2001-07-20: Calandryll: Scenario Analysis

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Calandryll: Scenario Analysis

This was originally posted to the Stratics forums.

A few weeks ago, based on some requests from players, I promised I'd write a synopsis of the scenario, describe the goals, and write my view of what we accomplished. Ask and ye shall recieve:

The Savage Empire Scenario
Scenario Description
Strange creatures (the savages) are driving the orcs out of their homes, which is causing the orcs to attack the player cities. The savages' reasons for doing so is not revealed...yet. Note, while the scenario title bears the same name as the single player Worlds of Ultima game and was inspired by it, it is not based on that game.

The Savage Empire Scenario had 6 major goals:

1. Introduce players to the concept of scenarios and set the expectations.
a. Since everyone reading this knows what a scenario is by now, I think we achieved this one. :)

2. Update new content into the game within a context (story) on an ongoing and uninterrupted basis (no delays or off-weeks once a scenario starts).
a. With the exception of the Chesapeake shard, there were no delays, off-weeks, or interruptions in the scenario.
b. We did split week 4 into two weeks (the orc bomber was originally supposed to be with the orc chopper and town attacks in week 4) to give QA more time to test, but most players didn't even realize the change to the schedule and it was a good example of fluid design.

3. Make sure new content is fun and useful and try to include as many play-styles as possible.
a. Most feedback from players regarding the new monsters (especially the orc scouts and savages) was very positive. The new AI introduced worked well and players seemed to enjoy the challenged they presented. Good AI, with respects to monsters in a video game, does not mean "make the monster more difficult"...it means "make the monster fun and challenging."
b. The interaction of the bola with savage riders (need to knock them off the ridgeback to tame the ridgeback) helped create some grouping, while not forcing it on those that like to solo.
c. Some players played the scenario because of the story and role-playing. Some played it for the loot. Others enjoyed searching for the orc encampments and exploring the new dungeon. All of that is good.
d. Most of the new monsters were texture changes. The artists did a great job making sure everything looked good as far as the Third Dawn models and most of the 2d replacement art looked good.

4. Introduce as few bugs as possible, fix any bugs by the next update, and don't impact other development.
a. We published the shards nine times. During those nine publishes, we had no reverts and with the exception of the merge issue with publish 12 (which was not a problem caused by scenario code and only occurred on Chessie), we did not impact development at all.
b. There were only two bugs of major concern released as part of the scenario. One was a shard crasher (happened once, was fixed an hour later) and the other was an issue with stealing caused by the orc mask (again, fixed within 12 hours of the first GM report).
c. The majority of other bugs were fixed by the next week's update (what few there were) and overall, considering the amount of content and nine shard publishes in a row, our QA team did a bang-up job catching the bugs during testing before any of you ever saw them.
d. We also had a lot of help from folks such as Prophet, Evocare, Vex, Adrick, and Groover working on things such as the looting rights change, client patches, making savage paint work (you have no idea how many changes we made to code that had not been touched in years to make this happen), and general design ideas. The team pitched in a lot while continuing to work on their systems.

5. Create a dynamic outcome based solely on code and systems
a. While the dynamic outcome got a bad rap, actually, the code worked perfectly, the timing issue is what caused concern. The fact that it ended too quickly was a major disappointment for many players and one we plan to resolve in future scenarios. But, the way in which the code reacted to the players' actions proved that we can code dynamic outcomes without having to manually update or force anything.

6. Take the feedback from players on the first scenario and incorporate them into the next scenario.
a. I'd like to concentrate on the last one. I've been reading the feedback and here is what I believe were the major concepts players wanted more of.
- i. More in-game fiction. Books, scrolls, etc.
- ii. Less camping...have some monsters spawn in random locations.
- iii. More story in general (explanations and reasons). This is more a product of the fact that the Savage Empire scenario was more of a set-up scenario. You'll learn a lot more in future scenarios.
- iv. More craftables and less that require fighting to get the resources. While I believe that having some craftables require fighting (again, encourages community group play - sorta the point of play an MMORPG) not all should.
- v. Make sure the dynamic outcome lasts longer. This one goes without saying. :)
b. While not all of these will make it into the next scenario, the feedback is useful and could influence future scenarios. Did I miss anything?

-Jonathan "Calandryll" Hanna
Designer, Ongoing Content