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A Return to the Roots of MMOs - Part 2

Tim Anderson Posted:
Developer Journals 0

And now for the continuation of this Saga of Lucimia developer journal. Don’t forget to read Part One to get the whole picture, and understand our focus on community first.

It’s refreshing to be able to be on a first name basis with just about everybody on the forums. Obviously, that will change as the company in the community grows, but I’ve tried to stay on top of making the rounds on a daily basis; as a general rule, I visit around two dozen communities every single day as I find back links coming into the website, and I make sure to stop by, say hi, and answer questions the people might have about the game.

On top of that, were doing lots of things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with our game, just because it’s fun and it’s a way for us to be involved in the community as a whole. Social interaction and friendship is what made early EverQuest so much fun, and it’s something sorely lacking in today’s generation of MMORPGs.

Some of that was related to the simple fact that the game was designed with the group in mind, and while some players might detest the fact that it is forced grouping, there is also the other side of the coin, which are players like ourselves who thrive on group-based games and environments where we are required to work together with others to achieve goals that are so much more than what we would be able to accomplish just on our own.

Currently, we stream just about every day of the week. Sunday nights are world building with Joey Anderson. Monday nights are the Mastery Mastery episodes with Nick Gordner and Giovanni Martello, where they talk about stats and skills and archtypes and how it all comes together for the purposes of character creation and combat. You can catch all those episodes over at our YouTube channel.

I follow up on Tuesday evenings talking about the overall state of the game, and the MMORPG genre as a whole, and I usually have a few of the other developers on during my sessions, talking about random things. Wednesday nights are dedicated to our music composer, David Bradford, while Saturday nights are for the roleplay group, and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings are for our P99 social experiment.

Will be adding Thursday night and Friday night streams soon; one of those will be dedicated to the programmers, and another will feature additional zone development from Alex Drusts and Robert Thompson. We will also have some live art streams coming up as Joe and Emma work on asset creation and character creation, and John Gust may hop on and talk about lore and storytelling from time to time.

We currently have over 1500 registered members at our website, and we’re closing in on a couple of hundred people at our new forums, which we started just a couple of months ago ahead of our alpha. Out of those 1500, just over 100 have pre-ordered our game. Many others are simply waiting on the sidelines until we have more meat on the bones: gameplay videos and proof of concepts, beyond the pre-office stage.

And we totally understand that. We respect it. There is nothing wrong with healthy skepticism, especially considering the fact that we are a team with zero previous experience, we are bootstrapping this out of our own pockets, and we have a pre-order store for Early Access, which we have in place to allow the seriously dedicated and impassioned few to help us mitigate our out-of-pocket expenses.

Which is exactly why we’ve told people publicly that we don’t want a dime of anyone’s money if they don’t believe that were capable of doing what we’ve set out to do. In fact, one of my Tuesday night podcasts started off with a list of five reasons why people should not preorder our game, which listed off things like the fact that we haven’t ever published a previous title before, and that none of us are professional game developers in our day jobs.

But I also think that we’ve managed to show that we are capable of doing what we said we were going to do since we started out. We have the aforementioned year and a half of development underneath our belt, a team of 18 passionate people working on the project, without a salary, because they believe in the project, and the 180+ newsletters and 150 YouTube videos and hundreds of screenshots and videos from our pre-alpha.

We’ve met most of the dates that we said we were going to make, although there have been a few hiccups related to the simple fact that since we are a part-time team working outside of our day jobs, things crop up. Four of the team members have had babies since we started. Well, their wives have had babies. And each time, we lose those people for two or three months while they take care of their family. Which consequently slows down development.

That’s life and day jobs. We work around ‘em.

Even so, all you have to do is look to the community streams, screenshots, and our game forums, to find the proof that we’re moving ahead and making forward progress every single day, regardless of the criticism and skepticism. It’s hard work and passion that wins the day, not opinions.

The first alpha stress test focused on us testing various levels of server configurations and database settings against the current number of backers we have taking part in the Early Access program. We went through three levels of servers and databases before we settled on the one which give us the performance that we were looking for.

We also tested the login functionality, and three different clients for Linux, Windows, and Mac. Bearing in mind that we are a primarily Windows based game, as long as the interest remains there and the numbers of players actually testing Linux and Mac continues to present at a roughly equal level, we will keep producing future builds for all three platforms.

However, Windows is by far the majority winner, and if the other two ever drop too far behind, we’ll be focusing primarily on Windows and only worrying about Linux/Mac at the end of the line when we are ready to publish the game in December of 2017.

Hint: if you want us to keep testing Mac/Linux builds, you need to get involved in the Early Access program and show us that there is a large enough interest for us to keep moving forward. Otherwise, we’ll drop back to Windows only, since that is where the primary focus of interested parties lies. No reason for us to waste resources and man hours testing something that only 1% of our playerbase wants.

As you can see from the various streams provided by community members, as well as our own official video, the server stress test went off exactly as planned. There were a few kinks to work out; for example, we didn’t have a good enough interest management system in place for the first server test. However, the vast majority of players were able to login and play the game exactly as intended.

For interested parties, we had 50 people join us during our test run of the alpha servers. That’s roughly half the current number of folks who have preordered our game. A small number, to be sure, but one we are absolutely comfortable with considering how early on in the development cycle we are.

Our Early Access program is not what some players might expect. We are not doing this for marketing purposes; our game is still two years away from launch, we are just now getting into the combat and meaty portions of the game after 18+ months of working on the foundation levels of skills, databases, server architecture, and beyond.

Instead, this is like the earliest stages of a friends and family alpha, when you have to 50 to 100 dedicated players who are engaged on a regular basis helping you test the features that you need tested. Kicking the buckets that you ask them to kick, following directions to test specific functions and features, and helping you to work out the kinks.

We’re also wiping characters between builds, and we’re using throw-away content for the purposes of testing features and mechanics. We are TESTING; this is not a public beta meant to generate hype with the masses and boost pre-order sales. It’s ugly, there are disconnects, we’re using placeholder character models, placeholder world assets in some cases, we haven’t made a single optimization pass, shader passes, light passes, art passes, or anything remotely resembling polish.

Consequently, this is why we have publicly stated that anyone who is skeptical about the fact that we have yet to produce gameplay videos, or that we are a completely unknown team working on our very first MMORPG, should maintain their distance. We are too early in development for skeptics to get involved. Our best piece of advice to you is wait until 2018 after we have released the finished product and you can make your decision then.

Stay tuned for Part Three, in which I’ll be talking about the upcoming October 24th build, mechanics, and the road ahead as we continue into the alpha for Saga of Lucimia.


Tim Anderson