December 2013

Created on 06.01.2014 17:05:01

Dear Community,

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