Design Notes

April 24, 2018

"Ask Me Anything" - Artix Entertainment Edition

Questions from your fellow heroes

Earlier today, a number of unusual situations and circumstances collided, forming a pyroclastic cloud of "NO PROGRESS FOR YOU!" But the joke's on the Universe, because that just means I was freed up to do something I haven't gotten a chance to in a long time... talk directly to you guys and answer a bunch of your random questions!

So I turned this afternoon into an "Ask me Anything" day on Twitter. I asked my followers: What do you want to know about game development/life at Artix Entertainment?

AQWorlds Development Cycle Questions

How much time takes to design,discuss,create a new release?

We plan our releases 1-2 months in advance. In general, it takes 2-3 weeks to make a single week's update. Each piece of each release is like part of a puzzle, and some things need to be done before other things can begin.

At this point in AQW's lifecycle, we can no longer come in on Monday and do all the work to make that Friday's release in that single week.

How many releases in advance do you prepare? How much thought is put into each release?

A great deal of thought, effort, and coordination goes into each of the releases the AQW team builds. The majority of its weekly releases take about 2-3 weeks of time to build, so the creation of those assets is staggered.

That gives our artists and animators time to create the original art. Palette swaps for NPCs, monsters, etc allow them to focus their time on the new art needs. 

The flow we have now allows us to accommodate the expectation and scope creep that has happened over the last ten years, and enables us to produce as much as we do each week.

Our other teams have a slightly different timeline for their development, depending on the project.

Do you have a "think tank"? What's your creative process, usually?

For a typical AQW release, Memet and I sit down a month or two in advance and plot out the bones of a given story/saga. Then she gets to work writing and designing. She often goes to our contributors to get feedback on ideas or get info on Lore she may not be familiar with.

Once she has a release written and designed out, she gets it approved. Then the pieces get assigned to individual content creators. Then, once assets are made, Reens puts it all together and does the actual building and leads the testing of the update.

That is roughly how all our teams work, to one degree or another. Ideas get pitched, reviewed/approved, created, tested, and released.

How often do release drafts not get approved? Any examples of drastic changes during the process/major portions being scrapped or redone?

We always take community feedback into account when planning future story updates. If you guys aren't enjoying the direction of a story (and the Queen's Saga is the best example) then we change it. And change it again, if necessary.

Most drafts have something adjusted, though usually it is very minor. Memet typically spends 4-5 days writing, designing, and finalizing a release's design document. 

Can you take more time with updates? Maybe just once a month to give the team more time?

As much as you would like to see that, there are many other players who would not be happy with once-a-month updates. We shoot to release as much high quality content as possible within the time we have.

Server Rewrite / Future of AQW Questions

How is the server rewrite going?

It is going well! Yorumi and the testers are working on more of the bugs the community sent in, and working to make it compatible with some other projects that have not been announced yet.

Is it going to be released on steam? Are they working on new features like trading/new type of content? Will we ever get an ETA on it?

Steam - potentially! New features - planned, though some of them may be shifted to the next version of AQWorlds. An ETA has not been announced due to some exploits and issues that needed to be addressed first.

Will AQW ever go offline?

Never, if we have our way. Our current (very viable) plans include a way for everyone to continue playing AQWorlds on their PC, regardless of what happens to Flash Player on browsers.

When can we expect AQW:Mobile to be finished?

Look for more news on that when Artix makes his "Spring Break" announcement. The announcement (which does not focus on AQW:Mobile or the rewrite) has been delayed due to pretty big real life release (his 3rd baby!) as well as some technical issues on the code end.

What's next for AQW or AE itself. Let's say the next 5 years or so

Future-proofing our current games so they remain viable regardless of Flash/browser compatibility, creating mobile versions of our current games, creating NEW projects we've talked about, and some we haven't. Expanding our player community and making more of the games you love!

It is an honest, if not incredibly specific, answer. Those are our plans and unless we are forced for some reason to change them dramatically, that is what we still are looking to do, at this point in time.

Game Suggestion Questions

Why don't you do more suggestion shop updates?

We still do them, in the form of "Community artists." They are your fellow AQW heroes who have great ideas and the talent/skill to make game quality art. In the past, their ideas and designs would have been released in the suggestion shop after being recreated by team artists. 

Now, though, we work with them to put their gear directly in-game. We include their work in our weekly updates so that more of you can see and enjoy it. In other words... we've taken the suggestion shop updates we used to do and made them more visible and accessible!

You should consider of expanding the Community Artist idea to variety of stuff (ex. writing, classes) too. I would work for free!

The potential already exists! If we saw a release or class design we wanted to put in any of our games, we would contact the creator and draw up an agreement to buy the work from them.

Though we worked with contributor developers in the past, we've changed that. Now, all our former contributor devs work under contract. And the same goes for the community artists (or writers, or designers).

I feel like the AQW team don’t see the work and suggestions by others. We don’t know if you’ve seen them or read them, which is frustrating.

That's a very understandable frustration. We are currently creating a better flow for suggested art, writing, and designs, independent of the forum, Twitter, other social media. That way, even if we cannot respond to all ideas, we have a better chance of seeing everything sent in

General Artix Entertainment Questions

Any idea if there will be another staff member call in the near future?

We are pretty well-set for testers and moderators right now. If that should change in the future, we will post a contributor call! 

I was falsely reported and got a 62 hour mute. Would I still be able to be mod if I ever applied?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: We always consider those things on a case-by-case basis, ESPECIALLY if it was a false report. Our moderators are human, and can sometimes make mistakes. We try to rectify those as quickly as possible, but it sounds like your case was missed.

Who are the team leads for AQW?

AQWorlds' updates are so big at this point, that most of the team's developers have an area they concentrate on, that they take ownership and charge of.

For development:

  • Memet - writing and release design 
  • Reens - actual building and testing of each release. 
  • J6 - art. 
  • Arklen - class design and testing. 
  • Ghost - animation.
  • Yorumi - server/client coding.
  • Sora To Hoshi is in charge of our in-game moderators. 
  • Cemaros is in charge of bug reports.

And expanding upon this question, here is a look at some of the other leads at Artix Entertainment. Roles sometimes change as people shift to other projects or different focuses within a given team.

  • Yergen - AQ3D Team Lead
  • Cysero - AQ3D Lead Writer
  • Zhoom - AQ3D Programming Lead
  • Oishii - AQ3D Test Lead
  • Dage - AQ3D Lead Artist
  • Korin - AQ3D Lead Animator
  • Sora To Hoshi - AQ3D Lead Moderator
  • The Hollow - AQ Team Lead
  • Tomix - DF Co-Lead, Creative
  • Verlyrus - DF Co-Lead, Programming
  • Captain Rhubarb - AE Business Programming Lead
  • Ai No Miko - AE Web Lead
  • Stryche - HeroMart Department Lead
  • Nythera - Player Support Lead
  • Artix Krieger - AQ3D Project Lead and Paladin
  • Alina - AQW Project Lead and Sorceress

What if I made you art for free? Could you use it?

I appreciate the offer! At this time, all of the content released into our games is made under contract; we do not accept "free work." That protects us and the artist. 

Why can't you put "Random Artist X"'s work into AQWorlds?

Real world talk: We contract for all content released in AQWorlds and all our games. Like with any other company, that means we work with budgets, and have to balance out what/how much we release with the resources available.

How much does the AE team look at the forums? Compared to looking at twitter?

Depends on the team member. But even if someone is reading the threads, that doesn't necessarily mean they will also reply. We are working on creating an all-new forum attached to the Help Center.

Our current forum is very dated; the new incarnation will have a new set-up, rules, flow, etc. It should be more user-friendly and something we want to make more visible. The goal is to have a better, easier-to-use place for our devs and players to interact, where it is possible to have longer, more involved discussions.

For me, personally, I look at the forum a couple times a week. It is easier and faster to reply to tweets, but I am always aware of what our forum players think and say.

AQW Item/Content Questions

Why dont we get more full CC sets?

Often, it's the artist's preference. CC can have a negative impact on a design's integrity. And some designs lend themselves better to CC.

One thing would be epic to know - do you have any plans to turn more DF stories to AQW?

I would like to, if the occasion arises! Development has already begun on the Great Fire War (which is a blend of the AQ/DF events.)

Will the doom wheel ever return again? Maybe after the rewrite it could be put back without a bunch of trouble, or easier to fix

If it were going to return, it would not be in exactly the same way. Even if it doesn't, we are looking at bringing back the Fortune Potions in some manner, so you guys can buy things from the non-rare Merge shop.

Will you make Sepulchure's Armor non-member?

While many people would like that, there are others who would be upset. For example, if someone upgraded SOLELY to be able to continue to use the armor, making that change would be a pretty frustrating thing.

Will there be trade/an AQW marketplace?

That is an idea we've talked about for a future version of AQW.

Why can't we stack items anymore?

There was a pretty bad exploit that some people were abusing. We had to patch that, and in doing so, had to change how stack sizes work.

"Behind the Screen" Questions

What are you / do you do at AE? 

I am Artix Entertainment's Vice President of Product & Operations, Project Lead for AdventureQuest Worlds, and the Sorceress of Battleon. 

I get to work with each of the teams and their leads (like Nythera, Stryche, Hollow, Dove, and Verlyrus) to make sure their game/department, updates, and other projects are going smoothly.

What is your favorite part of working at AE?

The people and challenges. I get to work with each of Artix Entertainment's leads, teams, and projects to solve problems, find solutions, answer questions, and make the games we build for you more fun. 

From running across random cosplay ninja to fielding problems with our websites, from finalizing product schedules or brainstorming the next big summer event with our writers, I go into the lab each day not knowing what to expect but prepared for anything, and I love it. 

What was the most frustrating release to work on so far?

For me, personally, probably the Wheel of Doom's initial release. We ran into some pretty extreme midnight-hour bugs. But in general, I look at frustrating things as challenges to knock down, or turn into positives. Getting derailed by frustration is unhelpful.

What has been the biggest hurdle you overcame regarding all of the AE Games? Can be one, or a few.

Literally and physically? Moving across the country to become a full-time employee after contracting out of Chicago. That mountain was a mighty big hurdle.

But in answering the spirit of your question... it was making the decision to do this as a career. I started as a player of our games while I ran a literary magazine. But when I made the jump, I went all in.

What keeps you committed to doing what you love every day? What advice do you have for others that want to follow their hearts but are in a rough place that seems inescapable?

Every path has its roadblocks and challenges, but each path also has a destination... a goal. As long as you are still dedicated to that goal, you can use that determination to see you over the rough spots.

At the same time, it's important to take stock of where you're going and what your goals are, to see if you're still heading in the direction you want to go. If you find that the goals you set aren't what you want to do anymore... it is 100% ok to change your mind.

The most important thing -- and what I hope is the guiding principle in your journey -- is, "are you working towards a goal that will make you happy, and help you achieve what you want in life?" If the answer is "yes," then keep on fighting. You CAN do it!

Questions have been edited for clarity and length, and some combined for brevity. Some answers have been expanded upon, due to the additional room in the DNs.

Tags: Alina,
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