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@H20sw - we discussed our options. In the end, based on resources and other limitations, we could have Alpha forums now and keep them closed to all but Alpha participants, or wait several weeks and have forums that everyone can access. This is an internal resource allocation thing, not a technical limit of the software.
We decided we would rather have the Alpha forums now, and deploy the tech talent on other features and polish in game even if that meant they're going to be of limited availability.
Here's the difference between EVE and Pathfinder Online.
In EVE, you have a queue of skills your character will train. If the time required to train one of those skills exceeds 24 hours, you can queue it up but you can't queue anything after that long training time.
So you could pay for a monthly EVE sub, and manage your skill queue, training skills and doing nothing else. (You can buy a PLEX, and sell it on the in-game market for ISK, use that ISK to buy the necessary skill books to unlock new skills to train, all without leaving the busiest market hub in the game). You could, given unlimited time and unlimited PLEX, train every skill in the game to the maximum level.
Skills are prerequisites for using various ship hulls and ship modules. They also have effects on your character's abilities.
So technically you could sit in that market hub paying for monthly subscription time and buying skill books with PLEX and train all the skills you need to fly the largest ship in the game fully equipped with the most powerful modules in the game, and provided you could get to a place where you can fly that ship, and that someone would transfer ownership of one to you, with the modules included, you could board it, and take command, never having flown a single mission on any other ship or used any ship equipment ever in the history of your character.
The limiting factor is 100% realtime, plus your willingness to buy ISK rather than earn it, and your social connections to get access to hulls and modules not regularly sold on the markets. Zero impact from your actual in-game activities.
In Pathfinder Online, you gain XP in realtime which goes into a bank. You can log in and find a skill trainer to exchange banked XP for skills. You could, if you wished, pay for a monthly subscription for a long period of time and never log in, then, when you decide you are ready, log in and start buying training.
You will discover however that even though you might have a huge amount of XP banked, you cannot buy all the training you want. After the first couple of ranks of a particular Feat are trained, you start to run into prerequisites.
Some of those prerequisites are ability score increases, which also come from purchasing training. But you will find that you can't purchase enough of those kinds of Feats without running into other prerequisites. Those are related to earning Achievements.
Achievements reflect things that your character has actually done in game. Some of them are easy to get - a couple of hours of generic adventuring will provide quite a few of them. So you do that, then you go back to the trainers and you can spend more of your XP and get some more Feats. You repeat that cycle, but you start to notice that the time required to get the next set of Achievements you need to unlock the next round of Feats to train are becoming increasingly time consuming to earn.
Eventually you reach a point where the time required to get the next batch of Achievements has become pretty substantial. You've reached the point in the game where you are gated more by what you are able to do while you play than by how much XP your character is earning.
So if you paid for a long period of subscription time, and gained a huge bank of XP, you would not be able to replicate the experience of the pilot in EVE - you can't just train your character and never interact with the world.
The character who starts playing on day one and actually plays the game - going out into the world and doing things related to the kind of abilities that the player wants that character to have - will have a substantial advantage over the character who is created on day one but that is never used and is just a reservoir holding XP.
(This is one big reason I say that Destiny's Twin is cool, but it's not as good as a "second character". Because you have to choose to either do things to earn Achievements with the Main, or with the Twin, but you can't do both at the same time. So you'll have to decide how you want to allocate your game time "doing things in the game" and you can't treat the Twin as just a convenient alter-ego of your Main.)
Why this is good design
The realtime training system pioneered by EVE solves a number of design problems. The biggest problem that it solves is that it allows us to control, absolutely, how quickly a character can unlock certain character abilities. In games where your character gets better simply as a function of your play, things like DPS and XPS are proxies for realtime training. But they're not great proxies because so many different people play the game at different rates and you are forced to make design choices between optimizing for the people at the very top of the power curve who are playing an absolutely min/maxed character in a mathematically optimal way, or for the 99% of the rest of the players who are doing something less "perfect" from a gaming perspective - starting at slightly less perfect and going down to "barely doing anything right".
The MMO community has shown time and again that it is capable of finding ways to level up characters faster than the designers "thought they could". The result is that game systems which were deployed in a half-finished state get pounded by rapidly advancing characters and the blowback is that the content is boring and grindy. (Or worse, doesn't exist at all, and characters run out of things to do and players therefore exit the game).
With realtime training we, the designers, control when you will be gated in to various content and nothing you, the players, can do can speed that process up. So you can be as efficient as you want, min/max to your hearts' content, play 24 hours a day without any sleep, and you won't be able to get ahead of our plan to deploy content.
We can then tune other parts of the design to be more interesting to the vast middle majority of the players rather than having to tune to the most efficient players. The Achievement system allows us to provide you interesting things to do but we don't have to ask you to do them 24x7x365. So if you don't play that aggressively you will find that in general you're able to "keep up" with those who do (there's an economic risk because those 24x7 players will generate more economic activity than the people who don't but we think we can manage that on the backend.)
Ideascale is a test of a system. The test seems to be going well.
There's a difference between something that we will put into the game no matter what, and something that has to be prioritized and balanced against other functions and features. We have a list of stuff we are going to put into the MVP and when someone suggests one of those things I tell them in the comments and close the idea.
There are lots and lots of ideas that people have suggested which are a part of our plan but which we have not prioritized or thought about the various tradeoffs that will be required and those have been left alone.
Ok, there are now a bunch of ideas that have been flagged for moderation.
One is "Simple and Advanced Contract Mechanic Options", submitted by "Community Member". I assume that's some kind of placeholder for an account that has not been configured with a public name.
That idea has had the following transaction history:
Events [ 6 ] [-]
Ideascale does not allow me to see who took these actions, although I'm pretty sure the status change 16 hours ago was me responding to the PM that kicked off this investigation.
I have altered the Ideascale defaults. It now requires more than 1 report of an idea as abusive, and more than 1 report of an idea as a duplicate to shift the idea into moderation. We'll see if that helps.
We need to investigate. When an item is flagged as a duplicate, I get an email. I review the idea and the duplicate suggestions from Ideascale and if I judge there are close enough matches I merge the ideas. There have not been more than three or four a week after an initial surge of duplicates when we opened the tool. However yesterday after I was asked to investigate, I found 20+ ideas that had been set to a status other than "Active". I do not think I received email about duplicates regarding those ideas but I have not verified that yet.
Prior to investigating further I have some speculations:
The system may be reacting to people submitting a large volume of ideas in a short period of time
The system may be reacting to submissions of ideas by people who have previously submitted ideas with lots of negative votes
The system may be detecting what it thinks are sock puppets
The system may be flagging what it thnks are known problematic users or users from various blacklists and anti-fraud services, etc.
The problem may be people gaming the system to kill ideas they don't like
I will look into this today and see if I can determine what is happening and why.
I would suggest that if you have a character that loses XP or items when you log out and back in, you should delete that character and start a new one. There may be some cruft in the system that won't get fixed on older characters.
If a particular guard hates you (because you attacked him) ... they never forgive or forget. So if you're in that condition, you probably want to make a new character. If they just are generally mad at you because you've attacked other characters, your Rep will regenerate as long as you're logged in.
The advantage is that you may be effective against lots of different opponent types, you can use lots of different keywords, you can inflict and leverage lots of effects, you can optimize several different builds, etc.
It shouldn't be about having overwhelming damage against individual targets. That is just the road to making high level characters death machines versus newbies.
I think you should think of rogue abilities in two buckets.
Bucket 1: Sneak attack
Normally this happens due to having another character apply the flat-footed condition on the target. In other words, it's something you do with a partner, not something you do by yourself.
Bucket 2: Stealth
Normally this is an ability you would use when trying to avoid being detected while scouting or spying. Sometimes you might get lucky and manage to make a Sneak Attack against a foe because of your stealth, but that would be the exceptional use of the ability rather than the common use.
And then you should think there's a 3rd bucket that hasn't been discussed much:
Bucket 3: Rogue skills
This is stuff like picking locks, setting traps, using magical devices, etc. You may find that many rogue characters rarely engage in PvP and are instead competent adventurers who use these abilities in the traditional manner associated with the tabletop game.
My intention is that you will be able to have an unlimited number of characters on an account and that you can have as many of them gaining XP in parallel as you want to pay for. You should be able to log into an account multiple times in parallel.
We haven't built ANY of that tech yet. So those plans are subject to change.
One thing I am super sensitive to is the idea of someone farming names by making hundreds of characters that they will never use just to tie up names. So we will have to have some way to deal with that problem, tbd.
Getting "Alpha Access" to an MMO turned into a marketing thing and so a bunch of companies monetized their late-stage beta testing by calling them "Alpha tests". I can't fix that.
We could make up a whole new term for what we're doing now, but that ship sailed with the horse from the barn. We did make up a term for "Beta" and while we've backslid a couple of times in general I've been pretty ruthless about making people in the company say "Early Enrollment" when they want to say "Beta".
C'est la vie. Can't spend braincycles worrying about stuff that can't be fixed.
It will drive some people nuts to not have the absolute highest "Number" in some value. Those people will be fundamentally incapable of training some Feat that isn't making that "Number" get bigger. They'll never be training Rogue Feats if they're on the Fighter role path.
It will drive some people nuts to not have trained every single available option. Those people will be fundamentally incapable of waiting to train something else if they could train something RIGHT NOW. They'll be very slowly becoming expert at everything.
Between these two poles there will be people who make strategic choices to pursue diverse training for diverse reasons. As long as we don't accidentally create a situation where the best way to pursue the Fighter role is to take Rogue feats, we'll be reinforcing the value of the Roles without constraining people's choices about how diverse they want to make their character's abilities.
Ok, let's break this down a lot so we can be on the same page.
When you look at a frame of rendered in-game footage, you are seeing a huge matrix of things.
1: The 3D models
2: The textures on top of those models
3: The terrain and environmental effects
4: The shaders which are rendering aspects of those models
5: The particle and other effects applied to those models
6: Lighting & shadows
7: Ambient occlusion
8: Level of Detail changes based on distance from camera
9: Effects added to the frame (lens flare, for example)
10: Animation (keyframes and "tweened" frames)
All of that is transformed by the rendering engine into a frame of data which is then processed by your video card and then displayed on your screen.
When you say "graphics", the layperson means "the look of a frame of the game when displayed on the screen". But when you say "graphics" to someone who makes videogames, you have to talk about what part of the graphics you're referring to.
We just replaced the whole animation system in Unity with a 3rd party tool because Unity's system could not keep up with the demands we were putting on it. Let's do a deep dive into animation to explain the complexities involved.
At the heart of the animation system is a "rig". This is like the skeleton of a body. (In fact, the parts of it are called "bones"). The rig is hand-built for each model. The rig for a dwarven male is different than the rig for an elven female. The rig has coded into it various "rules" about the kinesthetics of the model - how far do its joints bend, etc. Our rigs are built not only to manage the skeleton of the body but also things like hair, clothing, accessories, etc.
The rig is controlled by an animation script. Each thing a model can "do" has a script. Our animator hand-builds these scripts by manipulating how the rig deforms over time - it's a little bit like making cels in an animated cartoon. Each "frame" of the animation is slightly different than the previous frame. There is a bunch of software that mediates between the script and the rig and does things like simulate physics (gravity), determines linkages between elements of the rig (the cape shouldn't overlap with the boots, etc.)
The animation system combines the terrain, the rig, and the animation scripts with a physics simulation, and it determines at any given point what frame of which animation should be playing and how the rig should deform based on that animation in relation to how the model is positioned on the terrain. It also has to be able to extrapolate between frames of animation scripts - it has to know, for example, how to transition from a full run to a walk to a stop.
So, to play a single frame of animation and thus produce a single frame of completed and rendered on-screen content, the system has to:
1: Morph a 3D model based on the current state of the animation
2: Display that model with textures layered on top of it in the right order and not allow them to interpenetrate (you shouldn't see the models' white BVDs when they're wearing clothing)
3: Light the model correctly and from the lighting system produce appropriate shadows
4: Apply any effects like particles, blurs, flares, auras, etc.
5: Apply any camera effects (lens flare, etc.)
So when you say "the graphics are terrible" or "the graphics are fantastic", you're talking about the effect of the completed process. But when you ask us "do you think the graphics are terrible or fantastic", we can't really answer that question. We'd have to produce a list of about 100 different aspects of the "graphics" and rate them individually.
Now if you want to ask what our visual target is - our final destination - my answer is that the closer we get to AAA expectations the better. With enough time, enough money, and enough talent, Pathfinder Online could look like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V. That's the direction we will go. How far we will travel will be a function of many inputs.
If I think there's a reasonable chance a name would draw a cease & desist and/or a copyright infringement or trademark infringement claim, we'll require that it be changed.
If I think someone is making unreasonable name change requests and they don't desist when warned of the consequences I'll ban them.
Ah so we come to the differences between Classes and Roles at last. It's been 2 years in the making.
There are no characters who are "Rogues" and no characters who are "Fighters". There are characters who have pursued training in the Rogue role and characters who have pursued training in the Fighter role and some characters who have done a little of both.
The character with 4 levels of Rogue doesn't have to be better at stealth than the character who earned 4 levels of Fighter, because what equality of Stealth means that that the Fighter character is an older character than the Rogue. It means that the character got better at Stealth at the cost of not getting better at Fighter-type Feats. That's a meaningful choice made by the player of that character, and it's ok.
There is no material change in the Policy except that we reversed certain terms that assumed that Paizo was handling our eCommerce and we were receiving data from them. Now the policy assumes that we are handling our own eCommerce and that we are sharing data to them. We also reserved the right to use 3rd party providers to send you email newsletters and promotional offers but we notify you that we won't allow 3rd parties to send you their own unsolicited commercial email.
We also told you to contact us instead of Paizo if you have questions about the Access and Control of your personal information and we removed references to using Paizo's system to view the information that we store about you.
We have updated the Terms of Service. Right now this only applies to Alpha testers.
We added the following to the Terms of Service (you can't see these unless you have Alpha access, so I'm posting the new Terms here):
Terms Of Service wrote:
There are so many variables that go into the "graphics" of an MMO it's very hard to discuss one element of them without discussing the impact on others.
As with all things in Pathfinder Online, our objective is to implement the "minimum viable" level of a feature, then decide over time how and when to iterate it.
As a result there are a lot of parts of the graphics package for which I really only care that they exist, not that they are aesthetically awesome. Getting them to work at all is a huge step. Getting them to look great can be done iteratively.
For example, we are creating a gigantic world. There is no way we could hand-craft that world with the staff and resources we have. So we needed to build a system that would allow us to create large segments of terrain procedurally. So far I'm really very happy with the tools we've built in general. We made mountains and forests and deserts and we can make more of them in huge quantities within our existing resources.
Right now the terrain is built with very large macro level features - the divisions between hexes of different types and the major elevation changes being the most notable, followed by the roads and the rivers. We have made almost no effort to try to create "interesting" places within the landscape - the interesting geography that does exist is almost all an emergent property of the procedural generation.
But you'll probably notice very quickly that none of that terrain is particularly advanced in terms of its visual elements. There are trees, but there are not many different types or sizes. There are a lot of sharp angles in the deformation of terrain rather than smoother more organic curves. There are very few "features" in the terrain besides the resource nodes - and right now the resource nodes themselves only come in a small number of varieties.
The hard part was making huge amounts of terrain. We got that done. Making that terrain more "interesting", and increasing the number and variation of the elements of the terrain, and figuring out how to make it appear more aesthetically pleasing can come over time if that is determined to be the plan.
Your average game reviewer will look at what we've created and give it a low "score" because that's honestly what it is. Compared to terrain created by a huge team of artists who have years of time to build objects and programmers to write shaders and create hand-built merges between objects and ground and lighting and particle effects, etc. Pathfinder Online is not going to earn a very high "score".
On the other hand, there are people looking at what we've produced, with the size of staff we have, and the budget we have, and the timeline we're on, and they're shaking their heads and wondering how the hell we pulled it off. That's a very nuanced perspective and it doesn't reduce easily into a "score".
We have to sell people on the idea that we will, eventually, have AAA class graphics and we will eventually have achieved the kind of aesthetic that meets or exceeds AAA expectations. But we won't have that for a very, very long time. Instead, we'll have a series of incremental steps where things get very slightly better, continuously.
Obviously, the number of people who will accept such a thing is much lower than the total number of people who buy videogames or play MMOs. That's why we built our business plan around the idea of having a very small population of paying players which grows slowly but steadily over a long period of time. We don't have to start out with a "high score" because we don't need to attract several hundred players on the first day. We just need to find a couple of tens of thousands, out of millions, who can accept the fundamental idea of incremental improvement and we'll be ok.
The Tank mechanic is not having hit points and armor. It is having the ability to force enemies to attack the Tank. The Tank needs enough hit points and armor to survive being the focus of the enemy's attacks. If it can force the attacks and survive them, you inevitably produce the Trinity.
Once you introduce the ability to force an enemy into an illogical act (attacking the tank not the DPS), you have broken the need for the support or DPS to do anything other than optimize thier core function. If the designers don't assume maximum optimization, the encounter will either be too easy or utterly impossible. That is what creates the Trinity.
Don't make the Tank possible, you don't get the Trinity.
Alpha Server Access
We want to concentrate player activity during the Alpha especially as we begin so that we can be sure our team is available to monitor servers and diagnose the inevitable problems. We will begin the Alpha with a limited window of availability to play, and as the Alpha proceeds we will gradually lengthen the window until we’ve reached 24x7 live operations in preparation for the start of Early Enrollment.
Each week we’ll make an announcement of the Alpha test hours for that week. This is the first week’s announcement:
To begin the Alpha server will be available from 3pm to 6am (Pacific) on Thursday, and from 3pm-6am (Pacific) on Friday.
NOTE: At this time, the client is only available for download when the Alpha server is available.
The Trinity depends on Tanking. Tanking defined as "the ability to control and focus the attacks of the opponents and absorb those attacks".
If the Tank mechanic is introduced it means that the other classes can be fragile and one-dimensional because they aren't supposed to be hit by the most damaging attacks the group will encounter.
In D&D and Pathfinder there are no Tanks. The Wizards, Cleics and Rogues are very likely to be targetd by high-damage effects and attacks. Those characters must diversify away (gear and character abilities) from purely dealing damage or purely supporting the Tank or the result against a GM that plays the encounter intelligently without pulling punches will be a TPK.
Our PvE enemies should attack the Wizard even if the Fighter is trying to stop them. And the Cleric and Rogue need to think that when they get close enough to support or sneak attack, they're at risk of getting whacked too.
That's not "the Trinity".
There are a number of bugs that are affecting the inventory system which are being addressed for the next build of the system. As a result we'll be doing a wipe of the Alpha characters after the close of the server early Saturday morning (6am Pacific time).
You may have noticed that if you log out and log back in you will lose all your accumulated XP and may lose all your inventory items. You may also have noticed that the resource nodes for rock aren't producing copper or iron. You probably didn't notice that the monsters are not dropping the first level of crafting recipes for many craftable objects, but they are not. So right now you can't craft anything meaningful.
This will be a common occurrence during the Alpha period. When we make significant changes or bug fixes it can put the database into a compromised state and it's safer (and more useful from a testing perspective) to wipe the data and start over rather than attempt to upgrade older data to the new configuration.
My experience is that this is the worst way to get votes.
Putting up 20 ideas just means that everyone who visits the site when they are "Fresh" is going to ignore 19 of them.
You'd be far, far better off to post one a day, or one every couple of days, preceded by an attempt to lay some groundwork elsewhere (i.e. here) for why the idea is worthy of the consideration of thousands and thousands of players.
If you got one idea into the top ranks, that would be something significant. Putting 20+ ideas is just spamming the wall and diluting any impact you might have hoped to get.
We have been evaluating tools to help us implement the promises we've been making about Crowdforging. Today, I'd like to introduce you to our first Crowdforging platform test, Ideascale.
We are going to test Ideascale's system and see if it is a good fit for our community and for Paizo & Goblinworks. To begin we're using a very bare-bones site without a lot of customization. If we believe this tool is succeeding we'll be able to improve it over time to make it look and feel more like the rest of our on-line presence. For now, we're sticking with the "out of the box" layout and graphics. The real value is the ideas and not the decoration anyway.
Ideascale works a bit like Reddit. You are able to submit ideas to our Community, associated with various Topics. Those ideas can be reviewed by other users and voted up or down to indicate support for the suggestion. People can also make comments in an attached thread for each idea which will help keep feedback centralized.
Currently we are not paying for the "single sign-on" capability of Ideascale. So you will need to create a new account on Ideascale to participate. There will be no linkage between your Ideascale account and paizo.com or goblinworks.com at this time. So please don't hijack a well known community member's name - we'll have to boot you and we're busy and would rather not have to untangle those kinds of messes.
This is as much an Alpha Test of this tool as the upcoming Alpha Test of the client is. We'll be curious to see how the community responds and how much use the site gets. Our continued use of it will be dependent on how active it becomes.
Without further ado, Here's the link to the Crowdforging tool for Pathfinder Online!
I thought this might be interesting. This is the description of the game that I wrote in June of 2012 which summarized the design doc that by that juncture had been accepted by everyone as the basis of the game.
While you might say that we did not manage to communicate this design clearly (communication success is of course judged by the recipient not the sender), I would hope that the majority of our customers would have gotten something close to this idealized view of what it is we're trying to do.
Original Design Wiki wrote:
The sequence of social structures is:
solo -> ad hoc party -> Company -> Sponsored Company -> Settlement -> Nation
The current plan is that you can be a member of up to 3 Companies, one of which may be a Sponsored Company.
"Guild" has no meaning in the context of the game. We're going to let people who bought the Crowdforger Guild Rewards reserve a Company name.
Within the context of War of Towers I don't think we've decided if sponsorship means anything. It may be simpler to just let the controller of a Company that controls a Tower pick a Settlement to support and not worry about trying to implement a more formal relationship between Company and Settlement.
I think we're going to take a hard look at the issue of characters in multiple companies as that relates to War of Towers. Call those issues tbd at the moment.
In a more evolved state, the objective is for Companies to be critical to the operation of a Settlement's logistics system. Companies hold and manage Outposts and Points of Interest. Outposts and Points of Interest drive development of Settlements. So establishing the links between the Companies that control desirable Outposts and PoIs will be a critical function of Settlement management. But none of that infrastructure will be in the game for a while. We'd like the Company element of the War of Towers to help give some direction to players to understanding that there will be strong and important links between Settlements and Companies before the logistics systems are implemented.