Here we sit, nearly six months later after launch. I feel it's time we touch base with our player base once more. We'll go over what’s happened up to this point since launch, the problems we've encountered, what we've done to fix them, what we feel could have been done better, how our current state of the shard is, and our intentions for the future.
How An Corp Came to Be
How little we knew at this time. We inherited an expansive shard code that was still rather broken and unfinished. After the year or so of alpha and beta testing that happened on IPY3, we assumed that everything was pretty much ready to go. Looking back, this was not the case. Our Dev team was small and rather burnt out at this point.
Xiani and puppz both agreed to come over and help support our new server on the condition that we actively find a new coder to take over the Lead Designer spot. There was simply too much drama that happened during the transition from IPY3 to An Corp to keep the fire burning. Xiani was always persistent with his contributions. For the longest time, he was the sole coder for IPY3 and he helped realize several of the major systems that were implemented. The real hero of An Corp though is puppz. Without puppz, there would have been no chance of An Corp seeing the light of day. Puppz came in like a firestorm, coding things left and right. He was the one who pushed everything into a ready state, pushed for the IPY3 beta, and was constantly fixing things needing fixing. Through their combined efforts, they were able to implement all of the new systems IPY3 was bringing to the table. When IPY3 was cancelled by Az last minute, we were all rather disappointed and disheartened. Much of the fire and passion that had gone into the shard thus far was snuffed out.
At this point, the opportunity for what would eventually become An Corp came to my attention. With the support of puppz, Revlis of Immortalis and I started brainstorming for taking things over and launching under a new name. Revlis was not a part of IPY3 and it was a matter of sheer chance that we became known to each other during UO Zombies. When I approached him about taking the lead for future An Corp, he agreed to it. He purchased the server, got the forums up and running, and we were all prepped to start advertising for the shard. This lasted for two days before a conflict of interest caused Revlis to quit the project.
I was rather inexperienced at this point as far as being staff. My only prior staffing experience was as a GM during UO Zombies and when that was taken down, as a GM during the IPY3 Beta. While the desire to bring the shard to fruition was there, I acknowledged that my inexperience would hinder any sort of real attempt at giving the shard a chance at life. Puppz also realized this and he was rather burnt out over Az pulling the plug on IPY3 that he didn’t want to put forth the effort to watch everything crash and burn once more. It was around this time that An Corp truly almost didn’t happen. I had no experience and I couldn’t think of anyone who could fill the void of an experienced Administrator.
It was by sheer happenstance that I remembered Myrddin. I’ve known Padaxes and Myrddin both for about nine years now. We met through UO and we were all part of the same guild for several years. Our time spanned across more than a few free servers. I know Myrddin had been the Lead Admin on Divinity 2.0, but I was taking a UO break at that time and thus did not play Divinity. It had been months since last I had spoken to him. I thought Myrddin was done with UO at this point since he hadn’t really been active in any free shard since his time on Divinity. It didn’t even occur to me to ask. At the urging of Padaxes, I sent him a message about it, and well, you guys know how that turned out.
When I brought Myrddin and Padaxes on for this project, with them came Severin, someone with the ability and talent to code anything feasible within the realm of UO. We fully intended to have Severin take over the main coding duties. Unfortunately, shortly after Severin joined us on the project, real life issues became too much to ignore and he had to leave us. With launch rapidly approaching, we had no one to bridge the gap for our future Dev team. We were forced to rely on an already overworked puppz to pave the way for us.
I won’t touch too much on what happened during beta. This was a time for those of us coming into our new roles to familiarize ourselves with what we would be doing moving forward. We believed at this time that the shard was ready to go under the assumption that the IPY3 launch had been so close when it was cancelled. Padaxes had been vaguely following the hype surrounding IPY3, but Myrddin had only briefly played on IPY2, and was thus unfamiliar with a lot of the new features going in. There was lot of learning and mentoring going on at this time.
What Myrddin lacked in knowledge of the shard, he more than made up for in his abilities as an Administrator. The man is a walking, breathing book of staff commands. He’s a rare breed in today’s freeshard community. Few have such a full, commanding grasp on the abilities and commands that come with the territory of being an Admin. Without his mentorship during this time and all the way to the present, we would have been woefully lost.
We took the time we had in beta to further test out our systems and to allow word of An Corp to spread to the community. Wazza, from the Majestic guild, approached us around this time about building a website for us. After many countless hours of hard work, our beautiful front page that we’ve used since launch was presented to us, free of charge. A website was one thing we had been stressing over about getting up and working. None of us on the team had any prior experience designing a website. When Wazza approached us about it, it was as if a burden had been lifted from our shoulders. Regardless of how some people might feel about Punkte, his hype video was extremely helpful in getting word of our shard out. This was another thing that was put forth with no compensation expected at the time. Things were looking very optimistic for us. We were met with general approval, with only a few negative nannies trying to ruin the fun.
What a nightmare. Our first true test as a team. I didn’t sleep for about three days while trying to run damage control. At this time we still had not added in a new coder and puppz was stressed to the bone with real life picking up and trying to keep up with launch time stuff. The response we received was overwhelming on our first launch attempt. We had about 500 clients trying to log in at once when we opened the flood gates. It was at this time that the issues with lag became apparent. We had run the beta and had about 40 testers logged in at once. We figured everything was good to go. How naïve we were.
As soon as we hit the magic number of 300 clients, the ping tripled and the game became nearly unplayable. We struggled with this for several hours before deciding to shut the server down, wipe what little progress that was made in the four hour block of time the server was up and start fresh with what would hopefully be a fixed shard on the next day. When we opened the gates with the fixes we put in, it was rather disheartening to see that the ping issue hadn’t been fixed. We were at a serious loss at this point.
Myrddin decided to reach out to Mark and see if he would be willing to take a look at things. Myrddin had worked with Mark previously due to his time with Divinity, and while it was a long shot, it was an avenue we had yet to try. Much to our surprise, Mark agreed to take a look at things. Say what you will about Mark. If you’ve been a part of the free shard community for any sort of extent of time, you’ve dealt with Mark’s legacy that he’s passed on to the rest of us. His talent as a programmer and his willingness to help a fledgling server when he had absolutely no reason to speaks volumes for the kind of person he is. He could have very easily left us to flounder and eventually drown, but he didn’t, and my personal opinion of him changed drastically due to this.
Three weeks after launch, with the game finally in a playable, stable state, we were finally able to move forward with all of the things we wanted to do. Throughout all of the issues that arose with launch, our client count continued to climb ever higher. After our first month, we peaked at 1,225 clients logged in. Granted, the initial rush is always arguably the most exciting time of a new free shard. It’s easy to make something new. People will eat up new and exciting content. The trick is to keep the same player base happy and invested into the server and this is quite usually the bane of many new servers that have promising starts.
When Jimmy joined the team, Severin had all but disappeared and puppz was on his last legs. Would you guys believe that when Jimmy joined us, he was a novice when it came to RunUO? When puppz had to leave us due to real life work picking up, Jimmy stepped up in a big way and took control of our development with an iron grasp. We lacked direction with our development before that. Jimmy was able to come in after only three weeks of familiarization and actively contribute in a major role. I can say this with heartfelt conviction that for not Jimmy, An Corp would have likely stagnated much sooner than it did.
After several server moves and several hundred dollars invested by Padaxes, we started in Texas, moved to New York, and finally setting up with a good host in Chicago. With the move to Chicago, it seems our ping issues were resolved and our host is actually decent and stable now unlike the other two we had before. We will continue to this host as we plan for the future.
We’ve managed to build a wonderful and talented Dev team. We have three active coders, Jimmy, Saboo, Luthius, and Kirby will be returning to us to make it an even four programmers. These guys are real geniuses when it comes to the programming department. All of the “nerd” that goes on between these gentlemen produces amazing results.
What We Did Wrong
I’ll take this opportunity to touch on a few things we feel we’ve done wrong up to this point. If we’ve fixed it, I’ll explain why we changed or did not change and the reasoning behind it.
This one is pretty obvious. Tamers have always been considered the epitome of the PvM classes in UO. The fact that it was possible to make a GM tamer in about five days is bad. We fully agree that this was an oversight when we were adjusting skill gain. There simply wasn’t enough data collected on how fast skill gain was in general during beta. We realize the mistake now, but it is far too late into the server life for a drastic mechanic change.
There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the Kingship system. We like this system and feel it can add drama to the server in a good way. We made some small adjustments to the system, but ultimately there wasn’t enough tweaking going on. We hope to revamp this system and make it truly unique and interesting, while still remaining fair for the rest of the player base.
Before the shard launched, we nerfed the hell out of Paladins. We took experience from IPY2 and the general lack of reds on the shard due to the amounts of Paladins roaming around. We wanted there to be a healthy number of reds to provide more risk in dungeons and to have fun PvP fights outside of the OCB militia system. Thus Severin came up with and implemented the Dread Lord Blessing, which was meant to be a bandaid before we took another stab at Paladins and Murderers. There were a lot of other issues that cropped up and the revamp ended up taking a seat on the back burner.
I feel our planned shard events slowly got better over time. The Star God Incursion was a personal favorite of mine. GM Rothurn went all out when he did all the commands for the XML spawners during that final fight. The tournaments that Gauss held ran smoother each week that they were held. Our first few events though were pretty poorly planned out. The Atlantia event, while our first endeavor into a shard wide event, I think would have been a lot better if we didn’t have ping issues at the time. We should have stuck with a single, coherent main story arc and based everything off of that story line.
Keeping poor track of rares that we introduced into the game and the quantity of rares we introduced at one given time were simply bad decisions on the Administrative part. We realize that you guys like your pixel crack just as much as everyone else and we wanted to bring unique and interesting things to the server. We got a bit too rares happy, and as such, the market has been nearly non-existent.
What We Did Right
Nothing is ever perfect. There is always room for improvement, but these are some things we feel we we had a good design for. I’ll list the things we felt we’ve done well with, whether it was through implementing a new system or changing an existing system to make it better for everyone else.
League of Hero’s:
This was one of puppz’s designs, and I still feel it to be a genius system design. I would have liked to have expounded more on these, make more interesting and entertaining encounters, alas priorities and such.
I believe abolishing OCB and going the route of town militias was a well-founded idea. This got rid of the massive, zergy groups running around and allowed for guilds who had claimed towns to represent their prowess in the field. I think it’s safe to say we’ve had an extremely active faction- PvP community, more so than most other current free shards.
There have been a lot of rumors and accusations of staff corruption. Most of these claims are baseless rumors. I have come to know the staff very well as we’ve worked together to help make this server a reality. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys we have on our team. From the other owners, to the devs, and the wonderful GM support team. This couldn’t have been done without their help.
The Important Bit
Phew. This post took me several days to type out. I really wanted to touch on a lot of the things that have happened with the server. A lot of emotion has gone into writing this and more than several beers have been consumed in the making of this behemoth post. So many long hours have gone into this shard and the community. I can say with certainty I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when we launched An Corp. It has been such an amazing and fun experience for me. I can honestly say that I would happily take the plunge with you all once more.
There have been a lot of conflicting opinions of what we should do next. From the staff to the players, there have been speculations about the future of An Corp. It is no lie that our server has stagnated. When once we boasted a promising front and a bright future, those hopeful visions have dwindled. Our current population count rests below 100 clients. Since the 4th of July weekend, we have not broken 100 client count, our average count sitting between 50-85.
The talk of a relaunch has been circulating the community and the staff. This is an idea we’ve wanted to avoid. We didn’t want to risk alienating our remaining veterans who have been sticking it out with us. With how things are now, we feel a relaunch is probably the best route to take.
As such, we will be shutting down the live server as of July 31st, 2014.
We are not going to disappear though. This is something we’ve spent many hours arguing back and forth about. After a lot of trial and error, we finally have an excellently coded free shard. Unfortunately, this all came about far too late to save the server in its current state. We feel a drastic change is needed to respark interest back into the server. We owners talked amongst ourselves, then we talked with the Devs, and finally we brought the rest of the staff into the discussion. Everyone is still on board to continue working on the server and eventually relaunch it when we feel we’ve addressed all of the problems that have plagued our server. We will not set a new launch date until we feel our systems are near to perfect as we can get them. I suspect this will take several months. We plan to overhaul a lot of current systems based on the data we’ve collected thus far. When we do relaunch, the shard will be wiped completely and there will be a fresh start.
There were simply too many unknown factors when we inherited the code base. We didn’t have a solid grasp of what we wanted moving into this project. Our team was uncertain and we rushed things way too much in hopes of catching some of the crowd hype that IPY3 generated. Now, we are all familiar and comfortable with our roles, our team never stronger, the possibilities constricted only by time.
I fully expect to see a flurry of “Told ya so” posts pop up on the forums and Kadull to resurface once more so he can rub semen on his chest and go on and on about how right he was. We will deal with the backlash of this decision and moderate the forums as need be.
What The Future Holds
We will keep the forums up and active. We would like to invite anyone who feels they would like to contribute to join us as testers and advisers to assist with content testing, ideas, and balancing. Now is the chance to have your input heard during a crucial rebuilding phase. You guys know what we are capable of. These aren’t empty words that I write here.
Jimmy will be at the helm of this rebirthing process. The owners have delegated veto powers to Jimmy for design creativity. He will be making the calls for what goes in and what doesn’t. We will still support the server and continue as we always have in our roles, but instead of three people having to agree on a new feature, there will now only be one. We trust in Jimmy and will be here every step of the way to support the project moving forward. If you genuinely wish to see An Corp become all that it can be, now is the time to get involved.
What We Want To Do:
These are just some of the things that we want to address during the rebuilding phase. There are many more things that are being discussed right now. We hope to have a solid, comprehensive work plan in place in the next 2 weeks so we can start with the developing process. We will actively keep the community informed of any new changes or new systems going in.
*Completely revamp our PvM system. The new AI will go into effect here.
*Address the Murder system. Introduce Dread Lords and rebalance Paladins. Give the entire system a thorough make over. Make being a murderer or hero have a purpose once more.
*Readdress our economy
*Add new and interesting elements to the Town Militia system
*PIRATES! More details forthcoming
* Revisit crafting
*Document EVERYTHING. What we spawn into the world, issue as drops, keep the wiki accurate and up to date.
*Improve upon the Kingship system
Things turned out rather unfortunate for us in the end, but we feel given with how much of a powerhouse our current Dev team is, we can someday see the light once more. We have one more attempt in us. This is purely our own project now. We have no stigma hanging over us. There is no longer any uncertainty with what we intend for this shard. We hope that the next several months will be very telling for us and the future of An Corp.