Friday, 4 January 2013

Stygia ... A Little More to See?

While preparing the next full post, it struck me that Funcom's deadline for The Secrets of the Dragon's Spine update is now less than one week away.

Sombre Khemi: where most players get a first taste of Stygia

On the forums and in the 'blogosphere', players rightly are expressing skepticism as to whether the first phase of the expansion will delivered on time and bug-free by next week.  Funcom is up against the old triumvirate of quality, cost, and speed.  In most commercial projects, only two of these are really possible.  As we know FC is on a budget, so cost is not an option.  Players are either gonna get quality or speed.

Funcom may indeed have had a crack-core of Followers of Asura, unpaid interns, and entry-level devs testing an internal build over the holidays. This approach would've mitigated quality shortfalls or more likely enhanced delivery speed. However, this is highly unlikely for a company that's just had to tighten its belt due to restructuring after TSW's slow start.

Ol' Murddock here is tacitly rooting for quality. Why doesn't Funcom just take another week and run it on the test-live servers?  To be effective, why not offer all players, who put in a few hours on test-live reporting bugs, a small incentive? Is it difficult to send an additional cluster of items, such as the ones given freely as part of the seasonal event, to the accounts of players who log a 3-4 hours on test-live? Just generate a list of coupon numbers that can be entered on the a player's account page,  then PM them to players who report new playfield design, gameplay, and quest bugs over a 5 day period.  It's not as if this would break the bank.

A conqueror exuberantly embraces the test-live experience.

Regardless of whether they get the Dragon's Spine outdoor and group instances out next week, the next question is: what else will the expansion bring?  A new raid instance has been promised (maybe the Palace of Cetriss which has concept art) and we're all very keen on the crafting revamp.  But if The Savage Coast of Ardashir is any measure then, shouldn't we expect a second instance for solo or group as well?  The size of the playfield suggests that this ought to be the case.

It's reasonable to ponder what's next for our game: it's just after New Year's Day, after all. Currently, some of the forum threads show players suggesting what they'd like to see happen in 2013.

So far the gist is as follows:

  • Class revamps and fine-tuning (Conq [as OP] and HoX [as needing some love] are both good cases)
  • Stealth system
  • More progression options (more AAs?)
  • Cross server tech to improve player interactions
  • New/improved GUI elements (for LFG and LFR and for the trader)
  • New loot options / More options to spend tokens
  • An achievement system
  • Bug fixes and streamlining (c.f. missing facial hair on selection screen, the invisible mount, stuttering in some Khitai zones etc.)
  • Mesh-tinting to allow customization of crafted items.
  • Content based on the Legend of Conan movie

  • An announcement of new content areas beyond Dragon's Spine
  • Revamps (e.g. Entity) and unchained versions of the existing instances (e.g. FotD ... personally I want to see The Breach get another pass: at least make an unchained solo comparable to Forgotten City).

  • Revamped/improved sieges (including PvP rewards from sieges)
  • Another revamp to make Bori work
  • A Colosseum and PvP ranking system
  • New PvP Levels
  • Address issue of hacking
  • New Premium PvP content to make F2P PvP subscribe

Although the new Schwarzenegger filck is still somewhat further out, some very new content areas could be considered for an interim adventure pack: Vendhya - an area based on ancient India would be interesting; Hyberboria - offers Finnish or Slavic mythology; The Black Kingdoms - think Queen of the Black Coast's climactic location, that ruined city; Shazidar, the city of thieves, in Zamora as a new fully urban location with lots of stealth quests; or even Vanaheim (or Asgard) but as a coastal area (dare I say it, ... a la Skyrim) with long ships and icebergs.   Even on a smaller scale, FC could even deliver a few simple instances inside existing locations. Let us see more of Conan's palace; the  obsidian tower in Khemi; the long house in Conarch; or the Temple of Mitra in the Noble District. There's still a healthy amount of Hyboria to be explored in this game.  If Dragon's Spine (which dates to 2009) is any indicator, FC still has a considerable inventory of concept art and ideas to draw upon.

What exactly IS inside that obsidian tower, anyway?

To conclude, as the crafting revamp holds so much potential; I'm all for more PvP TLC this year. Whatever the case, let's hope that the Game Director does some extensive PR next week to let us know what's afoot.

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