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Developer Responses to Skyforge CBT Feedback

Greetings Immortals,

We wanted to kick things off by thanking all of our CBT participants for their time and valuable feedback. In a perfect world, we'd be able to quickly iterate on all important issues and push new game versions out on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of your suggestions and issues require a lot of thought, and development time to implement, test, and get into a stable beta build. We've already begun that process on many of the issues and complaints you have identified and I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on some of the changes we are now working on, which players can expect to see in future beta releases.

Standard run animation looks weird
This is great feedback, and although it's a bummer to hear sometimes it is exactly what we want (need) to hear in the beta phase of the project. We are currently working on several variants of the run cycle which players can, preview, pick and set for their avatar, and will roll these out in a later stage of beta.

Client Optimization
Based on the data and feedback we've collected in CBT1 we have spent additional time on performance optimizations and have made changes to our automatic settings and presets. Changes users will see in a future beta build include:

  • Optimized the client, FPS increased by about 30% everywhere. Overcame most of the lag (it's particularly noticeable on powerful computers).

  • Redesigned the system for automated detection of settings and adjusted the number of available presets.

  • Added new settings for compatibility with very low end/min spec hardware. You can enable this setting manually, by selecting the “minimum” preset option.

  • Added indicators giving information on why the current settings were selected (useful if there are things like imbalance between GPU and CPU).

Inability to pick up loot in combat.
A lot of players have asked for this (dev's too...) and it's something we are happy to say we'll be integrating into the beta in a future release.

Weekly limits
In today's world, there are many entertaining activities competing for a person's attention. Games are only one of them. Most often, a person who plays games also watches TV shows, reads books, has family and friend obligations, etc. There are so many things competing for a player’s attention, all of which can be very important, it is often hard to determine how much time should be invested into each one. Since MMOs are built around playing perpetually, developers often wrongly assume a player can or should devote a majority of their time solely into the MMO itself.

What this traditionally means is, if you want to be a successful player, one who gains access to all the latest content, you’ll need to play as much as possible. Typically, unless players devote the majority of their time and attention to a game there will, more than likely, always be others who remain one step ahead of them and who will undoubtedly reap all the rewards at the pinnacle of the mountain of success. Such is the life of many an MMO player.

Statistics collected from various MMO projects indicate that lack of time for successful participation is the primary reason why people leave the game. Or, why they don't even pick up the game in the first place. Because they feel that the bar "don't even bother if you don't have enough time" is too high.

All-round success in a game built around constant progression is impossible. The absence of progression limits do not imply total equality. It merely guarantees the total supremacy of a select few. It feels good to be one of them, we can't argue with that, but seeing them from below is much less fun, especially when it takes a considerable amount of time for most players to reach the same spot where the top percentile of players have already found success months prior.

At the same time, we understand that if it’s too easy to reach the top, players will feel dissatisfied with their accomplishment.

In CBT, a wide disparity in Prestige among players who hit the same weekly limit is the result of several progression bugs which are going to be fixed in future releases. In addition, that type disparity is further reduced as you develop your character. In the second month of play, two players who steadily hit the limits each week will be very close to each other in prestige.

We want to leave some room for competition among successful players and their Pantheons. But we’d prefer to shift the competition away from one that is disproportionately impacted by how much time you spend in-game and instead have it focus on your efforts at planning your progression route to ensure you are developing your character in a way that is most efficient and optimal for your playstyle. In the end, the top players will not necessarily be those with a lot of spare time on their hands, but those who allocated their progression resources most efficiently.

Additionally, we understand that there are players who consider such limits an infringement on their right to choose how they spend their time pursuing leisure activities. At launch, Skyforge will provide players with more activities with and without limits making it easy for players to continue their adventures in-game without feeling as though they’ve suddenly hit a hard-cap.

To that extent, we are developing additional activities for players who have reached the weekly limits, but still want to progress towards other goals, and have enough time to keep playing past the caps. Some of these opportunities are waiting for you in the high-end part of the game.

All of these efforts are meant to give a large number of people the opportunity to experience the joy of being at the very top. By keeping players closer together in progression and not making those who stat day 1 or have more free time unattainably more powerful than others. An MMO is not a game played for just a week or a month. It's a game meant for years of enjoyment. Over time, it expands and develops like your favorite television or book series. As a series grows, so does its audience and we want to make sure players who join Skyforge later on will have the same opportunities as those who started with the game on day one. This means allowing them to binge on the current content and then experience the new content with veteran players collectively.

In order to ensure new players are not left in the dust, we are working on ways for players who join later to help catch up with more experienced players. However, we also want it to be fair to the players who were early pioneers in the game and were with us from the beginning. We will share more details on these plans in the future.

Our end-goal here is to create a game that will develop itself naturally and eventually give you more and more avenues for developing and progressing your character. An MMO where more than one small group of players can actively reach the top.

High repetitiveness of the content at the initial stages of the game. You need to complete the same instances over and over again.
Similar to the challenge of game difficulty at the beginning of the game versus later, we have used Closed Beta Tests to get a sense of how players consume early content. What amount of content is too much, paralyzing players with too many choices and what is too little, forcing replay of certain content too early too often?

Based on what we've seen in CBT and the feedback players are giving us, we will be making changes to our content roll out in a future release. It should be noted that these early CBT phases have substantially less content than what will be available at launch. To that end, during the Open Beta more adventures will open to players sooner. Players will still be expected to repeat some content, but this will be lessened.

The simplicity of the game at an early stage. It's too easy to fight mobs and bosses.
In addition to tuning combat difficulty based on how players behave in CBT (above) we've also noticed a need to make changes to address the level of challenge desired by different player types. In a future beta version there will be more adventures of varying difficulty available for you to go on. So if you are looking for "impossible" adventures to challenge you and your fellow immortals, you'll be able to select this difficulty after reaching the appropriate prestige levels. In addition, the closer players get to the high-end contend the more difficult the game becomes.

Dissatisfaction with the combat system:
Getting difficulty right at the beginning of a game is really challenging. Some users find game mechanics and creature behavior easy to learn and master while others struggle and find early content difficult and frustrating. This is one of the reasons betas, and beta feedback are so important. We have the opportunity to get player feedback and to look at the game's databases to see how players are actually progressing, where they are dying, and how the mix of new skills and new challenges are all working together.

At a basic level we keep beginning game difficulty low to benefit the players with limited experience, and who find it difficult to dodge things like boss abilities, so the bosses seem easy only to well-prepared players.

As you progress though the game, remember the current CBT content represents only a small sub-set of Skyforge content. As players continue exploring Aelion, the difficulty of the game will drastically increase as will a player’s skill level and experience. Players can deal and survive more damage and understand better how to play their classes, allowing us to ratchet up the difficulty and roll out new creature behaviors as combat becomes faster and more intense.

Melee classes have their combos interrupted when the target moves or dies. It's impossible to use basic attacks with no target selected.
The break in a combo chain when a target dies or moves out of range can be frustrating. This is a system we will constantly be tuning and making improvements to, but the basic design is intended to prevent players from opening their combo chain with air hits, casting without target, and concentrate on preventing that kind of strange combat preparations - casting first combo strikes without targets and aggro’ing nothing, just to land final ones on foes. We feel this would open the door to exploitation by players, and would also have a negative impact on our combat animation system.

The idea of allowing basic attacks without a target is an interesting one and it is one which we are evaluating. It certainly is fun to run around swinging a sword, but it can lead to issues with our gameplay systems so it's not something we are enabling at this time.

Useless dodge because basic attacks can't be dodged anyway.
A number of players have noted that you cannot dodge all attacks in the game. This is accurate, however we don't fell this makes dodge "useless". We simply did not want to trivialize dodge or remove the benefits of damage mitigation stats and abilities by making dodge a "get out of jail free card", where high dexterity players had an incredible advantage over all others. Dodge is a limited resource, and is designed to be used against certain types of high damage line and area of effect attacks.

Finishing attacks [E] in PvP looks like a cheat, because you can quickly finish off the enemy and earn points.
This is an interesting observation that we've seen from a number of players. Finishing attacks in PvP are open to all players, so they have become a part of the gameplay dynamic. Since they are available to all players and all classes, they are no different that the player (me) who waits to finish off low health enemies, letting others to the heavy lifting and take most of the risk. There are also downsides to this behavior, like missing many opportunities, or making oneself vulnerable to an unseen enemy while focusing your attention on waiting for the best time to strike.

However, PvP balance is something very important to us, so we do constantly monitor both player feedback and game statistics to make sure no one class has an unbalanced kill rate because their finishers are easier to execute than others.

Orders
Becoming a god and managing your followers in the Orders system is one of the main features of Skyforge, so we've paid close attention to player feedback on this system in CBT and have begun working on a number of changes which you will see in a future beta release:

  • Adepts will no longer require payment for their service, but you can only hire a limited number of them. To increase the number of adepts, players will need to develop their Order.
  • Adepts will no longer increase your character's stats. This function is now provided by temples that give greater bonuses to various individual characteristics.
  • Adepts now have their own stats based on their profession. These stats impact the effectiveness of completing missions. Be careful when choosing a new adept - many of them can be novices with poorly developed stats for their profession.
  • The resources required for missions are also being changed. We will be adding missions that generate resources. Your Adepts will no longer be dependent on your feats for the resources to complete missions. Instead, they'll be able to obtain whatever is necessary. All you need to do now is send them on the right missions and to keep them busy. You can manage your Order both in the game and via the Portal, allowing you to manage your adepts whenever you have free time and a web enabled device.
  • We have also made changes to the resources themselves – many of them have become an alternative currency which has freed a lot of space in the player’s inventory.

Playing with friends of various Prestige level and adventure difficulty
Another area where we saw a lot of player feedback in CBT was the difficulty of playing with friends at various prestige levels and of the inability to set or know the expected adventure difficulty. As developers we forget about this stuff sometimes, it's easy to cheat your character up or down to play together with other devs, or to test an adventure. To correct this issue, in a future beta release you can expect to see:

  • The removal of group Prestige requirements for adventures. The difficulty is the same for all members of the group, but the rewards depend on your individual prestige level. Play with your friends without limitations!
  • Revisions to the system that determines the difficulty of adventures – now after reaching certain prestige levels you can set the difficulty for yourself – there will be several levels available (similar to games like Diablo).
  • A "traditional" LFA-mechanism for PvE added. If you do not have a pre-formed team, the system will match you with other players looking to adventure and create one for you automatically.
  • We will also change how the selection system picks players for your group. It will be able to fill the open slot if one player leaves the team.
  • Group composition will also be altered, normal adventure group size will match that of the Squads - a maximum of 3 people.
  • We’ve analyzed the feedback on PvP matchmaking from CBT and reworked it. Our main goal is to speed up the group selection and adjust the balance of matchmaking by player strength.
  • We’re removing various additional barriers from PvP matchmaking: for example, teams for regular battles will be formed based on their Prestige level, and not skill. Other checks and comparisons will be relevant only for rating battles that will be implemented later on.

Ascension Atlas
CBT1 gave us an excellent opportunity to test our numbers and assumptions in the Ascension Atlas. Based on player feedback and data analytics we will be making some changes and will be doing a lot of recalculation. We will reduce the amount of time it takes to unlock the upper level of the Atlas. In current CBT builds this happens once you unlock your ultimate at the class level, in a future version this will happen earlier. The cost of unlocking nodes will also be readjusted.

Classes
In addition to the general changes in class progression made in the Ascension Atlas we've also begun making changes to damage mechanics to help improve the viability of melee classes over ranged classes. More details on these changes will be shared as we get close to rolling these out.

Equipment
We will be making changes to the interface and functionality of the equipment window. Characters will now have 6 additional equipment slots. Besides rings and class specific weapons in the current CBT versions, players will be able to equip 4 amulets and 2 special trophies. These additional items will become available progressively as your player develops. We are still working out the details and will roll them out in a future release.

Aelinet Portal
The current CBT roll out of portal is somewhat limited and we have begun making updates to its functionality and adding support of additional game features like Pantheons, and a talent calculator. Players will also be able to manage their orders, view and progress their characters and we will be expanding the game’s encyclopedia.

We hope this overview of some of our upcoming changes helps give players a sense of the direction we are taking with Skyforge’s features in response to feedback and data collected in our Beta Tests. We look forward to reading more of the community’s feedback and observing how you enjoy these changes in-game as well.

Thanks again for all your great feedback thus far! See you in the beta!

03/27/2015