We’re still working full steam ahead on the next update! The last dev blog gave you some hints of what’s coming, so this time I’m going to answer some questions you asked over the past few weeks. I can also give you the latest timeline I have... which is, unfortunately, extremely tentative. But that's alpha for you!
Battle Chemistry was due for a major revamp, and... well, a major revamp isn't actually happening any time soon, if ever. My experiments didn't pan out satisfactorily.
See, the big "problem" with Battle Chemistry is that it's too broad in scope, and thus too powerful. Huge burst AoEs, potent buffs, and powerful restoration? There's way too much good stuff there. But in my experiments, splitting off some of its parts hasn't resulted in a fun skill.
After the second unsatisfactory experiment, I got to thinking: maybe this will all work itself out. The thing I keep forgetting is that Battle Chemistry is an advanced skill. As the testing NPC explains, you'll need level 50 Alchemy just to learn it! It's not a newbie-available skill.
With that in mind, I'll need to compare it to other high-level skills. (For example, most weapon skills will have several specializations at high level that offer more breadth, perhaps equivalent to the broad scope of Battle Chemistry.) When compared to other high level options, it might not be so overpowered, and it might not need any major changes. So rather than hack at it now and then potentially have to revamp it again in the future, I'm going to wait and see.
So, bottom line: no dramatic skill changes planned for Battle Chemistry. I've begun adding missing treasure effects, buffed some subpar mutations, and added other missing functionality to the skill, including a new Basic Attack. Players will be able to raise it to 70 in the next update.
However! I'm also going to take the training NPC out of Serbule. He'll move to Rahu and will require level 50 Alchemy, as he has always said he would. This will help to better reinforce that this is not a skill for newbies!
If you have Battle Chemistry already, but you don't have Alchemy at 50 yet, you will still be able to use Battle Chemistry, but you won't be able to raise it to 60+ until you do. So... best get on that, I guess!
Raising Other Skills Past 50
In addition to the combat skills, some non-combat skills can be raised past 50 in the next update. Others will come in time. I've already bit off way more than could easily fit into a single two-week snapshot - which is why this is now a four-week ‘snapshot’ - so I don't want to wait until every single skill is ready. But the ones with side-bar abilities, like First Aid and Mycology, are already ready to go in the next update. Some of the crafting-oriented skills will be raisable, too.
A while back, we had a separate ‘test’ server where we could test out the more extensive code changes before introducing them to the real server. (Project: Gorgon may be in alpha still, but we try very hard not to put your characters in danger of getting seriously screwed up!)
But the test server requires a lot of logistics work, so we haven’t been using it for updates that don’t require it. There's a lot of stuff in this next update, but it’s not really anything TOO crazy in terms of new code features, so I don't think the test server would be worth it for the next update.
However, when we get the new GUI ready to go, tentatively in late February, we will put that up on the test server... so you can help us find any major bugs in the new GUI before we inflict it on the general populace of testers.
Where Are The Fairies?
As I mentioned in the December 22 note, I've postponed fairies and the fae realm until after Gazluk. The art assets weren't ready yet, and I still have some logistics of flying to work out. I'm not sure when fairies will be back on the radar, but it won't be too terribly far off. A few months.
(Oh, and just for reference: ‘Fairy’ refers to a specific race of people, the ones who will (eventually) be playable. ‘Fae’ refers to anything from the fae realm, including fairies.)
I'm still tentatively aiming for a Steam early access launch in late February/early March. But the new GUI is getting closer to being ready, and I'm starting to think it'd be really wise for that to be done BEFORE it appeared on Steam. It will probably take a while to iron out the kinks in the new GUI, and it seems silly to foist a buggy GUI on a new customer base...
Anyway, without getting into too many details, there are lots of logistics involved... so I'm not really sure when exactly it'll be on Steam. But instead of it being a far off "soon-ish", it's a much closer "soon".
I also wanted to respond to some questions that I didn't get a chance to answer on the old forums before they closed.
Making animal curse-forms permanent if you stay in the form for a long time: This was actually close to my original idea. But after getting feedback from animal players, I've abandoned that plan. I like having some permanent "hard choices" in the game, but I don't think most of the animal forms would benefit from that. There will be various small pressures to stay in animal form -- like being able to make better milk the longer you stay in cow form -- but nothing that forces you to stay in those forms forever. (Except, of course, that lycanthropy is never curable.)
More animal-handling animals to tame: There will definitely be more tamable creatures! But they're on hold until I'm happy with more of the basics. I think the three animal families (cats, rats, bears) are enough for alpha. They give you the idea of how it will work for future animal families.
Grouped troops: I mentioned in a recent blog post that having monsters wander around is expensive, in terms of server CPU. Someone asked if having monsters walk in a group would be more efficient, and it would... if they were coded that way. Right now, monsters don't have enough AI features to be able to follow another monster. But that's something I'd like to have eventually, so I can have wandering packs of monsters. (I fake it sometimes already, by having several monsters that happen to wander to the same spot, but it's not efficient.)
Other new skills: There will be many more crafting and interaction skills in future updates! And yes, brewing is one of them. Of COURSE there will be a brewing skill. So you can stop sending in that suggestion!
So When’s the Update?
The next update is tentatively planned for Wednesday, but you know how this stuff goes: these are my optimistic timelines, and delays happen a lot. I'm working REALLY hard to get it all set, but it could take a few more days. But I really, REALLY expect it'll be up by this weekend at the latest...
... Because I am so tired! Seriously, I need a week off after this huge update. We worked through the holidays on this one, so I'm gonna take a short "winter break" after this launches. It's been pretty much nonstop work for a month as I level up all these skills, monsters, and so on. The basic Gazluk area is finally almost ready... I just gotta finish up about a million loose ends, and then I can rest... rest…
Edit: actually, I think I'm going to go ahead and set the date for late Friday. I want the extra time to polish things up.