There have been a lot of changes in the past few weeks since release. But we're only just getting started. Let's talk about 2021.
Please note that the order here is just to give a very rough idea of our current priorities with the biggest features. And since most of these require input from multiple people, the actual release order of these features will not be exactly as stated here.
Bringing more value to the Noble account is essential if Phobos is going to continue and grow. We also need to implement features which help to build community. Housing helps in both these areas; it gives you somewhere of your own to relax with your friends, and to show off your finest hunting trophies. It will also help to make towns feel a little less empty.
So far, we've added basic editor, server and client support for owning houses, and managing invitees. What remains is an auction system, and persistence (i.e. saving and loading items placed in a house). Needless to say, this will need extensive testing before going live, since issues here may lead to item dupe/loss bugs. It will also take some time to go around all houses on the map and define their layouts and dimensions. This is why we're working on this before other high-priority features; to give us time to fully test it properly before rolling it out.
SECOND SERVER IN AMERICA
To all those of you who live across the Atlantic and have struggled with almost unplayable latency, we hear your pain. A second server in America is on the way. There have been concerns raised that a second server with our small player-base will split the community. And with this is mind, when we add a second server, our plan is that players will be able to login to either server, whenever they like. This still splits the community, but in the softest way we can. It is likely that being able to hop between different servers will later become a Noble-only feature. But to begin with, it will be available to all.
Because of the need to be able to hop from one server to another, we're going to have to adjust the way that we handle certain things, such as connections and saving/loading avatars. So this will probably be done hand-in-hand with other changes that are necessary for another important feature: preventing logout whilst in combat.
As the starting town, Timari isn't very friendly for new players, especially those completely new to the genre. Map, NPC, and tutorial changes are coming here, for sure. We have also been looking into providing a roughly drawn map for new players to help guide them on their first few steps through Timar.
Before Christmas, we fixed some of the issues with client disconnections. However, we're still getting a lot of similar server logs now. It may be just one issue, or it may be several. What we really need is more information. So please do report any apparently random disconnections that you suffer as they happen in the #bug-reporting channel on Discord, just by saying "Disconnected". We'll use the timestamps in there to compare with our logs, and may privately message some users for more information.
Balancing is an ongoing challenge for any online multiplayer game. As new items, new abilities, new monsters, and new features are added, it affects different classes in different ways. However, the key thing we're going to be looking into next here is that most classes are still lacking an ability. Knight needs a taunt; Rogue needs a lunge and another throwing ability, Shaman needs summons, Wizard needs... reworking.
This has been in the pipeline for quite a while. Erasan shouldn't be a world where heroes, dragons, and magic exists, but people of color do not. It's not a huge feature to add on it's own, but it does require coordinated changes for almost every department: graphics, client, server, database, and map editor.
We originally had this much higher up on our priority list as a post-release feature. However, it's clear to us that other things are more important. We're also aware that implementing this without some feedback will lead to a lot of annoyance for players. So when we do first implement this system, there's won't be any negative effects associated with carrying too much weight. Instead, your current carried weight and maximum capacity will be displayed in the client. This way we'll be able to collect player feedback on the capacity calculations to adjust them as necessary, before we implement slowed movement/encumberment effect for players carrying too much.
DEATH LOSS REWORK
If you're hoping for a much kinder death loss penalty, then this might not be for you. The missing feature here is item loss on death. When we come to implement this, we'll probably also take a look at level/skill loss, and adjust it as necessary. But death should have consequences.
Loss of items is an important thing to add. It acts as a gold sink, which is crucial for the in-game economy, and tends to disproportionately affect wealthier players. It is also likely that we will implement some way for Noble accounts to insure items from loss (for a hefty fee, of course). This doesn't completely remove the role of death as a gold sink, but should make it less frustrating, as you can be sure that you're not going to lose some prized item.
Community is everything, and clans are a big part of that. Clans will provide a way to group with like-minded people: for conversation, for quests, for hunting, and if necessary, for war. Only Nobles will be able to create clans, but anybody may be invited and join them.
It wouldn't be a good move for us to enable PVP without looking more closely at class balance in PVP. There have been some major changes since release, and it's important to factor those in as much as possible. To encourage this, we intend to be work with players to organize some PVP arena events over the new few months. The more people we get involved, the more information we get, and hopefully, the more fun you have too. We will of course also be making some adjustments to the basic layout of the PVP arena to make objective-based gameplay more viable.
The longer-term plan here is that some regions of the world will be open-PVP, and others not. With some areas always remaining non-PVP, for obvious reasons. We're also considering handing over control of the PVP status of a region to the clans that control that region; with 'control' being determined by the ownership of clanhall(s) there. However clanhalls probably won't work exactly like houses, with any clan being able to buy one. But the details of this are yet to be decided.
MONSTER BEHAVIOUR IMPROVEMENTS
Along with the ongoing balancing efforts, we're planning several improvements for monsters.
We recently tweaked how some monsters move around. Some of these tweaks will be rolled out for all monsters, especially those which helped monsters escape when 'trapped' against a flat wall.
New monster abilities are also on the way, especially for low/mid-level monsters. We want to make combat with lower level creatures a bit more interesting. And to use low level monsters to teach players about certain cues that are useful in late-game. These cues are also something that we're looking to improve in higher level monsters. Since many creatures have these abilities, but only a few currently give players any chance to counterplay.
More variety in monster abilities is also on the cards. Stackable status effects will be a big part of this, including poison (after we add an antidote elixir), bleeding, defense debuffs, and more. Moreover, monsters should be able to summon other monsters.
CLIENT USER EXPERIENCE IMPROVEMENTS
Improving the usability of the client is going to be a key goal of ours over the next few months.
Firstly, we need to improve customisation of the positioning of in-game windows, such as equipment, containers, friend list, party list, and spellbar.
Secondly, visual improvements and polish would go a long way to improving things here. For example, coin exchanges and ability shops shouldn't look the same as a general store. Different layouts and background images will help distinguish these different shop types, and make them more intuitive to interact with. Adding in-game polish is important too. For instance, smoothing of the transition when moving between floors via stairs.
Finally, some tasks, such as sorting and looting items aren't fun, and aren't engaging for players. You may have already tried out the auto-combining of container contents that we added a few patches ago. We intend to add more little quality of life features like these to improve the overall game experience for new and old players alike.
STATUS ICON IMPROVEMENTS
Many of the icons and associated descriptions are misleading (I'm looking at you, 'sedative'). And for abilities that rely on generating stacks, there is currently no visual communication of how many stacks you currently have.
NORTHERN DAWN AREA UPDATE
This has been mentioned before as the next major area update. It's found to the north of Eastebb, and is home to dwarfs, golems, demons, and worse. As you can imagine, this will be an area mainly designed for higher levels. So this will serve to help a little with the current scarcity of high-level and teamhunt-friendly spawns.
Content for this area has only just started. But we'll provide teasers over the next few months as things progress.
The current brewing system is neither very intuitive nor rewarding, and there's no variety in the potions that can be created.
Right now, elixirs can be brewed only if you use a selection of ingredients that exactly matches a recipe. This allows for no creativity or variety in the potions that can be brewed. To change this, we're going to be moving the logic from a recipes-based system, to one where the individual ingredients define the potion's outcome. A healing ingredient will heal, a hasting ingredient will haste, a poisoning ingredient will poison. If you—for some reason—put them together into one potion, then you'd get an elixir that heals, hastes, and poisons. This will save us a lot of time in the long-run, since adding a new ingredient will automatically add new brewing options.
This will be balanced by allowing ingredients to cancel out different effects. Lore-wise, this is essentially how the existing recipes are designed anyway. Take the current healing elixir for example: fireweed heals, but also causes burning, cerulean mint soothes burning. Put them together, and the negative effects of fireweed are cancelled out by the mint. Tadah! A healing elixir.
We are also away that ingredient availability is patchy, and that brewing isn't properly taught in-game. These issues are on our radar, and we'll be improving them too in time.
Having a set base outfit for each class gives nearby players useful information about their allies and their enemies in PVP. However, we understand that customising your avatar is important.
So, along with the changes required for character skin tones, Alenius is also hard at work adding hairstyles and beards. On top of this, extra addons items will be purchasable via microtransactions. These include addons to the head, to each shoulder, and to the back. Addons below the waist are more problematic because we need to consider how to fix problems with them clipping through chairs when sitting down. So if we go that route sometime, it will be in the more distant future.
If you've made it this far, wow! Top marks for commitment!
Of course, there are a lot of small tweaks and improvements that we're planning, which weren't specifically mentioned here. But we can't mention everything in a post like this.