June Status Report

Here’s a bunch of info and design snippets that I’ve never gotten around to mentioning.

Rebalancing Efforts:
I’ve been working on fixing tons of bugs and data errors recently. Monster’s stats were a buggy mess of random numbers and weird stuff, so I did a lot of house cleaning. I tried to keep monsters at roughly the same power levels, but that wasn’t always possible. Hopefully it’s not too jarring! We’ll get the kinks out of it over the next couple of weeks.

Probably the biggest change is that the goblin dungeon is significantly more dangerous. That’s intentional — the first part of the goblin dungeon isn’t supposed to be soloable unless your combat skills are in their 30s! But it was soloable by pretty much newbies.

The crypt dungeon is supposed to be where newbies go first. But that dungeon is terrible for newbies — too short, too dangerous, bad loot.  So I’m working on a mega-update to the Crypt, adding a bunch of new areas, new sub-bosses, and some weird stuff. There’s a new skill or two to discover, too.

When the crypt is in better shape, I’ll touch up the goblin dungeon, expanding it a bit and adding some more activities. And then I can finally get around to the third dungeon, which is aimed at players with combat skills in the 40s. (There’s also a bunch of mini-dungeons that flesh out the level range.)

Power Regeneration

After the monster tweaks, monsters often take a bit longer to kill, which means that you can run out of Power more easily, so Power regeneration is really important.

The main way to regenerate power is eating stuff. You can have a “Food”, a “Drink”, and a “Snack” item all working at once, and their effects stack together. The game doesn’t bother to teach you this crucial tip, but it’s totally worth your effort to combine drinks and foods and snacks.

A good source of easy-to-obtain Food and Snacks is chicken. There are only a few Drinks right now, but more will be added soon. In the mean time, you can make Mushroom Smoothies with the mycology skill.

Appreciating flowers will buff your max power capacity. This also indirectly buffs your power regeneration, because players regenerate a base rate of 10% of their max power each update. So the higher your max Power, the more you’ll regenerate each time.

The Mentalism skill is so good at regenerating Power that it’s a bit overpowered, and will probably get toned down at some point. Battle Chemistry can give you a golem that regenerates a lot of Power too.

Using comfortable furniture will give you small regeneration boosts, but there’s not a lot of furniture in the game yet, so that’s not too easy to do. There’s also tons of potions and items that can regenerate various things, and many more to come.

Oh, also, a note about health regeneration: when I updated all the monster stats, I also fixed some player stats. Players now get a lot more Max Health as they level up. As a side-effect, the health-regeneration items are now underpowered. So those will get powered up soon.

Skill Caps: Most skills go to 50 right now, but eventually they’ll go higher. When the game is launched, you’ll be able to level most skills all the way to 100. But the skill cap is actually 125. To get the last 25 points, you raise other skills that give you “synergy bonus levels” in that skill. (Some skills can already go past 50 because of  synergy levels from other skills!)

I did it this way because I wanted to minimize the amount of grinding players perceive. Not necessarily the amount of playing you have to do… but how tedious it is. When you notice the grind, it’s because there’s too long of a delay between getting new abilities, or because you’re doing the same thing repeatedly for too long.

So that’s why I don’t let you just grind those last 25 levels of each skill. Instead, you have to go off and level other skills, which will feel less tedious because you’ll be able to see progress easily, and you’ll be getting new abilities all the way throughout.

(My plan is that there will actually be more than 25 synergy levels out there for each combat skill… but only the first 25 levels of each skill will count.)

Leatherworking: Let me describe leatherworking very quickly. There’s not a lot to it so it doesn’t need a dissertation: you put the leather into the recipe box, plus a gem or crystal, and you get out a magic armor. It’s kind of tedious to level right now, but that will get better as more recipes are added.

One of the interesting things is that you can put any gem or crystal into the armor. Most crystals are keyed to common treasure effects — if you put a moonstone in, you’re going to get Werewolf buffs, the same kind as if you’d found a random loot item with werewolf buffs. But there are also other crystals that have their own unique effects. There’s only one of those unusual crystals in the game right now, but I’ll be adding more and more.

By the way, it’s not at all obvious, but in the game’s fiction, you aren’t actually putting the crystals in your armor directly. You’re supposedly taking the magic out of the crystals and infusing that magic into the armor. The crystal disintegrates when that happens. But I neglected to mention that little bit of fiction anywhere, so if you just go by the recipe, it looks like you’re sewing diamonds into your shoes.

On Crafting vs. Loot: As I mentioned a while back, my plan for high-level crafting is that it will be able to augment treasure items. Basically, every treasure-effect comes in a number of levels. So a crafter will be able to “level up” one of the effects on your item for you. There’s always a chance the item will explode, killing everyone in town, though. (I kid. Well, I exaggerate…)

But while that little mechanic makes crafters valuable to everyone no matter what loot they’ve found, it isn’t very satisfying for crafters themselves, especially at low level. Nobody will care enough to get their Shoddy Terrible Hat of Worthlessness leveled up by a crafter. They’ll just find a new hat.

So that’s why you can also craft random gear, much like you’d find in random loot-drops. Crafted random items have two advantages over loot drops: you get to decide what skill you want the item to focus on (based on what crystal you use), and you can access unique effects that never show up in loot (by using unusual and rare crystal types).

 Earning Favor With Random Gifts: Right now, you can give NPCs just about any high-value item and earn favor with them (unless they actively hate the item). Things that they like will be worth more Favor, but any random stuff will work.

This is temporary to help you test the content. A lot of the items aren’t in the game yet, so it’d be tedious otherwise. For instance there’s an NPC who loves seeds… and he will be amazingly happy if given rare seeds. But there’s no rare seeds in the game yet, and the existing seeds are too common to be worth much as gifts.

Eventually, giving NPCs random stuff will not earn you very much favor at all — maybe 1/4th of what it does now. You’ll need to focus on the stuff they like. That will mean that some NPCs are much harder to curry favor with than others — and that’s intentional!

Exactly How Gifts Work: Usually, the Favor from a gift is based on the coin value of the item. If they “like” an item, that means you’ll get up to twice its value in favor. If they “love” something, you’ll get 2x to 5x its value in Favor.

If they don’t care one way or the other about something, you’ll get 100% of its value in Favor, but that’s temporary. Eventually you’ll only get 25% of its value.

There’s one more key detail: some items have different values for different categories. For instance, there’s a junk item called “Elven Verse”, which is worth just 20 coins. Give it to an arbitrary NPC and it’s a 20 dollar gift. But this item is also tagged as being Poetry worth 100 coins. If you give this gift to a poetry lover, they’ll perceive it as a 100-coin item (and then double or triple that value depending on how much they love poetry).

I’m explaining all this so that you can help find bugs during development. If someone says they love gems, but they don’t give more favor for a gem than for a random item of the same value, that’s a bug! Eventually, though, all this stuff should be opaque to players. They won’t care about the formula, they’ll just give the poetry to the guy who loves poems and be done with it.

Monster Vulnerabilities: they’re not very fun. I suspect the current approach is a dead end. Either there are too many possibilities and it’s too hard to plan for it, or else there are too few possible vulnerabilities and it’s easy to plan for — letting you do 300% more damage routinely. Or the third option is that they’re boringly predictable but don’t do much extra damage. In which case, meh, why are you bothering?

The goal of the Vulnerability system is a good one: I want it to add a little bit of spontaneous quick-thinking reaction to combat. But I don’t want it to be totally mindless (as in “push the X button when X is on the screen”), because that will get too repetitive in an MMO that you play for hundreds of hours. It needs to require a little bit of thinking. Not a lot… just a second’s worth.

It also needs to be complex enough that I can tie in abilities and equipment to it. So… lots of goals, which is kinda deadlocking my creativity here. I’m gonna just ignore this topic for a month or two to let my subconscious percolate on it. But in the mean time, if you’ve got an idea for a fun reactionary mini-event that takes place during combat, I’m all ears!

Teleportation Bug: Until tomorrow (Jun 2), don’t use Teleportation circles to go between areas in the same zone. If you do, you’ll get stuck teleporting forever, unable to move, until you log out. This is a very embarrassing bug, but if you think of it as a Transporter Malfunction, it’s a lot cooler.

Feedback: I’m sorry if I haven’t replied to your feedback! I try to reply to six or 10 of them each day, but some days I get a whole lot more than that, and I just don’t get to it. But I am reading them all, and reacting to them all as best I can. Please keep feedbackin’, it’s one of the main reasons I’m able to make as much progress as I am.

Thanks, and will talk more soon!

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What is Lag?

I get a few reports of “lag”, and while I really appreciate the reports, just hearing about lag by itself isn’t enough to diagnose a problem, because there’s a lot of different kinds of lag. It’d be like a doctor trying to treat cancer just from hearing “it’s cancer.” Gotta know what kind, at the very least! So here’s a quick guide to the kinds of lag you might see:
 

CDN Lag

Symptoms: It takes forever to download the game levels. Or when you get into the game, the “fog” of dynamic objects doesn’t disappear for a very long time.

Cause: This is caused by a problem with our Content Delivery Network (CDN). Basically we use an Amazon service to deliver the game files to you. The files are placed on computers all over the world, so no matter where you are, you should get a good connection speed. (That’s the whole point of the CDN: faster downloads.)

This can break because, well, Amazon’s CDN isn’t always the most pervasive CDN out there. There are some areas where it doesn’t give a good connection 100% of the time. I can’t necessarily do anything about that, but I still want to know when and where it’s happening so I know how seriously it’s affecting people.Watch movie online John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

It can also happen if you’re very unlucky: the files on the CDN get “refreshed” once per day, and if you’re the first person into the game after a refresh, you’ll end up having to wait for the files to be downloaded and cached by the CDN before they get delivered to you. This is especially bad right now because you might be the only person online at certain hours of the day, and might have to wait for a whole lot of files to get refreshed.

Alternative Diagnosis: It’s also possible for the “fog” to never go away because of a game bug. Basically if there’s a problem while downloading, the fog can get stuck. You can see if this happened by bringing up the Debug Console (Ctrl+Shift+the * on the num-pad). If you scroll down in that console you’ll see error messages if that’s what happened.

Reporting: Let me know where in the real world you are (general country/state/province). If it’s only a certain object that remains permanently foggy, let me know that too.
 

Graphics Lag

Symptoms: The game seems choppy, the camera jerks around, and things blip about. In the worst cases, it’s like you’re watching a slide show on your screen.

Causes: This can happen for lots of reasons, but the main reason is that the graphics in an area are too heavy for your computer or video card. I still have a lot of clean up to do in that regard. But if you notice graphics lag where there wasn’t any before, that’s important for me to know!

Graphics lag can seem to fix itself after a minute. This happens because the game detects the lag and automatically down-grades your graphics quality until the lag disappears. That fixes the lag, but the world looks uglier. The game might also periodically try to raise the graphics quality back up, which may cause occasional bursts of lag to reappear. You can turn off this automatic raising/lowering feature in the options. Under Graphics, look for the checkbox at the bottom labeled “Auto-lower graphics settings”.

Reporting: When reporting graphics lag, see what your FPS (frames per second) is. This is shown at the bottom of the bug reporting window. Also let me know if this has happened before, and if it’s reproducible in one area or seems like a sporadic thing.
 

Main Server Lag

Symptoms: You click on something in the world to interact with it, like picking up an item off the ground, but it takes a second or more before it works.

Causes: There’s two causes: the server could be having a hard time keeping up, or you could have a bad connection to the server. Check the “ping” number on the Bug Report window. If it’s over 1000, that means the server’s connection to you is sluggish.

If that number is low (250 is a good low ping), and you’re still seeing lag, the server is probably freaking out. A few weeks back this was happening a lot due to a memory leak that left the server starved for resources, but I think I have this all fixed up now.

As far as I know there’s no main-server lag anymore: the corresponding meter on my admin screen is a beautiful flat line. So if it happens again, its very important to hear about!

 

Chat Lag

Symptoms: You try to chat, and the words take a long time to show up.

Causes: This can happen if the chat module gets bogged down. But first, make sure this isn’t Main Server Lag, above. Try throwing an item on the ground. If you can interact with the world just fine, but chat still takes a long time, it’s chat lag.

It’s pretty much impossible for only chat to lag right now, because the chat server is currently living together with the main server, so if your chat lags, the rest of the server should be lagging too! But in a few months this will be a separate kind of possible lag.
 

Monster Lag

Symptoms: You can pick stuff up off the ground just fine, and talk to NPCs, but when you try to fight a monster, they react sluggishly — possibly taking two or three hits to the face before they fight back. Your knockback attacks may also take a second before the monster starts flying backwards.

Cause: This happens because the physics sub-server gets bogged down. Each “zone” of the world has a program that makes the monsters fight and makes NPCs move around. If they get bogged down, things can’t move or fight well.

This is happening more than I like right now because I don’t have enough computers to run all the physics sub-servers, so they can get starved for CPU. I’ve ordered new hardware to fix this soon.

I can usually tell when monster lag happens because I see it in the error report on my admin dashboard. However, I still appreciate hearing when it happens! It helps validate the admin panel reports.

 

Stuck Player Lag

Symptoms: A “stuck player” just can’t move. The world seems to be acting just fine around them, but they can’t friggin’ move, or they can’t control their character. (And it’s not because a monster Stunned them or because they’re dead.)

Cause: This isn’t usually “lag” in the sense of something taking too long. It usually happens because of a game bug. The most recent case was when I set up the animations wrong on animals, so players who were Deer or Cows would be unable to move for a second whenever they talked to an NPC.

Reporting: Since this is usually a bug, I need to know exactly what you were doing, as best as you can tell. If you were talking to an NPC, fighting a monster with a certain ability, etc. Whatever you can tell me will help me find it.

 

Rubber-Banding Lag

Symptoms: You try to walk forward a bit and then blip back to where you were, like a time warp happened.

Cause: This can happen if the server thinks you’ve moved farther than you should be able to move: it “bounces you back” to a place it knows you were a moment ago. The server does this to keep people from hacking their client and blipping through doors and such.

But I’ve actually got the rubber-banding logic turned off right now, so you really shouldn’t see rubber-banding lag. If you do, let me know about it!

 

Other Lag: Usually a Bug In Disguise

Most other “lag” is really a bug. For instance there’s currently a bug if there’s too many items in an area. Instead of old items being cleaned up, new items are getting wiped away instead! This will be fixed later today. But in the mean time, several players perceived it as “item lag”, because the items weren’t showing up when dropped. In actuality the items were being disintegrated one second after you put them down. Oops.

Anyway, I really appreciate all bug reports, and I definitely don’t want to discourage you from reporting a kind of lag that isn’t on this list. Just make sure to describe the behavior you’re seeing, so I can figure out the cause.

I’m bashing a lot of bugs, but we’re also adding new features and content, so new bugs keep cropping up. But we’ll get there! Things are going pretty well right now, actually, and I’ve got some new skills to launch soon, so I’ll talk to you about those soon. See you in game!

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ETA

Some unexpected delays! I estimate the servers will be online at 8pm Eastern time (about 2.5 hours from now).

If you were waiting, sorry!

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