Producer's Letter


September 2015

My Dear Wizards,

The sun is fiery, the air is hot, and my colleague Lydia Greyrose is taking her Holiday, hiding out in a refrigerated cellar on Colossus Boulevard to escape the heat. But between you and me, Wizards, this is my very favorite time of year, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts, hmmm?

First of all, a very happy SEVENTH birthday to us! Wizard101 has been going strong for many years, and it’s definitely thanks in part to the wonderful and dedicated community out there. We wouldn’t be here without you! MMORPG had some really nice things to say to wish us a happy birthday, and to celebrate, we’re revealing some little known facts over social media that may be interesting, and especially nostalgic to some of the Wizards that have been with us since the beginning. We’re already beginning to talk about next year’s plans, and I’m really excited for all the things that may just be uncovered in the Spiral before we turn eight years old!

As for what’s happened in the last half of year seven, we’ve had a lot of shiny, new things uncovered in the Spiral, so let’s talk about some of them, shall we?

Sock-it to me

As I mentioned in the Developer Journal we’ve been talking about this system behind the scenes for years, and the feature finally made it into game this summer. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to bling yourselves out yet, socketing lets you customize your rings, athames, amulets, decks, and now pets by adding jewels that give you either a boost in stats, additional spell cards, or new pet talents. Some of you who responded to the Journal were surprised it took so long, but it’s actually not that uncommon for us to begin something months, even years, before you see it show up on the Test server.

Just for fun, here’s a little glimpse into how the process usually works:

  1. A feature starts with an idea, like, “hey, let’s make gear more customizable!”
  2. Then, it gets a working name (Socketing) which sometimes sticks and sometimes does not (for example, we called One-Shot Gauntlets “Disposable Dungeons” for quite a while, and while it had a nice ring to it, we didn’t think it was the most… positive name), and about a 1 page description.
  3. At that point, it’s documented and we start evaluating if it’s worth putting into the game.
    •     o From there, the idea can either be:
      •     ♦ Scrapped – we all agree it’s not a good idea and/or it’s not worth the time and resources it would take to make it happen
      •     ♦ Put on hold pending investigation – we need to look more closely at the technical requirements or design implications before making a final decision
      •     ♦ Backlogged – we’ve decided to implement the feature, but aren’t ready to commit to a time frame.
      •     ♦ Greenlit for a specific release!
  4. Once it’s greenlit, it gets a full design doc – this can be anywhere from a few to a few dozen pages, depending on how big the system was. Socketing had 21 separate sections, it’s a really big system.
  5. Then, we circulate the design doc among leads and relevant team members, giving everyone the opportunity to raise concerns or request clarification.
  6. Once that’s signed off, programming writes a technical design doc.
  7. Then, we start prototyping.
All this happens months before the feature’s development milestone starts.

So, while sockets were discussed extra-early, starting on a major feature a year or more out from its release is quite common! We hope you’re enjoying the end result.

Ultra Summer

Being that it’s my favorite time of the year, we wanted to make this summer super special. The worlds of the Spiral aligned JUST RIGHT, and we were able to fast-track upgrades to several of your favorite systems, making this the ULTRA SUMMER of 2015!

Ultra Seeds
These seeds grow into Ultra Plants that are easier to care for, and give better rewards. You’re more likely to get an Ultra Seed from an Ultra Plant as well!

Ultra Pets with Jewel Collars
At Ancient, you can unlock your pet’s Jewel Collar and socket jewels to it. Additionally, you can also now level your pet up to Ultra (that would be one level past Mega), opening up some pretty nifty new talents. You’ll get one automagically, but you can replace it with anything you find around the Spiral.

New PVP Age
It’s the third age, so the slate has been wiped clean, we’ve improved a few long standing issues with matchmaking (something that starts with a P and rhymes with Stuppitbeams), and there are some new rewards, including the level 100 items you’ve been requesting.

Ultra Dungeons
Some of your old enemies have returned for revenge, and this time, they prepared. More on this below.

New Baddies to Baddle

You can never have too much of a good thing, and that’s why you’ve seen an onslaught of cool, new boss fights with cool, new loot. We’ve added Skeleton Key rooms, One Shot Dungeons, and Ultra Dungeons. The Skeleton Key rooms have given us the chance to finally explore some of the nooks and crannies that were previously locked away. We opened up quite a few last year. Then we followed up with Aphrodite in Darkmoor this year (feed me, Seymore!) And rest assured, we have many more ideas to tackle in the coming years!

We started with the concept “one run and you’re done”, and that’s how the idea of One Shot Dungeons was born. Essentially, we envisioned these as playable CCG packs for you and 3 of your friends. Sure, it takes a little more effort than just opening up a CCG pack, but that’s why we made the loot all the more lucrative. Just don’t call them “disposable dungeons” as I did above, or they might get offended!

Who doesn’t love a good rematch? We certainly do, and that’s what the next evolution of One-Shot Dungeons become – meet the new Ultra Dungeons! Rattlebones was naturally at the top of that list, but we figured you’d also enjoy another bout with other favorites like Krokopatra, Meowiarty, and Zeus (and pals!). We thought it was a nice touch also to keep the classic look of their loot tables, but with a significant upgrade for the challenge.

Together as One

As I announced to our Pirate-y friends in this letter, we have combined forces to create the MMO Live Team, which is cool because we get to work together to make both of our live MMOs great. On their side of the Spiral, Pirates just got their own unique version of ranked PVP, our first nautical gauntlet, the Pirate’s Regatta, Companion Talent Updates, Combat Speed Increase Options, and much more. If you fancy both wielding a wand AND commanding a ship, you might want to check it out.

On this side of the Spiral, you shouldn’t see much of a difference in how we do things due to the team changes. We’ve still got the experts here uncovering new places to visit and new things to do and improving things in general. I must admit, though, I’ve been checking out the cabins on some of the ships over there, and may have to consider taking a vacation cruise, but I have no plans to leave my classroom anytime soon!

Future Stuff

We’re working on new things. Shiny things. Things that a lot of you have been asking about or predicting. But, unfortunately, I can’t say much more than that right now.

However, between birthday cards and other assorted mail, I did just receive this postcard from an unknown sender. We’ll be working on deciphering what it means here at Ravenwood, but if you want to lend a hand, feel free to take a look!

Stay fiery,
Leah "Professor Falmea" Ruben
Senior Producer