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So ... What’s Next?
We’ve just come through a major combat update that took forever to get to you because of all the interconnected pieces. But really long gaps between updates are pretty rare.
Usually, I prefer to put out "snapshot" builds every couple of weeks. Snapshots tend to have a lot of smaller stuff and not a lot of big-ticket features to get excited about -- but they give me much faster feedback and bug reports. I needed to rest up a bit from the last update, but I'm back at work now, and it's time to go back to faster iterations.
This next update will have a lot of little stuff. But little stuff is important, too! Let's talk about some of it.
Anagoge, a.k.a. the newbie island, is getting some minor tweaks in the next update. We're making it safer for newbies to explore right around the starting area. (No more spawn-camping spiders!) We’ve also added some visual cues to help newbies find the path up to the lighthouse more easily.
There's also some more new newbie-island content in the works, but I'm not sure if that will be in this update or the one after, so I'll postpone talking about that for the moment.
I haven't been focusing on skill revisions the past couple of weeks -- I needed some time away from those -- but there will be at least one updated skill in the next patch: Hammer.
As with the other revised skills, I've removed treasure effects that were underwhelming and replaced them with new stuff. Since Hammer is all about damage, I resisted the urge to branch out in too many different directions. Instead, there are more ways to synergize damage and more strategies for maximizing DPS.
Hammer has a unique stun-like effect called Knock Down, which actually causes humanoid enemies to visually fall over... or it will when I get the bugs fixed. (Animal enemies, like cats and so on, don't visually fall over because they don't have animations for it at the moment, but they still feel the full effects of the debuff.) Anyway, there are new treasure mods that do lots of damage to knocked down opponents, and a new way to knock people down.
I also added some treasure mods that deal extra damage to monsters with a mostly-full Rage bar. Hammer has no Rage management, but the idea here is that you can Knock Down a mostly-Rage-filled enemy and then start beating the crap out of them. Or combine Hammer with another skill that has Rage control (like Psychology) to keep the monster's Rage meter in that mostly-filled state for longer (and beat the crap out of them). I'm not sure how fun this idea will end up being, but I think it has promise, so we'll test it out and get your feedback.
There are also three new abilities for Hammer: two new electricity-oriented abilities and a new group buff (which of course buffs damage). The electricity abilities are most impressive when combined with electricity buffs from another skill, but even if you don't make a "lightning build", you might end up using the new Hurl Lightning ability just to get some ranged attack damage.
I also tried to fix a few things that were obviously really overpowered, but balance isn't the main goal of these skill updates. First I want them to be more fun; THEN they can be balanced as necessary.
Rahu is finally coming back onto my radar! Since Rahu is currently at the very farthest end of the game world, it hasn't seemed like the highest-priority thing to work on for a while. But in the final game, Rahu is an important crossroads city. (Remember that skills go to 125, so this level 60 city is a "mid-level city".)
For this update, I've been working to make Rahu feel more like a home that players can enjoy spending time in, rather than just a place where some NPCs happen to be standing. This time around I've been focusing on fleshing out some of the NPCs themselves, giving them personalities, quests, hangouts, that sort of thing.
This has led me off on some small side-tangents: some of these NPCs have new minor skills and tricks to teach you. I don't want to spoil them, though! You’ll have to visit Rahu to see for yourself.
Development Cycles, This Update, And Beyond
The last update took a very long time. I'm working on returning to a much faster update cycle -- ideally there should be just a few weeks between "snapshot" updates. As I mentioned before, frequent snapshot builds give me much faster feedback and bug reports, and just makes the whole development process smoother.
The down side is that these snapshots can be underwhelming to players because there's no big-ticket feature to get excited about. It’s also frustrating to players when some bugs get fixed (because they happened to be in the path of development this week) while other, possibly nastier, bugs aren’t fixed yet.
I use these dev blogs to give you a look at the upcoming patch, but sometimes, only looking at what goes into a single update can be misleading. There's always a whole lot of stuff going on here! It's just really hard to tell when all the pieces will come together. I don't like to talk about stuff that's more than a few weeks away because it tends to build up hype that I can't always meet in alpha. Since we use an iterative process, the first version of everything is going to be kinda crappy. Then we iterate!
But just off the top of my head, here's some stuff that I've worked on, or a team member has worked on, in the past two weeks: the new fairy race, a new combat skill, two new outdoor land areas, a new dungeon, mounts, new forums, a new main website, Steam integration, a major GUI overhaul, a new NPC feature, and fixes for a bunch of complex bugs. I don't mean that all those things are about to appear -- some are months away. And I don't mean to hype any of these things because they will probably be crappy when they first launch and need some iteration before they're fun.
But I feel like NOT talking about them at all is also kind of weird. I'm doing these dev blogs every week, never mentioning fairies, and then suddenly one week it'll be "fairies are almost here!" I dunno, it seems sort of disingenuous. But the fact is that most of MMO development is very boring to talk about anyway, so I'm not really withholding a lot of fascinating details. I'm just trying to bring you highlights!
I expect to put up a new build this week with whatever features are ready to go. There won't be any changes to Halloween drops in this update -- keys and pumpkins will continue to drop. (And we'll give a few special keys and tools to Hammer users, to help them get up to speed... but Hammer users may want to start saving up some spare keys now, if you have extra.)
That's all until next time, when I'll bring you more highlights of... whatever else I can get into this update!
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