Web Priestess Miko started putting together the Game Plan page today. This will be a publicly posted game plan that you can check on to see our game dev progress.I think we can update it every week on Mondays.
Until the Game Plan is live for you... how about we look behind the scenes at all the things we have been working on this past week. AdventureQuest 3D has two teams. The programming team and the content team. While my personal goal is to complete one major goal (or a massive chunk of one major goal) each day, most of the things we build starts at the idea & design phase, and then moves from coding, to 3d modeling, to animation, to art & texturing, to adding to the dev servers, to database work (adding stats, descriptions, etc), to publishing for multiple platforms, testing, and then finally launched live in the game. Different devs handle different parts, which is why we do, and always will, seem to have a lot of different things in the pipeline at the same time.
(Not a single Paladin dressed like a Paladin)
The dev team has been testing the upcoming Paladin class. It feels really solid. A good stand alone class, which functions brilliantly as a utility class with a Party. Rabblefroth is making a few tweaks and then it will go to Korin for animation and FX before being released on the PTR in a similar order that DragonSlayer was.
We noticed that virtually everyone that participated in the survey/interview was a long time player of AQ3D (and many of our other games). To really finalize our game plan we needed to watch what happens when people who have never even heard of our game played. So, over the past week, I held two in-person testing sessions at the lab. We recruited people from age 8 to 44 with the strict requirement that they could not even look at the game they were about to test. We sat them around the table in the war room and watched as they went from creating their account through battling all the way to Greenguard forest. The entire programming team watched (Oh man, I wish we had fancy white lab coats and clip boards). To say we learned a lot would be the understatement of the year. Especially the unexpected things-- not a single mobile tester clicked on the menu button on the right. After each session we met and figured out exactly what we need to do in order for players of all skill levels to have the best first experience on their first adventure and added it to our game plan.
Coming from the web world, we are accustomed to creating accounts to play our games. However, it is now expected to have a seamless flow when first playing a new mobile game. So we revamped our login flow to automatically create logins for new mobile users. This feature, which is now live, also happens to have been the first item on the Game Plan. Guests do not have the same privileges and abilities as a full player with a registered AQ3D account. When they attempt to use these features (like chat) they will have to complete registration to continue. This was a vital change to the game and has already made an instant and dramatic increase in the retention of new players who have never heard of our games before.
No login system overhaul would be complete with out a surprise game crippling bug :D Great job on the team getting the patch out in 24 hours.
Korin finished the cutscenes and is now rigging them in cinema director to work inside the game with the final versions of the NPCs. Oishii is doing balancing and working on the system that will allow all players to earn and unlock the DragonSlayer class. There is A LOT of items and armors for this release.
Instead of simply building the Kickstarter name plates... we now have a new awesome name plate for everyone, and one for Guardians, and one for collector Guardians, and one for Kickstarter backers. We had to redesign them slightly after the PC & Mobile UI's were redesigned last week. Zhoom is out sick. But we expect the name plates to go out with version 1.7.2, or with next week's game update.
Llusion has finished building the core assets for the Vampire Castle and is waiting on me to finish this post before going over the special boss rooms we need. I do not think we have shown the inside of this place anywhere yet... but OMG... it is so perfect. I joked that we should make it possible to hit all of the candles and little hearts should come out.
We stealth released the Daily Quest feature with this latest release. While nothing uses it, yet, this new feature will allow certain quests to only be done once per day.
BRAIN: "Pinky, are you thinking what I am thinking?"
PINKY: "Um... designer leiderhosen for Clawgs with enough pocket space to keep a peanut and moglinberry sandwich?"
BRAIN: "No! For daily login rewards, daily boss fights, and tokens to unlock classes!"
PINKY: "Can we have a daily peanut and moglinberry sandwich?"
.....why. OMG... why.
So you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, good news, we are adjusting the game interface to be better usable with the new phone. Bad news, we need to do another one of those week or longer mega updates to the latest version of Unity in order to apply the real fixes. I do not want to do that until after Ashfall, so we are working on a temporary hacky fix in.
You may have seen a lot of happy top tier backers this past week. The team has been working with the backers to complete the remaining custom weapons, NPCs, and areas. A lot of these backers are eager to get their 10 codes so they can share their items with friends-- and we will be sending those as soon as this batch is done. I saw a few people post about the two Kickstarter areas (The Dragon Graveyard and the Shaman Forest) and I wanted to make sure everyone knew that those areas, and the items in them will be for everyone explore, adventure in, and enjoy. I think they are going to be really fun.
In our latest release, the Mouse Hole, many of you found the secret Parkour course. And those of you did also saw our machines in action-- in the form of those evil mushrooms which made the floor disappear. "With great power comes great responsibility trolling." It was pretty impressive that Yergen almost single handedly built the map. Now he is working on....
It turns out you are one of three types of players. I know which one you are. We urgently need to make changes to the intro map for the other two types. After watching people who have never played any game before attempt to navigate the tight corridor of our current intro on their mobile device-- it was instantly obvious the changes that needed to be made. Yergen is making them now. Zhoom added a new feature a week or two ago that allows the camera to not get stuck on walls. Fixing that in the intro alone made it 100% better for mobile. Now we are adding a bit more spacing, allowing a new player to walk and move a bit before tossing them into battle (let alone a horde of undead skeletons.) These changes along with things that help the player better figure out the controls and where their inventory are-- a few of the problems we saw a lot of non-gamers struggle with. It should also be noted that we are very likely going to create an entirely new intro... because...
Since December, I have been working on a great world outline for AdventureQuest 3D. This is one of those things that at the time sounded easy (and I told everyone would be easy) but to the contrary, has completely reshaped the landscape of my personal time. To be fair, I have already created a lot of worlds-- AQW, DF, MQ, and AQ. But for me personally, I need to take it to the next level. Especially after reading the things you wanted in that survey/interview.
If you want to know what really makes a person tick, watch what they do off-the-clock when no one else is watching. Me? My house looks like a D&D convention exploded in the middle of it. All of my tables are now littered with scribble filled notebooks books of every sort. I blame Warlic for giving me a copy of Joseph Cambell's Hero of a Thousand Faces. This lead to my obsessive study of the Harmon Story Circle. This is what was used to create shows like Rick and Morty and Community. To be honest, after reading Dan Harmon's old blog on it, and then watching several videos, I did not really grok it. When I had Pink Eye and my 1 year old daughter was running a 103 fever, we were huddled together-- and we watched 5 videos on The Harmon Circle. BAM! It suddenly clicked. Maybe it is just because it is one of those fuzzy things were you need to understand the meaning, not pay attention to the actual words. The funny thing is, and all writers will say this, that this is the way I have been writing all along. But what the story circle does, is provide a stronger structure. It is easy to tell when something is missing. The next day, after returning from the lab, I was sitting at the table for dinner and got to thinking about a few tweets I had had about Sepulchure and his backstory. How it would be awesome if we had a comic or book of his story. So I wrote the outline. Then I wrote the outline for another one. And another. I sat at the table for 6 hours until I had 9 stories fully fleshed out. It was one of those moments where I was so in the zone that when I finally looked up, it was dark and everyone int he house had long gone to sleep. I smiled and then started applying it to the games. Early I wrote about how the story circle really helps identify pieces that are missing? I had one of those break through moments. I texted Cysero that I had a break through and he asked me what I broke this time. As I explained what I was so excited to him about in my usual (OMG HOW MUCH CAFFEINE HAS YOU BEEN DRINKING) way, he had some surprisingly deep feedback and I am excited with where this is going (and a wee bit horrified of how to implement it)
Off topic,I contacted two artists about doing a comic version of the scripts I created. Is this something you would like to see happen?
A strong story structure will ultimately result in a more rich and meaningful game experience. It probably explains why triple A games have a certain feel to them.
I have a list of over 200 Sagas and an unspeakable number of stand alone adventures. (Determining their order being of great dread) We have been designing a new villain. I also feel strongly that the game needs a narrator or a dungeon master character. Some one who can always appear wherever you go. There is a pretty obvious choice for this-- just need the rest of the team to agree.
You may be wondering, "Why design 200 sagas if it is taking months to complete a saga now?" Of course you may have already come to the conclusion that with our ability to produce content speeding up, a firm game plan would create an opportunity where we could dramatically expand our game dev team (even if just for a while) and we could create a massive amount of content in a concerted push. Which is the only way to get far enough ahead to do weekly releases.
In listening to the comments form the Survey/Interview there is one topic that came up over and over. Making the game "more open world" is challenging. I asked for some clarifications on what open world really meant to you. Without writing anything that would scare anybody, I am exploring a lot of the options in front of us. The biggest challenge in every game I have ever worked on has undoubtedly been-- how do you have level progression and still be able to experience all of the content? Especially in a MMO. There have been a few hit or miss games trying to solve this recently. This has been something we have been talking about and fiddling with.
Sorry for the ramble... but we did say behind the scenes, right? I have been going on an Amazon D&D game module shopping spree lately. Mostly picking up really old adventures from the 70's for about $4.99. I have read one each night for the past two weeks. Cysero asks why I do not just read things online-- to which I respond, there is something magical about holding the pages in your hand and sitting on the counter pouring over the pages. Thinking of new crazy ideas in-between the lines of every sentence. I ever bought a copy of Little Wars by H.G. Wells-- which maybe we should talk about in a future design notes. Llusion is still waiting on me <_<.
Thank you if you made it to the end :D Coming in the next patch 1.7.2 we will have 30 more bank slots, tap to move for mobile, lots of fixes and back end stuff. Check back tomorrow where we will do a MUCH SHORTER DESIGN NOTES POST on... hmm, should we do villains, class unlocking, or name plates?