Thursday, December 15, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.551, "Power Coding Finale: New Crafting Model, More Missions," Released!

This one is the last of our power-coding releases -- at least in this stretch.  The framework of everything we wanted to accomplish in that stretch of power-coding is now done, and now it comes more to balance, polish, and putting some meat on the new bones.

New Crafting Model, No More Tiers
It was pointed out, and rightly so, that the older model of tiers in the game was something of a grind.  Every 10 levels your stuff would start to degrade, and you'd have to get new stuff to replace it.  Even the people who love the game felt like that was a very visible treadmill.

For us, the intent wasn't to build a treadmill, but it was to be able to have a sort of "many game progressions in one world" quality to the game.  And there are only two ways to have an infinite progression: 1) infinitely rising stats, which are murder to balance and tend not to work very well even then; or 2) periodically causing players to lose their stuff in some fashion.

And the simple fact is, losing your stuff is not fun.  Especially when it's on some arbitrary and predictable timetable as you play.

The solution we settled on, after much discussion with players, was to make it so that spells and crafting are all a per-continent thing.  You unlock spells on a continent by crafting them once, and then you get to keep them forever on that continent.  If you ever drop or lose them, you can equip a new copy of that spell for free at any spellgem workbench.  So can any other player, when it's a multiplayer server.

But each continent has its own magic selection, and so when you go to a new continent only a core of your spells will actually work there.  You can carry your inventory with you, so it's not getting lost or rearranged or anything, but you can't use anything beyond the basics on the new continent.  Your process of getting more powerful so that you can face the overlord will involve unlocking the spells that you think will best help you achieve those goals.

This has all the advantages of being able to play "multiple game progressions in a single world," without making for arbitrary degradation of spellgems.  There's a lot of other things related to this that changed for the better, such as making the crafting commodities inventory central per continent rather than being something that is per-player (so again this is great for multiplayer), and changing up the material costs for all the spells.  Definitely check out those release notes if you want the whole scoop.

More Missions
For details on how the new mission system will work long-term, please see this link.  There are several forum threads with older designs in them, so make sure you're not looking at something outdated if you look in the forums.

This new release makes it possible for players to rescue NPCs and raise wind shelters via the missions system.  The contents of both of these missions is incredibly temporary and boring -- it's identical to the rare commodity tower missions. 

One of the core next things that Keith and I are going to be working on is not only new missions in general (new things you get for completing a mission, in other words), but new ways for the missions to actually play out.  It won't always be fighting a bunch of bosses, or even fighting at all.  Lots of cool things planned there, but we just need time to actually get them in place!  You'll start seeing more of that in the next few days and week, actually.

No More Strategic Map
The strategic map has now officially been disabled.  There were a few things that you could do on the older strategic map that you can't do yet in the missions system, but that stuff is coming -- along with new things that had been planned for the strategic map but which had never been implemented.

The idea with the missions is that they completely replace the strategic map in terms of how they let you do your strategizing.  The result is more like certain boardgames -- Settlers of Catan and Dominion come most to mind for me personally -- rather than like a traditional turn based strategy game on the PC.

Worried About Freeform Exploration?  Definitely Don't Be!
We've had a few folks that expressed concerns that freeform exploration is going away.  That definitely won't happen! 

There's going to be all sorts of cool stuff to explore for and find even outside the main mission structure, and we'll be doing things like optional secret missions that you can only find via exploration, too.  We'll probably even get into world map stuff like secret islands that you can uncover out on the sea, etc, but that's a bit further off.

For me personally, being able to go off the beaten track and explore is really key to having a fun adventure game, so the exploration-minded need not worry.  During this transitional period most of the focus is going into the missions, so that does skew things temporarily -- but that's just a short-term factor of this being beta, not a new design direction for the game itself.

New GUI Graphics And Revised Logo
Phil did some awesome new GUI graphics for us months ago, and I just have finally had time to actually put them in the game.  They really make a huge difference!  Things are a lot cleaner and easier to read, and in general more attractive.

I also took this opportunity to improve the AVWW logo, while still keeping the identical shape of the text.  Now it just looks fancier and more crystalline.

Done Powercoding, But Balance Still Might Be Wonky In The Short Term

As noted above, Keith and I have completed our power coding phase.  So that's good news, we're now going to be working on content and other new stuff, rather than a bunch of tectonic shifts to the underlying game.  But still, given the scope of the changes, the balance is likely still off at the moment.  This is something we very much want to hear about, now! 

The missions still are in an incomplete form, meaning that some aspects of balance still won't be possible to completely finish yet, but in general we're getting there, I think.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

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