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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 07:00:47   #1
Ilaliya
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Funcom employee A Small Update

A Small Update

For various reasons Lindelu will be unable to post her letter until next week. So I wanted to write you guys something, and touch on a couple of subjects she isn’t talking about. So you can think of this as a double-newsletter month.


First Things First

I’ve always tried to be completely transparent about the goings-on of AO, and as much as possible give you guys insight into the behind-the scenes. So first, I want to dispel any rumors and get the following out of the way:

I think it’s a safe bet that most people who read these forums are aware that Funcom has been making structural changes to the organization, in order to streamline the business side of things. There have been a number of press reports and articles I’m not going to link here. But due to the nature of the beast, all projects & teams were affected at Funcom. And yes, we’ve had to make some changes on Anarchy Online. However, this will not make an impact on our priorities and with a couple minor adjustments won’t make a substantial impact on our planned delivery schedule for most features. We’re still going to deliver the features that you guys have been asking for

Two things to keep in mind here:
  1. Anyone who reads Funcom's quarterly reports should know Anarchy Online is, and has been, “cash-flow positive” which is a fancy way of saying the project itself is extremely secure in terms of the finances. So AO isn’t going anywhere. The adjustments to the AO project were made for external reasons.
  2. In a lot of ways, the AO team has been impacted less than other projects because we had been staffing up in preparation for a couple of members who had been planning to move back to their country of origin in late 2012/early 2013, for purely personal reasons. We had been hoping to benefit from being “overstaffed” for a couple more months, but this can no longer happen.
Our major feature priorities are still the following:
  1. Server Merge
  2. Engine Upgrade
  3. New Player Experience
  4. Profession Rebalance
We are still evaluating as we go, but the changes to the AO team might mean that #3 and #4 get flipped with each other due to basically rearranging how work is distributed and what makes the most sense to do first. We had planning on doing the Profession Rebalance in smaller changes over time anyway, and some of those smaller changes may get re-shuffled. And there will still be regular bug fixes and improvements, content updates, tweaks to the item shop & etc.


Engine Upgrade

I’ve written a number of detailed/technical posts about the engine, and I’m not going to re-cover that ground. But if you are interested in the more technical aspects you can read up here, here,here, and here

Basically, when Fia and I joined the project, we decided to take a somewhat different approach on the Engine Upgrade than what was in progress when we joined. Instead of focusing on the engine features themselves (getting X to work) and upgrading individual assets or areas, we decided to take a more holistic approach and ask the question “what is strictly needed to produce a playable version that can be deployed externally, and launches/updates/patches via the existing methods?” And this is where the work has been directed. Because let’s face it, you guys want to see something… and if various features need to come later (for example, the first public beta of the new engine probably won’t display helmets for various technical reasons) that’s probably preferable to not having anything at all. There are a million of these small technical things that, instead of trying to solve all at once, we can push off until after we have something that can you guys can have fun with now.

So I am pleased to say we have a series of internal milestones left to meet, but if all goes according to plan we should be able to get something in the hands of players early next year. This would be a public beta rather than an official release, which means the team is free to focus on the issues that we feel will get us to the endpoint the fastest. The fact is that AO players use an enormous diversity of hardware, and once we have a deployable version, we don’t really want to have the expectation of a released product (meaning officially “supporting” everybody’s video cards and have to prioritize these fixes first). If any of you guys played Conan, this would be similar to how the DX10 client was technically in beta long after everybody who wanted to use it had already switched over.


Server “Merge” (it’s really a Migration!)

I’ve talked about the server merge at length on the forums, so you guys might have read this before but I want to recap it. Some background reading is here.

Just to be clear, what we are really doing isn’t strictly a server merge; rather it’s a server merge on the data side followed by a complete server migration.

Technically speaking, we are taking the two existing dimensions of Anarchy and merging the data at a database level, and then migrating that onto a fresh server. While combining the populations into a single dimension is a positive thing (and a great benefit!), the primary motivation is good server health. Another benefit is that we plan to move inventories out of the BLOB structure they’re currently in, so this will save developers and players alike a lot of headaches. It will improve customer service and development, because item data in general will be a lot more accessible to our tools.

Obviously, we have one shot at this and we need to get it right the first time. There are also a lot of auxiliary design tasks (everything from expanding character slots, to improving instanced cities) that we will start to silently patch in the next few updates. Think of this as staging / testing / prep-work. The server merge is scheduled for the 18.6 update, so that will be our next “major” patch, after we are done with the 18.5.x series. The final patches from the 18.5.x series will be the aforementioned prep-work.


I think that about covers it! Lindelu’s GD letter is forthcoming. There’s a lot of great stuff in there, and I don’t want to spoil it. And before you ask me questions NOT about the above please wait until Lindelu's letter gets posted, because it pretty much covers everything I don’t.

Last edited by Ilaliya; Sep 1st, 2012 at 07:05:09..
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 07:16:44   #2
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I'll go for seconds too and just want to say that imho as long as the communication to the players is honest and explained (to the extent it can be explained) and not mug-shots or renders of things that will be available in 2 years or totally flippant deadlines like engine will be out in beta form 2011 Q1-Q2... I think people wont be angry about it. It's still AO and we all still love it.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 07:23:51   #3
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Seventh!

I love your posts, please keep them coming! A single post like this is worth a years worth of Means' posts. Factual stuff beat intentions any day of the week.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 08:01:33   #4
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Originally Posted by Ilaliya View Post
So I am pleased to say we have a series of internal milestones left to meet, but if all goes according to plan we should be able to get something in the hands of players early next year.
Thumbs up for being brave enough to give us at least a rough estimate. :P Looking forward to it.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 08:24:23   #5
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Hai.

Will AO continue to be a top heavy game where everybody rushes to 220 and new players continue to be despised by veterans because they dont have credits to buy all the stuff they need to make a decent toon nor farm all that crap by themselves and are good only to be cannonfooder for PvP twinkies in the bs that is the BS?



Bai.

Oh and i is firster then the firstest!!!!!
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 08:40:47   #6
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Great update thank.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 08:53:58   #7
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Originally Posted by Demoder View Post
It's illegal to lie about such things in a quarterly report; And if you suspect they're doing that, you should report them to the authorities.
The game can still be cash flow positive. It depends on how you account for things. However I too believe that there are way more subscribers than people think, imagine, or proclaim on these forums.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 10:20:45   #8
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I really appreciate this update; it really explains a lot of what people have been wondering about, and gives nice pointers to other places where more detailed information have been provided.

Although this wasn't the GD update, I think that linking to such important information is quite helpful; would it be possible to make this a section of the GD letter, when applicable?
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 10:23:12   #9
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Oh, the famous 'It's coming next year again' 'eh?

Remind me to NEVER ask for any of you guys to mail me a cheque.

So is this 'next year' any more honest or accurate than the last 4 or 5 years we've heard it for??
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 10:26:49   #10
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Can we know who is going to leave?
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 11:21:10   #11
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we should be able to get something in the hands of players early next year.
Bad move. Very bad move. Bad bad bad. I can't emphasize enough how bad it is what you just did.
I hope for the love of Cthulhu that you know what you are doing because it will backfire so hard once the "D day" comes.

GOOD LUCK! you are going to need it
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 11:39:34   #12
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I like these kinds of updates too... sunds good
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 12:02:24   #13
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New Player Experience this year??

I'm a little confused so let me ask something. For the past few to several months I've read on the forums that the release order was pretty much:

1. New Player Experience/Starter Area
2. Server Merge/Migration
3. New Engine
X. Rebalancing sprinkled in along the way as 1-3 are being done.

In a post just under 2 weeks ago Ilaliya stated:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ilaliya View Post
Yeah I can confirm we aren't going to release a booster / expansion in 2012. The biggest block of content we are releasing in 2012 is the New Player Experience... and it's pretty huge.
Now, if I'm understanding Ilaliya's post today, it sounds like the New Player Experience is currently #3 on the priority list and possibly, per his statements, might be shuffled to #4.

Questions:
1. Since the original post stated that the beta for the #1 item on the list. the new engine, isn't happening until sometime early next year does that mean that AO is not getting the New Player Experience this year?

or to be more general...

2. Is the priority list order the same order that those items will be released/finished?

Last edited by Traderjill; Sep 1st, 2012 at 20:03:21..
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 12:26:29   #14
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P.s.: OMG NEWS!!!!! And good ones! I really expect to these things happens, you know! If you had toyed with us and such I'll hunt you, find you and kill you in the slowest and painfull way possible! :3 (j/k)
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 12:38:35   #15
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So does this mean we will get the server merge also in "steps"?
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 13:15:31   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Traderjill View Post
2. Is the priority list order the same order that those items will be released/finished?
This is where it gets a bit tricky.

There's different people (different professions) involved with most of these projects.
A lot of work on these projects are done in parallel by different people.

This indeed means the projects are not assumed to be released in the order of the priority list.
They might, but they just as well might not.

But the priority list still matters for everyone, like the server merge calls upon some art and design time which takes on priority.
(A lot of design decisions had to be made for the server merge )

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Originally Posted by orochi3 View Post
So does this mean we will get the server merge also in "steps"?
Yes and no.

The actual server merge is a "2 servers go down, 1 server comes up" kind of deal.
But we will indeed be patching out various things which are invisible to players but essential to the server merge before the actual merge.
Things like changes to character slots will be patched out first, but won't affect anyone until after the server merge.
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Last edited by Vhab; Sep 1st, 2012 at 13:18:20..
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 13:37:17   #17
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But the priority list still matters for everyone, like the server merge calls upon some art and design time which takes on priority.
(A lot of design decisions had to be made for the server merge )
Thanks for your response Vhab though it just highlights the ongoing confusion I get from Dev/Funcom employee posts, at times.

As a customer, what I'd like to know is not your internal priority list but when to expect something to be released (to the test server and/or live servers). If the priority list matches the release order list then it does matter.. otherwise I'd say it matters to you guys internally and not so much to the players that are making decisions about whether to re-up accounts or continue playing the game.

Your response sounds as if you guys don't actually have a timeline in mind for what's getting released when. Is that the case or am I misunderstanding your comment of "They might, but they just as well might not."? If there is some timeline out there.. why isn't anyone telling us what it is in plain English? Sometimes the dev posts make me feel like I didn't get my secret decoder ring out of the cereal box this week, lol. Is Illayia's comment that that the NPE is going to be released in 2012 still valid?

Last edited by Traderjill; Sep 1st, 2012 at 14:27:04..
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 14:24:20   #18
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Can we know who is going to leave?
Quote of the year. Nice update.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 15:28:18   #19
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Is the engine in any way dependant on the changes that are being done for the merge, such as the db conversion from it's current state?

Also, relating to the merge, how about addressing as early as possible the elephant in the room - the issue of duplicate names? that should be resolved in a manner satisfactory to the playerbase months before the merge happens.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 15:33:50   #20
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Is the engine in any way dependant on the changes that are being done for the merge, such as the db conversion from it's current state?
It is not. The merge is largely about the server side database.
This involves some conversion, a lot of re-sequencing and some magic on the server database.
There's a few client side modifications being made, but these do not affect the new engine.

The new engine only affects the client-side database (which on the deployed client is just a file really ) and only concerns itself with new resource types specific to the cheetah engine and such.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dagget View Post
Also, relating to the merge, how about addressing as early as possible the elephant in the room - the issue of duplicate names? that should be resolved in a manner satisfactory to the playerbase months before the merge happens.
Decisions are being made regarding naming rules in regards to duplicate player names and organization names.
These will be announced in due time.
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