Before we all take a long winter’s nap, I wanted to reflect on this past year and all that we’ve accomplished. Each year we set goals for the game, which are our “North Stars” to guide us for the year of development.
So, I’d like to peel back the curtain a bit to give you some insight into WHY we chose what we chose to tackle in 2021, and some light analysis on how we thought it went!
Goal #1 - Optimize Tools and Processes
This one is sort of an internal goal that doesn’t always have a direct tie to player-facing content, but it’s relevant, I promise! We finally bit the bullet and spent some significant development time upgrading our engine to support 64-bit, which made the game much more stable, allowing us to upgrade our internal tools and letting us future proof Wizard for a long time to come.
We also focused on making world creation more efficient. We started with work on a dialogue tool for sound and voice overs to help organize and generate recording scripts which has already saved us weeks of work just this year. Then after we launched Lemuria, we started analyzing how we create new worlds, top to bottom, department by department, and we want to make sure we’re doing it the best way we can and not just the way we’ve always done it. These optimizations are tricky to prioritize because they come at the cost of new features RIGHT NOW, but the time investment means that we’ll be better equipped to support the game for decades to come. The quicker we are at making content, the cooler content we can create. It’s neat how it works like that...
Speaking of worlds, I wanted to take this opportunity to say a hearty thank you to everyone at KI for their hard work either developing or supporting us in getting Lemuria and the Fall Update released, as well as our dedicated community on all your great feedback. It’s the second world we’ve built soup to nuts entirely from home, and the first we’ve built under the gamigo umbrella. It was a wild ride this year, which I say every year, but I REALLY mean it this time. I’m proud of everyone who’s played a part in making this Fall Update great (our amazing community and content creators as well!).
Goal #2 - Focus on Improving Existing Game Systems vs Creating New Ones
This one helped us make some decisions when creating milestones in 2021. We spent much of our resources on the game stats audit, PVP system revamp, and quite a few things that you’ll see shortly in coming updates. We dedicated time to finishing the Wizard City quest revamp. We made some exciting quality of life changes, like the fan favorite of making 20 lengthy AOE spells to all-at onces instead, improved and expanded Castle Magic, and something we’ve wanted to do for many, many years – revamping the quest log! I was so excited for this one as I am a consummate collector-but-not-finisher of side quests. I have so many quests that are almost finished!
While we probably won’t focus quite so much next year on existing systems since we have other big plans, it was really satisfying for the team to be able to make these improvements. We often move so fast trying to create as many new things as we can for the community each update, we sometimes don’t get a chance to revisit parts of the game that we really want to!
Goal #3 - Focus on Bringing Players Together for Meaningful Social Interaction
I talked at length back in June about why we feel like player socialization is SO important. When looking to improve the social aspects of Wizard101 we started with existing systems like Grouping, Questing, Team Up, and Combat Sigils. We examined these features with an eye on how to remove friction from Wizards playing together and reward them for doing so. This work also synergized nicely with the previous goal of improving existing systems.
We have some neat internal metrics on how these changes have positively impacted the game, but I believe the coolest one is when I logged into Karamelle and saw 12 pages of friendly flagged players. I went to Wizard City and saw 21. This is SO IMPORTANT, everyone! As a new player, if I know I can reach out to someone who has encouraged me to do so by letting their friendly flag fly, I can ask questions or get help on a quest or just find someone to chat or group with. A friendly, helpful face is the kind of thing that can make someone stick around and get immersed in the magic of Wizard.
We also started work on some of the larger social systems, beginning with Adventure Parties. We built more into its functionality and responded to feedback as Wizards got a chance to try it on for size. Know that there’s much more we’re planning for next year. I don’t want to sayyyy the “g-word” but if you could see some of the exciting design planning recaps I’ve been reading lately... let’s just say you’re in for a treat next year. I’m fired up about it!
Goal #4 - Make Subscriptions More Interesting and Memberships More Valuable, and Get Previous Wizards to Give the Game Another Try
We wanted to make some more interesting ways to subscribe to Wizard101, so we added the opportunity to subscribe not just for membership, but to include items like packs and spellements. We had a really neat feature pertaining to memberships that didn’t quite make it into the Fall Update, but we’re excited to launch it next year and think it will make our existing memberships waaaay more of a value. Stay tuned!
One of the biggest things we wanted to revisit was our campaigns to bring folks back who had tried the game and stopped playing for one reason or another. We also wanted to explore the reasons why the first Free Wizard City promotion long ago just wasn't as successful as we would have liked when we tried it before. So, we did a few things:
In August, we invited a small group of the community back to try us again for 14 days.
In September, for Wizard’s birthday, we opened up Wizard City and Krokotopia to free-to-play players for two weeks.
In November, we made our first two worlds free for everyone again for two weeks.
In December, with the 12 Days of the Spiral – everyone is a member during our holiday event!
At KI, we do love to analyze data, and we’ve found that each of these trials has been quite encouraging. We don’t have a full plan of action yet for 2022, but expect to continue to see promotions like these, and for us to expand upon them when we feel it will be beneficial for Wizard101 to do so.
Our last goal, the one I haven’t mentioned yet, was:
Goal #5 - Explore our Options with Pirate101 and... well, let’s keep the rest of that under wraps for a bit.
The community quickly noticed our job board had exploded in November. The new job postings mean a few things, but the one I was able to announce with the last KI Live - we are officially resuming updates to Pirate101 in 2022! I greatly appreciate your patience, Pirates. This milestone took a lot of what we call "due diligence" - all the way up to approvals by the MGI board - but now we are officially a GO!
Now, while we all pop a bottle of yum in celebration, let me set a few expectations:
Please, keep that patience going a little longer. This news doesn't mean anything is going out next week or next month. To do this right, we've got a lot of pre-production work to do. We need to dust off all those pipelines (art, design, sound, programming) and get them flowing again and the time it will take isn’t insignificant, but fortunately we’ve already been working on the process. Integrating new team members will help complete the initial steps of development.
Even if all the personnel knowledge were at-hand and those pipelines ready to go, the reason we are hiring is we simply cannot do this with just the team we currently have. Sure, many of them will be involved (I don't think I could keep Blind Mew or Ratbeard out of Pirate development if I tried), but if we were to switch over to Pirate101 full throttle right now, it would cost us Wizard101 support and hurt both games. So, see the job board. Are you a 3D artist, animator, programmer, designer, producer, QA analyst, or marketing manager? Then you could potentially contribute to the future of Pirate101! Keep an eye out for a few more positions not yet posted as well.
When we do start ramping up announcements of things to come for Pirate, our biggest focus will be new daily/weekly activities for all levels of Pirates, as well as making sure the beginning of the game is polished up and ready to welcome an influx of new users. We have a lot of other things on the wish list, including small content drops and adding to the shop, but from the metrics we’ve seen in Wizard101 we think this will be our best start to development, to test the waters so to speak.
New books are not in the plans just yet – that’s still a long way off and there’s too many uncertainties yet there to establish any firm answers on when or if that particular kind of content will be feasible for the team. We will focus on improving and expanding upon what’s in the game first, and then we can shift to content.
We’re excited to kick this off next year with a Pirate101 development roundtable and many more community interactive events throughout the next year. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in hosting something like a roundtable, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks Wizards and Pirates for an amazing year. I’m glad you’re with us for what’s coming in 2022. There’s so much more to talk about, but we’ll save that for next time. I hope you have a wonderful, warm, and happy holiday, and I’ll see you in the Spiral!