Exclusive: Wizard101 Q&A dev diary on its PvP update and monstrology evolution

    
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Kid-friendly MMORPG Wizard101 is on the cusp of a big update — in fact, it’s already landed on the official test server as of this week. At its heart is PvP: new PvP daily rewards, a new PvP age, adjustments to PvP rank, and a whole new turn-based PvP tourney mode. There’s stuff for everyone, though, including lots of new chat goodies, tweaks to the quest and tutorial logs, and expansions to the fishing and monstrology systems.

You can check out the illustrated patch notes on the official site, and then feast your eyes down below, where we’ve got an exclusive (not sponsored) dev diary from the KingsIsle team, helmed by Senior Producer of MMO Content Leah “Professor Falmea” Ruben, in which the devs the thought process and planning behind the update!

Wizard101 Developer Q&A: Heating Up the Wizard101 Test Realm Hype!

Hi folks! It’s Professor Falmea here from Ravenwood. As the weather heats up here in sunny Texas, KingsIsle Studios is also preparing to warm up the Wizard101 Test Realm with some new updates. This year’s Summer Update focuses on what we call “quality of life” changes, where we look at the existing systems and the Spiral as a whole and pick out some things that we’d like to add to them or improve. We also pay attention to the hot topics in the community and see what we can do to make life as a Wizard more fun!

Some of our biggest changes involve the PVP system. We’ve made some additions and improvements such as these:
• Daily PVP rewards
• A new turn-based tournament type
• Decreased the ability to quickly boost your rank fighting the same person over and over
• A new PVP age—that’s right, the fourth age is dawning!
• New and shiny things to buy with arena tickets.

The upcoming changes have touched a lot of different parts and systems of the game. To those ends, we’ve asked several members of our MMO Team to give us a few insights into the upcoming Test Realm.

Cheryl Starcher, Lead Programmer, talks about the motivation to include these changes in our summer update:

Cheryl: The PvP changes came from our community manager championing the players’ concerns about rank boosting. We started with that and added the turn-based tournament mode, which was another player request. It’s very punishing to go second in PvP every round, so what turn-based tournaments do is even the playing field to let both teams effectively “go first” every round. I really wanted to call them “Noble” or “Chivalrous” tournaments, but I got overruled this time and so you’re stuck with “turn-based”.  The addition of Daily PvP Rewards is an attempt to make matchmaking better (quicker and more evenly-matched opponents) by bringing more people into the queues more often. So, the PvP changes were all about pleasing the community!

Matt Fahey, Senior Designer, answered some questions for us about the new turn-based tournaments.

Q: What was the initial motivation to create this feature or make these changes?
Matt: We’re always talking about PVP and how we can improve it. The majority of ideas come from player feedback and what our community would like to see in future updates. From there, it is prioritizing the issues and finding time in the design schedule to accommodate. The turn-based system was something we always had as a concept, especially seeing the positive feedback of its use in Pirate101. We know the Wizard101 community has been asking for something like this for a long time, and we were excited to be given the go-ahead and time in the design space to make the necessary code changes.

Q. What was the most challenging problem you encountered and how did we solve it?
Matt: Wizard101 combat has very strict phases which are all connected. The hardest part of the new PVP tournament mode was breaking it all down and then completely re-writing it to work with the phases. Things like Pip generation, Auras and Damage over Time countdown timers were some of the bigger hurdles we needed to tackle. Combat itself had to be completely re-worked, not only for this new mode but for all combats and how we handle the phases. Players will see no actual change in how combat plays, this is strictly how we handle the data generated from the actions triggered through combat. This was definitively a lot of work and required thorough testing of all combat elements to make sure all things functioned properly.

Q. What is your favorite thing about the feature/changes?
Matt: The new system allows for players to strategize after seeing their opponent’s move. When going from second, it was very much a guessing game of what you thought the player was going to do. This new system helps bridge the gap, making going second not as punishing.

Q. What’s something you’d like to add to the system in the future?
Matt: Expanding this system to make even more unique modes might be quite interesting such as a round-robin style where one player from each team goes, instead of the entire team on one side going all at once. Branching this type of system to PVE could have some interesting effects, especially if the enemies are going first, allowing for more strategy from the player side.

Q. As a player, what are you most looking forward to with these changes?
Matt: Playing the new tournaments against unsuspecting players!

Uh oh! Everyone watch out for Matt! I can assure you he’s bound to the same rules as everyone else out there (no cheating), so no worries; it’s just your skill against his if you meet in battle!

Our spring update introduced a new feature called Monstrology, which mashes together the collection aspect of some of our favorite games (gotta collect ‘em all), with some pretty neat ways for acquiring these “fantastic beast” essences.

Nathan Sumsion, Lead Designer, and Karl Holbert, Lead Artist, reflect on the origins and evolution of the system:

Q: How did the Monstrology system come to be?
Nathan: Whenever we look at adding a new system to Wizard101, we have to evaluate several different factors.
• What benefit will it bring to the player experience? What kind of rewards does it provide?
• How fun is it?
• Can it be played casually, or will it require a great deal of time investment?
• Does it fit the themes of Wizard101, and how to we integrate it into the world narrative?
• How much work will it take to implement?
• How much work will it take to maintain?
• How much room does it have to grow?

Karl: Monstrology was originally conceived by a few of us as a way to get higher level players to go back to lower levels and re-engage in content that they might have long ago passed through, as well as something that might help pique lower level players interest in continuing on their journey through the Spiral. It was supposed to be a simple / fun side system that didn’t cost the player anything extra to participate in and would also add some depth to the world. It was something that I have been championing for least five or six years now (possibly even longer) in some form or another. It was interesting to see how design and programing took this idea and added to it in order to give the players that extra bit of motivation to join in on the fun.

Q. Speaking of that, how did you settle on the rewards?
Nathan: As we began to discuss Monstrology, we liked the idea of not only defeating these enemies, but in allowing the player to receive something tangible from successfully defeating them. We had so many ideas that we liked, we didn’t want to settle for just one. We wanted players to be able to summon these characters in battle to help them out! We wanted players to be able to place them as guests in their houses. We created the Monstrodome so players could fight these characters any time they wanted at their houses. And it stands to reason that after defeating numerous enemies, the wizard would begin to improve their ability to defeat these enemies, so we created treasure cards players could make to instantly defeat one of these enemies.

As an aside, let me also note that we’ve read on the forums and in feedback that Wizards REALLY wanted to be able to create their own fights in their homes. Once this idea was brought up in concert with Monstrology we got even more excited about this feature!

Q. What were some of the challenges with the Monstrology system?
Karl: One of the biggest challenges was to make sure the system was easy to maintain from an art perspective. We’ve made many systems in the past that were so costly on the art side that it became quickly cost prohibitive from a production standpoint to add more or support it. Wanting to give this the best chance at success, I (as the art lead) kept a very close eye and worked with design and programing on what Monstrology became going forward to make sure this didn’t happen and that Monstrology was as art light as possible. Being a game that has been around for going on nine years we have an insane amount of character assets, and if we weren’t careful it, could easily fall into that same trap.

Nathan: There are so many colorful and interesting characters in the game. How cool would it be to keep track of some the various enemies you have defeated in Wizard101? The main hurdle we faced is obviously the sheer number of characters in the game. How do we retrofit a system of this scale to include many of the characters you can fight in the game? How do we categorize them? By world? By Rank? And what incentive would there be to players to engage in a system like this? We wanted something more than just filling out entries in a list.

If you’re wondering how we answered those questions above, come see Monstrologist Burke to begin your animus collection! We look forward to adding more characters and more categories to the Monstrology system in the future, and you won’t even have a long wait for the first update, it’s coming to a Test Realm near you VERY SOON! If you’re interested in reading more about Monstrology or our other Spring Updates, you can check them out here.

Wrapping things up, if you’re interested in some hard data about one of our oldest and our newest systems, Senior Designer Joel White (otherwise known as Decius to folks that follow KI Live) has your back.

Joel: I dug into the logs, and found some things that you might be interested in…

PVP is one of our oldest side systems, and it shows with the amount of data we have on it.
• We have had over 775 million PvP logs to date. That’s a lot of battles!
• Breaking that down by level, players at level 2 have done the most PvP matches, closely followed by levels 5, 10 and 50.

Monstrology has been keeping me busy lately. It is a huge system that touches just about every corner of the game. We are expanding on it as we can and plan on keeping it going for a long time. So far looking at the numbers…
• We have had over a quarter million house guests and treasure cards created from animus over the last few months!
• The five most popular summon cards are (in order): Lost Soul, Lady Blackhope, Field Guard, Foulgaze, and Lord Nightshade. The least popular summon card is Motley Crew.
• There were just under 400 monsters added to the Monstrology system with the initial update (with more to come!).

And… while it’s not a new feature, Pets is a favorite system of mine. Looking from Wizard101’s initial advanced pets launch in 2010, we have just under 100 million pets that have been hatched in the game. Anyone this summer who hatches a pet may actually end up owning the 100 millionth pet hatched!

There you have it, Wizards. Go forth and hatch, ready your weapons for battle, and keep looking out for new types of animus. We’ll make the final preparations for the Test Realm, and we’ll open these and many, many other changes up to the whole world soon.

See you in the Spiral!

Thanks so much to the Wizard101 team for sharing!

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Jeremy Lete

i was wondering if there would be new worlds in the wizard 101 game and if they’ll be adding new character names under the female characters

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LeiRaY PSY

It’s nice to see a Turn-Based system and not a luck based system, I knew you guys would hear me out one day after I sent a huge paragraph describing my thoughts on the system. I really didn’t find the perfect way. But it seems you guys understood my point and got together and thought of something. I believe it’s brilliant. Though some spells like efreet and Weaver were nerfed, fire and ice are at the top of the food chain after all. Balance didn’t really suffer much from this since now their mana burn is rather scary… Soo many things would change. One thing is for sure though the element of surprise is gone. On the other hand, the new boosting related update will definitely reduce boosting on a great scale. It isn’t perfect but it’s sure better than before . Boosters can still find a way around this, just make more accounts. I always thought removing 3v3 and 4v4 from ranked would be a much permanent solution but this is definitely a more open-minded approach. The dispel spam update is pretty decent too it will definitely make the game more fun to play overall and lvl 50 pvpers would need to adapt well since they mostly depend on dispels against high-level duelist. Overall the Update is very nice and understandable, keep up the good work. (Advice: As a yugioh fan the element of surprise can always come back if a trap system like yugioh would come to the game, this would take a lot of thinking though maybe for the future, for now, we can just stay cool with cloak.)

Best of luck.

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Akagi

Looks nice, but I can’t play turn-based MMOs, I’ve tried with this, Pirate 101, Dofus and Wakfu. All 4 are fantastic games, but the combat makes me feel I’m progressing at a snail’s pace.

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Chosenxeno .

I think always labeling these games as kid friendly hurts them. Wiz101 and Pirate101 are pretty unique and pretty good. For any age.

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Jack Pipsam

They do that themselves.

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Akagi

When Earth Eternal was still officially published (for the first time) they labeled themselves as a kid-friendly game too, but the playable characters were all anthropomorphic animals and the majority of the population ended up being those furries (back then I had no clue what’s a furry, I just liked being able to play as an anthropomorphic animal).

Whether they advertise themselves as kid-friendly or not, the same people will still find those games and play them.

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mistressbrazen

Thanks for this update Bree. Since Skysaga closed to prepare for beta, the grand kid and I have been playing Wizard 101. He loves the whole pet system and the mini games and is currently training a pet so he can compete in the derby. Now that grandmom explained how he can layer his spells to increase damage, he likes the dueling (not PvP) much better. He talked his mother into creating a Pirate 101 account for him and he seems to like the turn based dueling, even if I don’t like it at all. We don’t keep up with Kings Isle blog so we would have missed all of the above. Thanks for continuing to look out for the families that game.