May 06 2010 -
50 Answers from the Product Managers
|rom April 20 to 21, the community took the chance to ask their most burning questions directly to the product managers of Tibia. The questions touched upon various topics, like PvP, vocation balancing, anti-cheating measures, rule enforcement, technical issues and many more. The most frequently asked questions have been answered, each individually by one of the three product managers Guido, Craban or Skyrr.
In this month's featured article, we will reveal their answers step by step, about a dozen of them every week! Newly added questions and answers will be placed on top of the old ones in each category. A Q&A counter indicates how many of them are already published, and how many are still to come.
Q&A Counter: 50/50 published (final update: May 27)
Gameplay and Content
Q: Why is it so important for CipSoft to not reveal if there are still unsolved quests in Tibia? I'm not asking if there are still unsolved quests. I'm asking why the information surrounding unsolved quests cannot be confirmed or denied.
Guido: The idea behind this policy is that players who like to do tricky quests, who write stories around mysteries or simply dream of finding something special no one has discovered so far should always have a goal. All other players can of course ignore this and stay with the known quests, we just want to address different tastes. Moreover, Tibia always had some secrets for players to find and we don't want to break this tradition. Whatever this might mean, I won't tell you now. It is up to you to find out if it is just an evil trick we at CipSoft use or if there are one or more small or major quests, or whatever you want to call it, that are unsolved...
Q: Are you going to set up a level cap for characters?
Guido: Straightforward: no. Since the beginning, Tibia has been designed with the clear goal that there should be no end to improve your character and that the next level should always be reachable.
Q: People say Tibia is getting easier with time, do you agree? And is this something you strive to avoid?
Skyrr: I have a small problem with the question, and that is that it does not define "easier" or explain which aspect it means. Due to many of its features (like the death penalty) Tibia was and is definitely a "hardcore game". Your actions can have consequences and they can hurt. We do not want to change this part of Tibia. Sure, the exact specifications of the death penalty may get tweaked and balanced, but we will not remove it. When it comes to access and usability of the game, however, we explicitly aim at making this easier.
If "easier" was meant in the sense of "leveling faster": why was leveling harder in the past? Because there were less monsters and hunting grounds. I remember times where you had to stand in queue for getting one of four rotworms north of Thais (well, called Tibia City back then). In this case I do not see any problem with the development either, every player should have the possibility to kill monsters which match his level and they should be available in sufficient quantity. This is just the short version, but in general we do not want the game to be "harder", just because needed game elements are missing.
Q: Do you have any plans for implementing a more MMORPG-friendly hotkey system? Like WASD walking, spells/runes bound to keys etc.
Guido: Many changes are in work or at least in discussion for the Flash client, also these examples. Some of them are in internal testing, others still have to be decided on whether we will actually do them or not. I really do not want to tell more now because we will do this soon in seperate teasers, development news or forum discussions. Just have a little patience. I guess it will be pretty interesting for you. :)
Q: I think our simple and old styled graphics could be the reason why we Tibia players get mocked by other games' players, and also why many decide to play other games besides Tibia. Are you concerned about Tibia's graphics?
Skyrr: No, we're not concerned about this topic, in contrary. We believe that most players who play Tibia either like the hand-drawn 2D graphics or do not care about graphics at all. So you could say that this is sort of a market niche which Tibia aims at. As for the part of the question referring to players getting mocked by other people: I have a hard time understanding that problem. When I choose the games I play I consider whether I like its features and game design and whether it is fun for me. I would never care about what other people say about the games I play as long as it's fun for me.
Q: Just as with graphics, sound effects and music could add a lot to the Tibian experience. Are you considering adding sound to Tibia?
Skyrr: Personally I'd really like to add some sound and music which fit perfectly to our areas and dungeons. :) But as with everything here in product management we have to assess the costs and benefits. In this case this means that we have to ask ourselves if our limited development resources are spent best for the feature "sound and music". Up to this day other projects and features have been considered more important for Tibia, but this does not mean that it will always be like this. Also, many players ask us not to add music and sound, but hey, of course we'd add an "off" button for them. ;)
Craban: I'll tell you a little story about myself as an answer to this question: I have actually studied music and specialized in music production. When I had finished that, I first worked part time in a studio before I came to CipSoft. At that time, I was actually looking for a job as music producer. Only by coincidence, I saw the job offer for a customer support representative at CipSoft. I remembered Tibia which I had played until 5 years before that, checked it out and thought, why not try that? When I joined, in the back of my mind I had the hope that maybe, once I was in, I could push the idea of sound in Tibia a little.
Now, over the years, my job has changed and now I am part of the product management. It is our job to lead the development of Tibia and to influence the direction it will go in the future. This is the best position to actually push for something like sound. However, that position comes with the responsibility to do those things first that are most important and most promising. This unfortunately means that, despite my personal opinion, I realistically have to say that sound in Tibia would be real nice, but it isn't anywhere near high on the priority list and currently would not deserve to be there. Tough luck for me as musician to work on a game that has no sound at all...
Q: Where do you see the game going in the future with regards to combat mechanics? Are you for example considering to reintroduce manual aiming or to make combat more complex in some way?
Craban: First the easy part about manual aiming: It is still possible to do that if you really want to, but no, we will not go back to that being the only option. Now, do we want to make combat more complex? The answer stands and falls with the definition of "complex". What we will not do is make it more complex just for the sake of having more complexity. We would like to make it more fun, add more variation, choices and options because that is what makes things fun. If that means making it more complex, then so be it, but we want to avoid the sort of complexity that only makes things complicated but not really better.
Q: The current skill system hasn't been changed in ages. Is there any possibility you might consider adding some other skills such as crafting or possibly alchemy to add depth to the game and character abilities?
Guido: That's a very fascinating topic since years, yet also a very difficult one. Depending on the features connected with new skills the impact on the game can be from zero to a complete change. If a new feature like new skills are of no relevance for the game or players they are boring and a waste of time to develop them, but if they have an impact and are interesting there is a high risk that the change will cancel advancements players made in the past. Moreover, Tibia has a very long history which makes this topic even more problematic. Considering this we rather prefer doing minor changes instead of major ones. In other words you cannot expect huge steps, but moderate adjustments of the current skill system and its effects.
Q: I'd like to know how new items are decided upon. Like, is there a meeting, submission session, or just a few glances?
Skyrr: As items are part of the content, new items are in the responsibility of the content team. Thus this question should be asked again when it's time to Chill and Grill with Chayenne and her colleagues. Still, for our part I can give away that we are right now stocking up the content staff by another staff member who will be dedicated especially to item and balancing issues.
Q: Regarding power abuse: Why do you feel that it is okay to give costumers this much control over the game play? Tibia is the only game I know of where customers who have power and wealth may rule over other players in this manner.
Craban: Actually, there are quite a few very successful games out there where the ability to gain power and exercise it over other players is even bigger than in Tibia. That in itself is in our eyes much less a problem than it is another one of those things that make Tibia what it is: a tough game. It is only natural that players of a game like to compete with other players. In some games, the competition is indirect, in others, it is direct. In Tibia, you can have both.
So, having power is an important element of Tibia. Most players dream of once having that power and of course, when you have it, you also want to use it. The tricky thing is that power is only relevant as a goal to reach if not everyone can have it, thus it is immanent that only few really have power. Most players striving for power just have a little of it but like to exercise their power over others further down the ladder. Only when someone from above exercises his power on them, the victim calls it "abuse" of power. This also shows that very often, it is not possible to say we have two groups of people on a server because the very same person may in one situation belong to one group and in the next be part of the other.
What we want to do is to keep that element, but again to offer more means to provide enough fairness in the use of that power for all sides.
Q: Have you thought about expanding areas for people who are free account players? If so and if possible, could you tell us more about it?
Guido: Tibia offers a lot of content for free account players and it is enough to play for a long time. However, the premium account players make it possible to run and develop Tibia further. Therefore, almost all content work will be done for them and not for free account players. Obviously, there should be more reasons to pay than not to pay. On the other hand, free account players will also benefit from general features and content improvements in the future, as they have already done on numerous occasions in the past.
Q: Do you have any plans on fixing the current "not being able to perform many actions at the same time" lag?
Craban: If I understood this question correctly, it refers to the effect that for example when you drink a potion while you are walking, your character stops walking. Now, there are a few things where we want one action to delay another, but as in this example, there are some such interdependencies that are not necessarily desired that way. So yes, we do want to remove these effects. However, we consider this as not such a high priority which means we'll work on those at a later time.
Q: I've always wondered why, on Optional PvP worlds, field runes like fire bombs, energy walls etc. only last a couple of seconds instead of several minutes.
Guido: This is indeed a topic to wonder about in the current situation on Optional PvP worlds. Actually, it is just a relict of the past. We simply haven't changed it yet, but I am sure we will in the near future. But let me give you just two reasons why a short duration for the fields was set.
In former times, many moveable items like barrels have been obstacles you could not walk over. Further, you could place fields on them, and as a result, you could not push them away as long as the fields lasted. That way, one could easily build traps to kill players indirectly on Optional PvP worlds.
The second example is similar, a trap built with characters. Characters standing on fields also cannot be pushed, and back then you could not walk through other characters. A short duration for player created fields helped a lot to avoid such traps that were used, for example, to block players who were fleeing from monsters. Both trapping situations no longer exist since now you can walk over items like barrels and through other characters you are not in war with.
Q: Any chances for a second promotion?
Craban: The chances are actually quite good. We have already brainstormed about the idea of not only one but several more promotions or something similar last year. Basically, this touches the topic of more choices and options in the development of your character. So yes, it is on our wishlist to do something there.
Q: Nowadays, any character stack plus a few noobchars is the best defence one can get. Was this the point? What were the new stacking rules made for?
Craban: Well, the need for this actually comes from a technical issue. The technical structure of how the client and the server behave is designed in a way that if there are many creatures on the same spot, only a limited amount of them are visible. This is a historic problem, and just for the record: This has always been like that.
Now, the rule that you cannot attack anyone when you are too far down a stack was needed because when you are that far down a stack, others cannot see nor attack you. We had to do this in order to avoid someone being able to attack others without them being able to fire back.
The side effect is that people can also use this rule to hide in a stack. It is not something we want to leave like that. However, we had to fix the issue mentioned above. So we decided that for now, we will live with this side effect because it is a defensive abuse. You cannot abuse the system to kill someone, you can only abuse it to hide yourself.
In the future, we will remove the old problem that characters turn invisible if they are deeper down in a stack. This, however, is something that needs more time simply because it interferes with nearly everything else that happens in the game. Once we remove that invisible effect, we will probably also remove that stacking rule again because it is only there to avoid abuse.
Q: Are there any plans to change/modify/update Rookgaard any further?
Skyrr: Yes, indeed we are currently analysing possible updates of Rookgaard. While we consider the basic concept as good we would like to give new Tibians a better impression of what they can see later in the game, like some of Jan's great ingame graphics or quests similar to those which Chayenne's team added to the main land in the last years. In general, we will put some effort in giving new players a smoother introduction to the game.
Q: Will you introduce a 5th vocation?
Guido: Never say never, but it is one of the few things we will quite likely not change for the game world types we have. Instead, we will focus on balancing out the powers between the vocations, making the career from a newbie to a high-level character more interesting and offering you a few more options to individualise your character.
Q: What do you as game developers feel about the opinion that a lot of new features are actually copies from some world famous 3D games?
Skyrr: I play games since they were played on the Commodore C64 and Atari VCS. And, honestly, I have not seen many real new features in games for a lot of years. There are basic elements of roleplaying games which appear in many games since decades. A lot of features in the mentioned famous 3D MMORPGs have been created in text based MUDs in the 1980s and have also not been invented by their developers.
But is this necessarily a bad thing? Some game mechanics have just proven to be a good idea. Nobody complains about the fact that most RPGs use the concept of "experience points", for example. Another point is that some things turned into a quasi-standard, like moving with the "wasd"-keys or the double click with the mouse. Why should consumers change certain habits with every product?
A game designer basically creates a cocktail from many game feature ingredients. Of course, if he can think of a brand new feature that is real fun and goes along well with the others he will use it, for he might create a unique new game. But there are also a lot of games which take well known and popular features and just mix them up in a creative new way. And not to forget... consumers do not necessarily reward creative new things. The best selling things in the game industry right now are sequels to well known brands - and this is not because the big game publishers want it that way, but because people buy these games instead of fresh indie productions.
Q: People have been asking for quests and challenges for level 150+, even 200+ players for a long time. Do you have any plans regarding the matter?
Guido: This topic has become more important with time since more and more players have reached higher levels. Yes, we will add features and content specially designed for high level characters in the future. However, there are just rough plans so far except for the fact that we will add some challenging new areas, monsters and a few quests, raids and events in the next updates. Also, considering that the spell with the highest level requirement can already be acquired with level 70, we think about adding more spells even for high levels... yeah, right, high level spells! :)
Q: Will you consider changing the death penalty?
Craban: Generally yes. The important point here is to define what is meant by death penalty. The death penalty consists of several elements and has several effects. In our view, the death penalty is one of the core features that makes Tibia what it is: one of the harder games to play. We want a death to be something that matters. We want you to have feelings about a death. It is supposed to hurt you and at that moment to cause some anger. What it should not do is to cause true frustration. That is why I can generally say we do consider working on these issues. We have to evaluate which aspects of a character death hurt the most. Examples may be item loss for low levels, money loss due to blessings for high levels and of course also the reason why the death happened, including PvP, and many more aspects.
Q: Do you plan to make a 3rd add-on for the outfits we so greedy collect?
Guido: In the beginning, we planned three add-ons for outfits. But since it is really a lot of work to create base outfits and add-ons we reduced the number of add-ons to two for the first release of this feature. Since then we preferred to add several new outfits you can choose from instead of catching up with the original plan to introduce the 3rd add-on. So, currently, there are no plans for a 3rd add-on. It definitely will not be done this year.
Q: What is your view on the so called "legendary items" (golden helmet, demon legs, horned helmet, etc.)?
Skyrr: I assume you refer to all items which cannot be acquired regularly ingame, e.g. through quests. As an old player who joined CipSoft recently in 2009 I experienced the "old times" first hand. Most existing items originate from that time. As a player I always liked the fact that there are "irregular" items which are something special and that each of them has a story of its own. But now as a product manager my view changed a bit: those items do not exist on all servers, so some players will never even have a small chance to obtain one of those items – this is the part I do not like about those "legendary items".
Q: Considering the steady decline in the number of active players on many Open PvP worlds, do you believe that Open PvP is still a viable game world type as it is currently designed?
Skyrr: You are assuming that the decline in the number of online players is directly connected to Open PvP issues - however, I do not agree with this conclusion. Since the start of our "Anti-Cheating Reloaded" action the number of active botters dropped significantly (yes, I know, you still see bots in game and we will keep fighting them until our players are satisfied). But these bots which roamed the game worlds before are now missing, so a drop of players was expected. Since we noticed that less bots are used on Optional PvP game worlds it fits into the picture that the decrease is less sharp on them. Additionally, we have seasonal variations which happen every year at the same time.
Still, while the above mentioned things do not necessarily have something to do with Open PvP, we indeed think about the game design of Open PvP game worlds. That is the reason why, right now as I write these lines, we started a discussion about improvements of the war system with selected players from every interest group. Before that we had an open discussion about it on our discussion board. We want to address several matters on Open PvP game worlds. And if some people wish for PvP options that we do not want to offer on Open PvP, we will think about further measures to offer them anyway.
In any case I would like to use this opportunity to express my concern that some players wish for PvP without unjust kills, but are not willing to play on a Hardcore PvP game world which offers this.
Q: I am wondering if there are any plans to do a vocation balancing update soon?
Craban: There definitely is the plan to work on the game balance soon. A big part of that is the power balance between vocations, but it also extends to the balance of weapons and equipment, resources, loot, prices, monsters and hunting grounds and a lot more. All of these things have a direct influence on how good a vocation is in comparison to another. Vocations shall be different, but also interesting and fun to play, and in the end, all of them shall have the same chances to advance in the game. This also includes making knights more interesting to play, making sorcerers and druids more unique etc.
We are currently looking for a new game content designer whose main task will be to work on the balance on the content side. Together with that person we will get deeper into this topic later this year, but I cannot promise at what point we will have something ready to present. Also, as game balance is a very delicate thing, there will not be a sudden update that makes BAM! and everything is perfect after that. Such things take time and should be done in steps.
Rules and Anti-Cheating
Q: Concerning the new rule enforcement system: Don't you think what players want is instant in-game help, 24/7, when they want to report something?
Skyrr: Some problems are more critical in terms of time than others. We think that what players wish for is not one specific help design, but rather a system that solves their problems promptly. When we design the new rule enforcement system we think about multiple things: measures that prevent rulebreaks from happening at all, measures that help the affected player, and repressive measures that remove and punish the offending player. If we realize that some things can only be achieved through human support, we will offer this from CipSoft. Players shall be able to get reliable support for their problems from us directly and not be forced to approach other players who might be available or might not.
So no, we do not think that players want 24/7 instant in-game help for everything, but rather a prompt solution for their problems. If we find situations for which this can only be solved by extending support times we will of course consider this as well.
Q: Are there any plans to make destructive behaviour (like luring) on Optional pvp worlds actually punishable? Because from my point of view, no one cares about being catched for that now.
Skyrr: Instead of defining criteria which mark behaviour as "destructive" we rather think about adjusting the game design, so that undesirable situations that nobody likes are not possible anymore. One step in that direction was the disappearing of monsters which stride too far from their original spawning places.
Q: Will age-old "bugs" like teleporting ever be completely fixed, and if not, why aren't they accepted as part of the game instead of seen as cheating?
Skyrr: We have this right now on our agenda. This means that in the next time we will discuss the list of game weaknesses and bugs and rather remove them from the game than forbid to (ab)use them.
Q: As nice as freedom of speech is, not everyone wants to see swearing in Tibia. Same goes for weblinks, especially from those annoying gold sellers and level 1 phishers using private messages. Please tell me, are there plans to introduce some kind of bad language and URL filter?
Skyrr: Automatic filters can easily be tricked, for instance by adding an asterisk in every S*W*E*A*R*W*O*R*D. Besides of this problem, there are the multiple languages which players are allowed to use in private messages. There would be a huge effort for maintaining such a list while the filter can be bypassed by any troublemaker easily. Thus it does not appear as a feasible feature right now. This does not mean that we just let things happen. With the statement report system which we are redesigning right now you are already able to deal with such situations in public channels. And for the summer update we want to extend this to private statements.
Q: Do you have a more severe punishment for cheaters in mind than only 1 month banishment and permanent final warning?
Skyrr: We already apply punishments other than those you have mentioned. But we will not give out any details about them because such information would greatly benefit the cheaters. Cheaters constantly try to find out facts about the system with which we act against them. Any information they find will help them evade our measures, and anything we give away helps them with this. Also we do not think that our fair players really require this information – they want cheating removed as a problem, and if we accomplish this they won't need any details about what and how exactly it is done. We know that this is painful for our players as long as the problem is not solved.
Q: Knowing the impact of cheaters on everything in this game, are your future plans to eliminate all cheating?
Skyrr: This question implies that it is possible to "eliminate all cheating". In Tibia there have always been players who tried to gain unfair advantages through many means and I am sure, regardless of all measures we introduce, there will be those who will try to find new ways to achieve this. So from our point of view we do not think that we will ever be able to eliminate all cheating once and for all. For us, this is rather a constant battle in which we try to prevent as much cheating as possible. This has to be balanced with all other goals we have, for example, we put much effort in making sure that we do not punish fair players. Anti-cheating measures are an important topic for us, for which the product management team allocates a significant budget – regularly, and not only once.
Q: Are you satisfied with so many people complaining about the cheating issue and if no, how do you want to change it?
Skyrr: Of course we are not satisfied when many of our players see something as a problem. However, as often, things are not as easy as they seem at a first glance. In case of botting, for example, we can see a sharp decline in cheating, especially since we introduced the permanent final warnings. Still, that is not what matters for you, our players. You do not measure the problem in overall numbers, but by your personal experience, like going to your favourite hunting grounds and seeing or not seeing a bot there. So while we are pretty content with the impact of some of our measures, we are far from thinking that the problem is solved.
How do we want to change it? On the one hand, we continue to refine and further develop our detection methods. We also develop new concepts that allow us to solve the problems you experience ingame – like the bot reporting feature we have introduced these days. On the other hand, we hope that players will feel the effects of our measures ingame step by step. We do get positive feedback about this by players who tell us that some spawns that were bot infested prior to our relaunched measures are now bot free. While we like this, we will still put constant effort in further solutions.
Q: Why do you think that more active gamemasters cannot solve the downsides of the current rule enforcement system?
Skyrr: The gamemaster system has been introduced in the stone age of Tibia. It was a system designed for a non-commercial game, and it worked really well for a long time, thanks to the efforts of our gamemasters who devoted their free time to solve the problems of Tibia's players. But Tibia changed over the years, most notably of all it became a commercial game for which players pay and it grew heavily. We desire to offer a good service to our players at all time, and this includes offering rule enforcement in a constant quality of service and a constant availability. Of course we have analysed the possiblity of just adding more volunteer gamemasters to the rule enforcement, but we have found many points that make this not feasible for Tibia's situation. So, instead, we want to take the positive aspects of our gamemasters – their dedication, knowledge of the game and motivation to help players – and keep them in a helper system, while addressing the problematic points with a CipSoft in-house-only rule enforcement system.
Clients, Servers and other Technical Issues
Q: When you started to develop the Flash client, was your vision to make Tibia a web-browser based game?
Guido: There are two important reasons why we started to develop the Flash client for Tibia. First, we wanted to integrate the client better into the base processes we have on the website. For example, you get the latest news on the website, you manage your account on the website and you create your account on it. The seperate download, installation and start of the client is a significant break in these flows. When the client is directly integrated in the website, the handling of all this will be a lot easier for players. Flash offers this possibility, and it is able to provide the same technical features of the current stand-alone client.
Second, a complete new client is a great chance to revise not only the years-old technical structure of the current client but also to improve the user interfaces. There are many many new minor features we will change or add. Soon we will tell you more about them in further sneak peeks or forum discussions.
After all, I want to point out that playing Tibia with the Flash client will be like playing with the current client, it will just run in the browser. Therefore, it will not change to a typical web browser game. Tibia will remain Tibia.
Q: Have you ever thought about creating a high-resolution client for Tibia, in addition to the current client, just like in TibiaME?
Skyrr: Yes, we have considered this. But we've come to the conclusion that at the current point it is not viable for Tibia. Tibia has a vast amount of content which would have to be adjusted for high res, much much more than TibiaME has. But resolution is not the only point where Tibia's graphics can be improved. For instance, at our news page we have shown a teaser with transparancy effects which are currently being developed for the Flash client. You're in for some more surprises in this direction, so stay tuned for more teasers in the near future.
Q: Why don't you guys make a permanent version of a test server so players can go crazy and blow off some steam whenever they feel like it?
Craban: This question is not really asking for a "test" server but rather for a "fun" server. If we make a test server, we only do that to have something tested. If, in the future, we develop something that needs a long testing phase, then we will consider a long running test server. It is unlikely we would do a permanent one though since every test is over at some point. If it is a pure "fun" server you want, see the answer below (remark from the CMs: Craban refers to the question "Q: Have you ever considered ...").
Q: On behalf of all New Zealand and Australian players: Do you currently have plans to set up servers for the Kiwi and Aussie players who live 'Down under'?
Skyrr: Naturally, it is in our interest to offer the possibility of playing Tibia for every interested customer. On the other hand we cannot set up servers in every country. There is a number of factors that we have to consider when thinking about server locations. We need trustworthy providers who can provide the desired degree of IT security as well as grid connection which means enough bandwith to the Internet with the necessary reliability. Another important criterion is the stability of the offered servers. The amount of possible customers must also be big enough to at least match the sum of fix costs and running costs.
Bottom line: we are interested in offering additional server locations, but it is not as easy to provide this as it might seem in the first place. We're currently evaluating possible server locations, but I can't tell anything about the results yet since it's not finished.
Q: A few days ago I read an article about "proxy tunneling" and according to the article this could be an attempt to resolve or alleviate the effects of lag. I know that this is already available for other online games and I want to know what you think about it, if that can be applied to Tibia in a secure manner?
Skyrr: This is a difficult topic and closely related to the question about additional server locations. Proxy tunneling can improve lag problems for certain groups of players in specific situations. But for the majority of players it does not solve the problem at all. In addition, it can result in security problems - you would be routing all your Tibia traffic to someone who might be interested in manipulating or analysing this traffic (how would you feel if you are waging a guild war and your enemies convince the tunneling service operator to delay or cut all your Tibia traffic in the midst of a battle?).
Concerning CipSoft offering such a service we have the same problem with finding a reliable and secure partner as with offering new server locations. And if we found such a possibility we would probably rather offer full-fledged game servers there instead of a tunneling service which will not improve the situation for many players.
Q: Have you ever considered the possibilty to open a test server for fun on a special day like Tibia's birthday using the client version 7.x?
Craban: This question has 2 parts actually, and I will reply to each seperately:
1) "Test server for fun": Well, this is really a contradiction in terms. A real "test server" has the purpose of testing. What this question shows is that there is an interest in a seperate server where no testing is done, but no game with the usual consequences is running there either. You are asking for a pure fun server in addition to the regular Tibia game worlds. If we agree to leave the "test" part out of the question, I can say that the idea is nice and we know that there is such an interest. There are absolutely no plans to do anything like that, but there is also no reason to completely rule out the possibility. Just opening a server for fun would not be much of a problem. The question here is whether there might not even be more interesting variations of this idea. However, as I said, there are no plans in this direction, so if we would ever do something like this, it will not be anytime soon.
2) "Client version 7.x": This question has been asked in many variations numerous times. Our answer is still the same: We will not do that. I'll take the opportunity to tell you a little more about the reasons:
Firstly, we constantly develop Tibia further, and of course, we do that with the aim not only to change it somehow but to actually make it better. Therefore, offering any older version means to go several steps back. These older versions include all the little problems, weaknesses and maybe even some bugs that were improved or fixed in the meantime, so honestly, if we did this, the players would very quickly see that it is not better than now.
Secondly, what most of the players that ask this actually want are old game mechanics, but with new content. This simply does not work since a lot of the new content only works with the current game mechanics. To make possible what people ask for would mean to revert to an old version but then change and develop a lot of what is already in the game again for that specific old version. Apart from the immense overhead time that this would cost, you would never get a real old server but again some weird different version, a mixture of old and new and something else.
Finally, already from those requests we can clearly see that there is not one certain version people would like to see. We would never be able to satisfy all who request this because, again, each player has a different opinion on what should be done.
Q: Do you plan to introduce a system that can prevent players from death during a DDoS attack?
Skyrr: Of course, we would like to protect players from a death that is caused solely by a DDoS attack. However, if we just introduce a feature that prevents you from dying or death losses, those who are capable of launching such attacks could abuse it, e.g. by launching a DDoS attack when they realize that they are going to die. This is a general problem with any feature for the game: we have to check not only if it will work in the intended situation, we also have to make sure it cannot be abused in other situations.
So, concerning the protection of our players from deaths by DDoS attacks we rather choose the way of working with internet providers and server providers to improve the infrastructure so that attacks have no effect. Many regular attack attempts get filtered every week so players do not even feel the effects. But of course, we aim at improving everything so much that even large scale attacks do not lead to player deaths.
Q: I have always wondered why it takes you so long to either detect, analyse or properly solve issues that every player sees immediately? Maybe your priority lists are not well organized? Or you need more people?
Craban: The question shows correctly that there is a process that consists of several steps to go through with practically everything we do.
Step 1: First, a problem or an opportunity has to be detected. As a matter of fact, we are a lot faster in this than you might think. We know very well what the community currently sees as problems and even quite well which are the bigger ones and which the smaller ones. We have so many eyes and ears open all the time that in most cases, we have already heard of an issue long before it becomes something that the community discusses.
Step 2: After having detected the issue, it has to be analysed. This also means rating the issue, meaning that we have to decide whether it is more pressing or important or promising than something else on our lists. That too is done very early and pretty quickly.
Step 3: Once we can say from the analysis that the issue gets high priority, we have to design a solution. Now this is actually the part that takes long for several reasons:
Firstly, whatever the solution is, before it can be done it has to be checked against all other features of Tibia. We have to make sure it does not create some other issue or, if it does, that this new issue is less problematic than the one we want to fix with it. This task is especially challenging with a game like Tibia that is over 13 years old and, as a consequence, has a huge amount of both content and code. The more history a game has, the harder it is to change something because there are so many other things that could change with it.
Secondly, and this is the funny part regarding the question: whichever solution we come up with, it will not please everyone in the community. The question said that "everyone sees a problem immediately". Well, on the one hand, this "everyone" often is only the part of the community that actually is interested in that problem and the fix. Then, suddenly, the other half of "everyone" awakens that actually did not think that it was a problem at all, but that the fix is now a problem. An example for that was the stair hopping issue. People complained a lot about this and called it game weakness abuse because it did indeed make it really easy for anyone to kill very difficult monsters. So we changed it and made exactly that harder which of course brought all those people into the discussion who had previously not said anything because they thought that stair hopping was a feature, even a tactic.
Finally, it is often truly easy to see a problem, and obvious problems are also often seen by pretty much "everyone", so yes, there are cases where "everyone" agrees about something being a problem. However, it gets really tricky when you ask those people whether they also all agree on the same solution. You will find that despite them all having the same opinion on the problem, their opinions on the right solution spread almost infinitely.
Consequence: it is easy to point your finger at a problem, the really hard part is to come up with the best possible solution. Trying that always comes with a risk, and to minimize those risks, we prefer to be thorough and take the time we need, even if that takes longer.
Q: Is there any plan of implementing an official way to save videos from the game?
Skyrr: At the moment we do not have such a feature in development. But we find the idea of offering such services ourselves interesting. If enough players are interested, we might evaluate the technical possibilities for this.
Q: With TibiaME going hi-res and Tibia going Flash (possibly maybe), will both games come closer together? Both games seem to draw a completely different audience, so is Cipsoft looking for ways to get players across?
Skyrr: No, this is not planned. Both games have some things in common, but differ in a lot of points. We're not aiming at getting them closer, which results mainly from the different technical platforms and possibilities they are based upon. So for the second question: no, we are happy for every player who likes both games, but we're not actively working on getting players across from one game to another.
Q: Will there be loyalty gifts for long term premium members, such as items or a special outfit? Will this ever happen?
Craban: Ideas in this direction are currently drifting around. There is no decision or concrete plan yet, but it is very well possible that something along those lines might happen in the future.
Q: Will you add other payment methods like Paysafe Card and Telephone or SMS?
Craban: Clear answer: yes. As a matter of fact, we are currently looking for new employees who will be in charge of improving our payment system and extending our partnerships to be able to offer many more payment options. As soon as we have found people fitting the job, work will start in this direction.
Q: Are there any plans for making it possible to buy premium time or paid extra services like character world transfers or character name change via safe trade ingame from other players?
Guido: This is indeed in discussion, but there is no plan yet and much too early to say more about it.
Q: What do you guys do from day to day? Describe what you do on a normal work day.
Craban: On most days, I am the first of us three to come into the office, so I usually have about one hour in the morning to do the usual checks whether everything is still running as it should. For every part of the whole Tibia system, we have checking mechanisms and alarms, so I first check these and, after that, the issues that were forwarded to me manually by my colleagues.
I also usually take a quick look around the Tibia forum, especially the discussion board, the technical support board and some others just to see what people are currently talking about. I also follow some topics that interest me a little longer, although I usually do not post myself.
After this daily routine, it is time to go round to see the programmers working on the projects that I am responsible for. There are usually a handful of projects we work on at the same time. I visit everyone involved, let them tell me how far they have come and whether there are new questions or problems. I also pass by our testers who can tell me whether projects that have been implemented have passed the tests and are ready to go online or not.
From here on, every day varies. Most common are putting finished projects online, having discussions with my fellow product managers about possible projects for the future, planning details of future projects for implementation as well as doing other small tasks like communicating with business partners etc. At the end of the day, I like looking over the Tibia forum again just before I leave. Sometimes, I also stay to play Tibia myself, but that is of course private time.
Skyrr: When I arrive in the office I read my mails and check the news and the boards for things that need immediate attention. After this (hopefully without finding any unexpected events) I turn to planned projects.
For planned projects there are multiple possibilities of what needs to be done. One thing might be having planning discussions with staff members from all involved departments and documenting and drawing conclusions from the results. There might be also immediate concept work that I do myself, this could for example involve defining the technical framework for new features, which will later be given to the departments for implementation (like the programmers or the content department).
Another part of my work is to keep the overview over the state of all separate tasks of such a project/feature and make sure all arising problems get solved before release. Next, there might arrive an email from our tech support which hints at a technical problem. I would then check if the cause is something that is within our sphere of influence (e.g. a bug in the login server) or something that we cannot immediately influence (e.g. player kicks due to a problem at an internet backbone). Depending on the case I will then make sure it gets addressed by the responsible department, if necessary.
After that I might take some time to process some data and analyze it, for example to back up decisions about a feature with arguments. This could be e.g. an analysis about how many of our players on open PvP game worlds regularly take part in PvP combat.
There are many more activities that make up my job, and that's a reason why I like it so much – many days are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you'll get. ;)
Q: Do you have secret characters with which you play the game like anybody else and beyond having some fun you analyze gameplay stuff?
Guido: Yes, many of us play Tibia on secret characters on different game worlds. Of course, we mainly play to have some fun but sometimes we try out some things or play in a certain way to experience the game in different ways. A few of us are even members in usual guilds. Furthermore, we have internal test systems at our office where we do most of the tests and some fun stuff we cannot do on real servers like playing around with super hard monsters.
Q: Who are you going to target your product to? Are you going to satisfy players who like very competitive styles of gaming or rather those who prefer to play in less agressive environments?
Craban: Actually, this question is based on an assumption that we do not share. You assume that it really is a fact that we cannot have both groups of players in one game. We know already that it is very well possible to accommodate both playing styles on different game world types. The more agressive ones can play on Hardcore PvP, the peaceful ones feel most comfortable on Optional PvP.
A problem emerges when both groups are brought together on the same game world. This is mainly the case on Open PvP. In our vision, however, the different playing styles can be accommodated there. We want to achieve this by adding special features that allow more fairness between different groups. The war system is a first step, which is why we have made an evaluation of it together with our players in order to reach improvements in exactly that direction.
Q: Tibia is a great game, many of us love it and play it on a daily basis. Yet we know it isn't perfect. What is the issue that worries the product managers the most?
Guido: I see it like you. Tibia is great and we put a lot of passion in it. Of course, there is always a lot to improve. Hot topics for us are currently the fight against botting, finding the right balance between the different PvP tastes of our players and making Tibia more accessible for new players. On a more general level the goal to reach are happy players, and on a business level it simply is to get more customers.
Q: CipSoft has frequently been heavily criticised for being isolated from their own game. Have you ever considered creating a "focus group" of active players from the various game world types to both discuss new features before they are implemented and to brainstorm new ideas for the future?
Craban: Yes, absolutely. We have already done that numerous times. On the one hand, we regularly create focus groups within CipSoft. We are a gaming company, so of course, we have lots of really dedicated gamers here, too. A large group is also active in Tibia. Others are highly experienced with a lot of other games. Depending on the topic, we try to invite all those colleagues that have some kind of helpful background fitting the topic.
On the other hand, we have often led discussions with our voluntary helper groups. You can also consider those to be focus groups since what they have in common is a certain dedication to the game as well as quite a lot experience with it.
Finally, we have just last week started a discussion with a few players that we selected due to their contribution in the feedback thread about the war system. That is probably the version of focus groups that was meant with this question, so yes, we are doing it right now.
This was the last update of the featured article. We are finally through with all questions and answers and we hope you have enjoyed the very first Chill and Grill session!
Thanks for reading!
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