FOUNDERS’ UPDATE: SOFT LAUNCH STRATEGY
Wednesday May 11th, 2016
Let’s Talk about Dates
By now you guys have (hopefully!) seen that we make it a goal to be exceptionally transparent when it comes to our plans, our development process… and, yes, even our mistakes. We believe that transparency is a core part of our company’s DNA; we want you guys to both celebrate our victories and be help us learn from our mistakes.
That’s our preamble. Now let’s talk about schedules.
Overall, we think momentum on the game has been extraordinary. For a team of ~20 people, we have absolutely flown through our development plan.
It has been barely over a year since we ended our Kickstarter, and we already have a playable game with multiple game modes – which we consistently test on servers all around the world.
We have a strong foundation for a number of core systems: patching, login, character creation, melee and ranged combat, skill training, siege engines, items & equipment… and a bunch of back-end stuff that you guys don’t know about. Some of these still need a fair amount of iteration – but the foundation of the game is getting better with every release.
We successfully delivered a server-side physics system, one of the cornerstones of our vision. Players can destroy castles and topple walls in real-time — one of the most challenging (and unique) problems that we set out to solve.
We have core functionality for five of our 13 planned archetypes. Thanks to feature reuse, our velocity for creating new archetypes is also increasing.
We still have a lot of work to do, and the clock is ticking.
We need a TON of optimization (both server and client). We’re topping out our matches at just under 100 players… a solid start, but it needs to go up a LOT (and it will, soon!)
Our worlds are still very tiny. We need to increase the size of each world by more than an order of magnitude.
Our procedural world system isn’t done yet, and we can’t start to build “real” worlds until this system is functional.
We have a mountain of content to create (characters, monsters, buildings, equipment, materials, mounts, etc.)
Back in December, we made a decision to push out our “Siege” milestone so that we could spend more time working on combat and movement. It was the right call: combat feels a LOT better. The fallout, though, was a delay in Siege Perilous – a one-month push from March to April.
The truth is that we are still not there yet. Combat is better, but it needs to be GREAT. Movement is better, but it needs to FLOW. Castle destruction is cool, but it needs to be AMAZING.
Nothing is free. Once again, we are faced with a choice:
We can call these systems ‘good enough’ and move on, to do our best to make our original date(s), OR…
We can continue to work on the foundation of the core game experience, knowing that the schedule won’t be able to absorb it. The impact of continuing to polish these systems, of continuing to strengthen the foundation of the game, is going to push some features into 2017.
In our mind, this isn’t really a choice. Our ultimate goal is to make the best game possible, a game that we (and you) will play for years and years.
If we have to choose between hitting a date and making a great game, we will choose the latter, EVERY TIME. We can’t shortcut polish. We can’t just say it’s good enough and move on. That’s not why we started this company.
And yes, we know that this isn’t easy on our community. While we are confident that spending more time on polish Is the right answer, we hate having to ask you to be patient. To complicate matters, we don’t know exactly what will be delayed (or for how long) because we don’t know how long we’re going to need to spend on these core systems. Polishing something until it’s right isn’t something you can easily predict.
Hate it or not, we’re going to do it because it’s the right way to make a great game.
So, what does this mean?
There is really only one way to deal with uncertainty. We are going to take as long as it takes, but instead of shooting for a single launch date (and delaying that day until we complete ALL planned features and content), we are aiming for a soft launch to get you in, and playing, as quickly as possible.
Our priorities are to…
To build you a playable game experience,
To turn on character persistence with the expectation of never wiping again as soon as we feel like the systems are solid enough to do so,
To prioritize the features that are central to the heart of our vision first, and
To treat the game as a live service, adding features and content incrementally over time
…and, most importantly:
Continue to polish the core systems until we get them right.
In the long run, you guys will judge us by the game that we ship. If we need more time to make it great, we will find the money and extend the schedule. This doesn’t mean that we won’t get you in, and playing, as soon as possible—we promise that we will—but we are in this for the long haul. Nothing trumps quality. Not even time.
As to the “when,” understand that we are reluctant to give any firm dates at this point. Instead, we’re going to fall back to the old adage of “when it’s ready”. We will steadfastly uphold our pledge to you: to continue to work as hard as we can, to keep you informed on a weekly (often daily) basis of our progress, and to listen to your feedback and adjust the vision make you the best game that we can.
Once again, we want to thank you for your understanding and your continued support, and we invite you to let us know your thoughts (good and bad) on the forums.
As always, we are listening.
Todd and Gordon