This has been a busy, if slightly frustrating, month as we have gotten the team up and running in the new production environment in Montreal. As always with any move like this we have suffered from a few teething issues that have meant we haven’t been able to be as efficient as we might have liked. The team though has soldiered on and the 2.1 version is getting ever closer to being ready for some initial testing.

In last months letter we talked quite a bit about the top level, the headlines as it were, when it comes to what is being added in the 2.1 series. With the month’s update we want to be able to shed a little light on the details of the first of those features you will be seeing in the 2.1 series.

As I mentioned last time out, there are quite a few additions in this upcoming series, and we were still working on the order in which they will appear. Now though the order has been decided and today we will take a look at two of the additions that are planned for the first installment of the 2.1 series.

First up we have the PVP addition. With the expansion being PVE focused we really wanted to make sure that the new PVP addition got priority. As we revealed in the previous letter, the format of the new addition would be in the shape of an entirely new mini-game map, what we didn’t say was that it would also come with a completely new game mode as well – Conquest!

So what are the details? Over to our Lead Systems Designer Einar Forselv for the details:

The new minigame is known as - The Call of Jhebbal Sag - and takes place in the Pictish Wilderness, where players will fight over control of a strategic region of the wilderness.

The new Conquest mode plays out in a different way to the existing mini-games. We really tried to aim for something more dynamic that would concentrate on the combat. In this rule-set, each side starts with a certain amount of resources. Resources are then lost for each capture point that the enemy holds for a certain time or if your allies fall in battle. If a side runs out of resources they can not continue and their opponents are victorious and they are forced to retreat, to attempt to fight for this region another day.

Each side in this minigame has two teams. So the battle is a 12 versus 12 encounter. Victory is defined by forcing your opponent down to zero resource points. There are several capture points on the map that you have to fight over. The more points your side holds more resources the other team loses every ‘tick’ of progression. The points will have different resource values depending on their location and proximity to a respawn point. The further afield you venture the greater the gain.

Players can also bring their mounts to this mini-game, which will add another different mechanic to the area that you haven’t seen in the other mini-games. Finally there are also random buffs/debuffs located around the mini-game that can tip the tide of battle. Each node though is not guaranteed to be beneficial. Will you receive the blessing of Jhebbal Sag or his curse? Hopefully it will all add up to a pretty exciting new game mode that will also come with a suitable selection of associated quests.

Lastly, and this is something we know players have wanted, we are also taking the opportunity to address how the sign-up queue works. We will be ensuring that single teams cannot dominate a queue and that the new sign-up queue always evenly distributes players between the teams, regardless of whether they were in a group when signing up. That will apply to all the old mini-games as well.
(Einar Forselv, Lead Designer, Funcom)

So there you have the PVP side of things, it is an area that we hope we can continue to add new content and features for over the coming update series.

Next up is something a little more social. The first installment of the 2.1 series will be bringing with it some fun new social and guild features. This time I grabbed Tanya Short, our resident dynamic game-play designer to explain a little more:

This patch introduces two major social content additions: Guild Events and Horse Racing. Both will hopefully provide guilds and role-players with some fun activities and offer an interesting diversion for everyone who wants to try them!

The Guild Events are new social mini-games held in guild city taverns ("outdoor") or in the guild city cultural retreats ("indoor"). There are five Event types introduced in this patch:

  • Treasure Hunt - (outdoor only) Pick up randomly scattered treasures across the zone for the highest point total.
  • Demon Hunt - (outdoor only) Find your compatriots that have become demons and catch them for points. As a demon, survive without being caught for points.
  • Ymir's Hunt - (indoor only) Freezetag! Run away from the Ymirish or you'll be frozen. Survive or unfreeze others for points.
  • Storytelling - (indoor or outdoor) Take turns telling a story and vote for the finest storyteller over multiple elimination rounds.
  • Insult Contest - (indoor or outdoor) Skillfully insult a given target using the theme provided and vote for whoever you feel is the best at slinging the proverbial mud to give them points.

Any guild member can sponsor these events at any time by talking with their guild's Arbiter of Honor. Their sponsorship money becomes the prize pool that is awarded to the game winner(s). The Arbiter has more information on each of the events, and technicalities of game rules. We are aware that with the current Renown reward schedule, smaller guilds will have trouble accessing and enjoying this feature - this will be sorted out before the patch goes to Live as we will be adjusting the rewards and the levels at which they are granted to open this up a little more.

Horse Racing is for groups in Old Tarantia. Some of the more observant amongst you may have noticed the area being prepared some time ago! Any group may pay Marcellus, the racetrack owner, to use his course for whatever race they like - it is up to the group to decide what kind of steeds (if any) to use for their race. We expect the typical race setup to be three laps with a random assortment of obstacles and speed boosts, but players may also choose one-lap or no-obstacle variants. Keep an eye out for barrels, sticky mud, and horse-spooking adders - and stockpile carrots and sugar sold nearby to keep your steed up to speed.

Lastly there are also a few smaller social additions. Renowned players can learn the dances of other races by seeking out quests across the world. Old Tarantia hosts a "VIP Area" on the rooftops near the tradepost, complete with drinks, dancing, and fireworks, accessible only by members of the top-ranked guild and their guests. In addition an assortment of over 30 new city decorations is also available in Khitai, from a few different sources.
(Tanya Short, Senior Gameplay Designer, Funcom)

I have to thank Einar and Tanya for taking the time out to explain more about these features. One of the main things we wanted to achieve with the 2.1 update series (in addition to the tech integration) was to ensure there are worthwhile content additions for as many play-styles as possible. I think this month’s update demonstrates the breath of that ambition, and remember these are just the details of what will be coming in the first installment of the 2.1 series. Next month we will talk a little more about the new content additions that will come in the later installments.

Until then, see you on the battlefield!