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Monthly Development Update - February 26th 2013

Ilaliya & Nusquam brings you the latest news from the AO team.

Forum post can be found here.

Letter from  Ilaliya

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:

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.



Letter from Nusquam

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.
Joel Bylos
Creative Director