I wanted to take some time to give an update on where we're at with the next few patches and I noticed there have been quite a few remarks about needing a target audience, direction, or path lately and I would like to address these here as well the best I can to shed some light on the reasoning behind decisions the team makes and about the future direction of the game. What is our target audience? It's a good question and though some will not agree with what we have to say on this, this is our belief and what contributes to decisions being made and the direction of development. To start we need to break down what the game is and isn't so we can determine what we need to do moving forward. First, let's take a quick look at what Rise of Agon(RoA) is not. RoA is not an arena. Arena games do not require leveling, farming, harvesting, and crafting to compete. Arena games have a set number of friends and enemies, an objective or two for each match which only last a short period. RoA is not a survival game. Though RoA, like other sandbox MMO’s, shares a lot of qualities it is not a survival game for several key reasons. Survival games have many small instances of the world where each one can, and typically do, have very different rulesets and different mods to the gameplay. If you're not happy with the current 'political' outcome of the world you can switch or create your world, there’s no reason to continue in a world if you’re not the top dogs. If you don't want PVP you can create your pve world or join an existing one. So what is RoA? What ROA is is a persistent sandbox PVP MMORPG. Everyone must share the same world, same rules, same spawns, same everything. If you're getting dominated and losing a war you cannot switch worlds to start new and there is no matchmaking for even fights. Any type of focus that would push RoA to be like any of the other genres would require an extensive revamp to the world design, server architecture, character development, and in the end we would be creating a completely different game. This is not an option for us as a team, nor is it even something I would want to partake in as it is not what we set out to create. What does this mean for the type of players we want to attract? Well, we want people who want to play an MMORPG, are interested in a sandbox, and who are interested in non-instanced PVP encounters and full loot. The problem, as history has taught us, is that even if many players are intrigued by the idea of open-world PVP and even full loot, the majority are not willing to stick it out for long if they lose too much. The most successful pvp mmo's with or without full loot have areas within the game for players to chill, relax, do pve without the worry of pvp, or at least not losing all their stuff when they die. While the hardcore nature of DF has been something many of us have dealt with over the years, myself and the team feel it's extremely important to make that shift not just for bringing in new players, but also because many players have less time than they use to and making changes in lawful areas will only help them be more competitive with their limited time. What do we focus on to achieve our goals? We have a lot of different options, but each has its caveats. If we look at the different options and break them down we can attempt to see what kind of an effect focusing on any one of these might have on the game and hopefully give us a better idea of where the main focus should be. PVP is the main draw to the game for many players, so let’s first look at some aspects to PVP that we could focus on improving. We've seen and had discussions about factions, arenas, clan warfare, and more. These three are the most talked about so I'll address those. The elephant in the room for many at the moment is an arena, so let's take a look at what adding an arena right now might look like. Server architecture: To have an arena that makes sense we have to instance it in some fashion. People don't want to wait for players A and B to get done before they can fight so we can't limit the number of arenas. We need to take the time to build it properly for scale and allow it to run on cloud servers so that they can be spun up whenever necessary. Otherwise, we’ll be paying for servers we aren’t using or require manual intervention to add/remove servers depending on current activity in arenas. We need the area itself so we need to build it. We can cheat and use existing assets or areas by breaking up the world, but will still need to do some building to make it feel right instead of some cut-out pieces. Still, creating new areas would be the best option to "do it right" in my opinion. Simply allowing people to fight another in an area isn’t enough, there needs to be supporting mechanics to make the feature work properly. We'll need to create the ladder system, matchmaking, and whatever else this requires to satisfy that goal. All of this is doable of course and we have spent time working out how to handle it in design discussions, but it will still take a decent amount of time to complete if we work solely on it and nothing but it to get it out quickly due to the sheer amount of design, programming and asset creation, let alone testing and tweaking. During this time nothing new could be added to the game as it would tie up pretty much the entire dev team. This is a huge negative and as we've borne witness to through previous months of no patches. We seem to get better feedback from you if we’re patching more frequently, unfortunately, this means larger projects will take longer. We also need to look at the effect it will likely have on the game like the fact that it will remove people from the open world rather than put them out in it. Sure people will need to farm more gear, but in reality, any activity will do that so I don't believe adding something that will take people out of the world for most of their playtime is the best solution right now. It will be a fantastic addition once we've added other components that give players things to do in the open world and population has increased. Also, like we're doing with TCS right now, we can work on it over time while adding in other smaller additions more frequently rather than having long waits in between patches. What about a faction system? Factions are another way to accentuate PVP and encourage team interaction. A true faction system has never been in the game as the “racial wars” that were in place were mostly meaningless shortly after a new player joins. So creating a meaningful faction system requires building it from scratch. The list of requirements to create factions isn't nearly as daunting as an arena, however, because it is a part of the existing world. What do we need to create a faction system? The lore needs to be written. While not everyone requires lore for things to happen, it is an important piece for most and a good driving force behind how the mechanics are put together. We need goals, objectives, and purpose for the factions to contest over. Then the development needs to be done, though arguably it would be the least time-consuming piece of these 3 requirements. What kind of impact will this have on the game? Well, this would be optional, so players are not forced to partake. It gives a reason to fight if done properly. People work together that wouldn't normally work together. The negative is it also has the potential to take away from one of the games founding features, clan warfare. I believe that is the only true negative, but there could be more. Ok so what about a Territory Control System? Territory control is something we've been designing and working toward implementing with some supporting features and backend work already completed. It does require work on components that we didn't think it would originally like the clan and journal revamps that are taking place, though admittedly slower than we had hoped. This is similar to factions in the level of work required. The final design is pretty much complete outside of final changes possible during implementation and what is left will be determined as we progress. What kind of impact will this have on the game? This takes one of the core components of RoA, clan warfare, and gives more reason to participate, more regular objectives outside of just sieges and supporting systems to exert varying levels of control over regions of the world. One of the biggest attractions of a sandbox game is the ability to affect the world and other players. Part of TCS includes clan city upkeep, so clans will have to spend increasingly more resources to control multiple holdings and areas. Smaller siege-like battles will be had daily demanding more resources to be used up which stimulates the economy and gives purpose to “builders” who don’t necessarily like to PVP. What kind of negative impact does it have? It's clan focused so it doesn't directly add anything for people who choose not to partake in clans. What about open world pvp? That too can be fun and sometimes it's more fun than sieges or pre-arranged fights. I remember stating very early on that pvp is already there, we just need to create pve, points of interest, and other activities to get people into the world. We've been discussing pve ideas literally for years, but for the most part, they either require just as much development time as some of the components above, or they just don't quite tick all the boxes and don't feel like a good fit for the game. We have come across some ideas that do fit and would be great additions, and the best part is their development time is relatively low for the value we'll get out of them. What effect do these pve improvements have on the game? It gives players something to do while at the same time putting them into the world and ultimately increasing the chances of open-world pvp encounters. The only negative is that these changes will take a small portion of time away from "full time" development of the bigger features above, but in the end, we'll have new features being implemented while we wait for the larger clan warfare, arena, and faction elements. So, what is our goal and what path will we take to get there? Ultimately everything we've discussed here is a piece of Embers of War, but with a few extra additions and our goal is to get them in the game. I think the biggest difference is what path we take to get there. We are no longer going to wait until EoW as a whole is complete before we patch. Instead, we'll call EoW complete once all of the components are in the game. I believe as long as the additions we put in can stand on their own we need to put them in and not wait until the entire expansion is complete. We will utilize as much of the team as possible to complete new pve activities while we continue working towards Territory Control. Once territory control is complete we'll likely move our major focus, either factions or the arena, we'll see where we stand at that time to determine the best option. With that said, here is a sneak peek at the next few pve patches we have coming up: Armor Dyes: The system is in place and we only have a few more updates and it will be ready. I expect to have it patched in by the 30th. Details will be in a separate post shortly following this one. Lawful Zones and Looting Changes: This is a controversial but necessary change for the future of the game. We plan to introduce this within a few weeks and will include changes to where new players spawn and new player quests. More details will be in a post devoted to this. Oblivion Cards: A new system some of you will be familiar with from other games such as Path of Exile. We have a good portion of this complete, the base card design is done and we expect to get this out shortly after or possibly alongside the lawful changes. More details about the system, some screenshots, and expected release will come in another forum post. These are not the only updates coming, these are just the most notable. We'll continue to patch in new textures, minor adjustments to dynamic nodes, new skins, or other tweaks along with or in between these changes. We feel that having lawful changes, some new activities for people and both improved graphics and performance this would be a great time for a small marketing push as well. I hope this was informative and encouraging. We wouldn't be here without your support and if we can continue to get that support I believe we can not only keep ROA alive but also expand and continue to bring in new people for years to come, but we cannot do it without you.