"We are Skulk! Resistance is futile. You will be focused on changing the world to fit our needs." These are words that the designers of Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted heard even in their sleep for the last few months.
At least, that's what I was told they heard. I myself think that a bit of fresh air and sunshine may be in order for the Istaria team. In either case, I can tell you that as the list of what changes were required to meet the goal of improving the "tier two" regions of the world increased, our development team began to wonder if they were defining the world, or if the world was defining them. And as the Skulks are the primary enemy in the region, it was often them who seemed to be in charge. Forests were created for these stealthy creatures to hide in. Lakes were dug from the very earth for them to fish in. Tents were erected for their shamans to perform strange magic that anyone has yet to fully understand. Just as the snow was falling outside windows in real life, so too did snow on the tops of Dalimond Ridge blanket the land. Even the city of Dalimond itself was razed and rebuilt as part of this massive undertaking. And if you want to hear a secret, I heard whispers of a great landslide that occurred in the world just outside South March that left a large peninsula around the community. From what I heard, future plans are to create adventuring areas in the otherwise empty ocean, though how players will reach those islands remains a carefully guarded secret that even I was not told.
So... just what is in this most recent content update? And just what has been keeping not only me, but most of the team quite these last few months? Well, if you open your map of Istaria, the answer is probably clear. The area known as the Dalimond Peninsula is a quarter of the total land mass of the main continent. Stretching from when you cross onto the mainland from Lesser Aradoth into Sable Shore, all the way east to Chiconis, north to Dalimond, and south to the old Gnomish Observatory, there's more land to cover in this region than probably any other single tier in the world. In addition to the three main cities in this area, there are three major adventuring areas that had already existed, and dozens of small communities for players to build their own plots or lairs in. But the team didn't want to stop with just revamping the existing content. They added ten new "quest hubs" for players to seek out quests that guide them as they move from east to west across the land. All totaled, there are over 100 brand new quests that were added with this content update. The monsters which spawn on the peninsula have all been updated, many with new items to loot, trophies to collect, and components to gather. In the main cities of Dalimond and Chiconis, the Town Marshall has level appropriate quests that will direct players to where they can best gain experience in whatever adventuring school they are working on as well as offer bonus experience for completing the quests. But what makes this content release special is the many stories that are told by the citizens of Istaria itself. There are major storylines that explain the presence of the Withered Aegis on the peninsula, and even lead players to discovering a traitor in the midst of the government itself! And as each tale weaves it's way across the land, players will find that the story of their own character's life in Istaria grows.
Everyone at Virtrium is excited by the positive feedback we've already been hearing from players who have experienced the new content. As kind words are said, we know that the many months of long hours and hard work are worth it for the continued enjoyment of Istaria. As we see new faces appear, and "old" faces return, we know that though this content update has been released, the world still is not "complete", as no MMO world ever is, and the work is never "done". Already the team has many more stories even for this area that need to be told, and more work remains to be done. As the final parts of this content update were being packaged to go to Blight, I overheard Istaria's producer commenting on the numerous bug fixes that were also included in this patch. "The game has changed so much in the last two years, but it's not just the new content that the players comment on. They recognize that we're working hard to fix things as they come up right along side of developing new content," she stated. "And players both long term and new are seeing that."
I sat down with her to talk about what plans there are for the future of Istaria and where the team was heading after this particular content update makes it out the door. "We've talked about many different possibilities, and deciding what should be the highest priority next is always difficult. Looking back on the last two years, we've focused quite a bit on improving the game for adventurers with the tier one, tier two and tier five/6 areas being our main focus. And we've added new content specifically for dragons, revamping the "how to train your dragon" quests to be more story-based than just "grind kill" quests, and new lair structures for those who enjoy dragon crafting. Where we haven't focused for any real length of time is on the biped crafters of the game. Though one of our first projects was to complete the Confectioner revamp, that really was the only major project we did for those with two-legs who like to craft." So though I don't have much in the way of detail that I could weasel out of her right now, what I can tell you is that in the coming months the focus will be on crafters, especially those who own plots. There's even whispering around the office happening about perhaps introducing brand new structures for plots! And lest dragons feel left out, I have heard that the team plans to continue to improve the dragon quests which already exist, and the long awaited Rite of Passage quest revamp is already underway.
In conjunction with the launch of this major content up date, we've also created a new video with more of an emphasis on dragons. This video is focused on those potential players out there who have yet to experience soaring the skies of Istaria. In the coming months we plan to launch a more focused marketing campaign, but in preparation for it we've been working with members of the press, working with a website designer, as well as making this new video. You can preview the video on YouTube and help by leaving a comment, sharing the video with your friends, and linking it to your own fansite. This will build interest in the game, and that always helps make any focused marketing that the company does more effective.
And because it wouldn't be a "Developer's Desk" without something from me, I've started a contest of sorts on our Facebook page. I call it our "Who is this masked man?" contest. The statue pictured in the screenshot below is of someone famous and is somewhere in the "revamped" region. If post on either Facebook with both who the statue depicts and where it is in the world, you win! What do you win? Fame and fortune of course! Well, at least fame, as we're a small gaming company. So come befriend me on Facebook or Myspace. Join us as a fan of Istaria on Facebook. Let's see if in the next month Istaria can grow to have more fans than those "Be a fan of this pickle" groups that seem to crop up daily!
Until next time, enjoy Istaria!