Beta NDA Lifted
The NDA period for the general Beta test is officially over! THANK YOU all for being as good as you have been on this. Feel free to post, email, phone call, and alert your local news station about your play experiences!
How Our Beta Process Works
We wanted to take a few minutes to talk about how we run our Beta tests, the differences of and timing for getting builds out to the testers, and basically let you in on what makes our test tick.
Our development path is quite different from that of the vast majority of game developers. We utilize what we call an organic process, which is basically shorthand for our way of constantly iterating, tweaking, tuning, and making changes that are difficult to set months or years ahead of time in a traditional design document. When we get into the last 6 - 9 months of development time, this process really kicks into high-gear. We are making an immense amount of changes, both large and small, and if we tried to push these out to our Beta testing community, we’d literally be giving you new code up to a dozen times a day. Obviously, this isn’t going to be of any great benefit, so we wait until we have done a lot of internal testing and can batch changes into larger, meaningful updates.
We have a core team of testers on-site dedicated to working with our programmers and designers to give immediate feedback and address bugs in a focused manner. We also have a massive amount of testers at EA that work on builds that have been promoted as release candidates. When we get a patch release candidate that we feel is solid, we then promote that to being a Published candidate, and it undergoes patch testing. When we get something here that we like, we push it to you, the Beta testers.
What this means is that we are, at a MINIMUM, 2 weeks further down the road on the game than the testers see. Commonly, this time gap can be upwards of 4 weeks. We push hot fixes as quickly as possible, but please remember that we have also been working on numerous language builds, the single-player gold master, and of course, the fixes and features for our first day online – what we call Patch 0.
We know that it can be frustrating at times to hear that things are different in our internal builds than what you have, but it is just how timing has to work in order for us to meet all of our deadlines and make sure that the testing time we get with you is as beneficial as possible. Thank you all for the hard work, the hours of testing, and your continued support and excitement for the game.
So – how about some specifics?!
The build of Hellgate: London which you are reviewing includes both DX9 and DX10 versions of the graphics library. The DX10 version of this build has a few known issues. They include a slow framerate compared to the same scene in DX9 and black loading screens. We’re currently working on a fix for the black loading screens. The slower framerate is due to the fill-rate intensive special features that only our DX10 engine has, including: soft shadows with proper contact hardening, depth-of-field, motion blur, interactive GPU-simulated fluid smoke, texture-array animated rain, and soft particles. The extra fill rate costs are mitigated by an initial depth-only render pass, which is now being tested and will be ready for release. When Hellgate: London hits retail, we expect the framerate of our DX10 target to be as high, if not higher than DX9, including these special features.
Multiplayer Updates – All Players
We are continuing to push both new multiplayer features and bug fixes to the Beta. Things that may or may not be in during their review time (depending on when they do it), but will be in by launch are:
Much better and easier ways to organize your friends!
While only subscribers can start one, anyone can join a guild. Special name colors and tags on characters show their affiliation.
Buddy and Guild Chat
Special chat channels so you can keep your conversations clear.
Bigger Levels in Nightmare Mode
These increase the time players get to spend in each area, giving the game a more expansive feel at higher difficulty levels.
Players can both duel and elect to enter free-for-all PvP Mode. To duel, a player invites the person they wish to duel into a group, and heads into an adventuring area. Duelers, then right-click on the portrait of the person they wish to duel and select the Duel option from the displayed list. Dueling can only take place outside of Underground hubs.
Players can also choose to enter into PvP mode which means they can be attacked and harmed outside of Underground hubs by anyone else that has chosen to enter PvP mode. That is, those in PvP mode, must always be ready for PvP. This is a way to have wide-ranging free-for-alls, or create your own “friendly-fire” way of playing the game.
Tuned Game Progression
Level and monster progression is more thematic in nature. While this does not affect the overarching layout of the world map, it does make each act feel more defined and focused.
We’ve added loads of additional details on the people and places in the game through various NPCs in the world. This definitely helps make the stations feel more alive and provides players with more of the back-story.
More Quest Information
Quest NPCs do a better job of getting you prepared to know what you’re fighting and why. The overall story flows much better, the named demons that are encountered are given more story weight, and players gain a much better sense of overall direction.
The vocal responses given by NPCs have been tuned so that they tend more towards the serious and “normal”, reserving the twisted commentary for specific player characters or in rare moments for the general populace.
This is for those players that always feel a game is too easy. The demons are tougher, deal out more damage, move faster, travel in larger groups, and have more champions at the ready. Numerous tweaks to the overall balance and progression of the game make this an extremely challenging mode.
Hardcore mode takes away the various resurrection options. For the gamer that wants the ultimate test, try playing an Elite Hardcore character!
Themed Events and Items
Halloween (October 31 – November 4)
- Zombot - A special pet just for All Hallows’, this amalgam of meat and metal is sure to frighten and delight those players that are willing to put in the time to find all the necessary pieces in order to construct him.
- All Hallow’s Visage - A Unique Helm that has not only very special properties, but as well a look unlike any other helm in the game. Ghost Rider would be jealous!
- All Hallow’s Treats - Delicious and devious, these different candies do everything from temporarily boosting stats to temporarily altering the appearance of the devourer.
- All Hallows’ Quests - There is a pair of special quests available, including one that is repeatable for continuous fun.
- Nemo ~ Master of Festivities - This special NPC can first be found in Covent Garden Station to greet players and send them on their way with quests specifically crafted for the season.
Buy purchasing a Guild Herald, a character can form a new guild. Characters can only be part of one guild at a time and should a Guild leader decide to abandon their post, they can pass leadership of the Guild to another subscribing guild member.
These are long-term goals for players. The player starts with a few new goals in an Achievement Log. These can be as simple as slaying a certain amount of specific demons to something as difficult as completing quests without the benefit of armor! Players uncover new goals as they start to meet the requirements of that achievement. For example, after 50 zombies have been slain, an “Achievement Unlocked” message displays on the screen. Checking the Achievement Log shows how many zombies must be eradicated to complete the achievement. Rewards for completing achievements can be anything from reputation to tags on the player to special particle effects to items to special skills to – well, anything is possible!
Extra Character Slots
While everyone gets 3 character slots, subscribers can have a maximum of 24 characters.
Each character’s storage locker is doubled in size with an extra 6x8 section, making the hoarding of all sorts of goodies that much easier. Packrats rejoice!