Launch Day & Beyond - Our Exclusive Interview with Stefan Wiezorek
Albion Online's release has been a long time coming. Beta seemed to go on forever as Sandbox Interactive refined and retooled the game based on its founders' feedback. Now, launch is upon us. Today, we talk to the team and find out what the future holds.
MMORPG: Launch day is finally here! How has the team prepared for the big day? Sleeping bags? Pizza?
Stefan Wiezorek: After having been in closed beta for close to two years, we hope that we have done all we can to make sure launch is a success. Fingers crossed! Of course, MMORPG launches are always a challenge, so some sleeping bags and pizza are certainly part of our emergency supplies.
MMORPG: What is the reasoning behind the tiered release schedule? What about players who come late to the game? Will there be any catch up mechanic or way to become relevant with the in-game community?
Stefan Wiezorek: During our various alpha and beta phases, we have made very good experiences with a tiered release schedule. Everyone with Legendary status starts on the 17th, Epic on the 18th and everyone else on the 19th. This really helps us to even out the server load, in particular given that a lot of people go crazy at the first day of play. From previous tests we know that while starting a day or two earlier than others is a nice benefit, it is certainly not going to skew the game much in the long term.
MMORPG: Now that launch day has arrived, what will the team be tracking as players pour into the game? Are there any particular features or locations that are being watched closely?
Stefan Wiezorek: What’s great about this launch is that we do have close to 2 years of beta testing under our belt, and the game and game world has not changed much at all compared to the last beta phase. Hence, we have very accurate models of how the player population will distribute itself across the game world. What is somewhat unknown to us is how many concurrent players we will actually see at peak times. Obviously, we are prepared for a significant increase relative to our beta tests. But knowing how the internet works, we would not be the first game that gets “hit” by significantly higher numbers than expected.
MMORPG: How fast can adjustments be made to any exploits that players manage to find? What is the process for that?
Stefan Wiezorek: What really helps us here is that Albion can be an extremely competitive game at the highest levels, and different factions already fought tooth and nail during our extensive beta tests. Hence, we hope that the chance of serious exploits appearing is minimal. If an exploit is discovered, the action to be taken depends on the type and nature of the exploit. If it is something rather mild (say, there is a glitch that allow you to safely kill a certain mini-boss in the PvP zones) then we’d of course fix it with a high priority, but it would not impact the natural flow of the game. On the other hand of the spectrum, if it is something super crazy – say, somebody finds a way to “crash the server” – then we’d of course take immediate action, whatever this might entail, and at which point the above mentioned pizza supply and sleeping bags will come in handy
MMORPG: The community and player base are integral to the game. Are there any scenarios you can foresee when you as developers may need to step in?
Stefan Wiezorek: The community is an absolutely essential and integral part of our development process, and community input and feedback influences almost everything that we do. For that to work well, two things are required: on our end, we need to be able to properly understand, interpret and also filter the community feedback received to draw the right conclusions for the game, which goes far beyond “game design by forum poll”, which would be bound to fail. On the other end, it’s crucial that the community environment is kept somewhat civil and constructive, as only then do the best ideas actually emerge. I think we have succeeded in keeping overall toxicity low while at the same time fostering an environment where everybody can contribute towards improving the game.
MMORPG: Once the immediate launch and hotfixes are put in place, what comes next? What new features can players look forward to in the relatively near future post-launch?
Stefan Wiezorek: We will release a detailed road-map a few weeks post launch. As always, our list of new features and improvements is long and constantly refined and updated. Some highlight areas that we will certainly work on are a PvP arena system, guild quality of life features and a drastically improved market place interface, which will really help out players who enjoy trading for in-game profit.
MMORPG: What are the longer-term plans for Albion?
Stefan Wiezorek: We are now a 50-strong development team, and have two stern commitments:
100% of our focus will go towards Albion Online, our only game, and there are no plans for us to start working on other projects.
We will continue developing and expanding the game with full force, and will not in any way slow down development because the game is now released. For us, release is just another step towards our core goal, which is for Albion Online to be still alive and well 5 or even 10 years down the road. This was also always our reason for extending our beta tests as opposed to rushing out the release.
MMORPG: Anything else you'd like to add?
Stefan Wiezorek: As a game that is almost entirely crowd funded, we would like to express our gratitude to our 250,000 Founders, some of which have supported us for many years. In today’s gaming environment, dominated by sequels and prequels of the same game types in different packaging, it is impossible to get conventional funding for a non-mainstream game such as ours without compromising on its vision. Without our Founders, Albion Online would not exist in its current form. Thank You for your trust and support!