8Realms marches towards the end of the second phase of Closed Beta testing, and the biggest question from many people when we launched the second round of servers was, "Why hasn't our feedback been addressed?"
Feedback comes in many forms, ranging from the fiery forum thread to measured behaviour of the player base. We need to address not only the immediate issues, but also the bigger items. Some of these are not very visible when playing the game, and others take a longer time to develop.
Our early testers will remember the infamous "Soon" bug. Weeks of development has gone into rewiring some core systems and hunting down the little gremlins with a mallet. This has taken a large part of our development time over the last three months.
We have also been plugging in back-end systems to enable future low-level features like secure persistent sessions (so you can stay logged in for long periods), and switching the game over to SSL to better protect our players from potential security risks.
We have also been developing a myriad of other small technical items like server switching, better migration, stats modules and better caching. And we are looking into various website improvements and other back-end projects, not to mention a bug list that now justifies the term "swarm" - which we are constantly swatting down to prevent it becoming a plague.
From a design point of view, we have been tearing up large areas of internal maths to rebalance the game. Everything from individual unit stats to core Culture equations is being re-evaluated. Our goal is to make winning much more skill-driven, and less about dedicated play. We have a range of ideas, some which I can talk about (listed below), and others which work better as a black box and therefore can't be discussed.
The biggest change is that, at the moment, the game is built with a tear-away curve. Once you're in the lead, you tend to stay there, and it's easy to stay there. Well, we are trying to flip that so you have to fight hard for the #1 spot, but the fighting is skill-based. We want the average player who is logging in once a day for 5 minutes, and has a basic understanding of strategy, to be near the leader - not trailing Ages behind. While those top positions are to be hotly contested based on skill, this has always been our goal.
8Realms should be an approachable competitive game which you can play for a few minutes a day.
Now onto the juicy bits you've all been waiting for. We never like to reveal a feature until we are sure it's going to go into the game; features can be scrapped even fairly far in development, and we need that freedom to throw away. However, we know you are always keen to see what's next. Over the next few days we will be revealing some new features, some of which will be launching soon. Here are some items for your speculation: