Feb 262012
 

Both Spiff and I have been hard at work this month on different tasks. While Spiff has been tackling an automated PvP tournament system, the majority of my time has been devoted to Monster Companions.

The automated PvP tournament system will allow us to schedule regular weekly tournaments for both brackets (20s and 32s). The brackets are generated based upon the teams that sign up during the week (and show up on time), and then the tournament takes place without the need for Moderator supervision. Members of that week’s winning teams will be rewarded not only with Colosseum Badges, but with statues of themselves displayed inside the Colosseum (Spiff’s idea!).

The new tournament system has been in open testing all month long and is very close to completion. Yesterday we also hosted our very first closed beta test for Monster Companions, which went incredibly well. Everything is looking very solid, including the Companion battle A.I. (which let me tell you was no small task to create).

Although you won’t be able to directly control your companions, you will be able to set each companion’s battle tactics via the new Tactics menu in battle. The tactics themselves are fairly self-explanatory (Balanced, Offensive, Defensive, Conserve), and can be changed on the fly at anytime during battle.

In the overworld players have full control and will be able to cast their companion’s spells manually. Companions won’t be able to equip gear or carry items, but they do have slots for Stat Seeds and their own version of Skill Trees called “Milestone Boosts”. These boosts allow the player to choose between one of two skill options for the companion every 5 levels. What’s more, every companion has a unique set of Milestone Boosts specifically tailored to its breed.

You’ll notice that the companions either use MP, Will or Rage to power their abilities (Rage is identical to the Merchant Credit system). The type of resource a companion uses to power its moves has a big impact on how it handles itself in battle. The earliest healing companion in the game (Blue Slime) actually uses Rage to power its abilities, which makes for a decidedly different type of healer that can’t always burst heal but will never run out of MP.

As usual I’m not going to give out release projections for this stuff until it’s much closer to being finished. I’m very happy with where we’re at though, and I’m also getting excited to dive right into content expansion work as soon as companions are done. As testing continues over the course of the next couple weeks I’ll be sure to share many more details and screenshots

Feb 142012
 

Although our attacker was not successful in actually bringing down our servers or causing an interruption of service, he did succeed in scaring off our host who shut down our VPS without warning and didn’t respond to my emails/phone calls for about 36 hours. Our host had advertised protection against that type of thing, but they neglected to mention that it’s much more cost-effective for them to just terminate a client’s contract in the event of a sustained attack. Fun times!

The crazy thing is that our attacker isn’t even particularly sophisticated:  the attacks have been small and have always originated from a single IP. We’re dealing with a script kiddie who googled the term “DDoS”, and it’s baffling to me how even the most highly recommended VPS hosts aren’t equipped to deal with that sort of thing. Therefore, we’re done with Virtual Private Servers and graduating to a true Dedicated Server with a host who specializes in DDoS protection. Triple the cost, but well worth the increased reliability and peace of mind moving forward.

Anyway, I apologize for the downtime. If I had understood the flawed nature of all VPS hosts then I would have just switched over to a dedicated server a couple weeks ago during the first round of attacks. This is just one of those growing pain things that I’m thankful happened now rather than down the road when we’ve got a ton of servers to worry about. I’m sure that this won’t be our last encounter with these sorts of attacks, but we’re much better equipped to handle them now.

I really appreciate everyone in the community being so understanding and supportive in regards to this situation. Any amount of downtime for an online game like this is really frustrating, and I’m very thankful to have a community of players who dealt with it so well.

Algol:  byond://72.20.57.158:50444

Zenithia: byond://72.20.57.158:51616

Feb 012012
 

As we continue to plug away on the big Monster Companion update, more and more of the supporting changes are going to start to make appearances on the live servers. The next version bump won’t bring companions, but it will bring us one more important step closer.

Forthcoming v1.61 Changes

There won’t be any earth shattering changes packed into v1.61, but there will be many small ones. Changes include the addition of a “Level Lock” toggle which will prevent your character from earning experience and leveling up. Another tweak: the “Plus Exp” and “Plus Gold” stats are becoming “Extra Exp” and “Extra Gold”, as both stats will now be added as a direct bonus to the Experience and Gold earned from battles, rather than a percentage increase.

My favorite change so far is something that I’ve been meaning to implement for a long time. Per modern MMO standards, all “Quest Giver” NPCs will have quest indicator icons floating above their heads in v1.61:

Exclamation Points indicate that an NPC has quests available; Question Marks mean that you have a completed quest that needs to be turned in to that NPC. The indicators are yellow for regular quests and blue for dailies.

These indicators are one of those random things that was surprisingly challenging to implement, which is why I hadn’t done so before now. With the companion update looming, the quest indicators finally made it to the top of my to-do list because there will soon be many more daily/repeatable quests scattered all over the world related to the new reputation system.

I’ll continue to add items to the v1.61 update notes as I work. The patch should go live by this weekend.

When Will Companions Be Ready?

I’ve been getting this question a lot lately, and all that I’m willing to say is that we’re making great progress on the update and that it will be ready when it’s ready. As soon as I have a public release date set it will be posted here on the blog/Facebook/Twitter in big flashing letters – I promise that you won’t miss it.

Being able to dole out most of the big code changes incrementally on the live servers has really sped up development as compared to the Skill Tree update, which had to be released in one huge chunk. It should also dramatically reduce the amount of time that we need to private test stuff.

Other News

As most of you know, some random script kiddie managed to topple our servers with a DoS attack last week. Turns out that he/she/it did us a favor: I switched over to a faster host with proper DoS protection and so far the results have been great.

In stark contrast to the crappy side of humanity displayed by our attacker, we had several community members step up and make big financial contributions in the past week. “Ninja O” (key: AdamSetzler) made an incredibly generous donation by teaching me how to setup a recurring monthly PayPal donation system and then subscribing to it. For as long as he decides to contribute, his monthly donation will be covering our server costs in full every month. Booyah!

Lumino also made a massive contribution this week by purchasing a ton of gift subscriptions for other players. He has gone on these gift subscription sprees several times in the past, making him our largest financial benefactor. 🙂

So, thank you very much Ninja O and Lumino! Between community members who open their wallets, to those who have contributed incredible artwork, put in countless hours testing/posting bug reports, or even just those who provide lots of moral support, I feel very humbled and grateful.

I’m going to wrap up this beast of a blog post before it gets any longer, but be sure to check in this weekend for v1.61 and keep your eyes on the blog for many more news updates this month.