a German version of this announcement can be found on the official forums. Eine deutsche Version dieser Ankündigung kann im offiziellen Forum gefunden werden.
the first wave of balancing changes has hit Titan and the first set of fixes and adjustments are going to arrive on Vedeena beginning of this week (and they will be patched to Titan a week later if public testing goes well). But we didn't put the work on the next steps for our balancing project aside, no! Instead, before investing too much work into what we intend to be Phase Two of the balancing project, we want to discuss our plans with you. However, first of all, Phase One.Five.
This phase will consist of two changes.
Phase 1.5 - Ammo Changes
The first set of changes will adjust the damage composition of all ammo types. Our intention is to increase the diversity of damage types you might encounter on the battlefield. In the end hopefully none of the damage types will be classified as "secondary" damage anymore.
Phase 1.5 - Implant Changes
The second set of changes will adjust implants. Bragi is currently working hard to give all implants a purpose again and to remove all the comma values. We think this is a long overdue change.
Work on it is still ongoing, especially since we had to tackle the issues of Phase One first, but if all goes well Phase One.Five will be finished quicker than Phase One.
In the meantime the planning for Phase Two also has begun. Since we tackled the offensive part of PvP with Phase One, it is time to review the first part of the defensive part of PvP in Phase Two, namely the armor system. To give you a little bit more insight into what is going on in our crazy minds, let me quickly summarize "The old armor system", "The current system" and the "Armor item situation" first.
The old armor system
Some of you might still remember the very old armor system Neocron used to have. The armor was non locational and the armor bonuses gained from an armor part were applied to your whole body. This made setups possible where you could either specialize on high resistance against few damage types or split your resistance amongst all damage types.
The current system
The current system splits the armor bonuses into three regions, each being covered by two armor parts, plus an additional power armour slot which applies its bonuses to the whole body. This adds a lot in terms of realism and complexity to the game. You can also use different armor setups for different parts of your body in case you expect your enemies to use different weapons for your feet and your head.
Armor item situation
Currently the situation concerning armor items is sub-optimal in our opinion. The number of options is clearly limited and the number of options for certain damage types is even more limited. To add to this odd situation, there are some nice options like the Viper King armor, which however are not available as a complete set.
Both systems, the old one and the current one have their strengths and weaknesses. The current situation in terms of usable armor items is far from being optimal. So what do we need to do? First of all we should ask whether the current system is still optimal or whether we can come up with something better.
A new armor system?
This is exactly the point where we now need your input! We are currently thinking about two possible changes (which do not exclude each other) to the current system, somewhat motivated by the shortcomings of the old systems.
First of all we are considering to remove the concept of locational armor again. We would instead apply all bonuses to the whole body again. Why? The concept of locational armor adds more to the complexity of the system than to the variety of viable options.
Another idea we are considering is to add armor mods. The armor mods should not be essential, as in that they increase an item's total armour value, but instead only change the composition of resistances the armor grants.
Again, those two changes are not exclusive, so we could also think about applying them both in Phase Two. Nevertheless, please let us know what you think about this matter! Do you think an armor modding system would improve Neocron? Do you think the locational armor concept should be kept? Do you have other ideas for a new armor system? Tell us what you think on the official forums!
Your Neocron Support Team
Balancing phase one has finally come to an end. The final patch has been applied to Vedeena, final feedback has been gathered and adjustments have been made. The final patch will be built the first weekend in August. Great news I would say and I hope you will say so too!
So when will this patch be applied to Titan you may ask? Soon(TM). We will hold this patch back a little bit to carry out some maintenance work on Titan. We want to ensure that this patch launch goes as smoothly as possible and ensure that Titan is prepared for a huge wave of returning players. The problem however is that we cannot give you a schedule on this yet, because our main server administrator Zoltan, is currently barely available due to a hardware failure with his laptop. Rest assured we will do everything we can to get everything up and running as soon(TM) as possible.
What about the future of the balancing project? One thing is sure, the balancing project will continue. First and foremost we will want to gather large scale feedback on phase one to see what went wrong and what went well. In case there are urgent issues with phase one we will of course patch them as soon as possible - remember we were never afraid of patching at weekends. ;)
However in parallel we will also continue to the work on phase two which will at least consist of changes to implants, like for example, giving every single implant a purpose again. The development of phase two will not take as long as the development of phase one. For phase one, a lot of tools had to be developed and a lot of research had to be conducted. The tools are now developed and also large parts of research are completed which will considerably speed up development of phase two. More details on phase two will follow soon(TM).
A german version of this post can be found in the german announcements sections of the official forums.
One of the largest and continuous wishes of our community, is to enjoy Neocron with a fresh and updated look. Today, I want to explain to you, at what point we are in this matter. As some of you may be aware, there has been an AssetDev team for some time now, responsible for the look and feel of Neocron and has just finished it's vacation in Neocron's sunny beer gardens. The AssetDev team is responsible for game assets and also creating graphics for our internal tools and/or the website. In the past, we threw out a screenshot on our various twitter channels or the forum, and someone may be wondering what they are about.
Construction-Site Tekktonic or: Neocron in Single-Pieces
With Patch 187, we will ship the first batch of new textures. This part will be limited to the so called "decals". Decals are textures, that are not part of a baked map or any model and being placed afterwards. For example, these are graffiti's, all Holographic-Displays, poster and fake lights, shadows and dirt textures as well. Some of you may ask why we start with these kinds of textures, instead of re-designing new models or levels. For the answer, you need to know what parts Neocron is made up of. Firstly, there are the main levels, also known as sectors. These levels contain the basic geometry like walls, floors or doors. There is not just geometry but the textures, and the illumination and lights of the map. Afterwards, the map needs to be compiled, which can be quite a time consuming process. The creation and editing of levels, in short: „mapping“, wasn't technically in a productive state in the past. While we are able to edit and create levels for now, there are still alot of issues, preventing a nice quality output. There may be a blog for this on it's own.
In the next step, we use our Cryton's World Editing Tools, also known as Editor of Doom, to place and edit those Decals, NPC's, Spawn-Points or Static Actors. Editor of Doom, because it's not like luxury tool-set's from UDK or Unity that you may be aware of. If Crahn isn't with you, it may take up to 20 minutes to place and scale a shop table holo-display. Where those programs give you management features that, lets say, show you how often and where a texture, a model or a sound is used in any level of your entire project, we have to track all that manually, by hand if we have to. All in 1024x786 window without a „play now“ button. Neocron contains around 400 decals, of which ~150 where overhauled and re-created. The major part of our decals like Faction-Logos is now available in resolutions up to 1024x1024 pixels, which is sometimes an increase of 8 in resolution. Because we lack some of the original working files, but we want to beware the look and feel of Neocron, a lot of decals had to be created from scratch. This sometimes included the creation of every single letter by hand for some decals, because of missing original fonts or files. Additionally, the currently used texture format allows for a much bigger color space. The original textures where often limited to 255 colors. In some cases, you may experience some blurry or pixelated parts in holographic textures, originating from the use of texture compression and can't be avoided right now. While a lot of bug-fixing and improvements already made it in our tools, we will continue and see what improvements can be made in the future.
You may wonder, why there are only ~150 new textures in a rather big timeframe so far. Of course, there is more, but you won't enjoy them in the first graphic-batch yet. Aside from the re-creation, that took quite alot of time due to the new resolutions, each texture has to be placed and edited in the game. While we where able to replace a lot of the original textures as a batch, every holo-frame, graffiti or logo is a single placed object in-game. Because there has been the need for some adjustments in size or alignment, we where forced to adjust every single piece of them by hand. A prominent example is the YO's Pawn Shops logo, and as already mentioned we have no convenient content management features currently for the game editor. That means we had to look into each sector of the wastelands and Neocron City personally and note how and where are those decals used. A lot of textures now consist of transparency masks, also known as alpha channels, which are part of the texture. After being replaced, the old alpha usage had to be deactivated or the new one activated, because the way alpha channels was handled, changed. Miss anything while doing so, results in black or missing decals with a poor white spot. Along with this, many textures where combined to new texture-atlases. We also used the re-creation process, to create some new and modified versions of original textures, to have more variation and places where they can be used. Additionally, we fixed hundreds mis-aligned assets and textures.
Bit by bit we planned, to change the majority of old decals through new or overhauled versions. Are you a talented artist and want to contribute your bit to Neocron? Feel free to contact us on IRC or send your application to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you may have gained a little insight into behind the scenes of the AssetDev and to say goodbye, I will leave you with this screenshot.
This blog is also available in a german version on our forums.
Previously the Neocron Support Team have tried to launch a monthly/bi-monthly update, to communicate development progress and other various status updates. We appreciate that this has not been as clear as it could have been. A lot of the time this longer update has not been as detailed or as transparent as the community would like.
In order to tackle this and hopefully move to a more transparent operating model, we are going to change gear slightly. Rather than having each internal team provide snippets of information for a larger post, we will now be encouraging our Team Leads and Members to write their own (probably shorter, sometimes longer) blog posts.
Updates from the Neocron Support Team will now be a little more casual but will also hopefully provide more of the information you want to read. You’ll get more details about the processes used to improve Neocron, teaser screenshots of upcoming content and asset changes, data used to improve the balance of the game as well as more general updates from each internal team.
In recent months we have tried to improve our transparency on the forums and increase our interaction with our community and their discussions. This will also continue and will likely be the inspiration for future development blog posts.
Blog posts will be a natural continuation of the Development Updates blog on our new look website. You’ll be able to find an overview of fresh posts on the homepage as well as in the relevant tab of your Neocron Community Edition Launcher.
We’d like to take the opportunity to provide you with our next Development Update just in time for the Holidays! The below should give you a good indication of our activities over the last few months and into the future.
Sparta & Balance Project
Some time has passed since the last deployment to our Balance Test Server, Sparta. While to the outside world this could indicate a lack of progress, please rest assured that this is not the case.
Since the last deployment a lot of work has gone on in the background to address a number of issues restricting our visible progress. As you will recall some of the changes implemented in our initial deployments had unintended side-effects. As we continue to crunch numbers and adjust formulas in this fashion we’re also making significant progress in our Balance toolset.
If you recall the Evolution 2.2 balancing effort, the previous developers spent a lot of time unravelling some of Neocron’s older systems to streamline and improve the change process. With our new toolset we’re aiming to take this much further so we’re able to make more changes more quickly and easily. The idea being that in future we’re able to easily manipulate the state of play as and when new items are added or we fine tune the play style of a class or profession.
All of those things will rest on the outcome of the remainder of the Balance Project, which will continue in the New Year.
Visual & Graphical Upgrades
As with all of our work, we have learned a great deal about Neocron’s graphics engine since the beginning of our tenure. So we could familiarise ourselves with the quirks and particularity of Neocron’s graphic development pipeline, our first project was the complete recreation of a huge amount of decals, hologram and logo textures in high definition. We also took the opportunity to add further new textures to increase Neocron’s visual variety. This initial project is our first step to a more up-to-date look for the Neocron world.
The resolution of these new textures is significantly higher and contain far more detail when viewed from up close. We have also implemented some technical changes in terms of formats and features, while the new textures will make it in game first, these other new adjustments will be utilised later™. Once these HD textures make it in game, you may still experience some noisy or blurry details at a closer view, as a result of current texture compression.
As we revealed last time, we now have an Art Team who will try to enhance Neocron visually with each future patch. However as you already know Neocron's codebase is rather old, improving the visuals further is a huge task and brings a lot of challenges we have to be deal with. Those challenges are something we’re sure to overcome and we already have a lot more than high-res faction logos in the pipeline. Once we can reveal more about those plans we are sure you will be very excited.
Storyline & Events: Continuing Powder Keg
At the start of this year we announced a new chapter in Neocron’s storyline which we dubbed Powder Keg, this came to a significant cliff hanger earlier this year. For a number of reasons this has not progressed beyond this point as we had intended. Unfortunately for much of the latter half of the year our Chief Carebear, Trivaldi, was unable to contribute to the project. The personal circumstances around this matter are now hopefully resolved.
The storyline will continue beyond the current state. Neocron will see the instatement of its next President in the future but right now we simply want to acknowledge the slow progress and reassure that there are plans which will come in time. As this storyline progresses there will be further updates to the game world which will reflect the changing landscape of the story.
There are plans for the future of Neocron’s storyline which span well beyond the current conflicts and interests and we hope to move on those plans in the New Year.
General Content Improvement
We have done a lot of learning this year. Our tool set is now much improved over what we received when our tenure of the Neocron Service began in the late spring of 2012. All of this is set to allow us to improve a lot of Neocron’s content offering in the year to come. With improved tools we are now able to create more detailed environments for you to enjoy and we hope you will appreciate these more granular details as changes are introduced.
Last time around we mentioned improvements to CityCom Missions and Newbie Dungeons (along with mob variety) as experimented with in the revamped Canyon Facility. From the feedback we have received it appears the new experiences in this location have been well favoured by the community. This feedback is very reassuring and allows us to confidently begin the work required to expand those changes across the game world.
There is still a lot to do when it comes to content and we hope with the soon to be released Jailhouse revamp, coupled with our mission writing competition, to continue our journey to a more content filled Neocron.
Server Status & Infrastructure
While we have been unfortunate to fall victim to hardware issues this year, we feel we have made great progress in stability of the Neocron Server Application. Just recently we have implemented changes to re-enable and update Neocron’s grid architecture previously used during Neocron 1. This means we are now able to load balance the game world across more than one server, both increasing performance and adding internal failover systems.
While we are still hunting for the root cause of the ‘Bad World Data issue, the changes we have made now mean players can continue to use effected sectors as another server takes over, keeping the sector online. It is still possible that we will need to step in to restart the effected sectors but this new redundancy coupled with scheduled maintenance should reduce the impact to you, the player.
Further optimisations to the infrastructure and our back end services have also reduced the amount of lag experienced in game. These changes should also reduce the number of kick-to-login or bad world data events you may have experienced in the past.
Great progress has also been made in the automation of our test systems, allowing us to more easily make larger changes and perform additional Quality Assurance prior to player testing. This particular improvement should lend itself well to our more iterative approach when bringing changes to the community faster and more frequently.
We have plans to further improve our infrastructure in the first half of next year which will add additional protection and further improve stability. Specifically we will be investing in further hardware to significantly reduce, if not remove, the downtime caused by the kind of hardware failures we have experienced in 2013.
Finally for those that missed it, thanks to community feedback we moved our daily reboot to later in the morning (0830 UTC), in order to reduce it's affect on our none European player base.
All the best,
Your Neocron Support Team
It is time for another Development Update! This update covers our activities over the course of July and August. Going forward you can expect these Development Updates every two months, due to the changes in our Development Strategy we explain below.
Neocron & Agile Development
We want to go a little bit into detail about our general Development Strategy for the future, we hope this means you will have a better understanding of where things are heading.
Going forward, instead of the 'classic' method of releasing larger patches now and again, we want to shift towards a more modern agile development approach. After the release of R#184 we will try to shift to a more rapid release process – trying to release early and release often. In the video game world you may be familiar with this as the "Minecraft Method" of development.
On average patches will become smaller in size and the list of changes per patch will shrink. However you will receive patches more often so over time the same number of changes should occur.
So why do it?
The idea here is to retrieve feedback from the Community as early and often as possible, allowing to you to have your say and help shape the course of Neocron's development. An example of this is our new feature, "Faction Warzones", a feature which we introduced the basis of with the latest patch on Vedeena.
There is of course a downside to this approach, new features may feel incomplete upon initial release to Vedeena and may not give you the full intended experience - However! - Getting your feedback at this early stage, will save us from developing features in the wrong direction. This also offers you the opportunity to make Neocron an even better place, by providing us with constructive feedback and discussion at this conceptual stage.
This more rapid deployment of changes is the reason we're adding more space between formal Development Updates; instead of reading about where we're going, you'll be able to see it for yourself.
Sparta & Balancing Neocron
Such a shift in our Development Strategy will of course have consequences for Sparta, the Neocron Balance Test Server. Instead of supplying you with a large mixed overhaul of everything (think Neocron 2.2) we will start out with a smaller, more concise and defined, set of focused modifications.
This initial set of modifications has been discussed at great length and we're excited to bring you more details on these modifications in the next few weeks.
As you know patching will not be required to adjust and tweak the balance of items on Sparta, instead a more agile system has been implemented allowing us to quickly and easily make changes. When we apply each "batch" of changes to Sparta, players will be given a few days to test the changes. After this brief familiarisation period we will hold a PvP event. There will be at least one PvP event per change "batch" applied to Sparta.
After these PvP events it will be up to you, the Community, to provide us with feedback. We will try to make this easier for you by supplying you with as much detail about the changes as we can. Once we reach an initial "post-2.2 state" we all feel is better than the current one, that balance state will find its way to Titan.
After the release of the initial balancing patch to Titan, the more interesting work on overhauling all classes and play styles will begin. Although, some parts of these class/play-style overhauls might find their way into Neocron via a normal patch, to be tweaked and brought into line later on.
We will release more details about Sparta and the Balance Project over the course of the next few weeks!
Launch of Sparta? Before the end of September!
Retail Patch #184
A considerable number of changes are currently available on Vedeena, the Public Test Server. At the current state most of these changes will come together as Patch R#184 which we hope to release alongside Sparta before the end of the month.
We'd like to take this opportunity to encourage our Community to get on Vedeena and help us ensure the release of R#184 will be as smooth as possible. Every test report and piece of feedback is graciously received. Providing feedback on each patch that lands on Vedeena, is the greatest way you can help move Neocron forward. We often see players asking how they can help us – this is how!
Soul Light System & Improved 'Bad Guy' Experience
Our work on the soul light system, which we started months ago, is heading towards a big step forward. The Outzone Jail (OZ8) will soon become the new 'unsafe heaven' for lawless characters and those who enjoy living amongst the underground of Neocron's society.
As a place to call their own, the Jailhouse will offer lawless runners several things; Missions to lose further Soul Light by working for Neocron's lawless factions, and missions to regain Soul Light by helping the NCPD as an undercover agent, while still being able to relax with their fellow criminals.
This is not all though, we will have more information on the Jailhouse Revamp Soon™...
CityCom Missions, Newbie Dungeons and Mob Variety
With the release of R#184 you will notice two things with regards to CityCom Missions. First of all Twilight Guardian have a new set of VERY EASY and EASY missions to enable a better low level experience in the faction's new Canyon Facility home. Secondly, the CityCom will serve up 100% more missions every time you perform a mission download. Yes, 6 missions to choose from instead of 3!
Changes to the Twilight Guardian missions are the first part of a much wider CityCom Mission and Newbie Dungeon overhaul. At the moment most factions have a large number of missions which players are simply unable to finish. In most cases this is due to the density and availability of mission mobs being incredibly poor or that they simply do not exist in the gameworld.
To address this we intend to review the "Mob Loadouts" of levelling areas, proving a wider variety of mobs but also ensuring they exist in mission suitable quantities and locations. At the same time we will be adjusting the missions available for each faction. Each faction will receive missions suitable to the locale in which those factions start and these new missions will be mapped to locally available mobs as per the Mob Loadout review.
At the moment you'll find most low level characters in the "Aggie Sewers", with these changes we hope to make it more appealing to try new levelling paths.
Basically (deep breath!), you'll have a wider variety of stuff to kill, a wider variety of dungeons in which to kill it and a higher chance of easily finding a mission to kill that stuff. Some mobs will remain rare of course and there's a chance you'll still get missions to kill those mobs, but if that is the case we'll be sure to make it worthwhile.
This is just the start of improvements to CityCom Missions. We'll tell you the next chapter once we begin to deliver the above.
Neocron's New Art Department
As we hope you're aware, not everyone in the world is a programmer. This means there are many artists in the community, artists we asked to join us a while ago, who have wanted to improve Neocron in a visual way.
Today, we're pleased to tease you that you will soon get to see some of the fruits of our Art Department's labours. Stay tuned for more news on this in the future.
We hope the above has given you an insight to what is currently going on behind the scenes, what is coming in the future and the direction in which we are heading.
All the very best,
Your Neocron Support Team
Today we bring you a merged Development Update covering the months of May and June 2013. Due to a number of factors this update is a little more informal. The aim was to provide an update in the second week of June and then again in the next week or so. Due to the server issues we have been experiencing which took priority, we have chosen to merge the two updates.
We would rather provide you with the following information than remain entirely silent on our current status.
Sparta & Development Team Availability.
The delivery of the new Balance Test Server Sparta has been pushed back to later in the year, at the time of writing we are not sharing a revised schedule. Over the last number of weeks several members of our small development team have been maxed out in the real world. Much higher than expected day job workloads have taken their toll on availability. On top of this both planned and unplanned absences have reduced our output in the last couple of months significantly. Due to the fragmentation of our virtual team around the globe, this reduced output has been unavoidable.
While the sun is shining (well, in theory) we have moved focus slightly to recharge our batteries after 15 months of hard work turning Neocron around, for you, the community. We hope to be able to share more with you soon but recently needed time to reflect, get our heads back in gear and come back to you in the months to come with more exciting developments. We hope you can appreciate the amount of time we have given in the last 15 months and the need for this regrouping.
Server Migration – The Why and the What Happened.
Over the last few weeks Zoltan (assisted by ArkHive) has been working hard moving everything over to new infrastructure for the Neocron Service. Since our tenure began for Neocron our infrastructure has changed a number of times, this is mainly due to the unique way in which Neocron is operated. Up until now Neocron has been ran mainly on servers the team had available from personal projects. Previous moves allowed us to switch things around between hosts, when available resources began to show their inability to cope with the way in which Neocron's server architecture performs.
This latest move has been planned for some time, we have now reached a point where our infrastructure is in a much better position to serve our players and the Neocron Service. Multiple servers now at a single data centre has significantly reduced the internal overhead, both financially and computationally. These changes will allow us to better manage server resources, provide improved stability and improve latency for some of our international players. Plus it is saving us a significant amount of money coming directly from the pockets of the Neocron Support Team. Money we can potentially put to better use providing better services in the future.
At a new host and location the improved infrastructure is better positioned to serve data to our players all over the world. We are much closer to some of the globe's major links. While some users may only experience a change of a few milliseconds, we know how important those are when fighting it out in the streets of Neocron and the Wastelands.
Clearly this process has not been as smooth as our tests suggested. The increased load and communication between servers under 'retail' operation far out stripped anything we were able to produce in a test environment. The sheer number of random interactions players make with the game and the game world was unfortunately not something we were able to accurately account for. We are now operating with much faster Neocron server software (a result of our previous patches) and without the internal latency between servers in our previous infrastructure. With these two factors we are having to deal with a lot more internal traffic all at once which has caused the issues since the migration.
We believe those issues are now in the past. Since bringing the server back online we are pleased with the performance of the server, and (fingers crossed) hope things will now return to normal. Only improved pings and a smoother experience should remain.
Content & the Next Patch
We have prepared a Content Patch which ties into the Powder Keg storyline. While we would have liked to deliver this much, much sooner we can say it is certainly on the way. We hope to bring this to you in the weeks to come. The patch, which focuses on bringing new life to a community favourite location, is something we have a feeling you will enjoy.
The creation of this patch has given us a much better understanding of what is required to improve Neocron's content offering. With this knowledge we hope to make some changes internally to increase the pace of content delivery. There is a MASSIVE amount of potential in the Neocron game world and we really want to tap into that.
Faction Representative Scheme
A while ago now we launched applications for a new faction representative scheme, something to bring more fun and role-play to the in game experience. We would like to urge anyone interested to please get in touch via the appropriate channels.
If you have previously sent an application please PM Trivaldi directly on the forum to discuss your application. It appears that during our migration some out bound and in bound email traffic was lost and as such it is possible a response to your pending application has been lost to the ether, or we did not receive it.
Exploit & Bug Reporting
Please continue to submit these reports. They are vital to the continued improvement of Neocron. If we do not know about an exploit or bug we cannot fix it. Any information you are able to provide on either topic is very important to us. Bug reports should be posted in the relevant forum area and please continue to send detailed exploit information to the usual email address.
We do not tolerate the use of exploits. Any information you have which will allow us to remove an exploit is vital. Never assume we already know about it. Report it. We will fix it.
Community Meet Up – August 23rd & 24th in Chelmsford, UK.
In the past the UK based fans of Neocron used to gather in a random location a couple of times a year, for a weekend of drinking and Neocron based chat. All in order to get to know the faces behind the runners of Neocron.
This is a tradition we would like to reignite, those members of the team who used to attend in the past always had a great time. As such we have decided to hold an official gathering in Chelmsford, UK on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th of August, 2013. It would be great to see as many of you there as possible, the full details can be found in the dedicated thread. Everyone is welcome for a few days of relaxed chat and copious amounts of beer.
We already have a selection of the Neocron Support Team in attendance, everything suggests it should be a great weekend!
A huge thank you to each and every one of you for being part of our community, while this is a departure from our normal development routine we hope you will understand the circumstances which we currently face. Things will be back up to speed before you know it!
The fact you guys are still here and as passionate as ever about the game we all love, keeps us going and the fires in our bellies well and truly lit.
All the very best,
Your Neocron Support Team.
Finally, the development update for January arrived. First things first: we are sorry that it took so long this time, however, as you all noticed we were rather busy fixing the game we all love.
Future development updates will from now on be published during the first week of each month, summarizing the month before. Therefore this update will not address the issues we encountered with patch R#179/R#180. However, we will get you informed on that as soon as we internally analyzed it and worked out solutions to avoid similar problems in the future.
MC5 Gameplay Overhaul
When we took over the day to day operation of Neocron it became apparent that MC5 and other areas of the game world needed readjusting. Those readjustments were needed in order to make those areas challenging, enjoyable but also in line with our expectations of those areas.
As it stood MC5 was a simple case of leveling a mid-level Droner and getting into the sector. Being the access point to some of the best items in the game and what should be one of the biggest PvE encounters in the game, this clearly was not a suitable form.
The new design changed the game play of MC5 entirely. With added elements of exploration, randomisation and the removal of the mindless AoE spam the previous version was built upon, we think there has been relative success in making this a more engaging experience for players. Yes its more time consuming but we hope it is also more rewarding when it comes to a sense of achievement.
So far we have seen little feedback on the forum and generally take that as a measure of success. After all we know how loud you guys can be when we're doing something wrong (). However, MC5 is not yet finished, it will likely evolve over time as we watch how players use the sector and adapt to keep the experience a challenge. There will certainly be some changes in the not too distant future based on the information we've already gathered. If you have feedback on the new experience, good or bad, we would certainly love to hear it.
This month we have released a teaser for the storyline, Powder Keg, as we announced in the development diary last month. We've also released more information on the delivery of that storyline last week. We decided to release this delivery information separately so it may be independently referenced later on, so please keep questions of that matter to the dedicated thread. The information there serves to give you an idea of how we will progress as we take our first steps into managing and developing that aspect of the game.
Little more can be said in that regard right now, other than please keep your eyes and ears open. The storyline will begin to shape the game world, so be ready for when that occurs.
New Neocron Installer
Since the last update in December 2012, there has been a lot of internal testing of the new installer.
As a result there have been a lot of minor tweaks and bug fixes to improve the installer. We have also added a new feature to install Neocron for use on the public test server. Features of the installer include:-
- Installation of Neocron for use on the Public Test Server
- Installation of DirectX9
- Installation of the C++2010 runtimes
- Automatic selection of recommended OS settings for playing Neocron
The next step is to get the installer build process working on our internal build systems, and then have a small testing period with the community.
Public Neocron API
As some of you already known a shiny new API has been made available for our community developers. The API is based on SOAP and is easily consumed with standard SOAP clients. If you need some instructions on how to use the API visit us on IRC in the #developers channel. In the near future we will also provide official documentation.
As a result of this new API we will be happy to see new projects and apps from the community!
A huge amount of community feedback has been gathered on a lot of issues concerning balancing in Neocron. While we appreciate there is a demand for change now, we feel that isolated adjustments are not something that will help to get Neocron's balancing back on track. Our goal has always been to replace the layers of sticky-tape and improvised fixes with a solid foundation.
Given the huge amount of parameters involved, it is difficult to stay on top of all interdependencies that affect balance. Therefore, we are currently in the process of developing suitable tools that will help us to oversee the status quo of balancing and simulate the effect of any changes. Good progress is being made here.
Another very important prerequisite for balancing to be a success, is the fixing of bugs and broken game mechanics. A prime examples for this is the NPC AI fix that now allows NPCs to target players and drones when they have a good line of sight. We are aware of the fact that fixes of this kind often affect the current balance in a very substantial manner, however the fixing of broken game mechanics is an essential first step of the balancing effort. The more fundamental bugs are being fixed, the more apparent it will become how wrong the current balance really is. We know it is painful in the short run and not every "fix" will appear to better the situation - it is however something that needs to be done and needs to be done properly this time. Quite alot of the game mechanic related bugs have already been identified and most of them have been fixed by now. So again, good progress is being made.
The balancing affects everyone in the community, so we feel everyone should also have a chance to be involved. At the same time, this project requires direction and focus. As such, we will have a core team that is solely concerned with making sure balancing stays on track and is moving in the right direction. We will soon™ open several focus discussions on individual balancing topics. This should allow you, the community at large, to continue to provide valuable input while at the same time make it easier for us to evaluate and gather the feedback that we require.
Your Neocron Support Team
First of all we have to apologize for letting you down for so long. Life has been rather busy for all of us. As you all noticed we skipped last month's development summary. We are sorry! It was ment to be a monthly development update and we will do our best to ensure that it will stay that way!
Storyline: Powder Keg
Since the last update our new storyline Powder Keg has thrown more events into the mix of play. From set piece events driven by Official Roleplay Characters to large scale spawn events across the game world.
The feedback we're receiving is great and we really appreciate it as it allows us to adapt our plans in reaction to what is working well, or not so well. With that said if you have any more you'd like to tell us about the progression of the story line, please do so in the forum.
Keep your eyes peeled for story events and Official Characters you might not have seen before... there's a storm coming!
Storyline associated content development is going well, every day allows us to learn more about the tools now available to us beyond what we had before. With improvements to those tools from our developers the first of our world changes is starting to really shape up and will hopefully be a positive change in the way you experience the game.
We can't give too much away right now but we're confident you will enjoy the change and what it means for your interactions and movements in Neocron City and across the Wastelands.
Other content work is currently in progress but this is more about providing a better foundation and increasing variety in the experiences you already have. Again we can't reveal too much but we are slowly chipping away to improve one aspect of the game players have requested for years. More on that when the time comes.
Finally we'd like to say that we have a definite understanding of just how big the Neocron gameworld is and we certainly want to start to fill some of the lesser used areas. Content for that purpose is in The Plan™ and we have ideas for a lot of new things to do but we must ask for patience as this will take some time.
Neocron Needs You - GFX Lab
Over the years countless members of the community have in some way or another, wanted to help out in making Neocron the game we all want it to be. Last month we put out the call for graphics talent to help us improve Neocron's visuals and that invitation is still open!
To date applications have been some what sparse and we hope you've all not forgotten about this awesome opportunity to leave your mark on Neocron forever! Head over to the GFX Lab thread to see if you have what we need! Don't be shy either! If you're not sure you have the relevant skills or experience still apply as we have people on hand who can help you out should you need a couple of new skills to fit the bill.
Dev Feedback on the Brainport
We are very happy to see all your feedback on the Brainport and to discuss it teamwise. However, we feel that we have not yet given you enough feedback on all the great ideas you posted there, but this is not an easy task. We have to discuss every idea internally first. Afterwards we can get back in touch with you. We are working in the background on giving you better feedback on the feedback you are giving us, because we very much appreciate it! <3
The balancing is ongoing. We will not release one huge patch, like the last large balancing project did, instead we will first of all tackle several general issues and afterwards we will balance class by class. During the balancing patch series, the patching frequency will be higher than usual. We will need everyone to help in testing those balancing patches and give feedback to be able to make this the Neocron it should always have been! Expect to see some updates to Vedeena, soon!
We are aware of issues related to the Law Enforcer feature and are currently evaluating a number of options to improve this feature of the game. While we have no details to share right now, we want to assure you all that we take your feedback seriously.
If you have an idea on addressing this feature, please create an individual brainport thread. This is incredibly helpful when it comes to quickly analysing your thoughts - and discussing them internally - on any matter. It prevents potentially great ideas from being lost among what can be lengthy discussions.
New Neocron Installer
Since the last update in January 2013 the installer was released for public testing which has been completed.
The testing and feedback by the community has been excellent. Issues caused by AntiVirus programs, and some other minor issues have been fixed. We have noted a few feature suggestions made by the community which may make it into future versions of the installer.
The new installer is available for download on the Neocron Home Page.
Your Neocron Support Team
We apologise for delaying this development update for so long, but we were all busy with Christmas preparations. Now Christmas has passed life may slowly return back to normal. We hope you all enjoyed Christmas Day and will also enjoy the holidays to come. Our Christmas present for you, our beloved community, is this month's development update and it’s quite a long one!
There is news on a new Neocron installer, news on the upcoming content and storyline updates, a short recap on the launch of the recent patch, as well as (what you have all eagerly waited for) news on the financial situation, as well as what we call: "Project Governance".
New Neocron Game Client Installer
We started working on a new Neocron Game Installer in late August in preparation for the release of R#175. Hopefully by the time you read this Dev Dairy entry, the new installer will be close to being released.
The aim of the new installer is to:
- Install the game without having to download a lot of patches
- Overcome some of the Windows Vista/7/8 User Access Control (UAC) issues caused by the original requirements of the Neocron Game Client
- Install the new prerequisites introduced with the release of Patch R#175
- Reduce the support overhead by addressing the above points
In the past members of the team have built InstallShield packages, the product used for the current installer, however due to the commercial nature of the product using that wasn't a realistic option. Instead we looked into a product called NSIS, which is Nullsoft’s free installer system. Having never used NSIS before setting up and creating a project provided a challenge to members of the team. Over the course of a week or two, we got the basics of the installer working. After patches 175 and 176 came out, we revisited and updated the scripts to include the DirectX9c and C++2010 runtimes, while adding some polish to the installer to give it more of a Neocron feel.
Overcoming the UAC issues that Windows 7/Vista presents was also a big a challenge. In the end we have had to change the default installation to be C:\Games\Neocron 2.2 while also giving the recommended option to run Neocron in Windows XP SP3 mode. This new recommended setting allows Neocron to write to the directories required and allows the game to play it's awesome music. We appreciate this isn't an ideal solution but this provides some of the discovered work-arounds directly to the Neocron Game Client installer, making the installation process better for our players and giving us the time we need to make changes to bring the game in line with best practice.
Once we're able to make those changes as the game gets patched and evolves, further new installation packages will also be released.
Storyline & Content
One of Neocron’s greatest assets is its setting and lore. In the past you will have experienced a number of events both GM and RP Character lead, coupled together with the Neocronicle which delivered this kind of content in a unique and engaging way. Over the last hand full of months preparation for the continuation of that experience has been progressing.
A new storyline is on the horizon.
At first we sat throwing huge ideas into the pile, thinking of extreme ways in which to change the gameworld, great sweeping changes happening over night to implement ideas we’d all long been nurturing. While those ideas are still in the pile, we’d first like to straighten some things out, put right some current content in a way which makes the game feel alive again. Most importantly we want to start small and build up over time, this means we can judge if we’re moving in the right direction.
We’d have liked to have the storyline moving by now but educating ourselves on how existing content and the associated tools work, together with the initial phase of brainstorming discussed above, has brought us to the Holiday Season. While we will be providing some fun events over the festivities, the first part of the new storyline will begin to show itself in the New Year. This first new ‘chapter’ of the storyline will include gradual changes to make the gameworld more interesting and to make certain content elements feel fresh once again.
On top of this the Neocronicle will be back in action, reporting on live events and filling the gaps between activities in game. You should start to see members of the newly formed RP Team in game soon, meaning we hope to see new Neocronicle content in the not too distant future.
Quite soon into the New Year we'll have a taster for you of what is to come in what we are calling Neocron: Powder Keg…
Release of Patch R#175/R#176
After all those years, finally a new patch has been released, addressing several of the more annoying issues of the past and upgrading some of the technologies used by Neocron. However although we tried to take as much precautions as possible, some things went terribly wrong.
As opposed to the previous patch (patches #169 to #174), we set up a dedicated public test server to try to thoroughly test the patch and get your feedback on it. Just before patching day everything was looking fine on Vedeena (PTS). The new database engine worked flawlessly at a first glance. There were no noticeable/severe problems reported with the new position updates. So we thought the patch was ready to go live. However, not long after pushing the patch to Titan, it turned out; it really wasn't ready to go live yet.
As long as there were only a few players playing, everything worked flawlessly and as expected on Titan. Nevertheless, we soon noticed several weird issues. The server started crashing unexpectedly, the CityCom became quite unresponsive/laggy and syncing as well basically everything began to act up as soon as the server got crowded. We did not notice those issues earlier, cause at max we had 30 people playing on Vedeena, consequently not putting enough load on the new database engine. We worked day and night to fix those problems and in the end, we luckily fixed quite a lot of the issues, at least all which were considered to be release blockers.
What have we learned from this patch? Quite allot! First and foremost: we need your support, more than ever. Our team is simply too small to identify all issues. We also learned that Murphy will always be with us and we should always be prepared for him, luckily we were. To combat the lack of stress testing, we are at the moment evaluating possibilities to make testing more interesting for you, so stay tuned.
Most of you will also be interested in what we planned for R#177. First and foremost, we want to fix the server crashes. In addition to that a few further tweaks to the interpolation/clipping are on the schedule which are currently being tested internally. Last but not least, we will... well, I will not reveal it yet you will see (and hopefully also test) it soon on Vedeena!
The most visible change that many will have already noticed, was a transition to the new "neocron-game.com" domain earlier this month. This move was necessary to provide us with the flexibility and velocity we need right now as we are, again, shifting and reorganizing major parts of our infrastructure behind the scenes. The overall goal is to boost stability and reliability of the services provided. Less time spent on keeping vital infrastructure from collapsing equals more time available to improve the small and big issues at hand.
We are happy to now have moved all web services to a dedicated new home. You may have noticed the forums being a tad more responsive now, but other than that we hope that the transition has not had any impact.
Another visible change is the main portal (neocron.com) having been replaced with a placeholder page. The "old" portal was still based on a CMS that has not received any updates for many years and as such has to be considered a ticking bomb. That's why the decision was made to not migrate the old portal to the new server, but move on to a new CMS instead. This is currently still work in progress, but we hope to be able to re-launch the portal soon™.
Project Governance & Financial Situation
The availability of Neocron for our community currently depends on the dedication of a few people. Apart from the countless hours (this is not a proverbial description) of work and sweat the entire Neocron Support Team has invested, some expenses of financial nature are involved with keeping Neocron afloat.
In the past number of months, this financial burden was taken care of by a few members of the Neocron Support Team, with Kirk Lenke compensating major accounts for server maintenance this month (thanks Kirk and also, thanks to the volunteers - you know who you are).
While this is much appreciated, it is clear that this is not a model that can be sustained in the long run. This is why we have now initiated a registered entity (non-profit organisation) to take care of the operating costs for Neocron. This means you'll soon have a chance to chip in and donate a few credits towards an open and transparent association. We will share more details on this venture once the association is fully accredited.
Your Neocron Support Team