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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:04:30   #1
Ilaliya
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Funcom employee Monthly Development Update -- February 26th 2013

Hey guys,

Funcom is finishing up the ongoing restructuring process, and as you may read in the press release, Joel Bylos is the new Creative Director for all of Funcom’s triple-A MMOs, including Anarchy Online.

I have worked with Joel since 2008 when I joined Funcom, and I cannot think of a more fantastic person for this job. The AO team will continue to work on the engine, which will still go out with 18.7.x (it’s currently being beta’d internally). And just a reminder, because it's in 18.7 that it's technically impossible for us to let you guys play it until 18.7 hits testlive, or you manage to get inside the Montreal internal network

Speaking of the engine, the team just finished the system for grass. How it works is we now automatically associate each existing grass ground tile with a 3d grass mesh, and then the code places the grass on that ground. So dark green grass ground tile gets grass mesh #5 and light green grass ground tile gets grass mesh #8, and so forth. Which means grass is now automatically appearing where it should.

Here is a quick fraps we did of the grass working in the new engine. You can see the different ground-tiles have been automatically assigned different grass meshes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej2_VvvGTRQ&hd=1

We just did a live build of the Server Migration patch yesterday, so that should be coming out imminently assuming QA doesn’t find anything horribly broken. I want to thank you guys for reporting the naming issues, they have all been added to the test case. So this means if you poked me or another Funcom employee on the forums about a name situation being incorrect, they’re getting automatically checked. In all cases, it was a matter of the name resolution script not working technically. Once the Operations Team sorted out the technical issues, the reported naming problems disappeared. We decided not to do another wipe/merge on TestLive so the fixes only appear to characters who logged in post-fix, but we are still able to test them internally.

Genele has been working on the New Player Experience (also 18.7), and it’s next in line after the Server Migration. Right now we’re just cleaning up some remaining bits (mostly on the art side) so that it’s ready for Test Live.

However, also due to the restructuring process sometime in the near future I will no longer be working for Funcom. As such this will be my last Monthly Development Update, but I will continue to work behind-the-scenes for a little while helping the transition over to Joel. He will be taking over the updates starting next month as part of that transition.

You have been a fantastic community (most active community ever!), and whenever I read message boards and see the word "confirmed" it will bring a smile to my face. While I obviously couldn't agree with all of the posters all of time, your passion and dedication to AO is beyond inspiring. I plan to continue working in the game industry, so hopefully I will see some of you on a different forum sometime in the future, writing updates from wherever I happen to be.

Farewell,
Ilaliya

Last edited by Ilaliya; Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:07:40..
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:07:17   #2
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:09:26   #3
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Thanks Dave,
So yeah...
Recently I got the opportunity to take on the mantle of Creative Director for Funcom's live titles: The Secret World, Age of Conan and Anarchy Online.

As most of you know by now, Funcom has established a joint, centralized team of experienced developers who have been tasked with supporting, enhancing and expanding all three live games. That means we have a shared pool of design creativity and technical know-how that each game can benefit from, and having the live team working on site at our Durham office – which also holds our community, quality assurance and customer service teams – is a huge plus. I will be leading up the team together with Scott Junior, who has taken on the position as Executive Producer.

It's a pretty big honor to be able to be work on three of the most innovative MMORPGs that exist but there is one pretty big catch - Anarchy Online scares the crap out of me.

It isn't the skill system, implants, the NCU or even the UI. It isn't taking over a game on which I have never dealt with the lore. We have good people who can fill me in on all of the areas where I lack knowledge about the game.
It's that I'm stepping for the first time, into a situation where I have no hands-on experience with the tools myself... no safety net in the sense that I can't just sit down and tell people how to solve a problem in our tools. A large part of design is knowing what can be done, and at what price.

Anarchy Online is not Age of Conan or The Secret World. The shared codebase of those games branched away from Anarchy so far back in the past that it is comparable to the genetic difference between humans and a banana (I'll let you decide which represents which, dear community.)

As such, the benefits of a shared team solution for Anarchy Online are limited to the art and quality assurance side. The core of the Anarchy development team still exists (pending various contract negotiations) and remains focused on developing Anarchy. Obviously their specialized knowledge of Anarchy and all of the idiosyncrasies of the game is a massive boon in keeping the game moving forward.

Despite my lack of hands-on experience with Anarchy Online, I do believe I will be able to bring something new to the game. Having worked extensively on both Age of Conan and The Secret World, I like to think I have a firm understanding of what does and doesn’t work, and for a game that’s been around for over ten years, I think having someone come in with fresh ideas and a new perspective can do the game good in the long run.

So what’s coming up for Anarchy?
Considering we’ve recently moved over to the centralized team structure, we do need more time locking down the concrete details of our update plan. So for now, let me give you an update on what you guys are already waiting for.
First and foremost the server merge will be happening today. It is an absolute priority to get all of our population into the same space.
After that we plan to finish the engine upgrade and have it in beta as soon as possible. I've not been involved in the Anarchy engine process in the past, but I have been able to play it recently and I am excited to get this in the hands of players as soon as possible. Work continues full steam ahead on this, and I can’t wait for you all to experience it.
Together with the engine is the New Player Experience. That is still being worked on and will hopefully be on Testlive as soon as we can possibly get it there.
Once the engine is ready we can start pushing Anarchy Online into some of the larger retail channels like Steam and Origin. Obviously the goal is to grow the community and the revenue of the game.
From there, the plan is get into a more regular update cycle. We might have to alternate updates between systems and content, but eventually we should be in a smoother update cycle.

Finally, my personal goal is getting a better handle on Anarchy and everything contained therein. I'll start playing through the game and trying to experience as much as possible while providing commentary on the design side of Anarchy. Expect to see my weird blog entries showing up on the Anarchy community site soon!

Anarchy Online has been in the lives of hundreds of thousands of players for more than a decade. I am excited to finally be a part of it.
Cheers,
Joel Bylos
Creative Director
Funcom
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:10:35   #4
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Sorry to see you go Ila, but yay for update!

Also, try to get someone to update the Anarchy Online website at some point in time, its oldschool as hell :/
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:18:38   #5
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Thanks for the update Nusquam. It's good to know your undivided efforts will go to completely ignoring AO and AoC, keeping TSW on life support while all other resources are directed to that LEGO game.

EDIT: I may have come across as a bit jaded here. I apologize - something I rarely do. Over the years I've become increasingly disgruntled with the direction this game's management has taken - see line below my name - but this is unfair to you. I have no idea who you are, and as you said, you haven't worked on AO yet so I can't blame you for past mistakes. And who knows, maybe we'll finally see AO become awesome again. I sincerely doubt it, but still.

Anyways.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
Recently I got the opportunity to take on the mantle of Creative Director for Funcom's live titles: The Secret World, Age of Conan and Anarchy Online.
So are you new to the position, to Funcom altogether or even to MMO's? This is not necessarily a bad thing, just curious.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
As most of you know by now, Funcom has established a joint, centralized team of experienced developers who have been tasked with supporting, enhancing and expanding all three live games. That means we have a shared pool of design creativity and technical know-how that each game can benefit from, and having the live team working on site at our Durham office – which also holds our community, quality assurance and customer service teams – is a huge plus. I will be leading up the team together with Scott Junior, who has taken on the position as Executive Producer.
My comment above still stands though. Be realistic and look at the revenues from TSW, and then to AO's and AoC's. Any somewhat sane corporate manager would direct the majority of the resources to the game that's the biggest cashcow (i.e., has the most people paying for it). Sounds harsh, but that's the reality. Knowing this, how much do you think you can do for AO - which has been in a downward spiral ever since AI was released? A promise with 'we'll give AO the attention it deserves!' won't cut it in my book. Promises by Funcom have been made a lot, and have been broken on an equal frequency. I mean, AO can still be 'saved' but it'd basically mean developing AO2 from scratch. Since this isn't realistic by a long shot, what are your effective plans on *saving* AO? Do you think it's still possible? Do you think that you have the resources to do so?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
It's a pretty big honor to be able to be work on three of the most innovative MMORPGs that exist but there is one pretty big catch - Anarchy Online scares the crap out of me.
Scared? You should be. You. Should be. </Yoda>

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
It isn't the skill system, implants, the NCU or even the UI. It isn't taking over a game on which I have never dealt with the lore. We have good people who can fill me in on all of the areas where I lack knowledge about the game.
Just PM any random roleplayer that's still around and they'll happily help you out. They shouldn't be that hard to locate, there's probably about 3 of them left in a corner somewhere. But honestly, do you think that lore is the thing that AO needs right now? There's more than enough ingame right now to satisfy a completely new player for years (assuming the rest of the game wouldn't suck) and the ones who have gone through the content have left a long, long time ago and in my case went to a galaxy far far away (see sig). Shouldn't you be focussing on the few aspects why most people still remotely care about AO? Like character customization, PvP and new PvE content.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
It's that I'm stepping for the first time, into a situation where I have no hands-on experience with the tools myself... no safety net in the sense that I can't just sit down and tell people how to solve a problem in our tools. A large part of design is knowing what can be done, and at what price.
Protip: A technical solution without proper implementation is not a solution, it's an additional problem. I'll leave you to think about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
Anarchy Online is not Age of Conan or The Secret World. The shared codebase of those games branched away from Anarchy so far back in the past that it is comparable to the genetic difference between humans and a banana (I'll let you decide which represents which, dear community.)
Code is code and even millions of lines of spaghetti code can be read by any decent programmer with a little effort. As far as I know you have only hired one, ever: Macrosun. Consider open-sourcing part of the code that isn't licensed under any proprietary bullocks and basically tell your community "Hai here's a snippet, there's a problem x somewhere here and it needs to do y". Won't solve all your problems but should clear a lot of the workload. And no Vhab, your argument is still invalid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
As such, the benefits of a shared team solution for Anarchy Online are limited to the art and quality assurance side. The core of the Anarchy development team still exists (pending various contract negotiations) and remains focused on developing Anarchy. Obviously their specialized knowledge of Anarchy and all of the idiosyncrasies of the game is a massive boon in keeping the game moving forward.
Except what the community has been waiting for is not art and lore and shinies. It's programming work. You can outsource art design to any random Chinese (Beijing office) or even a random player (Docaholic). But the programming work, basically the engine, server merge, parry/riposte changes, rebalance, etc. has been on the waitlist longer than HL3. And yet those are the things people want right *now*.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
Despite my lack of hands-on experience with Anarchy Online, I do believe I will be able to bring something new to the game. Having worked extensively on both Age of Conan and The Secret World, I like to think I have a firm understanding of what does and doesn’t work, and for a game that’s been around for over ten years, I think having someone come in with fresh ideas and a new perspective can do the game good in the long run.
New management can either screw stuff up completely or change things for the better. Aim for the latter and take comfort in that you can't do much worse than the previous couple of years of management.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
So what’s coming up for Anarchy?
Basically stuff that we've been promised over and over and over and over and over again?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
Finally, my personal goal is getting a better handle on Anarchy and everything contained therein. I'll start playing through the game and trying to experience as much as possible while providing commentary on the design side of Anarchy. Expect to see my weird blog entries showing up on the Anarchy community site soon!
Do that *right now*. No developing first. No hints and tips from your colleagues and peers. Just jump straight in without any prior knowledge whatsoever and see how you end up at around level 100. Then compare yourself to the current playerbase. No, I'm not going to tell you why, because that would defeat the purpose. But you're new to this game, and that offers an actual *realistic* approach to what the game is currently like. I fully applaud this initiative but don't delay. Just do it before you're spoiled by your own promises.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
Anarchy Online has been in the lives of hundreds of thousands of players for more than a decade. I am excited to finally be a part of it.
Cheers,
Joel Bylos
Creative Director
Funcom
I've been with this game for half of that time, and for better or for worse. And like most players, for the majority of it I was also excited to be a part of it. But in the end most of the community currently consists of bitter vets. And they're bitter for a reason. I guess it's up to you to pick up AO's game. Good luck, I don't envy you.

Last edited by Arguru; Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:48:19..
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:20:08   #6
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:20:53   #7
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(most active community ever!)
Wait, what?
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:30:43   #8
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Thanks for the update.
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:33:25   #9
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What about profession balance efforts? What is on the to do list and time table?

Even if this game is put on steam,origin etc with a new engine nobody is going to play a game that isn't fun where only 4 professions are viable. Even blizzard learned to kick kalgan to the curb and give paladins respect after years of their abuse and neglect. The situation is worse much worse in ao though, years of bias and mishmash design changes and coddling of lobbying forum trolls with agendas.
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:37:07   #10
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:37:28   #11
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or you manage to get inside the Montreal internal network
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:44:48   #12
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Well, I didn't know I will say it, but I will miss you, Ilaliya. I hope newcomer, I mean Joel, will get hang on AO and understand the story line (because playing is not enough!).

Great update: engine looks as good as I have excepted and just can't wai to see it live.
Merge: Goots its done, because lately it was hard to do anything regarding team play which was not farming.

Cheers!
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:48:53   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nusquam View Post
The shared codebase of those games branched away from Anarchy so far back in the past that it is comparable to the genetic difference between humans and a banana (I'll let you decide which represents which, dear community.)
Confirmed: New director thinks AO is nothing more than a phallic-shaped fruit.
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:50:30   #14
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First time on first page oO

Goodbye Ilaliya, this isn't surprising but it is saddening.

And hello Nusquam, thanks for introducing yourself so quickly.

I apologize for the community. Try not to hold what they've become against them, it is rather understandable after what FC has done to them.
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:53:10   #15
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Confirmed: New director thinks AO is nothing more than a phallic-shaped fruit.
If your happy handle looks like a banana you should probably seek medical advice.
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 09:57:25   #16
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 10:02:17   #17
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Nusquam is good people. I had been wondering how they were going to handle 3 GDs vs 1 live team, heh

Anyway, these changes look set to mark a large shift for AO and I'll be interested in seeing how it all pans out. It's a shame you never played the game before now, Joel, because in it's heyday it really was something truly unique and spectacular. That said perhaps the noise and confusion generated by the server merge might recreate some of that earlier anarchy

I wish Ilaliya good luck for the future, and I remain interested in seeing which of the devs from AO might have made the transition to the new live team, if any. Considering it's spaghetti code (and genetics of a human vs a banana) I hope someone's made it... Macrosun?
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 10:08:14   #18
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Welcome new director - glad to see your appropriately afraid of AO, there is no beast quite like her.

Good luck.
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 10:10:26   #19
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Merge. The sky will fall? Engine looks nice even if it's demoed by terrorist...
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Old Feb 26th, 2013, 10:17:09   #20
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Oh wait, I am not wearing any... Anyways.

Let the servers merge.
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