Greetings Avatars, Release 10’s main purpose was stabilization, performance, polish, and testing. While we did accomplish this in some areas, we actually ended up adding a lot of new content. In fact, we added almost as much as we add in a normal release! This resulted in more player facing content (yay) but also more instability and lower performance (boo). Interestingly though, most of the stability issues were not something that was visible to us internally, so even if we had spent more time on stability, we would not have had any examples to address. This “catch 22” is caused by several issues including a small team, a smaller QA team (1-2 people), and fairly homogeneous hardware on the team. Unfortunately, none of those issues are addressable in the near term. The best solution here is to increase uptime (I can hear some of you cheering) so that we are getting a continuous stream of crash data from players. The downside of increased uptime will be a steady decline in participation as people consume all available content. This means we need to put strategies in place to keep participation up despite our limited content. This leads us to solutions like Steam Early Access (potentially huge and constant influx of new players) and Monthly Exclusive items (like the Cavalier Hat reward for the Grand Tour Quest). So, now you can see how two seemingly unrelated things (stability and a fancy hat) are connected in the convoluted process that is game development. While we are near the subject of the Grand Tour, I am happy to report that it accomplished our exact goal of increasing participation. We had a 15% increase in logins over Release 9. When we combined this with our reduction of scenes, we also increased player density in the scenes and more players were likely to randomly encounter other players than they were in Release 9. Another issue we saw in previous releases that we attempted to address was players rushing in to claim a lot and place a house but then not decorate them... nor use them for social activities. Part of this is, of course, due to the limited window of time each Release is up, but part of it was also just how easy (free!) we made property access. This added to the perceived emptiness of scenes, and some frustration when players who really wanted a homestead were not able to find open lots. By requiring a purchase and decreasing the scenes with player housing, we were able to greatly increase the number of houses that were actually being used (versus left empty). While we have been making steady forward progress on combat most, if not all, of the data we were using was coming from PVP. That led us to create the Challenge Dungeon so that we could more effectively gather data for PVE as well. We are learning quite a bit from that space and there is a large queue of changes we want to make to address the issues we saw. The sameness of battles against NPCs was not surprising, but the fact that it was so similar (even if on the surface the NPCs were quite different like archer vs. melee) was a bit of a wake up call for us. So one of the very first things we are going to tackle is to start introducing behavior patterns and having NPCs use more skills instead of just standard damage dealing (see Lich battles in my Q4 post here for more details). After several releases observing PVP combat, one of the most visible issues is the fact that it has devolved into constant movement. This is bad for several reasons. Constant movement is one of the more intensive network issues you will encounter in a game. Coupled with the constant stream of combat events being sent back and forth, you can begin to see how it is a worst case scenario. One of the obvious side effects of this is that it very visibly exposes any latency players are encountering. This means players will often not be in the place you think they are. If we want things like positioning (backstabs, shield walls, etc.) and cover to be viable mechanics, then keeping player positions relatively synched visually is important (to say the least). Our current system encourages this constant movement because there are no penalties to moving while casting, moving makes you harder to target, and moving out of line of sight will break target acquisition. A great worst-use case you can see is watching the long drawn out fight between a melee warrior and a magic caster. Currently, the melee guy just has to try to optimize his path to the caster and hope he makes range while the caster just needs to stay out of melee range consistently. The result ends up looking more like a flight combat simulation than a medieval fantasy fight. To start to address this, we are going to make movement begin to affect combat math in Release 11. Standing still without moving will offer a bonus to ranged skills/spells, walking will be neutral, and running will incur a penalty. Our community continues to prove that we have one of the most creative, cooperative, and motivated groups of players around. Of course, I am partial to the events centered around Darkstarr’s devotee Amberraine, which included her amazing sermon about Chaos in her Church of the Dark Star in Valemark (aka PAXLair), her birthday party, and her trial! The level of organization and participation in those events shows both the power of this community and the power of the sandbox we are building with you. For me, one of the most powerful expressions of this development process (and our community) that we are experiencing together is the Wireless Device that made its first appearance in Release 10. It is a piece of art created by Bubonic. It was particularly challenging to make because it had to adhere to our clockpunk, steampunk, medieval mashup that is our art style. In other words, it had to be obviously technological but executed with medieval / rennaisance level of resources. This required some detailed feedback from our Art Lead Hutch and resulted in a much clearer expression of this style. It also uses a piece of code written by Joviex that lets us stream audio directly into the game. It’s worth noting that Joviex also provided a bunch of functionality that we did not have time to add, including muting, volume, stop/play/pause, waveform displays, and multiple channels. When we have time, we will get a user interface to access these functions. Of course, the audio it defaults to streaming (and currently the only choice) is Avatar’s Radio, which is our community driven radio station run by, who else but that Chaotic-one Amberraine. So in one little device we have crowdsourced art, crowdsourced code, and a community driven media channel! There was a small bit of functionality that made its way into Release 10 that I failed to mention in my R10 Instructions post; the Makers Mark on player crafted items. Every item a player makes now has their makers mark visible in the tooltips. I believe this one little function will have a tremendous impact on the feel of our world and is another example of how we are attempting to make this world be truly player driven. Thank you all for all your support. Release 10 is dead! Long live Release 11! Sincerely, Darkstarr aka Starr Long PS You may have now noticed that I did not include the Release 11 deliverables in this post like I have in previous posts. That is because I created a Q4 Schedule post here that covers Release 11 - 13.