When we set out to develop Pocket Legends last fall, we had two goals:
• Build a 3d MMO than runs well on Apple’s suite of mobile devices.
• Build an architecture that enables worldwide synchronized play over wireless, Edge, and 3G networks.
Without question, the thing that allowed us to do this was the Spacetime Engine. We started building Pocket Legends with a fully-mature, very powerful MMO engine and a team of veteran developers.
In six months we had our first iteration ready to launch.
Pocket Legends: Pick-up-and-play MMO
We wanted players to be able to team up quickly with folks and have meaningful class-based combat in bite-sized chunks. For performance reasons we limited combat levels to 5 players. We had a single towne (Forest Haven) that was non-combat, and supported up to 25 players in an instance. We also shipped with 3 campaigns: Dark Forest, Balefort Castle, and Fathom Crypts. Each of these campaigns consisted of a series of quick-play dungeons, chained together.
When Pocket Legends shipped alongside the iPad on April 3rd, 2010, we had achieved our original goals. You could jump in and play a real-time 3d MMO on your mobile device, anytime, anywhere, with anyone in the world. We then added 4 more campaigns (Lost Expedition, Ancient Swamps, Alien Oasis One and Two). The hub of the game was the host/ join screen to manage the large numbers of instanced games that were going on. It was more of a battle.net way to approach organization of games (not that there’s anything wrong with that):
We anticipated people wanting to play in bite-sized 3-5 minute chunks. We strung those small play sessions together so players could have meaningful experiences for a longer period if they wanted. And a lot of players wanted a LOT more. They wanted places to go and things to do outside the tiny barriers of Forest Haven. Pocket Legends had not yet realized its true potential.
Re-defining an online world
A couple of months ago we talked about the various ways the Spacetime Engine enables us to put content into the game. For the last 6 weeks we have been working on a new client. Although we have updated the game dozens of times in the four months since we launched, this is only the third time we have updated the client.
Client 1.3 had three main components:
2) A World Map
As we began to play with the new tools and systems, we realized that we had far more at our disposal than we originally anticipated. A world map implies multiple townes. Quests move players through the game. Our tech allows us to instance and route players seamlessly.
And just like that, the true nature of the game came into existence:
The (new) world of Alterra is a series of Townes you visit to access specific content. The world map will take you instantly to a specific Towne. And quests will lead you back and forth throughout the entire game.
This is a fundamental shift in the way the game is played… big enough for us to lose “Client 1.3” and brand this release:
Pocket Legends: Adventures
Pocket Legends: Adventures will launch with three townes: Forest Haven, Ursan Weald, and Fort Blackstone. More townes and quests will be released as they are built.
All Townes will be common areas that hold up to 25 players. Our anticipation is that people will run from one place to another, accessing content from within the environment. Power users will still be able to access the underlying host/ join screens, but the casual player should be able to get anywhere quickly without leaving the game world.
With Pocket Legends: Adventures, new players start in one of three private instances:
• Warriors awake from hibernation in the sacred Ursan Cave
• Archers arise for adventure in the great desert city of Oasis
• Enchantresses begin with their graduation from the Royal Academy of Magic
Players are led through initial gameplay mechanics through Quests.
Once they have completed a small set of quests, they are brought to the Towne of Forest Haven. Old players will notice some immediate changes, including a brighter color scheme and rearrangement of the existing goods and services. Perhaps the biggest change is the arrival of a mysterious Magic Portal.
Running into this portal is how players will immediately access content. If they have a quest, they will be taken to the level where they next need to go. If the player has no quests, they will be taken to the regular campaign levels to run through.
The second major thing people may notice is a new road running out of towne. Following it leads to a travel portal, which connects to another towne!
The portal brings the player to “Ursan Weald”, a towne in the middle of the Dark Forest. Here it becomes apparent that the Elf Queen is missing, and sinister things are afoot. This towne is home to a whole new set of quests, goods and services, as well as providing immediate access to the Dark Forest levels through the Magic Portal.
Quests are an important part of this new architecture, providing story, motivation, and rewards for exploring the various destinations now available to the players in Pocket Legends. Players can go directly to their quest destinations by running through the Magic Portal or by accessing their Quest Journal.
Another destination in Ursan Weald is the PvP arena that allows immediate access to ongoing PvP matches.
Travelling on from Ursan Weald brings the player to Fort Blackstone, outside of Balefort Castle. This once-proud home of the Elfguard Training Academy has been turned into a refugee camp because of invading forces.
The player is sent to the front lines, where they again can access the Balefort Castle content by the Magic Portal. As they run through the various quests and storylines, and gain victory over the evil forces, they discover that the world of Alterra is in larger jeopardy then ever anticipated.
A final word on the third component of this update: optimizations. Mobile devices are incredibly powerful but they can only do so much. A 3D game pushes A LOT of pixels. It may not be immediately apparent, but we have completely stripped down and rebuilt almost all the art in the game. We’ve been optimizing the way things are constructed, and it will eventually allow us to have much greater customizations for the players. For now, we are going to start introducing a couple of hats. As this client bakes in, we are certain to release many, many more
Thanks for your patience while we have been working on this. Pocket Legends: Adventures feels right to us, and we can’t wait to get it into your hands. We’ll be gathering feedback from day one and iterating on it until we feel like we have achieved the full potential of what Pocket Legends can be!
- The Spacetime Studios Dev Team