As we approach the end of 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the development thus far on OrbusVR, and look ahead to the future (and Alpha, Beta, and beyond!)
First off, I've been truly humbled and amazed at the support that the game has received thus far -- if you're already following the development of the game at this early stage, you have my thanks. Your feedback and encouragement is what keeps our small team going as we slog through all the "not so fun" parts of the development process to get the fun stuff -- actually getting people in-game!
Development on the game started with me tinkering around with a few VR themes that I thought it would be interesting to explore. It wasn't until a few months ago that I really decided to do a VRMMO and made it my primary project. We've come a very long way in a short time! We basically started from scratch and designed an entire network stack from the ground-up to support hundreds of concurrent players in virtual reality. We've crafted 9 square kilometers of explorable terrain, and are busily adding NPCs, quests, gathering nodes, landmarks, cities, and more to the world. We designed 4 combat classes around the idea of what combat could be like in a VR MMO -- not just porting over existing combat from tab-targeting or other MMOs, but really designing from scratch the mechanics of the game to show off what VR can offer. We've done 2 stress tests, with hundreds of volunteers, to stress the game servers and find out what's working and what's not. And we've worked with our artist, Elijah, to create player gear, monsters, and more to match the unique art style we've envisioned for the game.
Really, when I look back at what we've done, I'm amazed at how much we've gotten done with just a few people working on it part-time! But we still have a long way to go as well.
2017 Testing Schedule
Okay, so let's look ahead to 2017, and actually getting this game out the door and into your hands!
Final Stress Test
We're going to hold one last Stress Test on Thursday, January 5th, 2017. This test will start at approximately 12 PM Central Time and run until 10 PM Central Time. This larger window should hopefully give people from all timezones time to play the game. During this test, we should have the new inventory system available, the new melee combat class available, the new airship taxi system up and running, and some more stuff as well.
Right now we're focusing on putting in the last of the major "building block" systems that we need to get in place to have our Alpha. Alpha means, "not everything is in the game yet, but all the core stuff works and is ready for testing." Our goal for Alpha is to have:
- 2 zones entirely constructed, including villages, NPCs, quests, monsters, loot drops, etc., so you can go from level 1 - 8 approximately as fast as it will take to do it when the game launches.
- Have all 4 combat classes fleshed out including their complete ability sets
- Have the Fishing class and the Alchemy class in and at least some of the recipes ready to go.
- Have all the social stuff done (voice chat, party grouping, text chat, trading, etc.)
- Have a tutorial done so people can actually figure out how to play the game
- Have the PvP mechanisms in place (although they may be more restricted than at launch to allow for testing)
Our goal is to enter Alpha in March 2017.
Once we're in Alpha, we'll continue to do Alpha Weekends when appropriate (at least once or twice a month), probably targeting specific features or things that need to be tested (such as a world boss or a specific dungeon). But basically from Q2 2017 onward, if you like the game we should have plenty of content for you to do to keep busy with it :-). However, the game will not be up 24/7 at that point.
Beta means, "most everything important is in the game and can be played, but there are likely still large bugs and balancing issues that we need to sort out." The list of stuff left to do for Beta is super long, but generally speaking after Alpha we'll still have 7 zones worth of content to put in (monsters, quests, NPCs, etc.), at least 2 more crafting classes to add, finishing up the PvP system, dungeons, world bosses, auction house...a lot :-)
Our goal at this point is to be in Beta by the end of Q2 2017.
Once the game is Beta, we will concentrate on fixing bugs, balancing the game, etc. At this point we are planning on doing a character wipe in-between Beta and Early Access (below), so keep that in mind. If we change our mind on that we'll let you know.
After the Beta, we'll officially launch the game into Early Access. At this point, there will be no more character wipes (although we reserve the right to do a rollback if a game exploit or something is found that makes the game unfair), and the game will largely be feature complete. However, there will likely be other things that we'd like to add (such as additional Crafting classes, player-run market stalls, etc.) that don't make it into Beta, so we'll continue adding this stuff as we go.
Our goal is to launch the game into Early Access in Q3 2017.
Unlike traditional MMOs, our goal is to be releasing content on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting to release a single 'expansion' every year or two. So you can expect us to release new things to do every 6 weeks or so once we're in Early Access.
Contributing to the Cause
Several people have asked about contributing money to help fund development costs, or to pre-order the game. We'll likely set up some way for you to do this before the Beta starts. We still haven't fully decided on our eventual pricing model yet (other than knowing it won't be "pay to win"), but likely we'll do some sort of funding drive before Beta where you can contribute money toward a future subscription in exchange for early Beta and Launch access and other cool perks like that.
At this point there are 3 people working on the game part-time. I will be able to work on the game full-time starting next month. At this point I'm not getting paid a salary, and all of the development costs of paying the other project contributors are coming out of my pocket. I'd like to hire at least one additional full-time person in the first part of the year, so hopefully a funding drive will allow that to happen.
A world awaits
We can't wait for you all to join us inside this amazing virtual world that we are so excited to share with you. Thanks for the support, keep spreading the word about OrbusVR, and we look forward to seeing you in the next Stress Test, Alpha, and beyond!