Yesterday, we rolled out a new patch that addressed many of the bugs and issues we had been meaning to fix since launch day. We added a ton of really cool new features, including dozens of new quests, and an improved tutorial flow for newbies that will make it easier for people to learn the game’s mechanics as well as provide a more satisfying, and less grindy experience to get to level 40.
Overall the reception to the new changes has been extremely positive – looking at the data, people are playing the game more, and they are sticking around longer than prior to the patch rollout. Players have really also been enjoying the new overworld dungeon and the dozens of new item modifiers available on armor and weapons.
However, there were also a few somewhat controversial changes which I’m going to do my best here to explain the reasoning behind.
End Game Item Grind – Legendaries Removed from Rotation and replaced with epic (purple) gear.
What exactly changed
- Legendary armor sets in the Nexus district synthesis stations were replaced with purple gear, and two new end game materials were introduced. These materials are needed to synthesize the new armor sets.
- Legendary gear was nerfed, and the epic armor as a result is now the most powerful armor in the game.
Why did we change this?
Quite honestly, the intent was always to have a tier of epic gear before legendaries were obtainable – and the gear we released today is the original intent and balance we had wanted to achieve before launch. The problem is that we actually had to stop adding features several weeks before launch, as an external constraint, so much of the tweaks on our development build couldn’t make it in.
With legendaries, the goal was to introduce a way to grind for epic gear that involves challenging team content, and introduce the new modifiers that are actually interesting. Current legendary armor does not have any interesting effects/modifiers, or looks, so it doesn’t live up to what we want “legendary” armor to feel like. Our goal is to re-introduce legendary armor at a later date, with cool new effects, art, and modifiers, so that they feel truly powerful and one of a kind.
We also want legendary armor to be truly difficult to obtain – prior to the patch, armor was obtainable by just grinding public events forever, but wasn’t really a challenge to get – just took time.
Importantly, we did not remove this armor to deal with duping or cheating issues – and in fact the legendary armor that people obtained before the patch is now less powerful than the epic armor you can get from synthesis.
Many of you had spent countless hours grinding for Legendary Armor, only to have it taken away from you at the last second without any warning. We didn’t respect the grind, and for that we are sorry. Many of you had been waiting days to get this armor, and although we believe the balance decisions were right, we shouldn’t have just taken it away without providing anything in return.
What are we doing about it?
We are instituting a set of new policies and procedures internally. The focus on this policy will be to deliver transparency, while simultaneously respecting the grind.
Firstly, we will do our best not to sunset armor like this – and when we do we’ll endeavor to communicate significant changes well beforehand.
Secondly – we will use best efforts to give folks an opportunity to use their hard earned mats for useful upgrades, or to trade them for the changed armor sets so that the effort doesn’t feel wasted. Look to FF14 tomestones whenever they get deprecated for an example of what we may try to do in the future.
World Boss Arboruht Difficulty
We made Arboruht significantly more difficult, giving him both more damage, more health, and changed his abilities to be more powerful. We also gave him end game loot, and a unique material only he drops.
We discovered a glitch during the launch that made him significantly easier than he was supposed to be (he wasn’t scaling correctly). The world boss was always intended to be a major obstacle, something that took at least a dozen people to take down, and a day or two of wiping to figure out for most people. (Think Extreme Trials, or Savage Raids). But on launch day, we noticed that people were able to kill him with a party of two to three people.
In addition, he didn’t drop anything, so killing him was completely pointless. So the goal was to actually make arboruht a challenge, and also give him great loot to drop.
A few glitches that were not noticeable before the patch became immediately noticeable after the patch. Namely that his conal AOE, which is now enough to wipe a party, does not match the VFX that you see locally. In addition to being much harder, you now need to memorize where the AOEs will actually be – which leads to the experience feeling unfair, rather than challenging.
What are we doing about it?
We think Arboruht without bugs is the right balance for the first world boss – therefore our focus is to fix the telegraphs, and make some minor tweaks, so that he feels fair, rather than impossible.
Many of you correctly felt that the communication on this patch was rushed and incomplete. The reason why we wanted to push the patch out ASAP was because there were several, really bad, progression losing bugs that we wanted to fix.
- Servers would randomly crash and boot people out. We also had no way of letting players know about impending server restarts which was a huge cause of frustration when we needed to restart servers.
- Users were permanently logged into the game, hundreds to thousands of players were unable to play unless we manually logged them out.
- People were losing half their inventory items.
- Enhancement gear would frequently disappear.
- And a myriad of other critical issues.
We made a judgment call that in this case, releasing the patch ASAP was more important than getting the communication right, because thousands of players were getting impacted by these challenges, and we wanted to do right by them.
What are we going to do about it?
Most of this will be in the post mortem section, but just know that our goal is to release patch notes about a week before the patch actually comes out.
We removed some shards because we had passed the peak concurrency of launch and hit more stable concurrency numbers. We did this so that we could encourage more players to play on the same servers, we wanted people to get a chance to interact with each other.
However, we realize that many guilds and friends were on these decommissioned shards and it’s hard to now communicate with each other.
What are we going to do about this?
Our goal has always been to allow for cross shard communication and social networks. In the future, once we’ve been able to polish the game more, we’re going to add social features that let you continue to communicate with your friends over VOIP, and see presence information, regardless of where they are currently playing.
In addition, we will do our best to only shut down shards with very low playerbases, and keep the high player count ones up so that the chance of guild interactions being impacted will be minimal.
Some of you have remarked that the game has gotten 2X harder since the patch. That’s because we fixed an issue with level scaling that previously did not take equipment into consideration. In essence, level scaling was actually never working properly before, and the system is now functioning as intended.
That means that the game is much harder for high level players, even at earlier zones, which means that challenge is preserved, and players can continue to enjoy every area of the game. We did this fix because previously higher level people would come into lower level zones and completely clobber all the content intended for lower level players.
However, we understand that for many of you the difficulty is now much too high. We also understand that you want to feel *powerful* at lower level zones – so we’re going to increase the level scale by a few levels, so that higher level players will always have an advantage at lower level zones.
Keep in mind the game will still be more challenging than before – and that’s intentional.
This has been a really difficult day for the team. We’ve lost sleep and spent countless hours addressing and fixing issues, but we’ve learned a lot, and we think this will make the game way better, and your experience much more fun in the future.
- Respect the Grind. We will always do our best to reward players for their efforts, even when upcoming patches change gameplay.
- We’ve learned that we need to hire more people to keep up with a live service game. We always knew this to an extent, but the urgency didn’t become clear until yesterday.
- We need to reorient the team and *slow down*. Our focus in the coming month will not be on new features, but instead, stability, polish, and bugfixing.
As a result of these learnings, we’ll be pushing to improve our processes internally at the company, to make sure the next patch process is much smoother. Here are just a few changes we’ll be implementing this month:
- A public test realm server, where any user can opt in to the latest design changes and test and give feedback on them.
- Take detailed patch notes during the development process so that we have a complete picture of every update going in. (This time, we basically winged it with our notes, and just did our best.)
- Hiring more QA folks to help us do full test runs of our game, so we can have a proper QA cycle.
- As mentioned above – realign from new features to addressing user and bug concerns so we can get Zenith more polished and fun
I want to be clear that we welcome any polite, constructive criticism. But one thing that I was really unhappy to see was the level of toxicity towards our volunteer staff and our developers in our Discord. Additionally, many of you spent the entire day berating the development team, despite our earnest efforts to keep you informed and tell you how we’re making it right. This kind of abuse is never okay, and it won’t be tolerated in our communities either.
Remember that everyone here is human and we are a small development team
We will continue to deal with and remove toxic members of our community as we have always done – and we reserve the right to take any action at any time if you continuously insult or ridicule the development team or volunteers.
Along the lines of transparency – i’d like to tell folks that we are rolling out an urgent hotfix patch tonight -- at approximately 10:00PM PST, 6:00AM GMT to resolve many of the issues we’ve encountered. The fixes include the following:
- Fixed Arboruht Worldboss Telegraph, so you now know exactly where conal AOEs will fall
- Invasion events were previously broken during the second phase, these have been fixed – in addition, invasion events will spawn every 15 minutes instead of every 40, so get ready to get those materials!
- Fixed an issue for some, where picking up an item would cause a lag spike
- Enemies can no longer be pulled all the way to the entrance, causing griefing to be much harder.
- Player level scaling per zone fixed so that higher level players will be 2 levels more powerful, instead of at the same level of the zone.
- Fixed an issue where a lone pirate would spawn in the mines
Thanks for reading this long post – and we appreciate all the amazing support so far. It has been humbling. We will do our best to live up to your expectations.
Andy -- Zenith: The Last City, Game Director
PS To see the patch notes from yesterday -- check here: