Friday with Means – September 24th, 2010: Questions and Answers
In this week's edition of Friday with Means, the Main Man opens up the floor and answers your questions from last week's thread, with information on the Battlestations, the new engine, the rebalancing, and more!
This week we have been putting the finishing touches on the update to the addition of the new PvP playfields and adjustments to the Battlestations. If all goes well we should see this version on TestLive later today and on the Live dimensions next week.
Now onto the questions from last week’s post!
Question from Mountaingoat:
Which profession is next?
Engineers are next up. This is likely to take a bit more time as it will involve a general overhaul process of ALL the pets and pet abilities for all professions.
Question from eroz_c:
This range actually got no "love", it got a nerf. Right now, on RK2, it is indeed running constantly. However, at many times it's really close to having only 6 participants on one side. Of these 6+ participants, a lot of the time at least 1-2, sometimes more, are S10 toons (I like going on mine as well and don't feel gimp in the company). This change will mean those people won't help make it run. Is there a chance the range's low level would be left at 150?
The other issue for this level range is the top limit. 189 sounds like a more useful top level lock, if people in the same relative power are to be included. I know some tool sets are opened up at 175, but they are not overly dramatic things, compared to HHAB and TL6 locks at 190. Level 175-189 people really have little tools to play with 214s. So, what was the reason for not including people up to 189 in this BS?
On BS's in general, are you willing to consider some sort of static run speed buff (Totw beacon warp blocker style) for each BS instance that would help the lower battle stations out, or must we wait until run speed changes come to pass?
Now, the big question is: Are you still willing to rethink these ranges, considering that these changes would still result in the most popular non-TL7 actually losing entrants and not gaining them?
None of these ranges are “set in stone”. That being said the ranges will get a chance to run on the Live dimensions so we can monitor how it goes…and if changes are necessary they will be made. Going hand in hand with these changes we will see the required number of people to start a BS drop from 12 to 8 and the people required for it to remain running drop to 4. This change coupled with the broadening of most ranges should result in more participation across different level ranges. On the subject of low level runspeed we have plans to overhaul runspeed in general. Low level players will be moving much faster and high level players will end up slightly slower to better client/server sync. Characters moving as fast as they do now is not practical in a networked game and it becomes a physical problem to accurately depict player locations in such an environment. Vehicle speed will remain as it is to encourage use and to make sure travel does not cause increased delay in game play.
Question from Elvi:
Isn't it possible to make BS-Ranges overlapping?
Or at least, that someone could join the next higher BS.
At level 207 someone could choose to participate at the 215-220 BS while 175-214 isn't running.
Currently it is not possible to be part of more than one queue system. I’m also not sure a team of 215-220 players looking to win in the BS would appreciate a compliment of 175 players matched by 220’s on the other team. Much much more sophisticated matching systems would be required to make this idea effective. Anything is theoretically possible…but whether it would be worth possibly months of development could be debated.
Question from raw_fox:
What are the next steps of the engine development?
I’ll take this as my chance to talk a bit about the engine. During the past year we have been working on integrating the same engine used by Age Of Conan…almost. The engine we have been working with is the “development” version of the engine. During the last year the render team has been tearing the engine apart and rebuilding it better, stronger, faster and more optimized. The problem has been that while this process has been very effective in making it possible for lower end hardware to run the engine effectively it has had the effect of us having to integrate many areas more than once as the engine has changed. Hitting a moving target is rather difficult when you are customizing the AO code and the engine to fit with an already existing game. The new version of the engine is in the process of being stabilized for use in Age Of Conan so this should make our progress much faster in the coming months. Using a shared engine for all Funcom products provides an obvious advantage and we are getting close. We are very excited about it. Another important aspect of the development that needs to be mentioned is that both new AND old versions of the client will be supported…meaning that ideally nobody will be shut-out the day we launch the new engine due to not having a strong enough machine. Making the new client support two sets of data has definitely accounted for some of the extra time that has been spent developing this change.
This week work is focusing on getting the sky, clouds and all those twinkly stars working. The atmospherics in AO are daunting but it needs to be there for the game to retain its unique feel. When that is done work will begin on handling the multiple ocean volumes that exist in many places…for a desert planet Rubi-Ka sure has a LOT of water.
With the increased scope of supporting both clients a Christmas launch is becoming less and less likely…but a Q1 2011 launch seems relatively certain.
Question from Dagget:
2) Since we are apparently going to have a duel client (much like Eve had for a while) will the older client use the same assets as the new client but 'simplify' them to a workable visualization? Or will it have to run with some or all assets duplicated and use a set directed to it? An example being, would the new heads be shown running under the old client?
3) Is the old client getting some tweaks? You mentioned how text was rendered under the old engine as being rendered as a resource hog and that the new client won't have that issue - is that sort of improvement something that can also be applied to the old client?
4) I am sure by this late stage your engine coders can tell you some baseline requirements for the new engine, like, does it require Shader 2, or can it work with Shader 1; stuff like that would be helpful for those who have older equipment and really want to be able to use the new client but need some advance alert as to what sort of graphics card they need (minimally) to handle the new engine. And, yes, I understand the difference between 'running the new engine, period' and 'running it well with lots of features turned on'
5) Is there any sort of timeframe on new, additional Daily missions, including Shadowlands and team missions (not counting the alien missions that will reappear in conjunction with Sector 7). The current Daily Mission structure is nice but desperately needs filling out with more variety of missions.
6) Is it still your intention to have the new 'New User Experience' up, running, and debugged on live before the arrival of the new engine (and correspondant advertising)?
2. The old client will display the old resources and the new client the new resources. Not all resources will be updated in the new…and the old engine is not capable of displaying the new (ie: Bump mapping etc).
3. The old client is getting some tweaks as during the optimization process of the new engine we have discovered many small optimizations that were needed in both clients. AO has never been profiled like this before so some of these changes will definitely make for a significantly improved “old” client.
4. I don’t really want to talk “minimum requirements to barely run it” at this point. When we have a good idea of what hardware is required to make it run well you can be sure we’ll tell you. We haven’t started the process of trying it on poor machines yet as they are still optimizing.
5. Alien Daily missions (they are a huge amount of work so I DO count them) will be coming first and there will be new Daily missions at the same time (there are likely to be a few new daily missions with every update). The timeframe for these is October. This update also contains the Halloween content so it arriving in October is not really something that can be subject to delay. Shadowlands missions will have to wait until after the profession overhaul work we are working through is complete.
6. The new startup area for the game will be complete for the release of the new engine + marketing…so “yes”. This is very very important.
Question from NoGoal:
As we had a lot of threads about 207 killing TL5 twinks, will you also change level ranges outside BS?
We have had some discussions here about the “laddering” that currently goes on at tower wars and we do intend to examine the issue more closely. With everything else going on I can’t commit to a timeframe on this one.
Question from soulviver:
Is Carlita Desposito in game yet?
Not yet…as far as I know.
Question from Azama:
When will we get to see the new character models?
Work was done this week to move our 3d Max work into a newer version to speed up this process. Having to come up with something new every week for you guys isn’t easy…so when they are available you can be sure you’ll see them!
Question from Shareida:
Q&A related: Do you plan on keeping reinventing AO, and giving it a fresh start by advertising, gaining a brand new playerbase, massively changing the game itself, or do you rather opt in slow changes?
The nano/Perk documentations seem to concern me, because none of them actually have been tested by a sufficient amount of players, and are solely based on player feedback. (We all know that player feedback is based on wishful thinking of becoming the new lovechild (myself excluded)).
I have no intention of radically changing the game that has kept so many of us interested for so many years. That being said there is a lot that can be done to remove unnecessary confusion and complexity where it really doesn’t benefit anyone.
The original perks certainly weren’t tested to the extent you are speaking about or we wouldn’t have the perks we do today. In terms of feedback I think that we know by now who is capable of providing us with good feedback and who is not. I don’t believe perfection is achievable with the perk systems…but we are confident improvement is a certainty.
Question from EIS:
1. new engine (this year ?)
2. game balance (this year ?)
3. rubber-banding fix - warping back etc (this year ?)
1. Probably not. 2. Yes. 3. Likely coming with 2, but each version has small adjustments.
Question from ArienSky:
Is the plan to increase or decrease the number of lvl locked nanos/items?
Is the plan to increase or decrease the number of profession locked items(weapons)?
Is the plan to increase or decrease the number of breed locked items(weapons)?
Is the plan to increase or decrease the number of NODROP items?
Is the plan to increase or decrease the number or rarity of weird looking Nanos?
The questions are on the intent for AO future (the balancing)
What are your thoughts on a AO clasic + Notum Wars server?(that only paying players can use)
Is there a chance of the old PVP rules to return to the main server? (so you can be looted, if you have not saved your inventory, and lvl 220 can kill lvl 1 (not in tower wars and cities though) to spark some more user interaction and less solo play).
Will that mean that the winners of the competitions giving a lifetime subscription to AO will get infinite Veteran points on there accounts now?
Level locking is bad…using by skill is good. Profession locked items are unlikely. More breed diversity is likely…items may well play a part in this. No specific plans for NoDrops. If there are plans for the weird looking nanos I don’t know about them or I’ve forgotten. I don’t see an AO Classic + Notum wars as financially viable and as such it is unlikely. I won’t be re-introducing player-looting. People with lifetime or permanently free accounts have their Vet points calculated monthly as before.
Question from Roswell:
Will new engine support Dx 11?
No. For now the new engine is DX9.
Question from boltgun:
Will we see efforts to reduce the gap between new players with leveling chars and twinks (ie: making outdated items like tier armo easier to acquire) ?
With new content and dailies, will we see affected older content like pande or cyborg baracks reviewed in order to give teams or solo players appropriate challenges (removing exploits AND reviewing mobs hp) ?
Any chance we get to see some footage of the engine you displayed at the meeting along with some comments you made that day ? Pleeeeaaaase !
There will be some itemization work included in the balance update. This will likely include some lower level player concerns. There is no plan to close the gap between well made twinks and normal players.
We are always removing exploits and reviewing content. I expect that to continue in the future.
We will be producing a proper engine trailer as soon as possible.
Question from Edta:
1. What is your argumentation for not making it possible to return to neutral once you have been Clan or Omni? Any plan of implementing this? Topic on this topic here.
2. More personal question: I've been trying to obtain Nano breed suit. I'm pretty sure it used to be in-game, but the last years its existence seems a bit mystical. Can you tell me if it's still in-game (so I can grind on, searching for it without feeling to waste a lot of time) and if it's not tell me why it was removed? Please?
I’m not a huge roleplayer but from a story perspective it has always felt absurd that you could return to being neutral after taking a side in the conflict. This would be used to flip-flop between sides and we would definitely see a “bandwagon” effect in Notum Wars. From a technical perspective it also plays havoc with player faction levels. I have no plans for implementing Sided-Neutral changes.
Question from folofal:
To Kintaii and Means
Refering to our talk at the later part of the Q&A regarding weapons and how they look.
I for one love the vast amount of different items in AO and specially how many of the weapons look. A few examples are the classic support beam, banjo, dining chair, hellspinner, ban'zohr hammer, etc.
So getting straight to my question / request - I wondered if A) you could sneak in some creative weapon textures in future updates, like the example i pointed out here ([url]http://yfrog.com/102hbopj[/url]), or examples others have pointed out in this thread.
Alternatively my question B) if it is possible to implement a weapon rebuilding kit (similar to the one for the perennium weapons), so you would keep the stats of you current weapon - but change the looks to.. say a chainsaw, parkbench, mech leg, etc.
We love the idea of different looking weapons/items/armors. The more the better. We just have to be careful right now with allocation of artist time as they already have far far too much to do.
Question from Marshalart:
I'm just wondering when there will be a fix out for all the bugged transfer toons. Transfered my shade probably close to, if not, over 2 weeks ago now and am still waiting for any sign of a fix. Usually bugs of this magnitude are sorted pretty quickly. However I have heard no mention of it in FwM and GMs continue to tell me that there is no known timeframe for a fix. Whats goin on?
If this is a reference to the chat problems…a new chatserver was deployed Thursday that should prevent this issue. If there is still somehow a problem with your character please send me a forums PM about it.
Question from Scabadus:
So I've got a question I'd have liked to ask at the party, but I couldn't be there :(
Yes this is partly a test to see how far through threads the Powers That Be read before giving up.
Will NVidea's 3D software be supported in AO? Let me clarify a bit: I'm not expecting AO to be fully 3D, but right now starting the same with the software running causes a total crash. Login screen appears, you log in, select a character and wham! Once the 3D window kicks in it dies. It would be nice to at least make it so the window doesn't crash your computer so even in 3D mode you can run the 2D game. Now a rumor I've heard is that WoW got behind the 3D technology; I can't confirm this (never played that messy cartoon excuse for entertainment) but the rumors say that when you run WoW in 3D you get the basic game technically running in 3D, but appearing just 2D (or as much 2D as it appears now). The beauty is that because the game is technically in 3D mode they can pull the HUD just half a centimeter above the screen, this tricks the eye into believing the entire game world is in 3D without having to render it as such, because the obviously flat HUD floats above the 'imitation 3D' game it enhances the depth of the 2D image in the screen.
Now let's all be thankful there itsn't a naturally observable 4th dimension or that would have been REALLY confusing!
I read it all but I have to admit I haven’t got a chance to discuss this with the render programmers. I don’t recall any specific discussions concerning this subject so I would have to assume/guess that it isn’t being worked on. Sounds interesting though :)
Have a great weekend everyone!
Colin "Means" Cragg
Game Director, Anarchy Online