Monthly Development Update – Nov 5th 2012
Some quick announcements first:
As most of you are aware, professional revotes are underway. This means, in some cases, we're taking applications for new professionals. Venachar is overseeing this effort. For those of you who have been closely watching this process, the deadline for applications has been extended. For information please refer to the sticky thread in each profession's sub forum.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, we are extending our Halloween content until the 12th. We want to give our east-coast players who may have been otherwise occupied a little extra time to enjoy the content. Also, big thanks to the hard work that our customer service team, ARK and GSP put into the holiday!
Also, to reiterate… due to the Server Migration, if you are in an organization that has a president that is a deleted character, or a character on an inactive account, please contact Customer Service to get this resolved before the end of the month. And make sure there is an actual leader so we have someone to give a voucher!
You can contact CS by creating a ticket on the web, use live chat to talk to a representative live, or petition in game.
We’re currently finalizing our account transfer scripts, and putting them through the paces in our internal test environment. One thing to be clear about: we cannot transfer characters ahead of time, because if we did, nothing the player gained after we copied the database record would be saved (this is what a transfer means). So we basically have one shot at this, and it has to happen on the fly.
The migration will work like this:
- We announce we are taking the servers down
- Servers go down, possibility of slightly extended downtime. This is yet to be determined.
- Servers come up.
- We start migrating accounts behind the scenes, using a prioritized queue. This queue churns through the list of accounts that need to be migrated.
- Player logs on, and his account gets bumped to the front of the transfer queue, but behind people who tried to login before him (after the server-up).
- At this point, you can shut down AO and you will get an email when your account has been transferred.
- For example, if an account on average takes 1 second to transfer and a thousand people log on the instant we bring the server up, someone is going to be in a queue for 1000 seconds (~17 minutes)
- Trying to log back in before you have transferred won’t interfere with the process.
- After the account is transfered, the player can log in and play as normal.
After you log in your account, you will see all of your characters from all dimensions appear in the character list as "inactive." This will work identically to the dry run we did last month. Note this is also our solution to German players, who may still have characters on a dead server.
As the time draws nearer, I will post details on the number of character slots. Just to reiterate: Free accounts will still have the normal 8 active slots on the new dimension, and we will give some additional amount to subscribers (just as a bonus for being a subscriber).
I can’t give you a set date, but it will be this year. We’re shooting for end of this month, but that’s assuming that our very rigorous internal tests all pass without incident. Believe me when I say this isn’t something you want us to rush. We have to get it right the first time.
Last month was a strong focus on finishing up the "boring parts" of the Engine Upgrade (as far as you guys are concerned). Which is why there are no screenshots in this letter. Basically, we're doing automatic conversions of all existing playfields and dependencies into playfields compatible with the new formats. Let's just say there are a lot of playfields, and they all weren't exactly made in the same way.
Also, just as an illustrative example of the above, Vhab is making a new and better water-system because the way Dreamworld does water wasn't playing nice with the way the old engine handled water. Because we're not going to have artists go in and manually fix water for hundreds of playfields. There are number of similar issues we need to get cleaned up, as blockers for our planned beta.
On the art front, we're putting together new character models, new animations, new textures, new heads, and mesh armors (I had a screenshot of this on page 7 of last months update).
We're in the home stretch on this, and after the Server Migration the Engine will have the full focus of the entire AO programming team, as it will be our highest priority & highest urgency item.
AO on Steam
That last paragraph was a good segue into this section. Other than a steam overlay crash, we're good to go. Fortunately, the steam technicians have been nice enough to look at it when they have time. The crash is 100% reproducible, so it's not some mysterious phantom thing. We might take a look ourselves after the Server Migration, but I only want to spend our coder's time on this if other avenues requiring us not to divert our focus are exhausted.
New Player Experience
This is turning into the monthly update of "we're finally finishing everything up." Genele is bringing the NPE up to a releasable state on the completely new starter playfield, and revamped ICC hub. I want to stress again, this is a massive update and will include everything from profession-specific missions to PvP to some ground-work for upcoming progression changes. After the new playfield and revamped ICC, we'll patch out a new character creation, and a (skippable) more basic tutorial.
Next Patches - 18.5.4 & 18.6
18.5.4 will be patched from testlive to live later this week. You can read the preliminary notes here.
After 18.5.4 is out the door, we will deploy 18.6 to internal QA servers, followed by testlive. 18.6 has design enhancements (for example, player cities, new buildings, etc) that are intended to go out with the server migration, and when 18.6 is patched to live it will include the server migration.
We have a big month ahead of us! We're closing down the Server Migration work, and Q1 next year you'll see the New Player Experience and Engine Upgrade Beta. Now it's just about keeping our heads down and getting it all done.
Next monthly update will be on December 3rd! I'll see you guys on the forums, and in game.