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This article was written by the god Dentin, and posted on January 05, 2010.

You may also wish to read Subtle's 2009 year in review article as well.

2009 Was...

As the head admin of Alter Aeon, my year in review revolves around the things I did and saw as an admin. I'm not even going to pretend that my year in review contains all the things that were important to the players; all I can say is that these are the things that I found important when I looked back over the past 12 months.

Our players have their own idea of what the last year was like, and I hope to make some of those reviews available as well. And now, on to the lists!

In short, 2009 was:
  • The year of Locane, when he started to really write a lot of code

  • A year of newbie improvements

  • A year of general playability improvements

  • A year of the web pages, including XML and RSS interfaces

  • A year of mapping and global area cleanup

  • The year of a usable DClient

  • The year of level 33 and level 34

So many changes were made and so many new features added that it's almost impossible to list them all. You can get a detailed changelog from the mud webserver at the following link:

Keep in mind that this only shows mortal visible changes! Even more stuff went on at the immortal level, including huge changes to global infrastructure and loads of builder improvements.

I also put a big emphasis on improving the new player experience, everything from character creation to quests on the newbie islands and easier grouping.

Getting new players to make use of the improved new player experience was another matter. A lot of effort went into improving the web pages and getting links out there, but without a lot of result. At best, we held our own and managed to not lose players this year, which is better than it sounds because many MUDs are dying due to the growing popularity of MMOs such as World of Warcraft.

I have high hopes for 2010 though, but that's a story for next year's review.

And now, the big general changes, and a list of things organized by month!

General Updates and Changes

  • Gameplay improvements for blind players using screen readers continued unabated. There was one particularly nasty incident involving letter combinations that caused hard crashes of screen readers; these combinations are now trapped out on the server side to prevent them from reaching the buggy readers.

  • Huge improvements to the DClient, with releases 0.976 through 0.983. The supported features have increased greatly, including:

    • Big performance and interface consistency improvements
    • Keypad walking
    • Pushthrough commands (I still think this is a dumb idea)
    • Big map improvements, including roads and trails
    • Color palettes
    • Initial layout customization and basic themes
    • Landscape zoom in/out on scale changes
    • Target hp bar
    • Undockable automap
    • Function key button bar
    • Popup windows
    • Clean mode, with only an input bar and main window
    • Real time group status display

  • The new email system was installed and came into its own, almost completely replacing the previous email system.

  • Massive improvements to safe rooms for PPK players, and fixes to help PPK players group more safely. There have also been a handful of reworks, primarily to reduce losses due to death and to limit PPK insta-kills.

  • Level 33 added in February, and level 34 added in September.

  • Permission lockdowns and god level changes for builders and immortals, to help prevent abuse and allow many more simultaneous builders.

  • A lot of object building composite updates and cleanup. Object building in general is more consistent and reliable now, with pretty much all items on the game loading properly. Maxload is slowly being phased out to get ready for a much larger player base.

  • Lots of improvements to RANDOM objects over the year, including super randoms, always-random equipment, and exotic random enchants.

  • A handful of incidents came up involving persistent problem players and player harassment. After all was said and done, the player Tyrant was removed permanently from the game, and all characters of the player Vivi have been permanently spammer flagged. This appears to have taken care of most of the problems.

    Along the way, we made a lot of improvements in the various administration tools, including siteban changes, siteban autospreading, and spammer flags.

January - The Month of Microleveling

Microleveling was added, for all class levels 30 and higher. The original goals of microleveling were to flatten the experience curve and prevent higher levels from becoming obsolete too quickly; in reality, it turns out that fame is a much more effective way of handling this. Microleveling still serves to allow people to bank and 'work toward' advanced levels, but the original timers have been cut back drastically to allow players to level almost as quickly as they can accumulate fame.

All of the int/wis costs for all spells were switched over to a calculation function, instead of being manually set. In most cases, the max stat increased by 1 while the min stat stayed the same. This big change eliminated a lot of the guesswork and made spell requirements more consistent. It also unexpectedly set some of the groundwork for future class additions.

Around this time, the game started tracking the maximum that you ever manage to learn spells and skills. This value is not reset on death, and high level characters (level 100 and higher) are able to relearn skills lost by death or fountaining, up to this maximum level, using practices.

Added cleric 'resurrect' spell, which has been very popular.

Drunkenness was added for one of our system events.

Febuary - The Month of Findable Fame

Rough fame estimates were added to the 'where' command for high level players. Prior to this, fame hunting was almost complete guesswork as only the most organized players could keep track of all the areas and creatures they'd visited.

The strength and dexterity spell limits were lowered from 6 to 5, as discussed on board 8 back in November 2008. This started a month long trolling firestorm on the boards, in spite of the three month warning.

Quest features were added to unlock specific spells or skills.

March - The Month of Cleanup

Two very old and extremely hard to track down bugs were fixed in the code base. These bugs, while not particularly dangerous, had each been sporadically cutting warnings and producing weirdness for over a decade, and in the space of about three weeks both of them were found and fixed.

Other than that, March was primarily a month of web marketing, advertising, minor code cleanup and bug fixes. Not a lot of new features were added.

April - The Month of Potion Bottling

Massive brew potion updates were added, including bottling and bottle throwing. It was several months before all the side effects and bugs were worked out of the bottling system, but we have a much better potioning system than before.

Shoplift difficulty and item price became automatically controlled based on number of sold and shoplifted items.

Poisoning was changed, to make dying less of an issue. The lowest hitpoints you can now reach due purely to poisoning is around half a dozen; but if you have negative regen from other things, or if you get hit while poisoned, odds are good you won't survive.

Ralnoth was remapped and expanded greatly. This allowed us to open a lot more player shops in North Ralnoth.

A handful of high level warrior skills were added, including 'iron claw', 'revenge', and 'protector'.

May - The Month of Abbreviations

Name abbreviations were added, as well as object UUIDs. UUIDs were much more popular than I expected, and pretty much all high level players now use a UUID alias somewhere.

The idle timeout for connected characters was changed. In theory, connected players now never time out, but linkdead players will be.

The Old Mud School and Mud U were declared officially obsolete.

Donation rooms were added to the web page 'shops and stores' list. I use the donation room web pages all the time when I'm playing as a mortal.

June - The Month of Monster Lore

The various 'monster lore' skills were added, including 'dragon lore', 'undead lore', 'elemental lore', 'demon lore', and 'animal lore'.

Major updates were made to new character creation, including a customization screen and characters starting out at level 1 and able to save.

The 'map' command was modified to work for blind players. In blind mode, it will attempt to show what's explored and unexplored nearby, as well some markers and nearby landmarks.

A safe and secure gold and equipment trading system was added.

August - The Month of Classes

August marked the first real round of infrastructure updates getting ready for additional classes. This included lots of skill checking consolidation, to help get ready for massive numbers of new skills when new classes arrive.

These class/infrastructure updates also included revamping and synchronizing the exp code for various classes and getting it merged into a common framework. As a result, we turned down experience on a number of skills that were grossly out of whack, which resulted in some of the most vitriolic and violent attacks on me from players in recent memory.

Credits were added to help make game donations easier to handle. Watery set up the first gold-for-credits trading board. You can also buy things like clan dues and weightless expansions directly using credits.

Lots of equipment handling and parsing changes were added by Locane, allowing more natural language use and multiple keywords for some commonly used commands.

September - The Month of Regeneration

The global healing/regen code was changed to a new, very different system to better support future classes. This resulted in a two month long firestorm on the boards, huge amounts of hate mail, multiple people threatening to leave, and some really crappy behaviour from high level players who I had expected better from. On the plus side, the new system works really well.

To help new players, leveling and training stats no longer required a trainer up to level 25. This lets new players level and train pretty much anywhere and at any time, which is really convenient. For levels above 25, you still have to hunt down a trainer.

Massive updates were made to the 'where' command, to make it almost into a directory or phone book for cities and towns. Nearby shops, stores, guilds, trainers, teachers, priests, temples and banks will all show up for towns that allow it.

Massive reorg of the Alter Aeon FAQ to add new sections and split up questions. The FAQ was greatly expanded in the process.

The old 2003-era room mana system was recovered from backups and reinstalled. The new one just wasn't working worth a shit.

Cursed objects were added, preventing cursed items from being unworn unless remove curse is used on them.

October - The Month of Mapping

A huge amount of map code and global map changes were made in October, with the result that the global map grid became good enough to actually calculate area locations based on the rooms in the area, instead of the reverse. We also started generating world maps directly from the room files for the first time.

As a side effect of this, some basic deep ocean boat code was added. The code is still experimental, but gods can use boats right now to sail around the mainland and between the islands. Look for player boats in 2010!

November - The Month of New Object Effects

New 'absorb' and 'luck' effects added for objects. These are the first new object effects to be added in many years, and we have a few more on the table for consideration.

Teachers and trainers world wide were updated to make them more consistent and to make obscure skills and spells easier to find. This helped greatly with the playability of the newbie islands.

In an abrupt about-face, new auto commands were added. Included were autoassist, autogold, autoloot, autosac and autolook. This went directly against and destroyed a many-years-long policy of forbidding auto features.

December - The Month of Grouping

Massive updates were made to to 'group set', which replaces 'group aim'. More grouping utilities added, including 'group join' and 'group summon' to help make it easier to form and manage groups.

Another grouping utility, the 'gwhere' command, was added to help keep track of your group members. Most of these grouping updates came about because I was trying to group with other people and simple things were way harder than I thought they should be.

Minimum strength requirements were added for shields. This sets the stage for other types of requirements on other items in the future.

The 'who' list became configurable, allowing selection of short and long mode, disabling titles, disabling microlevels, and new style level/idle sorting. New players see a very different who list now.

The first autogen area maps were released to the public.

The 'where' command for city mobs now shows a general direction, so you can actually navigate to places you've never been to before.

Support for 'spell sets' was added, to allow players to see missing spells.

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