With the change of seasons, the TR team (developers, coordinators, admins, moderators, ...) feel it is time for a long post
- On what we reckon to be TR's accomplishments since its beginning in 2004.
- On where we think TR stands today (strength, weakness).
- On what parts of TR we intend to work on in the coming months (and why).
This announcement consists of three sections:
- TR's accomplishments since 2004
- TR's current situation
- TR's long term goals
- TR's short term goals
Special thanks to Groentje for the draft of this epic post and Azroen for cross-reading.
PART ONE: TR's accomplishments since 2004
- 2004-2005 were years with a lot of fast developments and improvements.
Starting from zero with our first server, ending at a playable game. At some point energy to implement further improvements dried up.
2005-2006 was a difficult year with little visible development, and difficult to implement improvements to fix bug exploits. The Developer and Admin team wasn’t able to recruit enough people to keep up with the growing challenges of the game.
2006-2007 was a year of much development and drastic changes, on various aspects of the game. This was needed to keep the game young and attractive.
Server structure & turn rate: ( GUILD | SOLO | APP | BETA )
- We offer only one ultimate guild server: turn rate in between former 'Blitz' and 'Server' values.
- We offer a SOLO server, anonymized to circumvent former cheating problems.
- Apprentice server still offers a playable game for people with less time (slow turnrate).
- Several changes to Game Mechanics have been tested on Beta Server and made their way to the other servers later on. Some changes have been small some have been big.
- Skills introduced
- Changes in enchanting/spelling to reduce efficieny of auto-F5 for sniping/on-lining.
- Anonymous SOLO play introduced
- Change towards passive Research (easier for newbies)
- Change towards mixed power and land counters (for rankers, for warmages)
- Change towards limited summoning (incl. upkeep changes)
- Restructured pages (.css, multi-language)
- A lot of effort has been put into administration tools and interfaces to fight cheating. Although this work isn’t visible at all, great achievements have been made here, making life easier for Admins.
- Portal account introduction (easier to play your mage, but also to help adminning)
- Decalogue updated (more clarity to players)
- Tracing multi-mages has been improved: admins catch more in less time (lot of development in 2006)
- Admins have all kinds of tools to scan for milking, illegal serenities etc. etc. etc. and to investigate emailed complaints.
- Banning from one game server - from every game server - from UBB alone - from all servers, incl. UBB (with PHP-BB3).
The community of TR has always been a most important part of the game making it different compared to other games. The Community Server is hosting the portal pages, the UBB, the Wiki and many websites of guilds from all server. The Terra Herald will be the next step to offer the player community a new way to experience the game and its roleplaying.
- Portal account introduction
- Improved UBB board (we now run PHP-BB3: report posts, ignore users...)
- Supporting Guild forums
- Active UBB and Wiki moderators: spam monitoring, and removal.
- We rent new, faster hardware for the community server (we were thinking of that anyway - and the hardware crash of Oct 1st 2007 made us take the descision faster).
The policy of TR leadership has always been to offer a free and advertising free game. Most of the current income for funding the server is generated by supporting guilds. Here the policy of TR leadership clearly is not to provide any real ingame advantage for supporters like heroes, items, resources or whatsoever.
- So far our donation concept worked out (!), TR managed to maintain an add-free (!) game for 3.5 years now.
- TR runs 4 servers (3 game servers, 1 community server (portal, ubb),
- 1 game server is sponsored and doesn’t (for now) require any funding. This might change in the future.
- The 2 other game servers and the community server require monthly funding of 150 Euro.
- Further funding is needed for maintaining the domains and subdomains et cetera.
- The Reincarnation has always received sufficient donations in the past, when we were starting up and asked for donations. A BIG THANK YOU!
- Over the last year the supporting guild income was sufficient to keep the servers running. There is a little change with 'SOLO' and 'GUILD' replacing two guilded servers and ~2 month resets, which means we have to reconsider our suggested donation amounts etc. and we want individual players to be able to profit from supporting status too - but there is not a financial drama behind the TR scenes or what so ever driving that.
This is not something we want to bother TR players too much with, so the detailed bullet list here we keep for ourselfs!
- The TR-team (devs, coordinators, admins, mods, advisors) currently consist of ~25 active people.
- Obviously the TR-team is all volunteers, who do this as a hobby (and a very satisfying one, provided that take we take a break from time to time from it). The TR-team dedicates spare time to TR. Some of the tasks for the core of the team are so complex, and numbers of capable programmers so small, that development freezes in periods where no spare time for TR is available, and also communication slows down in such times. In such times, remaining developers need all their time for maintenance issues.
- Obviously the TR-team works from different places and different timezones - we communicate using forum and chat, we divide work. Especially in 2006-2007 the core team has worked hard to delegate certain tasks from developers to other volunteers, which have grown in number, and to give volunteers all the needed facilities to do their 'admin', 'moderate', 'advice' tasks as efficiently as possible.
- We are working (with ups and downs) to improve communication between developers and volunteers and players. It is by far not perfect yet, but it is improving (e.g. we had a good internal discussion on a draft of this post).
List of issues
- We need more new players.
- We need players that try out TR to keep revisiting the site.
- Our main market is 'young' players (age 15-24): ‘the cell phone generation’
- Fresh features (in game and around game) to stimulate veteran players to stay
- Not too dramatic changes should be implemented: we don't want to scare large groups of players away.
- Improvements to aspects of the game that players reckon not satisfying.
- Build out donation system (supporting mages, supporting guilds)
- Improve communication in TR-team and between TR-team and players.
- The game should be well playable from common mobile devices (‘kids with cellphones’)
- Investigations and development of Quest of Glory concept (there has already been some research on that topic)
- Investigations and development of a new concept of Armageddon (introducing the Four Horsemen)
- Adding features to emphasize on concepts of Web 2.0, including the social network of players
- Improvements of community channels and roleplaying with Terra Herald.
1. Keeping new players:
- Tutorials need to be put back online. Start-up Guide and Manual need to be updated: Drop the static versions on the portal, replace it with link (window to) Wiki.
- SCREENCAST videos (instruction demo’s), on YouTube, for new players. This may work in two ways: (1) Most importanly, players learn faster, (2) You Tube is popular: having us posting funny screencasts, may attract more new players. Here you see how DaveMcW explains Cyrus how to use the Total Newbie Handbook (english subtitled version).
- Email (or MSN) messaging system for new players. A recent Game Suggestions topic
By default: switched on. Can be switched off if wanted. On first-time reincarnation we mention that we will send max X emails in coming days to help you pick up the game. Example emails ‘Your mage has accumulated full turns again! come and play….’. ‘You have won your first battles – congratulations!’. ‘Your mage is attacked - you will have full turns in xx h – log in and check your mage! (+ tips)’ – ‘You have successfully blocked an attack for the first time – congratulations!’. ‘You have won 10 attacks now – we will stop spamming you with emails – remember you can always check UBB and WIKI...’.
- Feature for new to long-time player.
- You are messaged on some events only. You can also choose the messages to be send to an email address.
- A discussion of which events should trigger messages should be started.
- Each player can invite 2 friends max. each week, only for UBB accounts with active mages that have spend > XXXX turns.
- We want players to help us attract new players, We don't want to make TR a spam engine!
- 'portal-password secured RSS feed' to update you about your mage.
- Once implemented on server, can become iGoogle / GoogleDesktop Gadget / VistaGadget plug in.
- Apprentice will become ‘difficult server: less strong units and spells – more important to compose a good army’.
- Guild Academy is the prime server for new players to start on. Change name of 'Apprentice' into 'Arch Server'.
- We don't want to allienate the APP-community, but we feel for newbies it is NOT the best server to start.
- The information needs a big update and needs to be an all-in-one-location.
- Make a single, clear 'How to Donate' page on portal, with all the relevant link, instructions etc.
- Make clear posts in Donations / Supporting TR forum - remove the old, outdated information.
- TR-devs are waiting for the release of an announced plug-in for PHPBB3-forum, that integrates 'PayPal' donatation and our portal/UBB. That plug-in (mod) maybe released any time now.
- Introduce a registration code system: donation received? Based on ammount, registration code(s) given for xx resets.
- For donating players/members from suppoting guilds: enable statistics on all servers. Build out statistics.
- Use registration system mentioned above. Leader can enter code to upgrade his guild to Supported state. Only one administrative action per donation.
- With changed reset duration: go to 15 EURO / two month reset. Stimulate bigger donation – e.g. 27 euro = 2 resets; 35 euro = 3 resets.
NOTE: this post is announcing the idea... exact amount may be different - when we start with this, we will announce officially.
- Make being a supporting mage give you extra features on SOLO
- Store personal notes on enemies on SOLO (but not so big that complete battle reports can be saved)
- Enables ‘message on event' feature (e-mail, MSN, SMS)’ on SOLO (on guilded servers: this feature is available for every one)
9. TERRA HERALD
- The idea of a Terra newspaper will be integrated into TR community: The Terra Herald will inform about players, news and gossip of TR. http://terra-herald.the-reincarnation.org/
- The Terra Herald Financial will posts stats about any aspect of Terra markets, chronicles et cetera.
- Dump some useful and some funny statistics, daily / once every 4 days
- E.g. for each unit, for each server, the total number ‘unit living in Terra’
- Average price for heroes sold on BM per level
- ‘Unique Item xxx sold!’
- More regular post from TR-team to public on what we are doing and what we plan to do next (think: once every 6 months).
- Make more explicit to general public who from TR-team can be spoken to regarding what possible issues.
- Technical improvements - hardware improvements (if we manage to draw new players, we need faster servers).
PART FOUR: Most important changes to come very soon:
- Change of server names. Guild server will be the new 'welcome newbies' server.
- Apprentice server will be the 'Arch Server'.
- Change of reset length to 2 months for Beta, Guild and Solo server. App will stay at 3 months reset.
- Change of supporting guild fees to 15 Euro for 2 month resets.
- Terra Herald online.
- New interface for supporting guilds.
- Supporting mages.
- We will start a special donation round soon to compensate for the crash of the old community server and the expense of the new, faster machine.
Last notes: Why this list? What is the big idea?
- The list above is what we intend to work on in the coming months. There are bigger and smaller projects.
Each of them we think we can do. It is unclear how much time our developers will have, it is unclear what will be working when, but at least you know what our goals are.
- There are many more ideas, there is constant thinking and rethinking on the exact abilities and strengths of units, spells, game mechanics, etc.. Such will continue at current pace. There are big ideas on e.g. making armageddon work, having a customizable unit, Building a quest of glory, have punchbag-automatically ran mages etc. These are not on this list, for priority reasons. These are on our wish list, and their development is not frozen.
- TR wants their servers to be a game environment where there is room for lots of different play styles (math junkies, war-adrelanine junkies, ranking-pride-junkies, roleplay-fetishist, clowns, loners, groupies, economists) - all our tweaking is to make sure that not one style of play becomes by far the dominant style of play. This tweaking will continue, though it is not on the list explicity.
- There are many people in the community who are worried on TR's endurance as a game. Player numbers would be dropping fast... On each server we monitor our visitor statistics. It still is a healthy number, it does not show big drop. Offcourse we want the number to rise and we think it should be double the amount of players to make guild-server play really like it was in MARI days.
- We see that some veterans lose their interest and quit TR, we are glad that many long term players communicate to us what they see as the reason for slowly losing their interest. We think this is inavoidable: life goes on... the things you get out of the same webgame and the community playing it changes over time - we know that from personal experience. We want a flow of players... where players that complete their first reset, typically keep playing the game for 2-3 years (on average _ some quit before, some never quit..). This may be difficult to explain to the core of veterans who supported first MARI and now TR for about 10 years today... but we think it is the only feasible strategy to keep TR young, alive, kicking, kena.
- We think that it is better to make sure that NEW players stay, while making TR lively and to cure veteran boredom, than it is to implement complicated changes or new features just to seduce veterans to stay - which for a new player doesn't add much appeal that that wasn't there already and just steepns their learning curve which will scare a a higher percentage away.