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Chris' Release 9 Postmortem!

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by Chris, Sep 5, 2014.

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  1. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    So first off with the boring stuff; numbers again! This release the total number of players and total number of hours was about the same as last release. This was pretty much as we predicted since R9 was really just a short release and also just a “Cram stuff in as fast as we can!” release. My prediction is that R10 will be higher turnout than R8 or R9.

    So as for how I would rate this release, I’m torn. We crammed a lot in but we broke a lot of stuff and made some bad decisions on combat that sucked some of the fun out of it. We got in a huge chunk of content in Ardoris but not much more PVE content and not too many new quests.

    For me this release was a blur. Unbeknownst to most of our users, I managed to sneak away for a full week to attend the wedding of two of my best friends in Colorado. I came back with bronchitis and missed a couple more days. In all I ended up being out for 8 of the 20 days of release 9 and was on strong antibiotics and decongestants for most of the days I was here! Pile that in with it being a short release with a ton of stuff to go in and it felt like we shipped R8, I blinked and then it was time for R9 to go out!

    The good news is R10 is 5 weeks instead of 4 and hopefully we’ll all be well for most of it. B, Starr, Finn, and I were out of the office for 4 of those days to attend Pax and Dragoncon but still I’m expecting R10 to be a much better release than R9. Also, Starr published his official list of what we’re signing up for but I’m predicting we’ll get in more than what he listed. I’m optimistic that we’ll get in some more significant PVE content as well but don’t quote me on that. :)

    So I don't have a ton of time to do my usual stream of consciousness brain dump but I'll put down as much here as I have time for before work demands require my presence!

    So release 9 and reagents was a hot topic both internally and externally. The main issue we’re running into is trying to come up with the best solution that doesn’t break a half finished system or make it not fun. The options we came up with for this and future releases look something like this:
    • No reagents! Not really an option for an Ultima successor but listed here for completeness :)
    • Spells require reagents and cannot be cast without them. This is scary for these early releases because it will add a large amount of frustration for more casual users. Also, for these early releases would require players to work to get reagents, or get money to buy reagents, even though we were only putting the server up for a few days.
    • Spells have reagents but can be cast without them with decreased effectiveness.
    • Spells have reagents but can be cast without them with greater costs.
    • Only more powerful spells require reagents.
    • Spells require reagents but don’t always consume them when cast
    For release 9 we knew people would only have a limited time in game. This means that if we had gone with any of the “Requires Reagents” options then many players would just simply not be able to use magic at all. Those who did want to use magic would have to spend significant time gathering reagents or earning gold to buy reagents. For people unfamiliar with Ultima, this would likely be a confusing and scary experience without an in-game tutorial ready to welcome them.

    So based on the short play window and lack of tutorial, we decided that requiring reagents would be a bad idea for this release and probably R10 as well. We ended up going with a mix of elements. We made tier 1 and 2 spells not require reagents and then made tier 3+ spells have reagents but just cost significantly more and fizzle more if you didn’t have them. I know some people raged against this in the forums but I still believe this was the right balance for a weekend release.

    So now let’s talk long term decisions on reagents! So before diving into any design problem, I like to make sure we understand what we’re trying to achieve. So why have reagents at all? What purpose do they solve?

    • Fiction and history! Ultimas have had reagents since the early days. Reagents are as much a part of Ultima history as virtues.
    • Immersion. Many stories of magic, wizards, and witches used some reagents. We have been trained since our youth to expect magic to have reagents.
    • Economy reasons. Consumables are a HUGE part of the economy. Having elements that are consumed is big to keep money changing hands between players. It provides people who are more interested in exploring and gathering than fighting a way to earn their way. One of these days we can have a big discussion on economy with the players but definitely more than I want to get into in this thread!
    • Choices and consequences. Using magic is a choice and it is generally accepted that the most powerful magic is more powerful than most physical abilities. The consequence of wielding such power is that it comes with a hefty cost in the form of consumed reagents that may be costly and rare.
    • Balance. Using a bow consumes arrows and might damage the bow. Using a sword and shield damages the sword and shield. Any physical combat usually damages the armor. For those that rely heavily on magic, reagents are the thing that is used to balance out its use. Each of the elements above can also be used to force players to occasionally return to town to get supplies and repairs which is an important social element in itself.
    • Control. Magic at its highest level should be very powerful. Because it is so powerful we need ways to limit how often players use it. By tying it to a limited resource we can limit how often it can be used.
    So with those design elements in mind, what should the long term solution for reagents be? This would only go into effect once the game is up 24/7 so players would have time to collect reagents as needed. To be honest the answer is still to be decided and might not even be decided until the game is up and running for a while.

    My personal preference, due to the flexibility it gives us in balancing things, is to require reagents but only have a percent chance for them to be consumed on each cast. So you can’t cast a fireball without sulphur but it is only consumed every third cast.

    So why do I like this option? Because it gives us a way to more easily tune the cost of spells. Assuming we don’t move to a fractional system for reagent tracking, using reagents uses the whole reagent. Our combat system is pretty active and involves lots of casting and skill use. I don’t have the exact stats in front of me but players use in the neighborhood of 200-300 spells or abilities an hour during PVP or continuous combat situations. If spells average 2 to 3 reagents each, you’re talking about using 500+ reagents an hour if every cast uses reagents!

    We could still make that work by just letting you find LOTS of ingredients per foraging instance. So maybe each plant you harvest might yield 30 to 50 elements. We would also need to make these sold in stacks of 20 or 100. Otherwise, we would get into the area of dealing with fractional gold pieces.

    Rather than go the high reagent count route, I would prefer the “% consumed chance” route or even the fractional use route. If we move away from the purely atomic use case, it will allow us to much more easily balance costs. It will also get away from the silly situations where casters carry around 200 stacks of ginseng all the time. The % chance to consume exactly equates to the fraction use situation in the long run but simplifies things for us and adds a bit of a gambling mechanism. We might move that “% chance to consume” to a more normalized pseudo-random chance because then we can let the client handle it but still verify it on the server without them talking it over every time you cast a spell It would also remove the randomness which some people like and some RAGE against.

    Feel free to post your preference for reagent use with reasons to back it up!


    Back to release 9 chatter… so for those who played release 8 and also played release 9, we’re sorry. We screwed up. I’ve mentioned it a few times now in hangouts but I need to apologize again…

    A global cooldown was added to everything and for many it made combat painful. Those of us that move fast in combat, discard fast, roll through the cards fast, were not happy campers during R9. :(

    The cooldown caused the thing we hate the most: an additional reason you had to watch the bar and take your eyes off combat. It also made one of the most compelling reasons to use the deck system, the lack of shared cooldowns between cards, less useful because it added cooldowns to everything.

    We have already fixed this for release 10. We also fixed a bunch of the other annoying little stuff like not being to drink potions while moving and the weapon range issue that was making it look like you attacked but didn’t do damage and vice versa. Also, making it so you can hotkey swap between decks and deck swapping will work as it should with time and focus cost. Not sure we’ll have 100% of the skills finished for release 10 but I can promise that combat will be a better experience for everyone.

    Also, since I haven’t talked about tech stuff yet I’ll give people a quick update on some of that hidden progress that isn’t obvious. So as longtime readers know, we have been very open that the client was still very hackable as most everything was trusted and we’ve just been slowly moving logic from the master client to the server.

    Release 9 was the first time all inventory and bags were on the server and all trading logic was handled server side. For release 10, all vendor logic will be on the server and their data will be stored on the scene server and not the instance server! So what does that mean? That means that the items the vendor has will be constant across all instances. Switching to single player online will no longer let you get around this. On the positive side, you’ll be able to see what other people have sold soon which should help. Also, we’ll probably speed up the rate at which vendors get their deliveries.

    Also for release 10, crafting logic should be on the server instead of the master. Shouldn’t matter to most but it is just another one of the security holes that has to be moved to the server to avoid dupes and exploits. This also opens up the option for us to have secret recipes on the server that don’t exist on the client in any way.

    Currently all recipes exist on the client but in an encrypted file. We’re not naive, we just assume that all data, even data in encrypted files, will be hacked eventually. :) The only truly secure way to keep data is by only having it on the server. For release 10, we won’t have any new secret recipes but we will be verifying recipes and item creation and open up the possibility to add truly secret recipes for the online version.


    Ok, I have decided my wall of text is long enough for this release. I’m going to try to do a few extra walls of texts this release to help spread the love around but this will have to do for now.

    See you guys in release X, er I mean 10! :)
     
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  2. Duke Death-Knell

    Duke Death-Knell Avatar

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    Let me first start by saying I really don't have an issue with regents but here are my thoughts

    •Fiction and history! OK, was magic not reshaped when the world broke a few centuries ago? So I really don't see the need to be a slave to the past.

    •Immersion - there are also many tales of non-regent magic, ever hear of the "will and the word"? One of my favorite series.

    •Economic reasons - I consider this to be one of the most overblown topics. But really doesn't matter for me as I usually "Do it for myself" Most games the only time "economy" is brought up is for one person to justify over-charging people because there is always someone dumb enough to pay those prices.

    •Choices and consequences. Agreed. As long as the cost of regents or their acquisition is balanced with the costs associated with swords and shields. As to power levels, as of yet melee rocks magic most times.

    •Balance. Balance the clutter of hoards of regents versus hoards of swords. I only need one axe and it usually stays equipped. Something needs to be done with regents as well. A regent fannie pack? *G*

    •Control. Agreed, if it is actually as powerful as you say. Have not seen that yet.

    Melee has auto-attack, magic does not. Some balance needs to be struck there.
     
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  3. Lord Lonn

    Lord Lonn Avatar

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    Thanks Chris Great info Post, mixed input myself on R9 ended up having FUN!
    Looking forward to R10 Crafting and PVE, Exploring and the like and of course some PvP again got to
    Glad you had some well deserved time off :D
     
  4. Browncoat Jayson

    Browncoat Jayson Legend of the Hearth

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    Based on Richard's Nutrition hangout, couldn't reagents treat spellcasting as spoilage? So each reagent in a "stack" has a decay value, but (for the most part) that decay is only used upon casting? Higher level spells could "decay" more of a reagent, or possibly even more than one. Some reagents would also spoil naturally (garlic, mandrake, nightshade, and ectoplasm). Plus, its already a system that is being put into the game.
     
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  5. Lord_Darkmoon

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  6. Poor game design

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    For the record, I've always agreed it was the right choice for testing. Going forward I agree you should open up spell casting to no reagents FOR TESTING.

    But long term, my thoughts would be to move to required reagents for all spells, not just high level. I would like to see as much complexity and challenge in magic casting as we see in cooking. I understand how fractional reagent consumption might be a positive, but I'd rather see you reduce the need to cast 200 to 300 spells down to something far more manageable like 25 to 50 spells. That would mean increasing damage of spells while also making spell casting more difficult and reagents more rare. There's actually lots of ways that you could do this, that's just what I'm thinking off the top of my head.

    In closing...Casting a fireball should be as complex as baking an apple pie. I'll leave it at that for now. :)
     
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  7. Poor game design

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    I'm going to quote Lord Darkmoon from another thread:

    This is really good stuff here. I really wish you guys would rethink the way magic works within the glyph system to resemble more of what Lord Darkmoon is suggesting with less emphasis on the damage and cool down stuff. Damage and cool downs are not very strategic or tactical and being a mage is if nothing else about preparation. Being a mage is not whipping out your 6 shooter and firing away.
     
  8. Curt

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    If is a reagent like 'black pearl' it could increase the range of spells, so half range without a black pearl?


    Or could be that when you cast the spell it consume a amount of black pearls depending on range.
    0 = 10 m
    1 = 20 m
    4 = 30 m
     
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  9. Sindariya

    Sindariya Avatar

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    • Fiction and history! Ultimas have had reagents since the early days. Reagents are as much a part of Ultima history as virtues.
      Accepted
    • Immersion. Many stories of magic, wizards, and witches used some reagents. We have been trained since our youth to expect magic to have reagents.
      Accepted
    • Economy reasons. Consumables are a HUGE part of the economy. Having elements that are consumed is big to keep money changing hands between players. It provides people who are more interested in exploring and gathering than fighting a way to earn their way. One of these days we can have a big discussion on economy with the players but definitely more than I want to get into in this thread!
      Hmm the most ressources are protected by animals and so on. So a mage can't collect for himself, because he will need reagents to get to the ressources. So a mage has to decide if he buys everything he need or has to take a weapon in the hand. :(
    • Choices and consequences. Using magic is a choice and it is generally accepted that the most powerful magic is more powerful than most physical abilities. The consequence of wielding such power is that it comes with a hefty cost in the form of consumed reagents that may be costly and rare.
      Haven't seen that a mage is more powerful than those melee. A sword hits with up to 30dmg and could crit. A mage made only up to 20dmg and no crit. Where is the power?
    • Balance. Using a bow consumes arrows and might damage the bow. Using a sword and shield damages the sword and shield. Any physical combat usually damages the armor. For those that rely heavily on magic, reagents are the thing that is used to balance out its use. Each of the elements above can also be used to force players to occasionally return to town to get supplies and repairs which is an important social element in itself.
      When I see how much it cost to make armor / weapon I can imagine how low the costs are for the repair. When I saw how much a spell like lightning cost me during R9 and I have also the costs of the repair for staff and armor, I don't see a real balance now.
    • Control. Magic at its highest level should be very powerful. Because it is so powerful we need ways to limit how often players use it. By tying it to a limited resource we can limit how often it can be used.
      This should also count for any other fighter. Always using the best hit should tire the fighter. But I don't see any mechanic in this way so far.
     
  10. Poor game design

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    That's a good observation. I like the idea of diminishing returns on using the same moves over and over again. This might force the best fighters to use more than the same two skills over and over again and give incentives to players to broaden their deck or think about timing more than they would without it.
     
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  11. Gubbles

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    @Chris, as always thanks for the detailed info!

    Regarding requiring reagents to cast while having a percentage chance to consume the reagents. It wasn't entirely clear to me if you meant this is a probability function, or just a fixed fractional cost to use reagents. Either way though, I think this is a reasonable idea. I am not thrilled about the idea that casting might be possible without reagents, so I'm glad to hear you're not advocating it :)

    Back to the fractional reagent topic -- It seems like a issue of reagent accounting in a way that feels relastic. One idea I had is instead of using the probability function, or a fixed fractional cost, why not do it in terms of reagent weight?

    When we cook we measure ingredients out in terms of weight, and volume. Seems like SotA could follow this methodology for reagents. Instead of having 500 black pearl in my pack, or using the probability method, I can have 100.3 grams of black pearl, where perhaps a cast might consume 200 milligrams.
     
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  12. redfish

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    Yep, this is sort of, though not exactly, what I suggested in my thread arguing for regent potency. Still wish they could do some type of fractional system for bottles, because drinking up portions of bottles is a lot more flexible gameplay wise than drinking them all at once.

    But I think perishable reagents should also be be able to be preserved, generally by drying. Most herbs are able to be dried pretty easy, and they last a long time when dried.
     
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  13. Abydos

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    Chris good job.

    but

    Keep in mind player ll not cast 200/300 spells an hour at release. For now, some dead had no real penality. Il change whit the loot system.

    So, i am for all spell need alway reagents.

    Make all spell need Reagent for R10 and give 1k of each at the avatar creation. We ll can test whitout the time limite malus.

    PvP, Sexe, and Full Loot for everyone here !
     
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  14. Duke Lorimus

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    Chris Thanks for all the info

    Just a Few Points or thoughts on Magic .

    This game just has to use Reagents . im sorry :) but It can't have successor anywhere in its description and not use reagents ... They are not Licenced to EA to not include them would be a huge Mistake. I don't believe this is a emotional response but a honest to goodness fan response.

    The simple Fact is Magic use requires discipline .. Period .. No one should expect to come out of the Gate as a mage it requires lots of Time and Training We all could be a Mage but its impractical to say Day One I'M Merlin look at my power .. It should be a much later life path IMHO and it will cause alot of items to be in demand from crafters and kept in demand for some time .

    Day one I'm Hacking with a Noob Weapon , Later using a good weapon , followed by Im using good weapons and armor staying alive and now I can make more gold than I lose at this time I can begin to dabble in the magical arts .. That is part of the Reason UO's skill development was so Spot on IMHO . If you fall on hard times u could simply stop using reagents and spells and fall back on your original skills . From a imersion point of view Every other Game basically forced you to lobotomize your character causing you to blunder around for who knows how long...that Is a huge Blow to I'm having fun still IMHO mindset.
     
  15. Underlooking

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    Since this mistake caused the community grievous harm it's only fair that you turn the servers back on this weekend as penance :)

    Fractional use of a reagent seems the most lore friendly. Perhaps with a random chance (good or bad) thrown in. I can easily imagine a particular component being burned away with each spell depending on potency. It certainly seems better than a backpack filled with an impossible number of item. There should also be a way to refine the reagents for efficiency or other benefits.

    Caveat, if you plan on using non-combat House cats as a reagent then it should probably be chance based.
     
  16. jay_rab

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    My biggest focus about reagents is the Economy like you mentioned it having them being consumables really allows those non combat players to really live in this world and making them not required in what ever form is taking one third of the players out of the mix for providing me with a steady income as someone who will be a full time crafter as well as being in a town who's focus is full time crafting.

    I simply have zero desire to deal with gathering and crafting reagents just because ultimately all I hear you talking about is "how can we compromise our system with the lease pain to it" if you would trust the players to make sure that they are supplied we can help you in that way without having you put 50+ reagents from 1 flower or having to have it set up that spells dont have reagents.

    Please let all spells require reagents, no gimmicks about how likely they are to be consumed or useful they are, and us crafters and gathers will make sure they are stocked because we want to make a living off of it because if your correct on how much they would be used then you will have tons of players wanting to sell it as it would be a valuable resource.

    bullet points from above:
    1. Non-required reagents makes jobs less needed
    2. Compromising requirements hurts balance and requires gimmicks to rebalance
    3. If there is a high need for reagents players will make sure to fill that need for those wanting to have non-combat lives.
    4. Gathers have no desire to mess with reagents in the current suggested state.
     
  17. Gabriel Nightshadow

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    Chris - I do believe that spells should require reagents for the reasons you stated. I really like your " % chance reagent consumed " proposal. It would certainly cut down on the number of reagents you would have to carry ( I was carrying about 200 of each reagent I needed in R9, which I burned through rather quickly in PvP.) and make spellcasting more affordable (At 10 gp each, reagents are pretty pricey. I ended up spending a big chunk of my time in R9 killing kobolds just so I could earn enough gp to restock reagents.) I think the % chance reagent is consumed should increase by a fixed (as opposed to random) amount with each spell level, so a Level 1 spell should consume a reagent 1 out of 5 times (20%), Level 2 - 1 in 4 times (25%), Level 3 - 1 in 3 times (33%), Level 4 - 1 in 2 times (50%), and Level 5 (and beyond, if need be) - every single time (100%).
     
  18. tekkamansoul

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    Percent chance on cast, please.
    Could add a skill in the Focus tree that reduces the chance to consume for additional strategy.
    For testing purposes just start everyone out with a fat stack - 100 or so of each. Should be plenty for most folks and the ones who want more can always test the "grind balance ".

    However, don't forget to add a notification or indicator of some kind to let people know how many "casts" they have left.
     
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  19. blaquerogue

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    I think that if we swap decks we should also swap skill points, so we could save skill points in one deck (say for bludgeon weapons) then move to next deck skills all reset to zero, we put new skills in for that new deck. Whn we swap out decks our skill pts also swap. so it will be like presets for each deck we design. Also a hot key to switch from one weapon to another! when archer runs out of arrows he hits hot key and now arms a sword and shield. 10 more skill points, in your number of skill pts to start with, would be suffice to be excellent at your main weapon, and good enough with your secondary choice.
     
  20. Lord Lonn

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    Yea I like that Idea I know when you finish a Deck and select to equip the armor you are wearing... Does that also mean that when you swap a deck it will auto swap to that set of armor?
     
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