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Letter from the Game Director November 2007

As 17.7 gets closer to being ready for the live dimensions I thought it was a good time to give you all another little insight into where we are at with Anarchy Online.

The coming game update includes quite a lot of stuff that we are all quite excited to see released to the live dimensions. Having spent quite some time now (well over a year in fact when I think about!) working on content with a focus on the Shadowlands it has been great to be able to look at Rubi-Ka again as we work through the new quest lines.

Getting to add some reasons to get people out an exploring the original game world is a fantastic feeling, and not just because it’s a great nostalgia trip for me! It was great seeing the designers and artists adding a little more life to some of the areas I remembered frequenting in the days around launch and sending people to some of the ‘old haunts’.

The Dust Brigade story elements are also shaping up very nicely. I think you’ll find some intriguing developments there and the team is translating the direction we have set out for the coming months into some very interesting content. It’s always quite satisfying to see the plans go from concept to testing to the game itself.

Then there are the new items and nanos, and people, as always, have already had quite a bit to say on the new items so I wanted to add a little here. When it comes to designing items we generally have to face the fact that at least as far as the feedback is required we are often in a ‘no win’ situation! The new nanos that are being introduced in 17.7 are a great example. When items are within the current budgets players have for skills on their characters then the items are seen as ‘too easy’ to equip and the game is being ‘dumbed down’, then when we make items that are intentionally at the high end of what’s possible they are ‘too hard’. In this case that difficulty is very much the intention!

The new nanos are intended to be something that you shouldn’t take for granted. They offer tactical options for your character if you want to make the changes necessary to use them. We know that they are very difficult if not almost impossible to cast with Notum Repulsor trained for example, that’s exactly why they are set where they are set. It’s a choice you have to make on an individual level for your character. The designers took a great deal of care to ensure that the math was correct and all the nanos can be cast by the relevant profession. The requirements are all possible, but there is a choice for you to make, and yes, you might even have to sacrifice something else to be able to use them.

So aside from making devilish new nano formulas what have the designers been up to? Well there are quite a few exciting things on the horizon that I think people will look forward to!

First up we have the content of the 17.8 update. The fact that 17.8 will bring with it a new team instanced high level encounter is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg! The encounter will continue the Dust Brigade storyline as players delve deeper into exactly what the group has been up to. The new encounter area is shaping up very nicely and I think players will really enjoy facing the latest danger from the Dust Brigade! 17.8 will be much more then just this though in that it will introduce one much requested new feature and a total revamp of another.

17.8 will contain a new social clothing mode for players. A new tab has been added to your equip window that allows you to equip any item purely for the visual effect (i.e. you wont get any stat bonuses from them, but will get to use the visual looks). There will be options that allow you to tell the game client whether to render your equipment tab, your social tab, or a combination of the two (in effect having the social tab ‘overlay’ on top of your existing armor). This is a feature we have wanted to do for some time now, and are delighted to finally be able to bring to life! I don’t think the parties on Rubi-Ka will ever be the same! The tab also does have special rules regarding combat to ensure it can’t be abused to trick people in PVP, but we will go into more details on that closer to release of the update.

Then, as I mentioned briefly last time, we are also going to be looking at PVP, and 17.8 will include the first stage of a total re-write of the PVP title system, and will introduce separate rankings for solo and teaming PVP as well as a true dueling system with its own ranks as well for those that prefer that style of PVP as well. We truly hope that we will be able to cater for all the PVP tastes as much as possible with these changes, and while some of the details are still be thrashed out, we will be sure to let you all know closer to the time exactly what the system entails and how it works, but we think it will be an important part giving people additional goals and incentives in PVP.

Now, I can guess one of the next questions! Will there be rewards beyond the ranks themselves? In the short term the answer is no, when we introduce the changes we won’t be adding any item rewards for reaching a given rank as we want to see how the system works on the live dimensions first, and be sure we get the chance to do a round of adjustments (as there always are some things players adapt in ways we don’t predict!) before we consider rewards. It is on the drawing board and we are definitely open to adding specific rewards for gaining these new PVP ranks, but we also want to be sure we have the progression correct first! Lastly on this one, you needn’t worry about your old ranks, when the new system goes live we plan to save your old rank and players will hopefully have the option of which of their ranks displays by their name, be it their solo rank, team rank, duel rank or their old ‘legacy’ rank.

So that’s the lowdown on 17.8…but I also wanted to mention one other aspect we are currently working on in terms of stuff that is ‘on the drawing board’ as it were. This is the stuff that isn’t a promise, but is seriously being worked with a view to being implemented with the playfield booster we have planned for next year, and that’s a true raid interface for the game. Like I said, it’s not anywhere close to certain yet, but we are planning it and seeing if we can make it work well within the engine, and the signs so far are hopeful.

All of that and I haven’t even mentioned the great Christmas content for this year, but you’ll get to see more on that very shortly, or the progress that the team are making with the render engine changes. We hope to be able to start showing you some footage from the new engine very shortly. It’s all still on course for mid to late next year (since there is a lot to test with something like this), but its already starting to come together and our current alpha builds are shaping up nicely, I think we will be able to surprise some with the update it will provide to the game.

So there is a lot of interesting new additions coming to the game, and we are looking forward to seeing you all on Rubi-ka!