Netherwing Developer Update
Dear Community, today marks exactly 4 months since we launched our closed beta, so we decided to talk a little about the status of the project.
First, a brief explanation of why we’ve been so quiet during that period. The amazing testing team that we’ve gathered back in February has put in an insane amount of time to test basically the entire game. Every zone, every mob that’s spawned, every quest and every dungeon has been checked thoroughly. As you might imagine, this spawned thousands of issues that needed addressing, ranging from quick and easy ones like missing spells cast by mobs to problems in deep core mechanics. We’ve been trying to keep up with fixing the reports, so those four months had been a period of very intensive work.
We focused a lot on getting some of the more important core mechanics improved. Our pathfinding was decent before, but its behaviour on certain terrains was not really how it was supposed to work. As an example, on very steep hills creatures preferred to take a longer route around instead of going directly towards the target as expected. We've built a separate path builder to address it, as well as to improve charge, general movement behaviour in water and a lot more. We also reworked height calculations, correcting some issues with it in certain locations (e.g. some caves). I’m not going to say these systems will always work perfectly and I’m sure a few more issues will appear during the public beta, but we’re confident that it should be decent enough for a comfortable gameplay experience. In addition to the things I mentioned, we’ve put a lot of effort into improving general movement systems. It might sound a bit odd, but we’re never fully content with how certain movement mechanics work and are always looking into refining them. If you go back to our pet or NPC videos, you could say it already looked quite decent and much better than what is considered norm on the private servers, but it’s not enough for us. We’ve reworked and greatly improved chasing/following targets, mob repositioning, spreading, kiting, speed adjustments and more. We fixed the remaining issues we had in fear/confuse movements and we’re constantly reiterating formations and waypoint system.
In addition to movement mechanics, the overall results of the world tests indicated that AI improvements were required as well. We’ve rewritten from scratch our AI module responsible for handling all caster mechanics (e.g. general movement, silence/interrupts, moving away from rooted targets), making it more robust and consistent. We also introduced a new way of grouping spells, dividing them into categories such as primary/secondary/support. This allows us to make the mobs prioritize things such as heals or dispels, work with activation thresholds and interact with other allies/enemies around in a way that doesn’t have a huge negative impact on performance. There are still some interesting mechanics we’ve noticed while watching old videos, but with limited data, we currently have more questions than answers, so we’re leaving it for later. Overall, the changes we’ve made should make the experience a lot better and much closer to retail.
Mind Control Behaviour
It is important to note that we’re not trying do our own, custom thing. Making mobs use their abilities a lot smarter would be quite easy, but it is not our goal as we’re merely trying to replicate retail, not improve it. This principle applies to almost all aspects of the game. Recently, we’ve completely redone charm/mind control mechanics. If you watch any boss encounter in which players are mind controlled by the boss, you will notice a lot of actions that players perform are not exactly the "smartest". That’s because mind control targets are not supposed to be killing machines. The annoyance and difficulty of this specific boss mechanic lie in disruption – you need to deal with a few more targets while the affected players burn their important cooldowns involuntarily. We have gathered all the data we could about the spells each class uses while mind controlled, how it behaves and acquires targets. For example, mind controlled players will have their own threat list, so both threat generation/reduction mechanics will be helpful in dealing with them depending on your role. We’ve also added a few missing mechanics to mind control in general. Enslaving powerful demons as a warlock will generally result in the demon breaking free much sooner than usual and a chance of that happening will increase as more time passes (the number of times a demon was enslaved applies to that as well). Similarly, priest’s mind control will have a chance to break early as the distance between the caster and the target increases.
Recreating a Unique Experience
A lot of the mentioned changes of underlying core systems help immensely in our mission to recreate a living, breathing world, but we are not forgetting about everything that’s on the surface level. Thanks to the amazing work put in by our testers, and the research they did, we have a never-ending list of RP events, with a lot of them forgotten and never seen before on any private server ever. Since the start of the beta, we have already implemented hundreds of them and there are a lot more left. Additionally, we started to work on completely redesigning Azeroth zones. In a lot of areas in basically every zone (Mulgore, Elwynn, Tirisfal, etc.), there are many issues that plague the levelling experience. To name a few, mobs are spawned in incorrect places, some of them are missing, some are stacked on top of each other, many of them just stand in one place in the middle of the road clearly missing some form of movement. Overall just exploring those locations generates this unpleasant feeling that something is wrong. That’s why we’re putting in a lot of manual work into fixing that. On Netherwing, you will see a lot of places cleaned up with mobs relocated, patrolling and some even occasionally emoting. We are confident that we will be able to provide a unique experience, never seen before on any private server.
The Current State of PvE
A lot of people have been asking about the PvE side of things. For now, we are sticking with our initial approach. We currently don’t have any concrete plans for detailed videos, as we want to let everyone experience and explore the PvE content for themselves during the open beta. That way you will be able to judge the quality and difficulty of the encounters by yourself, in a real environment. An important thing to note is we are not just patching the dungeons based on their stock version. Every dungeon is entirely rebuilt from the ground up using parsed retail data. That way we can be sure that every single creature (and game object) is placed exactly where it’s supposed to (exact coordinates, not an approximation), moves by exactly the same path as on retail, uses proper emotes, spells and has only the auras it’s supposed to. Thanks to the helping tools and systems we developed, we are now able to recreate the proper experience faster and easier. You will see farmers in Old Hillsbrad gathering and delivering apples, Kel’Thuzad resurrecting a critter in front of Helcular, Shattered Hand Legionnaires having their own, individual behaviours and drilling routines, cabal acolytes in Shadow Labyrinth reacting to Blackheart’s speeches, Falconers in Botanica training their Dragonhawks and much, much more. As it stands, we have all Outland 5-man dungeons almost finished with only a few issues remaining and we are working on raids that will be available at launch.
What's next to improve?
With the amount of time and effort needed in other aspects of the game, we are definitely not satisfied with class progress. There are still a few more complex issues that may be unknown to most players, but are very important to us, as we want to provide a great PvP experience as well. We hope to resolve some of them in the following weeks, and we certainly want to fix the majority of them before the open beta.
„When does the open beta start? I want to play!”
Obviously, the question on everyone’s mind is „When does the open beta start? I want to play!”. Our approach to this is quite simple – in today’s day and age, you only get one chance to impress. If we launched open beta today, and it wasn’t the experience everyone hopes for, a lot of people would not give the server a second chance during actual release. Netherwing is only the first component of our Progress Through Expansion project, but it’s the most important one as we want to build a lasting audience by offering an experience not found anywhere else. That’s why we treat the open beta as the penultimate stage of development, shortly before release with an intention to just correct all the things that were not noticed by our extremely talented, but small testing team. On a positive note, we do have an internal ETA we’re trying to meet. We will reveal it to the public as soon as we’re ready, but for now, we continue to work intensely in hopes of getting to the open beta and release as fast as possible.
As always, thanks to everyone following the project. We’ll try to post more progress updates on our Discord in the following weeks, so if you want to stay informed, please join it using this invite link. See you soon!
Wolfenstein, Netherwing Project Lead