So, there's various features that we'd all like to see added to the game at this point. Looking at this thread
got me thinking that I really needed to explain what our goals for 1.0 are. Of course we'd love to do all sorts of crazy things, but there just isn't time to do everything if we hope to hit a mid-March 1.0 release.
The problem is, the more mechanics we try to introduce, the more complex this becomes to really get polished to perfection before that deadline. 1.0 isn't the end for this game, but we are coming to the end of what we can afford do without getting this into the hands of a wider audience, to be frank. Right now AVWW earns about... let's say 1/20th of what we need per month in order to keep Arcen going at current staffing levels. Since AI War hasn't had anything new in a while, it's also fallen down so that it earns... let's say 1/4th what we need to keep Arcen going at current staffing levels. Tidalis earns next to nothing at the moment.
Thanks to daily deals and the holiday promotions and such, we have reserves that have let us weather this. That said, if nothing changes, then those reserves are going to run out somewhere between April and June most likely (depending on some things coming up and what happens there), and that would mean we'd have to let some staff go. Arcen wouldn't collapse, but I wouldn't want to have to lay off staff just because we wanted to pack in features prior to 1.0 that could just as easily wait until after 1.0 while still giving players the value they expect at 1.0.
The other factor for hitting March in particular is the fact that we're going to be showing at PAX East. We view that as a chance to really reach a wider audience, but having to say "it's in beta," and "it's not on Steam yet," really doesn't go over as well with conference attendees (based on our experiences at Minecon -- players really loved the game there, but the message of "can I get this right now, or not?" was really confusing to many of them, apparently).
For me, being able to truly develop out the full potential of AVWW means having an audience that will let us sustain that -- that's what happened with AI War in its post-release support, for instance. And we'd expected to do the same with Tidalis, but the support wasn't there and so the game just kind of didn't progress much past 1.0, which was a shame but unavoidable when player interest wasn't high enough.So, What Are The Goals, Then?
From where I sit, our main goals for 1.0 are making sure that the players and the press are able to have an awesome experience that is a suitable value for their money. But at the same time not to try and creep the scope to such a degree that we wind up delivering 10 partially-polished features rather than 6 fully-polished features, for instance.
Right now we have 5-6 working weeks left prior to 1.0 at most, not counting this week, and that's not a lot of time. So what I'm trying to figure out, continually, is what to do during that timeframe that will lead to the best experience for the most players. Both in terms of first impressions (to draw in new players, and the press) and in terms of ongoing play (to keep players hooked and invested longer-term in the game, as with AI War, so that they are incentive to help us develop out free DLC and so that they are interested in paid expansions that keep the game going even longer).
Specific items we want to hit in the next week are things like secret missions, the new warp mechanics, polishing the co-op support and getting that out of alpha, and the mysteries-to-solve feature. And that's pretty much it as far as core features, I think, unless we find some other core features that are both quick to implement and low-risk in terms of destabilizing the rest of the game. Anything else would have to wait until after 1.0.
The remainder of our time in beta would thus then be spent on adding more content in the form of things like monsters, spells, enchants, guardian powers, mission types, and so on. And also on polishing what is already there: making sure that things are as clear as possible to players, tuning the text, making sure the game is as easy and smooth as possible to get into, and fixing bugs and balance issues. Also adding in incremental features as needed, such as anti-griefing options or whatnot -- small little features like that, which improve the experience in measurable ways for specific players, but which don't fundamentally change the nature of the game.
If there are any questions, please let us know -- just wanted to get this out there!