|he winter update has been released more than 4 months ago, so quite a lot of people at the CipSoft office are busy working on this year's summer update. As you all know, we have 2 major game updates each year. The summer update is mainly a map enlargement with a new city to live in, new dungeons to explore and many new creatures to fight. The winter update concentrates mainly on new game features or the revision of smaller areas. Today we would like to invite you to learn which steps are necessary until an update is finally released.
About 6 months till 1 year before, we start collecting ideas for a new update. This is mainly done by the content team. However, people of all departments are invited to join the brainstorming and to come up with ideas they have for the new area, e.g. creatures, items, names, raids, style of buildings, plants etc. Also the proposal board is checked to collect ideas. Together with the Tibia product manager, the content team decides on the new setting and on the new features that are planned for the next update. Over a longer period of time, the content team develops the basic ideas further until they have a rather clear vision of the topic for the next update.
Once the decision for a topic has been made, the concrete planning of the update can start. First of all the content team writes an area concept. This is a pretty long text which includes all details about the new area. Here you find background stories of the new settlement and the people and creatures that live there. Moreover, the climate is defined, which kind of vegetation you find in this area and also the geographical structure (e.g. mountains, forest, rivers, islands etc.). This way you get a detailed document, similar to a travel guide, which is important to write coherent texts for NPCs and books.
Next step is the planning of quest lines. Which tasks have to be fulfilled and which reward can be gained? Is there a certain level required to solve a quest? How strong will the monsters be that you meet during your tasks? All these questions must be considered when planning new quests.
Also the new gameplay features must be planned. For this purpose, selected people from various departments meet several times to discuss different options until the best solution has been found.
As soon as all the planning has been finished, a list with all graphics that are needed is generated. Now, our graphic artist starts to make some sketches of different architectural styles to give everybody an idea on how the new area could look like. Finally, the first graphics are drawn. Usually, our graphic artist starts with the drawings for the surroundings, e.g. walls, roofs, plants, surface. Those are the first graphics that the level designers need to create the new area. Once all of these graphics are ready, the new creatures are drawn. The last graphics that are made are items. Although, especially many of the items, are also drawn by some talented Tibia players, most of the things are drawn by our employed graphic artist Jan.
Building the Map
As soon as the first graphics are ready, they are implemented into the editor. The editor is a tool with which the complete Tibia map is designed. Here the graphics become objects - that means they get attributes and values, e.g. it is determined that you cannot walk on walls or which defense a new shield has.
If all graphics have been added to the editor, the actual building of the new area can start. First of all, you need to extend the map with a special program, so you have enough space to build on. Now you have a large "sand box" where you can start building. Naturally, you start with the ground. Then rivers, mountains and plants are added. Finally, the new city is designed. Around 30 - 50 houses are needed for a new city. First the streets are built, followed by houses which can be rented. Afterwards, public buildings, like depot, bank, shops etc., are added. Then the houses are decorated and smaller things like mailboxes and dustbins are put on their intended places. Finally, ships are designed to guarantee fast transport between the Tibia cities. In the end, dungeons are designed and decorated to create the right atmosphere for the players that want to fight the creepy monsters living subterraneously.
If the map is complete, monsters and NPCs will be added. For every new city certain NPCs are obligatory. You need shopkeepers, spell dealers, priests, healers, captains and of course, story tellers and NPCs that start quests. For every NPC the race and an outfit must be selected. Furthermore, it is decided where the single NPCs are located. Also, it must be defined on which keywords they react with which answers. These texts are written by the content team and are then proof-read by one of the English experts of customer support.
In addition to the peaceful NPCs, there are also creatures you can fight in the game. As most creatures have a voice too, it must be defined which sounds they are making or which sentences they can speak. Their appearance is mainly determined by the graphics that have been made. Apart from their look, it is also necessary to define how strong they are, which spells they are able to cast and which loot can be found in their dead bodies. Before a monster is added to the game for good, it must be tested if the selected skills and spells are fitting for the particular creature. Such tests are normally made on the private test servers, where tutors and gamemasters can give their opinion about the strength and the loot of the new creatures. So they are normally still somehow adjusted during the test phase. Finally, it must be defined in which radius a monster is going to spawn. Thereby the strength of a monster is important. The closer a monster is located to a city, the easier it should be. After all, we do not want a newbie that set forth to explore the Tibian lands to run into a strong and creepy monster right at the town gate.
Adding New Quests and Features
Apart from certain sentences that are needed from NPCs, further details have to be added for a new quest. For example, so-called quest flags must be defined. Quest flags tell the server that you have already done certain things that you are required to do to fulfil a quest, these include things like saying a certain word to an NPC, opening a treasure chest or pushing a certain lever. Of course, also all items you need to solve a quest have to be added to the game. With the help of quest flags you can also define which quests are shown in the quest log. Mainly larger quests with a background appear there while small quests that only consist of opening a box or Rookgaard quests will not turn up in your character's quest log.
If an update brings new features, you have either to program them or to add certain functions to game objects, like being able to roll a dice and getting a random result from that. Also it might be necessary to change certain formulas, e.g. the formula for the mana regeneration were altered when we introduced rods and wands.
Before everything that has been implemented can go online, it needs to be tested. The last month before the update is mainly used to find and correct game errors. First the content team and some people from the support team test all new features. They are checking if the NPCs are reacting correctly, if the new creatures are decaying like they should, if all doors are functioning, if newly implemented quests are working etc. Practically everything that was newly implemented is tested here. If this first test is over and all found bugs are fixed, we invite all gamemasters, tutors and administrators of supported fansites to a private test server. Apart from having more people checking if the newly implemented things work correctly, we also get a first reaction on how the community will react on the update: are the monsters too weak or too strong, do they carry the right amount of loot, is a quest solvable, how easy is a new feature to understand etc. The content team is often online during these weeks to see how people react or to ask them to check out certain things. Of course, they are also busy with fixing bugs that have been reported by the tutors and gamemasters or to adjust certain values of creatures and objects.
Whenever it is necessary to see how a new hardware or a new feature reacts when a server is really crowded, a public test server is set up which everybody is invited to join. However, these tests are only necessary if the server load is important for a new feature or device.
The Final Steps
If everything is tested and all bugs and errors have been corrected, the update is finally ready for its release. Of course, also the texts on the website need to be adapted to the changes. The graphics of the new monsters and their descriptions have to be added to the creature page, the maps page need to gain a new map which includes the new area and the new features must be explained in the manual. At last, a news for the update release must be written. If everything is done, the update can finally take place. For this purpose it is necessary that all servers go offline, so the new files can be added to the server. This takes normally a few hours. As soon as everything is done, the game servers can go back online. In the last step, the Tibia client of a player who now tries to log in is updated automatically. By now, everything is ready to send your character off to a new adventure in Tibia to explore a new area, to solve new riddles and to defend itself against new creepy monsters.
Prepare for the next update!
Your CipSoft Team