Developer Diaries


September 2020

My Dear Wizards,

The summer heat feels the same as it ever was, and also just a little different this year. While the outside world is topsy turvy (quite an understatement, I realize), we here at KingsIsle are committed to maintaining the Spiral as a place for our community that feels safe, stable, and positive. We want to ensure that Wizard101 remains a space for you to connect with your friends and family.

The team has also been dreaming up ways for you to better adventure and socialize in the Spiral and means for you to advance your Wizard to new heights, including beginning the Arc 4 storyline in Karamelle! We’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do some long-standing housekeeping to support Wizard’s growth and longevity, allowing us to be here for you for many, many years to come.

Also, we’re truly excited to celebrate Wizard’s 12th anniversary with you all September long!

Your Professor is an extremely goal-oriented individual, it's just one of those things built into us Producer-types. As such, we set some specific intentions and goals for Wizard101 for 2020. I'm going to talk about a few of them here, and how they’ve influenced our decisions about what goes into our updates and how we approach them.

It Takes All Types

It’s something we’ve done throughout the game’s history, but this year we really wanted to focus on making sure there’s something for every Wizard to do in game. However, there are a lot of different interests and personalities out there! Some Wizards are just getting started. Some Wizards have done everything there is to do. Some Wizards like to be the best. Some want to be the first to accomplish something, or to accomplish ALL of the things. And some are mainly just here to have fun with their friends.

If you're as interested in Game Psychology as I am, please google “the four personality types of Gamers”. As someone who loves the idea of the “sorting hat” in that other Wizard-y world, and who also can’t help but take every personality test that comes along, I was intrigued to find that I was very much an Achiever.

This makes a lot of sense! I LOVE our Events (including the new Monster Mayhem Beastmoon mode that debuted on Live this month!), adore our new Daily Spiral feature that gives me goals for the day, and have always enjoyed completing quests - so I'm more than jazzed about Karamelle. I’m not exactly a “Killer” (I don’t love that descriptor either, so let’s refer to them as “Competitors”, shall we?), so you probably won’t find me at the TOP of the Deckathalon or PVP leaderboards, but I do understand those folks well (being the best and defeating the rest is their goal – and I GET goals). I have some elements of “Explorer” in that I love new worlds and new stories, but I need a reason to explore as an Achiever. I like checking in with my close friends, but I’m not one often to sit in Commons and chat with everyone showing off my newest mount (I’m out using all that speed to conquer goals!), so I’m probably a Socializer the least of the archetypes.

There are a lot of different types on our team, and they all provide viewpoints to make sure the Spiral has something everyone. I do my best to remember the game shouldn’t just be for Achievers, but I tend to advocate for meaningful progression and lots of goals to achieve in the Spiral. Our Socializers make sure we prioritize activities that are just for fun, like Play as Your Pet, and have tons of ways to express yourself and customize your Wizard. The Competitors of the team are highly focused on making PVP and other similar modes the best they can be. And, last but certainly not least, our Explorers are hard at work creating a new world for you, making sure there are lots of secrets to find in every nook and cranny.

If it seems like we’ve been jumping around a bit this year, it’s been intentional. We've got plans for all four types coming up in the next few updates, so stay tuned!

The Balancing Act

Once we’ve made sure all the personalities are happy, we try to consider how we split our time between improving what exists already in Wizard and creating something new. This is a delicate balance! We love dreaming up new additions to the game. Believe me, we have a list a mile long of “New Stuff”, and should Wizard celebrate our twentieth or even thirtieth birthday, we wouldn’t be out of ideas (and ideas from the community contribute to the considerable length of this list too!). However, we know that if we just concentrated on adding new things to the Spiral, what we have now would fall into disrepair. We can’t have that!

The rest of what we do could be sorted into two categories - “Expanding on Old Stuff” and “Maintaining Old Stuff.” We love building new challenges into existing things in game, especially our side systems, and giving you new but also familiar experiences. Maintaining and overhauling older systems can be incredibly difficult and frustrating (for both the team and the community - change is scary), but at the same time can be the most satisfying thing we do. No matter how we all feel about it, maintenance is absolutely necessary to ensure that Wizard101 is a great experience for years to come.

Here are some examples of how we’ve split the year so far:

New Stuff:
  • Item Sets
  • Beastmoon Monster Mayhem Event
  • Fellspawn Skeleton Key Boss
Expanding on Old Stuff:
  • Khrysalis Fishing
  • Pet Combat Talents and Adventure Powers
  • Advanced Move in Housing
Maintaining Old Stuff:
  • Pet Mastery/Pet Hatching Changes
  • Shadow Pip Rebalance/Spell Audit
  • Player Character Update

Not every single update will be perfectly in balance of old vs new, but we do our best to make sure it evens out over a year’s worth of additions to the Spiral. This is one reason why we tend to roll out big features in smaller chunks over multiple updates: more stuff for everyone more often, we can more easily tackle giant initiatives like a full PVP overhaul, and we have more chances along the way to measure and check if you like what we’re doing – both with constant communication with our community as well as behind-the-scenes metrics.

Driving towards the next decade

If you'll indulge me in just one more metaphor, a twelve-year-old game is like a classic car, and classic car owners are one of two types. Some just drive the car until it stops working. They may change the oil and the windshield wiper fluid but ignore the engine rattling. Other owners are highly motivated to keep their car in pristine condition for as long as possible – they take pride in frequent wash and wax treatments, and the minute that engine sounds funny, they're cracking the hood to check it out. I'm happy to say that because of our dedicated community, together we get to be the second type of car owners - our collective passion, motivation, and dedication will help us keep Wizard running smoothly for a long time to come.

Really refining the first few hours in the Spiral is one way for us to put our best foot forward for new Wizards just enrolling in Ravenwood in 2020. How many new people can be starting a 12-year-old game, you may ask? The answer is a LOT more than you might think, and we want to make sure it’s an awesome experience for them. The opportunity to spend time on new player content isn’t something a lot of 12-year-old games get a chance to do, and we’re incredibly grateful for it! We've updated the quests through Triton Avenue and have plans to continue through the end of Wizard City in time. We’ve also improved how Wizard characters look and gesture, as well as opening up the Magic Mirror shop for gold so everyone can find a new and improved look they love!

We’ve also begun to delve into the guts of game rebalance. Adjusting combat values and conventions that have been around a long time is never easy, and in the instances where we’ve had to reduce some of those numbers, not always popular. I couldn’t begin to say it any better, so I’ll direct you to Ratbeard’s Dev Diary for the details on our Spell Balance Audit. However, I will add some commentary on the WHY – if we didn’t foresee this car road trippin’ for many, many years to come, we’d just keep up the service checks and leave the engine alone. Digging this far under the hood to make changes to support the proverbial Wizard level odometer hitting (level) 200 and beyond is the product of a healthy and thriving game. As I said previously, change can be scary, but the reason behind the change is anything but.

What’s Next?

We're extremely excited about what's to come in the next few updates. I usually spend some time in my last few sentences of these letters teasing the community with some creative hints as to what's up next, but as we've been more forthcoming lately, I don't have to be coy this time! We're hard at work on a lot of really cool stuff including...

Get sweet on Karamelle! If you haven’t visited Nana’s twitter or helped the very-nice-but-very-inept Bryce Crispie in Wizard City with his marketing duties, I implore you to go check both of these out to get hyped about our new world!

PVP Matchmaking improvements are coming! Check out Ratbeard’s post on these details and let us know what you think.

We’ll also be improving C... oh, I must leave SOME things as a surprise. Let’s just say there will be much more to announce before this year concludes!

We wouldn’t be celebrating twelve years of awesomeness in the Spiral without the amazing and dedicated fans out there. The team and I thank each and every one of you for continuing along with us on this long, strange, and entirely wonderful trip that is Wizard101.

With fire,

Leah "Professor Falmea" Ruben
Lead Producer