existing ones and new ones.
This is the "putting the meat on the bones" that I was talking about above. Once a lot of this is done, then that's when we'll make the EXP changes.
Old Strategic Map Functions Carried Forward Into Missions In New Ways
Consciousness shard nodes and vortex pylons and all that. We're going to be revamping how those work, and pulling them into the missions framework. Keith and I have a design call today to talk about some of those specific things, actually.
Citybuilding Interface Revamp
This is something that Keith and I are also going to be talking more about today, but the core idea is that you won't be placing buildings directly or any of that sort of thing. You'll still be able to get to the citybuilding screen as sort of a status-of-your-settlement screen, as well as potentially a way to make some more indirect changes to your civilization. But a lot of what used to be directly handled via a point-and-click interface on this screen will instead be handled through missions.
This is something we're still brainstorming, although the recent changes to the game have made death more significant again in some ways. Permadeath has always been a part of the game, but the issue we're brainstorming is how to make it feel more significant and poignant.
More Monsters, New Environmental Hazards, More Spells
In order for there to be a proper reward structure, and in order for there to be a proper escalating threat that requires the reward structure, we need more content!
There are lots of other things on our list, too. Monster weakspots. Multiplayer position smoothing. Multi-part monsters. And so on and so forth.
So, That's The Agenda
The above list is going to be pretty much what we're focusing on between now and 1.0, which means that this is pretty much the overall agenda between now and sometime in February, when we'll hit more of a polish phase if we hope to release in March. We'll see what actually happens -- we all know how schedules tend to be -- but it's a good list, I think.