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Development Goals for 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 10:02am
jeff
Lead Developer
It's the new year - and that means it's time for me to set our project goals for 2012! However, before I launch into that, let's take a slight detour, and take a look at what was accomplished in 2011. It has been a little while since I did a real development status update/preview - so there's a bit of ground to cover this time!

The Year 2011 in Review


In the final post for 2010, I concluded my post with a new year's resolution - that Antilia would see a working game client, and that I would get the community involved in testing as soon as possible. I'm proud to say that both those goals were met!

The first several months of the year were strong - with the Antilia client taking great leaps forward in March. In April, we started work on a new server application - engineering a multi-threaded, multi-core, high-performance system designed to run Antilia's seamless world across multiple server machines. As mid-year approached, our focus turned toward content - starting with some new character designs, but really reaching a climax with September's 30 Days of World Building.

The rest I'm sure is familiar to everyone - the end of the year marked the start of alpha testing. In December we saw 4 alpha tests - and with each test we've seen game play enhancements and/or improvements to server stability.

Really, 2011 was a remarkable year for Antilia's development - one which took the project off the drawing board and into the hands of players. I aim to carry that momentum right into the new year!

Immediate Goals


Part of my project management style is to keep a clear list of immediate project goals, but then as we plan further out, let things become a bit fuzzier and realize they are more likely to change. So the easiest place to start when discussing "what's next" is the stuff we're working on now - it's on my whiteboard, its in our project tracker, its discussed in our weekly meetings, and its on my mind most hours of the day:
  • New Character Creation System - This will be the big one, and may take a couple months to fully realize. This will take our new character option from a single window where you select a name, race, and some colors - into a rich character designer, with finer controls over appearance, shape, size, character history, and more. The core body shapes will be adjusted to look a little better, and the heads will be re-modeled from scratch to include geometrical eyes, a moving jaw, even optional fangs.
  • All Taipii Races Available - The new character creation system will also include all races this time, and players will be able to mix & match some features across breeds to create a custom cross-breed.
  • New Animation Blending System - This new system will allow us to layer and blend between animations, smoothing out the hard transitions between states like walking and running, and allowing us to play some animations - such as tail movements - layered on top of other movements for a smoother, more natural look.
  • Equipment Window - Having our new characters in place, it'd be a shame not to be able to further customize them with different clothing and equipment!
  • Performance Improvements - While primary development focuses on the player creation system, we will still be running weekly alpha tests, for which a lesser amount of time will be allocated each week for improving the existing client and server. The first thing we'll want to tackle in these tests is in slowly improving the performance of Antilia on lower-end machines, so that more players can enjoy Antilia at an acceptable frame rate.
  • Full-time Server Availability - As all of these features come together, and the new character creation system is completed, we're going to want to move Antilia's testing from a weekly event to full-time.

Mid-Year Goals


While the additions above are important steps toward beta - there are still several important engine and gameplay features that must be added before we can call Antilia "beta". I would like to have these mostly if not fully completed by mid-year:
  • Basic Battle Skills and Mob AI - While Antilia will feature a rich set of non-combat skills and the potential for non-combat characters - certainly it wouldn't be complete without them.
  • Collision Detection - As beautiful as the landscape is, being able to walk through trees and buildings is a tad silly... and for indoor environments, collision detection is simply a requirement.
  • Improved Clutter System - While not a high priority, Antilia just plain looks better with clutter enabled. The current system is hogging and fragmenting memory unfortunately, and this will need to be fixed.
  • Quest System - And, finally, before we can move on with real gameplay - we need a quest system!
Beyond these things, which are really just items on my long-term to-do list, there isn't a whole lot of use in detailed planning. Sometimes things take longer to do than I hope, sometimes things I didn't plan on adding yet end up getting added early. There are always a few surprises along the way, and occasionally things that are overlooked until they are desperately needed. (And yes, there are a slew of things that I didn't mention at all - customizing controls, improving the chat window, improving character movement, emotes, etc. - There are just too many to list, and these will be worked in as they can be.)

Resolution for 2012


So that brings us to the big picture - my new year's resolution for Antilia in 2012. I tend to take these resolutions pretty serious - they set the tone and expectation for the entire year, and they can be surprisingly difficult to reach. Personally, I prefer a resolution that is reasonable - but just on the 'difficult' side of things. Projected right, a good resolution for the project should be completed in December, not in March.

Considering that we are currently in alpha, the easy resolution would be "to take Antilia into 'beta' by the end of 2012". After considering this a while, I don't like this resolution. Declaring the project as going "beta" is a rather arbitrary thing, especially on a project like an MMO where features and content will very likely continue to be added even after the game reaches "release". I'd prefer a resolution that is specific, rather than vague, that way I know exactly what we're trying to accomplish.

Therefore, my resolutions for Antilia in 2012 are:
  • That Antilia will see all the Taipii bloodlines available for play as both genders,
  • that players will have at least 50 skills to learn and train in across at least 12 different disciplines,
  • that players will step foot into their first indoor environment,
  • and that players will step foot on the mainland of Antilia.
And of course, above all - I want to keep Antilia a project that the dev team and I enjoy working on, and continue to build a community around it that people love being a part of. There is still a lot of work to do, a lot of world to build - and several surprises soon to come!

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