Some recent developments have caused me to reevaluate our upcoming test schedules and make some necessary adjustments. I will be moving the NDA release and the June 1st Alpha One start date to July. I know this is not ideal, and you have no idea how much it pains me to disappoint our community, but it is my responsibility to make these difficult decisions in order to ensure the test is successful.Testing for the 14th of May will continue for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with an updated schedule being sent to testers today. I am going to explain in detail the reasons for this, and hope you will understand the need and agree with the benefits of this decision.
Allow me to first recap the primary purposes and goals of our Alpha One testing phase.
Server deployment and performance testing
- Stress-test our server deployments and player concurrency numbers with high volumes of player activity and interactions
- Stand up multiple world server deployments across different geographical regions
- Soak test server grid health over a continuous period of production use
- Evaluate current networking architecture, and identify non-performant code and areas for additional optimizations or refactoring
- Test our build strategy and hot-fix deployment procedures, account services, web-based systems, launcher and patcher stability, and cloud-based infrastructure
System functionalities and behavior testing (in their core state)
Node features (In their core state)
- Experience collection – The ability for nodes to collect and store accrued experience from players in their Zone of Influence and for this data to persist in a global hierarchy of the node matrix.
- Propagation – The ability for nodes to advance in stages, reflecting the appropriate advancements in the following: culture, layout, quest hooks, spawners, crafting and processing stations, NPCs, service buildings, merchant tables, prop placement, housing, citizenship, government systems (election, appointment, terms, admin interface) and taxes, points of interest propagation and advancement, public projects, and parenting/vassal hierarchy.
Player character systems (in their core state)
- Experience collection and persistence, experience debt, death effects, corruption and flagging, inventory systems, character paper doll and equipable items, property ownership and player storage, stats and waterfall derivatives, combat and ability systems, tab and action states, race and class selection and their customization, movement and character states, looting and party management systems
Ancillary systems (in their core state)
- Caravans, drop, spawn, and reward table adaptations, player trading, mount and vehicle systems, raid and party functionality, guild progression and persistence, guild hierarchy, chat systems, customized AI behavior trees, boss functionality, harvesting prerequisites and procedural resource spawners, recipes and craft station systems, interactable containers and objects, global event manager, siege and battleground systems, open world traversal and dungeon design, quest and narrative dialogue setup
The above is not a comprehensive list of everything being tested in Alpha One, but it hits the primary points. There are many other data metrics being collected for our approach to the content production pipelines, system definitions, and refactoring as well. Not to mention a plethora of technical art implications and optimizations, but you get the gist. This is a very fundamental test that will impact the direction of development post-Alpha One, so you can understand the importance of testing and its need for player participation, attention, and feedback.
Over the last month, several new developments both internally and externally have led me to err on the side of caution and postpone the NDA release and Alpha One dates to July. If it had only been any one of these issues, we would have powered through it.
First, with the inclusion of siege systems and the combat backend revamp, our internal code-lock dates slipped a bit and ate into our QA and optimization timelines. While our feature timelines typically include a 30% padding to account for unknowns, I knew including this for our testing would be cutting it close. I made the call to take this risk due to its benefit for the overall testing period. The siege systems now being in place are still going through bug testing before they are ready for primetime. Oftentimes the bug fixing (QA period) can really tighten things up pretty quickly, so I gave it until the end of this weekend to evaluate. Suffice to say, these systems could benefit from another week or two of testing and bug fixing before being ready to include in Alpha One.
Second, our timeline for the move back to the studio has been accelerated, and this would have put our move-in dates in the middle of the June test window. That would have been a difficult task to juggle for the team, yet we were prepared to do so, and had plans in place for how to accomplish this. However, given the other factors of the delay equation, it made more sense to get the move out of the way first and allow our teams to be in the studio together during the testing period.
Finally, several new expansion launches for other live games were announced that would have coincided with our test starting June 1st. We estimate roughly 25% of our current testing pool are active players across these titles combined. This fact presents us with forcing our testers to choose between participating in our testing environment (which will be a long and arduous responsibility), or playing an expansion with their friends in other popular titles. As I outlined earlier, this testing period is an important one. It will require not only participation, but also the attention and feedback from both our testing audience and the broader Ashes of Creation community and general public.
Coupled with the above facts, media coverage and content creators would have been asked to cover either Alpha One for Ashes of Creation, or the other live launches on June 1st. While the primary purpose of this testing and NDA release is to collect data, gather feedback, and test systems, it is also an opportunity to grow our community, building on the already millions of people who are following our development and participating in the success of the project.
So, with the above information, I’ve made the decision to position our Alpha One presentation and testing period in the month of July, instead of June. If you are already a member of the Alpha One testing group, you will still be testing on May 14, but this testing will remain under NDA. Additionally, during the month of June there will be spot/stress testing that you will have an opportunity to participate in. Also, given the delay in our testing schedule, I will be extending our refund policy from 30 days to 90 days going forward for all pre-orders retroactive from May 5, 2021, out of respect to those who purchased anticipating the NDA release for this month.
As usual, we will continue to showcase in-game footage during our live streams this month and next. With the launch of our Content Creator Program, this will also provide some additional time for those of you who are interested in creating content around Ashes of Creation to prepare.
Again, announcing a delay is not the highlight of my week, but it is my responsibility to protect the project and position ourselves for success. While I will take this on the chin for the next few weeks, if it means a better Alpha One presentation with more time for QA, a smoother studio move, and better participation and coverage overall for the test, then I think it’s the right call. Hope you agree.
Your faithful Creative Director,