Shroud 2020 Vision

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by Chris, Jan 6, 2020.

  1. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    Greetings Avatars!

    As a team, we try to remain as flexible as possible to work on what feels most important at any given time. With that said, we wanted to give players some insight into what our focus will be as we head into 2020.

    It is important to note that this is not intended to be some kind of binding contract where we promise we will hit each and every item mentioned. Rather this is just intended to be a vision of where we believe we are headed for the next year. Items will move around, sometimes slip, or sometimes move earlier in the schedule, In some cases we might decide that an item no longer makes sense once we start digging into to it and we might remove it.

    The obvious elephant in the room that needs to be discussed first is Episode 2; what that means and when it will arrive. How to deliver it is the really big question. We have some people who are angry we are not currently creating content. At the same time we have other people who say they want us to hold all of Episode 2 until it is 100% done and not trickle it out to people. There is some logic to each of these views and where we will end up is likely somewhere in the middle.

    Our goal will be to roll out some new content on a continuous basis, roughly one new scene per release. Simultaneously we want to keep the Episode 2 story held back until we have full confidence in our new quest system. The current plan is that once we have confidence in the new quest system we will start rolling out the main Episode 2 quest line on QA only. Additionally, at least once each release we will migrate data from Live to QA and effectively reset your progress on the main quest line on QA.

    New Episode 2 content in the form of new maps, items, creatures, and skills will roll out monthly. Our goal will be to average roughly one new scene a release starting with the February release. Long term our goal would be to get to two scenes per month in the second half of the year.

    As previously discussed, we do expect to have a large quest line comparable to Episode 1. However we do plan on keeping the questing areas confined to far fewer spaces and we plan to reuse the spaces more so players can better build a familiarity with them. Rather than build dozens of NPC cities and scenes and then sometimes using them for just a single step, we will be using the storyline scenes many times. NPC cities in Episode 2 will largely be NPC focused with far fewer player houses (maybe none at all). This will not only help us make more use of the space for story lines but also improve performance and load times for those scenes.

    Ask any 100 players what they think we should work on and you will get 100 different lists. However there are a lot of common items that will fall into most of those lists. The reality is that the thing we need most of all is not something we can code but rather something we have to earn which is a larger player base. While we continue to do some advertisements and have brought in lots of new players we are really only managing small growth to our player base over the past months.

    Roughly 500 - 700 new players try the game each week and of those, roughly 12% stick. That stickiness number is actually very good by F2P standards. Most of the people that quit, do so within the first scene. This means one of the following: their machines are out of date, they didn’t like the look of the game, didn’t like how the game played in general, or they really were just passing through and didn’t have a real interest in playing. We have spent countless man months working to improve the starting scene and we have seen some modest improvements; but there are some people we will never get to stay.

    Our conclusion is that continuing to try to improve the stickiness rate with early game polish is not cost effective. It also doesn’t benefit existing players directly. Players who were with us last year saw us spending months on improving the starting experience while apologizing to existing players for not making the rest of the game better. Buying more ads is also extremely expensive and also doesn’t benefit the existing players directly.

    Based on the above data my belief is that rather than trying to grow the player base through large ad spends or by spending all our efforts on the starting experience, our focus must be primarily on fixing things that make players leave, slowly improving the reputation of the game, doing modest ad spends, working with other games for some cross promotion, and earning a larger audience over time.

    Now for some details on specific plans for 2020! Some of these things are more of a constant focus: performance, bug fixes, and stability. While we might make bigger pushes for those things don’t expect to see them listed below BUT do know they are always being worked on.

    Q1 2020: First quarter our primary goals are:
    • Episode 2 Overworld Map: live in a real way with POTs moving in.
    • Halls of Balance (HoB): This is the working title for a new scene that is the Episode 2 version of the Challenge Dungeon AKA “Compendium of Pain and Suffering”. This will be a primarily linear dungeon that gets progressively harder. The idea being that it will get so difficult that players will never beat it completely. The reality is more like they will beat it and we’ll make it tougher or add more rooms at the end and it will continue to help us identify what really is the upper limit for encounter difficulty. This will also be used to drive some new in game rankings in the existing player rankings.
    • Bard skill tree: This will be a new tree in the strategy section that will be music driven skills.
    • Major combat balance pass: This is long overdue and very important to existing high end players. While an initial pass will be made in January, even more passes will be done over time based on finding from the HoB.
    • Prospectors Canyon: Working title for a new mine scene. Current plan for this is not to make it an underground mine scene but rather more of an ore rich, branching slot canyon or ravine that snakes and winds through a large scene. Miners need more fresh air!
    • Custom NPC Convos: Player written branching dialog trees for NPCs using the Ink markup language. This should go live in January and continue to receive updates to allow more flexibility and options over time.
    • Major loot and reward overhaul: Currently one of the top concerns for existing players and will be a large part of our focus for Q1 and into Q2.
    • Misc: Other minor additions include more server ranking categories, second ring slot, improved deco item scaling options, Lua feature expansion, GM feature expansion
    • Tiered subscription options: More options for subscriptions
    • Maps: We will be restoring the more feature rich web based SOTAMap system back in place with community driven map content creation but in a faster delivery system than before. While Catnip Games will host the system, we plan on turning this over to be under the control of the community.
    • New creatures: Big Cats, Koala Bear Pet (charity item for Australia fires), plus secret
    • Party Size: Expanded party size for up to 24 players in a raid sized party along with toggle for condensed party UI. Depending on what challenges we encounter with this, there is a chance this could slip into Q2.
    • Verbose mode options for combat: This will give a very detailed log of combat showing behind the scenes calculations that were done to reach the final numbers.
    • Attenuation: Attenuation removed after a couple of scenes receive a balance pass. For Release 74 in January, this will be changed to only attenuate players over level 100. Going forward, our goal is to remove this system completely and instead improve the content and skill balance to be within our design ranges for experience rewards.
    • Build System: Moving to a more robust build system, delivery system, and publishing practices. While this isn’t directly visible to the players the results will improve the quality of the game. It means we will always be able to keep QA up and current, that patches through our system will be smaller and faster to download and install, and that patch frequency and quality will both improve. With our old extremely long build process, we rarely rejected builds due to issues because we knew that would mean no patch for the players for almost a full day. Our goal is to make our start to delivered process under 2 hours. Progress was made over the Christmas break but some more work is still needed.
    Q2 2020: Second quarter vision:
    • Looking for Group: Expansion of the Looking for Group system to include some queue features for scenes and PVP. Our current plan is to expand upon the existing system and allow players to join scene queues for some scenes rather than just joining parties. If this ends up not being the right way to go, we’ll work to introduce a separate queue system.
    • Weather: Weather system updates for more control, more variety, improved visuals, and also weather effects on combat. Having snow for Christmas was fun but reminded us of how much we need to do to improve the system. Both in terms of visuals and also some of the quirky behavior like snow moving with the player and snow falling in some indoor scenes.
    • Quest System: Shroud quest system 2.0 initial release for developer created content. This will be in the early stages but will be based on our new, 100% bug free *knocks on wood* system for player quests and NPC dialog.
    • Steam purchase options: Currently between 1/3rd and 1/4th of our player base plays on steam BUT we make them jump through a lot of hoops to purchase things on our website.
    • POT Customization: Expanded POT customization options and tools to allow for some mild terraforming to flatten some lumpy areas or paint new ground textures.
    • Lua: Expanded Lua options to include limited execution of server commands through Lua scripts and more UI options.
    • Skills: Expanded skill trees with roughly 40 new skills and combos. This will start happening in Q1 but we hope to wrap this up but Q2. We will be adding at least 2 skills per tree to help add a tier 6 level skill plus at least one additional skill to help balance the tree based on what it is most lacking.
    • Theater system: This will actually be done by completing a few new tools like placeable exclusion zones that block some players out of a volume, silence zones to limit certain types of chatter, voice extenders for the actors, more donation box options, light and dark volumes, new decos, and a few other key items to help theater-goers.
    • Port’O Bones: new episode NPC port town build on connected atolls, reefs, floating platforms, and wrecked ships.
    • Snowshears: story related overworld adventure of mostly snow and ice that will reveal some of the main themes of the episode 2 storyline.
    • POT Templates: Two new “High fantasy” POT templates plus one new POT template based loosely on Port’O Bones
    • New Home Styles: New architecture set based roughly on the style of the new Lord of the Isle mansion. This will include some NPC builds and also some new player houses
    • New Creatures: Wendigo , Yeti, plus secret. These will be completely new models and combat mechanics and will include multiple variations on each one.
    • Find Items: Global item find to track down your misplaced items. This is as much to reduce the teams work load as it is to benefit the players as this is a common support issue. We have the tech for this already and just need to figure out how to expose it to the players.
    • Pet and tamed creature improvements: This includes support for multiple combat pets at once, improved response time, improved behaviors, and a heavy balance pass. Our goal will not be to make them significantly more powerful (though some summons will be improved) but rather make them more interesting and less frustrating.
    Q3 - Q4: Second half of 2020. The order of these is more vague as these are likely to get shifted around:
    • Mounts: This will initially include only horses, will instantly dismount for combat, and not usable indoors or dungeons.
    • Faction system: This is primarily for PVP but will also have some PVE implications and options
    • Player craftable outdoor scenes: Similar to the player dungeon system, this will allow for player customizable outdoor instances that can be decorated, modified, filled with encounters, and used for adventuring or become part of a player quest line.
    • Perk System: Perk system for an alternate advancement opportunity for end game players. These are small bonuses that can be earned through a new system unrelated to the skill tree. These will be expensive and aimed mainly at end game players. Example, Death Proof perk, +1 death magic resistance per perk. Each perk level in it costs 1mln pooled xps per level per level. So +1 costs 1mln, second +1 cost 2mln, third +1 cost 3mln.
    • Crafting System Expansion: This is another one that might slip into Q1 or Q2.This will include more enchantment options, more masterwork options, more special ingredients, and some updated crafting math.
    • Tamed pet progression: Tamed pets will have a limited range of advancement. The current design for this is fairly primitive and generally just increases the creature level and general power but you can expect more features to come up when we get started on it and discuss it with players.
    • Town resident chat channel and online list: As we’ve seen how player owned towns have developed and grown and become a major element of the game we’ve failed to improve aspects of their community building elements. Town residents will gain additional chat channels that are sent to anyone who has a home in a POT whether they are currently in that zone or not. So for instance, “/paxlair Greetings Avatars” would message any paxlair residents who are currently online. PoT governors will have an opportunity to use an alias for their POT channel since some have long names.
    • More end game challenges: This is another one of those items that should be in a 36 point font!This is another one that will start happening in Q1 and Q2 as we nail down more mechanics and act on what behavior and results we see from the HoB. This will be a major focus for Q3/Q4 though as map production increases its pace.
    • Mail system improvements: As someone who uses the in game mail system I can confirm this system is long overdue for an update. This will include some minor quality of life stuff; like right click to reply, and also a number of big fixes like automatically opening the note writing system for writing and receiving mail. Also, searching, history, and other basic improvements will almost certainly make it in for this update.
    • Improved inventory filtering and searching options: This will allow for custom control on filtering rather than just a few preset categories. Also, searching will be improved to do things like search for text in notes.
    • Item history and advancement: While this system is still in design, there are a number of ideas we like all centered around improving items or opening up additional enchantments for them, based on what they have been used for.
    • Guild system expansions and improvements: While the guild system is functional it is severely lacking. Also, the 1 account to 1 guild bond is very limiting in how players actually want to use it. We’ll be investigating breaking that and also expanding functionality.
    • Quest System: Quest system fully functional and in use for a significant number NPC quest lines in Episode 2
    • Ransom system overhaul: While recent experiments with no ransom have shown that not having ransom increases participation, we believe that there is definitely a need for having ransom in some situations or scenes.
    • Achievement System: Achievement system expansion and moving it from being steam only to all clients. This is another one I wish we could find a way to move into Q1/Q2 that is long overdue and important for player reward and the feeling of progress
    • New Creatures: Chaos spawns (3+ completely new and different creatures), secret story creatures, plus at least 2 tameable (yes, your read that right) mount options
    • Episode 2: Main episode 2 story quest line reveal will begin on QA. While we would love for it to be complete and ready to roll out by EOY 2020, we currently believe that without sacrificing scope or quality dramatically, that isn’t practical.
    • Treasure maps: Essentially these are one time use tickets to a higher reward scene. These also might get moved to Q2 as we continue to make better loot and rewards a priority.
    • Challenge Scenes: Smaller, repeatable content scenes. These will use some of the new quest system mechanics and treasure map mechanics to provide some once a day style scenes that are highly rewarding. They will be aimed at only requiring a 15-30 commitment but can have significant and specialized rewards and also 24-72 hour unique buffs/blessings.
    • Scenes: With the quest system functional, new targets what “Challenging” means, and new architecture sets ready, players can expect 1-3 scenes per release for the second half of the year. Many of these already have descriptions in the main quest breakdown. While I won’t share spoilers, I will let you speculate on them by sharing some of the scene names:
      • Emberpool: Story related
      • Morningside: Story related
      • The Stadium: Story related
      • Efreet Junkyard: Story related
      • The Factory: This is actually a trials map for PVP
      • The Junction: The sequel to The Rise
      • To be named: Sequel to the Fall
      • Teirman’s pass: A team based PVP map based on the control of a keep.
      • 4+ more identified and defined but not yet named scenes
    Ongoing Work: These are the items that will be added or worked on throughout the year and don’t really fall into any one specific category:
    • Bug fixes: Work on this will stop when there are no more bugs! I don’t think we’re there yet...
    • Performance: Performance work will continue including some major changes to how we handle dynamic lights and shadows. Also, we will be investigating several new major performance fixes including more runtime mesh and texture baking, new dynamic occlusion systems, more options to limit vfx in more intelligent ways, layered dynamic screen resolution, and a number of other fixes to chip away at our trouble areas with the focus being on our worst case scenarios of high deco / high light count POTs and high AoE combat situations with high target counts.
    • New dungeon rooms: As always, as we create new areas of interest that make sense, we’ll be converting these into player usable content.
    • New crafting recipes. While a major crafting overhaul is planned in Q3, you can expect new recipes to appear off most releases throughout the year.
    • New Artifacts: New artifacts including armor sets focused on different play styles. At least 3 additional armor sets will appear before the end of Q2 but likely more than that will find their way into game based on the popularity of the current set.
    • Lua: Various Lua functions as needed and on requests.Our goal is still to give Lua players enough functionality to replace many of our clunkier UI systems. Currently only a few dozen hooks have been added but lots more are on the way.
    • Player GMs: New GM powers as needed.
    • Ongoing quality of life items: While not popular with some players, we strongly believe that favoring fun elements and balance over some of our older reality modeling or immersive elements is critical to our primary goal of expanding our player base.
    Again, this is not all that we will be working on for 2020 but rather just some of the biggest items. As always, we will keep our ears open and listen to the players and adjust when needed. If your dream feature or addition did not make this list, fear not. We are always listening and willing to adjust!

    As always, thanks for your support. I’m sure the above information will spur many conversations over the next few weeks so expect this to be the focus of our streams for a while! See you in game and look for some more exciting announcements in the near future regarding changes to store offerings, heritage items, and other exciting news.


    Chris “Atos” Spears
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2020
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  2. Girlsname

    Girlsname Avatar

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    Awesome
     
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  4. Dhanas

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    Nice, but i realy hope the polish/work for PVP and PVP scenes starts on Q1, cause it is realy needed.
     
  5. Elrond

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    Hold still my heart ....the excitement :)
     
  6. Vladamir Begemot

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    Looks like several years of work, I won't be disappointed if you manage to get even half of that done.

    Except the vendor UI, I see that got bumped again, perhaps permenantly if it's now supposed to be a Lua thing.

    And regarding EP2, if it has a launch moment, devs need to show up for it this time or it didn't happen.
     
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  7. that_shawn_guy

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    color me excited.

    but, I would have like to see some mention of API (elastic search) improvements and exposing economy/vendor data so the community can build some more tools.
     
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  8. Arturius Magnus

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    Very cool!!!, thank you!!!!
     
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  9. rebbieforever

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    Many of them seem very interesting and I am surprised (positively) you look into a perk system
     
  10. Elrond

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    @Chris Will we have a perk system for crafting also ?
     
  11. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    Likely but the crafting system already has so much room for improvement just within the skill trees that it will definitely be lower priority.
     
  12. chrisjwhite

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    @Chris What if there was a way for players to craft customized houses, then set them to static, and create blueprints/recipes for those houses to sell. Player architects!
     
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  13. Elrond

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    Crafters need something to sink in xp too .. lvl 145 its pretty much the end for any decent gains .
     
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  14. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    I've looked into this a bit. Letting players craft a house one stone at a time using the existing deco system. Some missing tech but not much to allow it. My real fear is even if we bake it to static, it will still be too high poly count to be practical. I'm always up for experimenting though. Maybe I can turn off the max deco stack rules on QA sometime for a test.
     
  15. devilcult

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    you can always combine mesh in real time... thats how those block games work
     
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  16. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    Yep, that is what we do if you have the "Bake" option set. I'm just worried about total poly count of the result!
     
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  17. Joe Zhudarak

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    Really good plan for 2020!! congratz
     
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  18. CICI

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    We need a way to Run a sale on vendors! :D
     
  19. Anpu

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    Fantastic post and vision for the year. Very good list of goals that will definitely round out and move the game to better and bigger (if you can get to them). Very exited. Thanks for posting this!
     
  20. chrisjwhite

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    And discounts for town or guild residents. or frequent shoppers.