State of the Team
Before we look at our roadmap, it is important to take a look at the team working on it as that is highly relevant to the entire endeavour. We generally never talk about our team size because that number rarely reflects reality. Our volunteers do the best they can, when they can. Sometimes that is 2 hours a week for one person, and 10 hours a week for another. Sometimes someone is gone for a month, or three. All of them, including Ealix, have full time jobs and a variety of obligations. Everyone contributes to the team what they can, and all their contributions are considered equal and valuable.
We have been through some really tough times in terms of numbers for the past year or so. You have seen it clearly - fewer events, fewer god roles, fewer interactions. There were long stretches of time when all we had to work with were the producers, one senior godmin, and maybe 3 Ephemerals. Those are not our actual numbers, but those were often the numbers we had to work with. As you can imagine, supporting an entire game on these numbers is a challenge. Still, we persevered and worked hard. We have been rebuilding our team and the delays you have seen here and there were because of that - because training new volunteers has been the highest priority and that training takes enormous amounts of time. As a result, we have a very eager, active, and skilled Ephemeral army and our godmin have thrown themselves into work, going above and beyond because they, like you, care enormously about Lusternia.
We have, however, recently stumbled across a significant difficulty when it comes to our coding capacity. Ealix has been rendered almost entirely unavailable by work at the start of June and his busy period is estimated to last until the end of August. Because of that he is stepping down to an Assistant Position for the moment. There is no one who can replace him at present which means that our coding resources are limited. That said, we still have coders on board: Orael, who you have seen knock out all the reports, Ais, our latest, Scout, who you know is finishing up his timeline project, and then our mortal coders and myself. What this means is not that no coding is happening, for it certainly is, but that the sort of big projects we want to work on will not happen overnight and that we need to make do with what we have right now.
While our team is eager to work and will be doing their very best work for you, please remember that they are volunteers. They signed up to do this work primarily in order to make your experience better and their dreams are big. But the enemy of every volunteer is time and guilt. Nobody is harder on them than they themselves. They do not need to be reminded that there's a letter they didn't answer yet, an admin request they did not complete, or a plot they did not tie up. They are not refusing to do it or ignoring you intentionally, they are doing the best they can. Be patient as it is very easy to drive godmin away due to stress and negativity, but it takes years to train them.
Last year we decided not to have an Ascension event due to desire to focus on rebalancing conflict events and alliances first. As a result, the story arc that usually accompanies Ascension was also put on hold. Ascension, treated as one package deal, is a facet of Lusternia that offers something for everyone. Those who play for intrigue, lore, and world-changing events enjoy the story that accompanies Ascension. Those who enjoy competing find Ascension trials to be the best challenges. And the final event provides a little bit of everything, including large scale conflict. It is a stage that offers something for everyone.
As such, we have decided to go forward with Ascension for this year and the associated storyline will be starting before long. We know that there are plenty of reasons not to do it: alliances and conflict not finished, some skills need work, alliances are uneven, etc. However, we believe that it is the best course of action for the game to proceed anyway because Ascension is Lusternia's biggest event and the exact thing we need to bolster our player numbers.
The shape of the final event is one of the things we have wanted to tackle for a while, but as mentioned before, our coding resources are limited. It is possible that it will remain as is with smaller changes, or by that time we may have more opportunity to make adjustments. Whatever shape it will take, the entirety of Ascension plays out over months, and is a forge and a challenge unlikely any other. We are dedicated to making it as fun an experience as possible for all types of players.
Although we made plans for many changes that would improve the game, as mentioned we were hamstrung by losing much of our coding support for a long time, through no fault of anyone's. As a result, there are two major projects that have been on our plate for a while now - Economy and Conflict (with Alliances as part of Conflict). We put in a lot of time into improving our coding capabilities, but we are not quite there in our ability to take on game-changing projects of that nature.
We do have coders on board, but they all have different levels of experience and skills, and can contribute varying amounts of time to projects. Implementing Reports, for example, is vastly different to tackling Economy. The first is by default broken down into dozens of tasks that only really require small changes. Meanwhile, Economy is a project that touches every single facet of the game, requires a deep understanding of the very complex and entwined systems at work, demands thorough documentation (which was missing prior), and half a dozen people at least to make sense of it and design a path forward. It is not something that a single volunteer coder can manage on their own, nor will most have the necessary skills to do so - skills that go beyond coding.
Having said that, both of those projects are still important to us and are seen as valuable for the well-being of the game. We will not take them on wholesale but instead will re-evaluate their scope and break them down into incremental changes. They will not be the focus that ties up all our coding resources though as we will be seeking your input into other systemic changes that are necessary as well.
One of the topics that we feel needs looking at is the newbie experience and we would like your help in articulating the focus for this project, as well as, analysing the difficulties newbies face. To that end we will be opening a thread on the forums and would very much appreciate any and all concerns to be listed there. Among the things that are on our radar already are: adding race as an option to the Newbie Intro, full instancing of the Pools, a look at College tasks, and a centralised source of newbie-friendly information (a dedicated help section with bite-sized overviews).
The request system is a great roleplay and development tool, except when resources are limited. Our system has accrued 39 pending requests, some of which are very old. This is an issue across all organisations, not just specific to a few.
From this point onwards the request system is closed, with the exception of festival or urgent guild structure requests. We are going to look over all the requests in the system and plot a path forward. It is possible that some requests may be rejected, even if they have been previously approved, if we do not believe their current value to be equal to the amount of time it would require to implement them. We will be reaching out and keeping organisational leadership updated and involved in this process. We are also revamping current development clans to be more user-friendly and informative. Once pending requests have been completed, we will update the system to be less nebulous and more able to deliver in a timely manner.
One thing we will be looking at is developmental parity across organisations, most notably the guilds. We do not believe the new guilds to be on par with the old ones just yet, and access to various roleplay tools (such as rituals, quests, fully fleshed out tutors, etc) is still uneven. When analysing pending requests we will also be looking at it from that perspective, including for cities and communes.
While this undertaking is in progress, and also in general, remember that you do not require admin requests or even admin oversight to conduct the vast majority of guild development. Rituals and rites of passage that were a part of the old guilds almost always started out as roleplay. Repetition is how they became tradition, and then also how they became actual codified features. Similarly, if you are struggling with the guild tasks system, you do not have to use it. Just because it exists does not mean it has to work for your guild. This is true of many codified aspects of guilds - you do not need code support to develop guild identify and mechanics should not limit you. We understand many worry about making changes and being overruled later, but long as you are staying within the parameters of your guilds and not trying to change their fundamental nature, you are just developing identity. Asking us to codify something is where lore review is involved and when requests may get rejected, but outside of that it is the individual member's vision that drives their guilds and builds their roleplay.