The Phase Two launch didn't go as expected. Read on to understand our plans from here.
Phase Two Startup
The initial launch was a success in regards to porting in our adjustments from Phase One. We also consider the migration to the new server environment a success.
All of our Phase One changes carried over successfully. We still have some work to do on certain aspects such as fine tuning drops, but unoptimized drops and some other aspects were already expected. None of our progress was lost migrating from 2232 to AoP.
The new server has a higher cost and more overhead, but latency is much more stable and helps contribute to a smoother in-game experience. Bandwidth is no longer metered and network throughput is highly improved. We also have a much better CPU, more RAM, and more disk space to work with. We are no longer dealing with unknown resource slowdowns such as what we saw under the previous VPS environment.
While the startup was a success, the overall transition was not.
The main appeal of AoP for us was the quest guidance system. This newer version does come with other built-in improvements such as tab target, optimizations, and a few new ways we can adjust the game. However, quest guidance was the main appeal. We felt this system was fairly crucial to not only help with new player onboarding, but to guide players through future changes we will be making to the typical questing experience.
Unfortunately the quest guidance is not as intuitive as we had hoped. We also noticed quest markers are missing from various monsters depending on the active quest. For example, early level quest should highlight Flems, but we noticed some Flems don't have any makers even though they do count towards quest requirements.
That being said, the issues with quest guidance and other new AoP features are the least of our concerns, all of which are a degradation over 2232 and issues we did not expect.
We have noted testers reporting an increase of frame rate jitter and lower performance within certain maps. While AoP has felt overall smoother, we mostly accredit this to an improved hosting provider. Raw client performance seemed worse to us in our initial testing and early feedback from players has helped to confirm our suspicions.
We have also noted some players are reporting no jitter problems. Others have improved the initial issues by updating graphics card drivers. On our end we have observed increasingly inconsistent and jittery frame rates during typical events such as new models and textures being loaded. Some sporadic frame rates are typical in RF, but our observation shows AoP is worse about this in general than 2232 and that this experience varies across players.
The client startup time is also worse compared to 2232. AoP adds a noticeable few additional seconds just to start the game. While not entirely detrimental, this is another aspect that shows the overall decreased performance of AoP.
Unoptimized Client Size
The AoP client comes with a lot of additional data bloat. Most of this additional game data are features that we won't utilize such as 80 level cap content. Other bloat includes duplication of the game maps to create "channels" for each map. This version of AoP does not support these game channels, so the bloat in this case is completely unnecessary and is content that we would need to spend additional time removing.
Players are aware of various antivirus problems with RF, and they have been "trained" to add RF to their antivirus exception list. Servers typically advise players the game requires being added as an exception because "RF is an old game". In reality this could not be further from the truth.
Most servers utilize packing software which most antivirus software does not like. Part of the problem is utilizing cracked packing software while the other part of the problem comes down to which software is being used for packing. Servers typically use this software to implement a very basic level of anti-hack capability. RF is a very hackable game and we can understand the desire to protect it as much as possible, but we feel it must be protected in the right ways.
Halfway through Phase One on 2232, we implemented RF-Dev Core to introduce various fixes and protections to the game. This included full end to end packet encryption and a few other client side security improvements. Testers from Phase One will note no problems with antivirus software.
However, we have noticed an increase of problems with antivirus software on native AoP. We have yet to implement RF-Dev Core on AoP, but certain antivirus software is already unhappy with the native AoP client binary. In addition, native AoP requires administrative privileges to start the client binary... something that isn't normal for any end-user game. We made an adjustment to correct this and allow the game to start under normal user level, but we can't say at this stage if this is causing any additional problems or not.
AoP was released just a few years ago in 2016. 2232 was released in 2009. 2232 has no problems with antivirus in its native form, but AoP does. This completely shoots down the claim RF throws antivirus warnings simply due to its age. In reality, older versions of RF have less antivirus problems than newer versions in their native forms. Antivirus problems on older versions are only introduced due to the server owner's choice of additional software and not because the game is old.
We have a fundamental principle that our software, and by extension PlayRF, should not cause problems with player antivirus software. Adding exclusions for an entire game directory introduces end-user security risks and is not something we ever recommend doing. Packing software is intended to hide data and other processes and is one main factor as to why most antivirus software does not like packing utilities. We will never place the expectation on players to disable their antivirus or add exceptions just for the sake of enjoying PlayRF.
While the following two aspects are trivial in the grand scheme of editing RF, these are still aspects we would need to spend time on backtracking to correct.
The PT system is currently not showing level appropriate limits. For example, some early level PTs may read as 3/30 visually when the real values should be showing as 3/3. This creates what presents itself as a bug where your PTs stop increasing even though you are seeing a higher available cap.
Prices of various items were increased in the base AoP files. This has exaggerated the problem we intentionally introduced in Phase One through our adjusted drop system. Players no longer gain currency as fast as most other servers and the default prices in 2232 were already borderline. Item price increases in AoP have made this problem even worse.
While not a major issue alone as we planned to balance prices anyway once our drop system is finished, this doesn't help with current immediate testing.
We feel the transition from 2232 to AoP has been a degradation. At this stage we need to be moving forward, not backward. We now have a lot of back-tracking to do, and we haven't even covered all of the newly arising issues in this article.
Our team is actively analyzing the pros and cons of the transition and determining how to proceed from here.
So with all of that said, we have made the difficult decision to delay the release of more game keys.
While we understand new players were looking forward to a chance at joining today, the last thing we want to do is introduce more players into a game environment that causes more frustration than enjoyment. While alpha tests are performed for the sake of uncovering these issues before a production release, we don't feel there is much benefit from more testers experiencing PlayRF on AoP in its current state.
Unfortunately we do not have an ETA for when new game keys will drop. When we are ready for more testers, we will continue with the original plan of pre-announcing the first drop, followed by randomly timed unannounced drops. We also have ideas for more intuitive ways to receive game keys that will eventually be introduced.
Phase Two's Future
Aside from the game key setback, Phase Two will still continue as planned. We will actively communicate with current testers regarding their experience. We will work to deploy fixes and improvements to address everything we have discussed today, as well as other issues we didn't directly mention yet.
Another announcement will be made once we are ready to start dropping game keys. Until then, our focus will remain on improvement upon the current state of the game.
Thank you for your continued support. The encouraging and positive comments mean a lot to our team. We're sorry we could not invite more players in, but we look forward to doing so when we have a more stable and sensible game experience.