My Dear Wizards,
As the temperatures grow colder here at Ravenwood, this Pyromancer must soon take her leave and travel to warmer climates. But first I wanted to chat about what an amazing 2019 we’ve had! This has certainly been a year of transition. We decided to take a few chances and do some different things than were typical in our first ten years, and I think for the most part, it looks like we hit the mark!
Let’s take a look at the last half of the year...
THE WIZARD CITY UNDERGROUND
We’ve talked at length about the Wizard City Underground
, but I couldn’t help mentioning it, as the community respond to our new side world and gauntlet was overwhelming. As a team we thoroughly relished the idea of revisiting and expanding upon existing lore from the first arc instead of going somewhere new. We’re glad to have taken the risk, and are overjoyed with how much positive feedback we received regarding the look, style, story, and the composition of WCU. Our writers, designers, artists, and sound team always want to take you to exciting new places and show you new stories, so we’re overjoyed that you liked this fall’s new content!
THE BEASTMOON HUNT
The Beastmoon Hunt
event took a huge team effort to pull together in time for the Summer update, but it was worth it. We love Beastmoon and judging by the community’s feedback, so do you! Team based PVP games are all the rage right now, and we wanted to see how we could incorporate that type of fun into Wizard101 as our second event. We wanted to create a team based PVP system without some of the stress of a straight one-and-done-and-ranked PVP match.
In the Beastmoon Hunt you work together with your team, sometimes supporting in combat, sometimes strategically occupying positions in the arena, to pull off a Beastmoon win together. During development we had daily playtests with the team, and you should have heard the smack talk being thrown around the office! We’ve immensely enjoyed creating Beastmoon, and we’re excited for our future plans with the event.
If you haven’t yet taken part in a Beastmoon Hunt, you should check out these guides from Ravenwood Academy
and Final Bastion
to get you started!
have been one of my favorite new additions to the Spiral this year. The challenge to get to the top of the tower is something I always enjoy undertaking. In fact, while penning this message, it occurred to me that the Storm tower only had one day left, so I had to go immediately to try to beat floor 12 (success!). We really enjoyed bringing this strategic treasure card only mode to the Spiral. After almost a full run of the towers, and a lot of changes along the way, we wanted to figure out what could keep the experience fresh.
Starting in January we’ll be launching a few changes to the towers. First of all, they’ll go all the way to floor 30 now with each school’s Professor waiting at the top. It's going to be a challenge to get there, one most Deckathletes will likely not manage for the first event, or maybe the second or third. As you reach higher floors there are some cool, school-specific rewards along with chances to get some loot from the Professor’s Hoard pack.
We’ve limited entries to three per day, but don’t fret because we’ve introduced my favorite part of the new towers – Endurance Mode. Instead of being kicked out every three floors, you can just keep going… and going… until you’re defeated or run out of cards! We’ll be very interested to see how far everyone can get in one run (our best internally so far is about fourteen floors). We’ve also brought back the leaderboards, but they’re primarily for bragging rights, netting our top Deckathletes a trophy and a badge to show their accomplishments.
There have been some mixed reviews of limiting your entries per day, but we really like making the top of the leaderboards for the most strategic Deckathletes instead of the Deckathletes with the most time. We’ll continue to monitor feedback and participation as we did with the first round of the event, and we may change things up in future updates if circumstances require.
SINBAD GAUNTLET + PACKS
We decided to try something new with the contents of what was a previously unused Gauntlet retail card and give our community new options on how to acquire it. If you want the gauntlet outright, it’s available for purchase on the game’s main website. We thought players who don’t live within range of a retail store would appreciate this! The corresponding mount, pet, gear, and weapon were set as drops in the gauntlet.
Simultaneously, we launched the Sinbad’s Hoard Pack, which was a typical pack with a bonus – you could obtain magnificent, magical, and marvelous clay reagents to craft the gauntlet as well! If you’ll notice, some of these clays are now available on the Scroll of Fortune and will be in the new Deckathalons starting in January. You'll be closer than ever to crafting Sinbad’s Gauntlet with just a little more clay, and then brush off your Decathlete Decks and climb that tower!
Speaking of incremental progress towards the acquisition of cool loot, we’re really excited to introduce the Spellwrighting system and the concept of upgradeable spells.
First, let’s talk about why Spellements are so cool. We realized that trying to obtain a single, rare item (like a spell) can be super frustrating. You have no idea whether you’ll be successful in your next attempt or twenty attempts, since you either get the item or you don’t. We realize that this can be confounding at times if fortune isn’t with you. Spellements are a way for us to mitigate these frustrations by offering you incremental and obvious progress towards obtaining spells. Farming the Loremaster or opening packs for new spells should be MUCH more rewarding as we release new spells and convert existing spells to the Spellwrighting system over time.
Second, how about those spell upgrades? We love the ability for Wizards to be able to improve and customize their spells, and while it will be a slow rollout, we already have plans for the first dozen existing spells we’ll integrate in the system next year. We’ve long had the idea of some sort of specializations within certain classes, and now we can make that happen, spell by spell! While not all upgraded spells will have branching paths like the Firecat example we showed off in the fall update notes, we like the idea of letting you customize your Wizard’s spellbook to play your class in your own special, unique way.
We’re excited about the potential for this system and want to hear what spells YOU want to see upgraded.
Over the last eleven years, I’m sure you’ve collected a lot of stuff. I know we have on our Wizards! You should see some of my incredibly untidy houses... it’s a bit embarrassing. The Backpack Butler won’t help me konmari my castles or anything, but it will help me find all my long lost pets, mounts, housing items, and more that I’ve stored in my backpack, bank, shared bank, houses, attics, vaults, music players, and mannequins. Wherever I’ve stashed it, I can locate it thanks to my new favorite houseguest. We should all also thank Gary Scott Smith, Principal Software Engineer and Designer, who concepted, designed, and implemented the feature!
FTUE stands for First Time User Experience and we’ve been focused on it the last two years (and will continue to do so). We still have a TON of new Wizards starting their adventures every day, and we want to make sure we’re giving them the best experience possible. A big push was made earlier in the year to revamp Unicorn Way, and we were incredibly pleased with the community’s reception to our efforts to spruce up our early game!
There are some big plans happening next year to continue the process and to make the beginning of the game as amazing as can be, so stay tuned for updates. We’d love to hear from the community: what would have made your first-time experience better? Is there something that could have been explained more clearly? Is there a part of Wizard City that you found frustrating? We’d love to hear about it.
Last, but not least, a small handful of PVP changes were released to the Test Realm for evaluation:
- Guardian Spirit has been changed to NO PvP. The purpose of this change is to see the viability in life in PvP beyond using this spell to “never die.” Changing this meta will reveal what strengths/weakness beyond Guardian Spirit we see in Life PvP. This change does not affect the functionality of Guardian Spirit in PvE content. The hope is that while Guardian Spirit is pulled from PvP, we will be working on re-balancing it with the intent of removing the NO PvP flag.
- Loremaster has been re-balanced to be more in line with its Rank. Loremaster remains a Rank 4 spell, but had damage reduced to 235–315. Its Weakness has been reduced to 15% and Accuracy debuff to -25%. This change affects the spell itself and will have an impact in PvE. However, Loremaster is still balanced slightly above value, but has had its numerical advantages reigned in.
- Burning Rampage has had its delayed damage effect trigger after 3 rounds instead of 2. This allows the targeted player (from second to act) one additional opportunity to counter the effect before they take damage. This change affects the PvE version as well.
We have a systems design team who are very motivated to make PVP more fun and fair for everyone, including Matthew Fahey, who is taking point on this initiative. We’re looking forward to making more changes and chipping away at PVP balance in future updates. There are a lot of ideas on the table right now, and we’re really excited to work with our passionate community to help nurture this game mode, aiming to make it a better experience for our existing community, and also bringing more folks in to compete.
Speaking of ongoing developments… we’re already plotting and scheming on what awesome things we can put into 2020. Here’s a few hints:
- Fashion and function will become more… coordinated…
- It would be fitting that a hamster was behind all the chaos in …
- It will be more important (and lucrative) than ever to assemble your squad and support each other...
…and so, so much more. Shortly after the first of the year, we’ll have a new Beast Form available in Beastmoon Hunt, the first 30-floor Deckathalon will launch, and there may be some other unexpected and unique surprises in store for January. Our team has worked really hard this year to pack 2019 with amazing updates, and we plan on continuing this trend and building on it in the next!
For now, let’s all relax and enjoy this holiday season’s 12 days of the Spiral
, which we kicked off December 9th with Santa Jaws, the new charity mount which benefits Creative Action and the Ronald McDonald House. We also just released the new Yule Logger’s Pack with Reindeer Knight Spellements (to obtain and upgrade the spell). There are also lots of gifts and contests in store for the coming days!
As always, we cannot thank our community enough for being with us every step of the way. We’re reading your comments, we’re in your livestreams, and we greatly appreciate all the feedback. We’re always trying to make the game that our collective community wants to play, that will be around and thriving for many years to come.
From our team to you and yours, we wish you all a very safe and happy Holiday season!
See you in the Spiral,
Leah "Professor Falmea" Ruben
Senior Producer of MMO Content