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2014 Restrospective / January Roadmap

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#1 Russ Bullock


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Posted 04 January 2015 - 09:07 PM

Here is a small retrospective look at the year 2014 and some minor insight into the January road map.

First I want to thank everyone in the community who really recognized the hard work put in by the team these past couple of months and in particular in the month of December to bring CW phase 2 onto the live servers.  For the most part everyone respected the holiday season and the well-earned time off - played the heck out of CW and patiently waited for January 5th before applying too much pressure on the development team.  Thank you.

Now of course tomorrow we are back at it and I am legitimately excited to get back in the saddle and continue moving forward but more on that in a moment.

As to 2014 what a busy year!

As early as January/February of 2014 we knew we might have a chance of buying back the publishing rights from IGP but it was a slow patient process to complete that deal 6 months later.  We also released the Clans which was a very big undertaking in all aspects of the game, not the least of which of course is balance.  Although far from perfect I think we have achieved a greater sense of balance between IS and Clans than any past product has managed and we still have plenty of time to improve it further.

Other items on the list of 2014 would be UI 2.0, Private matches, CW Phase 1 and of course climaxing with CW phase 2.

The only real blemish on that list being UI 2.0, wait for more information on that subject over the next couple of months.

All in all a year we can look back on with some pride in seeing just how far MWO progressed during those 12 months.  Which brings us to the year 2015 in which we have even more reason to be optimistic.

There is a very high level of excitement knowing that we will work the entire year for ourselves and the community in making improvements to MWO.  An entire year that will look to you the community like September through December 2014 did.

As to some thoughts on the January road map, at this time I can really only provide some thoughts into the process rather than actual items and I will describe briefly why that is.

Tomorrow on January 5th we will gather back at work, the first thing we notice is that we should have a patch on January 6th but obviously there is no content ready for that patch.  The patch next after that would be January 20th, now even this patch if we follow our normal testing procedure should be going into test by no later than the middle of this week, meaning we really don't have much of a chance for a patch on January 20th which pretty much kills the entire month on top of the Christmas break we just went through.

Obviously this is not an ideal way to keep up momentum for a great but newly born Community Warfare feature.

Therefore tomorrow will start out with my pulling a large amount of the development team into the boardroom for a production meeting.  I will be instructing them that we need to maintain a "triage" mentality for a little while longer.  This means likely lots of drawing on the whiteboard and discussing all of the top issues and problems with CW and prioritizing those items, then deciding which of those items we can actually do something about quickly and which of the longer term items should be started immediately.

The goal will be to come up with a plan to ensure we get some fixes and improvements into the live product in the month of January and salvage a patch or perhaps even 2 in the month of January.

However I won't be able to commit to the number of patches or what might be in those patches until we all get together in that war room for likely a several hour long meeting and I will keep you updated as best I can.

Some of those items being discussed will be:

- European players - how best to include them in crucial times of battle window.
- Grouping with all faction members.
- How can we improve the queue information further?
- What can we do about auto wins to improve that?
- counter attacks can they be represented better by another mode such as skirmish.

The hope would be that after another few patches we can settle back into a regular patch cycle in February, but I just can't say at this point.

So thanks again for a great 2014.  Happy New year and here is looking at an even better 2015.

#2 Russ Bullock


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Posted 07 January 2015 - 03:51 PM

Update and further details for Upcoming patches.

Grouping with any Faction members - Self-explanatory. Currently being worked on and we hope to be testing it by early next week.

Release: January 20th Patch.

Call to Arms Improvements - Call to Arms is an excellent idea in principal that unfortunately isn't working very well at the moment. The biggest issue is that all matches being kicked off on a planet currently trigger a call to arms. The original thinking was to attract as many players as possible to this contested planet. However now that we have seen it in action in the live game environment we see that most of the time there is no need to send off a Call to Arms. For instance a heavily contested planet might have plenty of strike teams on both sides of the battle line and they are simply bumping into each other, or in other words there is no actual need to call in players, plenty there to fight already. This caused the majority of solo or small groups that clicked on a call to arms to end up in the queue and not actually getting into the match being mentioned by the Call to Arms window.

We have made a few key changes to the way the system works. First a Call to Arms will only be sent out when there is a true need for players. By example when a 12 man strike team lines up to initiate an attack and there are fewer than 12 players on the other side. On top of this if the situation persists that there is a need, the Call to Arms will be repeated at intervals and if things are getting very close to kicking off an auto win for that attacking group a final Urgent Call to Arms will be sent out.

This should greatly increase the effectiveness of the Call to Arms pop up for solo and small groups and should further decrease the amount of auto wins.

Release: January 20th Patch.

Ceasefire Window Improvements for Non NA Players - This is a very change to Community Warfare that is a challenging problem to improve. Our goal was to include multiple windows where other parts of the world could participate in the critical final few hours before a planet can flip ownership. There were multiple possibilities explored but in the end we did not want to introduce new restrictions on players or greatly increase the number of planets up for contention.

In the end the solution settled on was to change from one single 24 hour battle window to three 8 hour battle windows (7 hours and 20 minutes minus the ceasefire). This solution allowed us to keep it at the same number of planets that are contested now but allow North American, Europe and Oceanic to each be able to participate in closing out a battle window. It has the added bonus of allowing players in other parts of the world that are able to play outside of their own evening peak time to participate in multiple planet flips per day. In the end it should greatly increase the amount of action and players that find value in participating in CW.

The three battle windows including the 40 minute ceasefire are 10 pm Pacific for North America, 6 am Pacific for Oceanic and 2 pm Pacific for Europe (Ceasefires start 40 minutes prior). Yes North America is pushed 1 hour later to create a little more fairness between the East and West Coast splitting the difference a little better. This allows a similar effect in Europe from the UK to Germany to Russia that reflects the NA time zones as best we can. This also puts Sydney Australia ending their battle window at 1am local time similar to our NA East Coast players. It is necessary at the moment that the three battle windows be separated evenly by 8 hours therefore I think we did the best we could to include everyone as fairly as possible.

Release: January 20th Patch.

Those items represent I feel very nice changes to MWO and Community Warfare and we will push hard to get those into your hands on January 20th.

A few other items in the pipeline I can provide an update on.

Queue Info changes - This represents further refinements to the Planet Info and Lobby screens to more clearly show players how many of the zones currently have an active match and if all of them are currently contested and if they have additional strike teams queued up to fight. This is valuable information a 12 man unit or any players would like to have so they can potentially decide that there is time enough for them to attack or defend somewhere else since they would only wait at the current planet. There are a number of improvements like this still being refined. We hope work will start on these improvements shortly with a release in a following patch perhaps Feb 3rd.

Counter Attacks - We are currently putting the final touches on a design to change counter attacks to more of an aggressive “clearing the enemy out of your territory” mode. A Sort of Skirmish / Assault feeling, my hope is we can introduce this on Feb 3rd but not confirmed.

New CW map - The third Canyon networks themed map is receiving feedback and adjustments now and we hope to have it in test by tomorrow. We are still attempting to have this released into CW with the Feb 3rd patch.

Loyalty Points - We need to finish off the work to allow the displaying of titles in game as well as the granting of all the LP package rewards. This will come after Feb 3rd, for now we will aim for and hope for a Feb 17th patch release.

That represents the latest information. Thanks for reading.

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