Year in Review 2013

Once again, we find another year has come and gone, and it comes time for me to look back and review the year as it has unfolded in 2013. What should be fresh in everyone’s mind is the Red Star event which has its roots extending back many years. Perhaps some of you may remember the Holy Supernals of Celestia hint of a great shame that took place many years ago which they could not speak about, no matter how much you pleaded with them. Or perhaps you’ve run across references to the Burning Star or Red Star in quests from ages ago that may remain as hidden Easter eggs here and there.

The idea stemmed from what would happen if two cosmic lords fell in love and left their cosmic planes, where we knew they would become more powerful and go insane. After all, at one time a main job of the Elder Gods was to hunt down these abominations as they were very real threats to stability. Of course, all history and knowledge of these misbegotten cosmic lords would have to have been wiped, and the binding was a very good reason why no history remained of them and not even other cosmic lords could speak of them. Originally, the idea was that they would be male and female; however, because their names could not even be uttered, the ‘love that dares not speak its name’ became too juicy a trope to resist! Thus, they were turned into same sex lovers.

But even the cosmic greatest working is not perfect. Thus, when lost pieces of art began appearing that depicted the Lovers, the Binding Ritual would activate and send the Mysterious Presence to destroy the offending piece. Thus, throughout the year we saw Adalgiso Batyun find evidence of a book titled the “Love of Story” about the Cosmic Lovers, after which the poor Bard Voices looking who wanted to find for the lost pages found themselves pitched in battle against the Mysterious Presence which ended up destroying the book. At least, we got a new skillset for bards out of it–Dramaturgy! (See Event News 287.) Then we saw two ongoing storylines converge, at least briefly, when the Dreadform of Iklara returned, having been released by the Elder Goddess Mysrai, and then imprisoned in the Skarch Desert. Unfortunately, the location in the desert uncovered a statue of the Lovers, and not only did players have to navigate a three-way feud between Mysrai, Zvoltz and the Mysterious Presence. (See Event News 288.) Next, the Mysterious Presence was drawn to the heirlooms of Latifa y’Bolgari, whose ancestor had helped the Lovers and was rewarded with said heirlooms. (See Event News 291.) The Mysterious Presence appeared again in the Skarch Desert at the site of the Dreadform’s fall, making sure none would find a statue of the Lovers. Eventually, it was defeated, though not before destroying the statue, and the highly mysterious Night Market was revealed. (See Event News 293 and 294.) Finally, the artifact that housed the Elder God Yomoigu was uncovered, which unbeknownst to mortals heralded the imminent return of the Red Star. The Mysterious Presence, of course, did everything it could to destroy the artifact, which resulted in the Yomoigu being released during the debacle at the newly discovered laboratories in the Plaxios Lowlands. (See Event News 296 and 297.) And so the Red Star that was seen by astrologers slowly growing in the heavens throughout the year, finally arrived at the Basin of Life and the Lovers were revealed. (See Event News 298 and 299.)

Wow! Just typing the previous paragraph made my head spin! Of course, the repercussions of the event aren’t quite over, as didn’t the Elder God Valtreth made a cryptic comment at the end of the event? Well, we shall wait and see!

Another great time was at the IronCon meet where the gods and players got together in Las Vegas at a truly spectacular private resort! I got to meet Xenthos, Xena, Kelly, Knorrith, Ixion, Krellan, Wuylinfe, Shuyin and Skye, who hobnobbed and sometimes even danced alongside myself, Roark, Nocht, Hoaracle, Sior, Shikari, Terentia, Raezon, Yomoigu (surprise!) and some ephemerals. It appears that we’re on the fence on whether or not we will be able to hold an IronCon this year, but I hope so! I always enjoy meeting players, so if you’re ever in San Francisco, let me know and I’ll buy you a drink!

At the meet, I offered players who attended a chance to look over a combat overhaul proposal and got some really excellent feedback. This incredibly difficult and time-consuming project would re-imagine affliction and cure system and call for rewriting much of the main underlying codebase for combat. We decided to go forward with it and you may have tested some test characters we have in the arena. I know some people have their doubt on this new system, but it is still in a very early stage of development and we aren’t expecting it to be perfect out the gate. In fact, it is still admittedly very rough. From forum feedback, I think some players expect more polish or playability but if you’ve ever designed a combat system from scratch, you’ll know that you can’t really truly see how it works until the end of development. I must admit I can get discouraged and exhausted by negative feedback, but I hope you can give us a little trust that once everything is in place we can smooth things out by tweaking rather than putting in place whole new systems which some players seem to like to suggest. For such an enormous project like this, we must be prepared for rocky starts and stops.

All IRE games have been directed to completely revise the newbie introduction and tour, making it so newbies enter the game live (rather than isolated newbie areas) and have an engaging introduction. Lusternia has done this not once, but twice! Our first revised newbie introduction didn’t seem to have the effect we expected and wasn’t integrated into Newton Caverns. Thus, we threw everything we did out the window and started from scratch! The second revision is much more integrated into Newton and hopefully more engaging to the newbies. By the way, as simple as it may seem from the outside, rewriting these tours is another time consuming project that takes a lot of work and constant tweaking. As this was a project that IRE set before us, it had to take precedence over the combat overhaul, and unfortunately, we aren’t quite done with it. IRE is collecting statistics and giving us data points on where we need to tweak the newbie introduction so this is turning out to be an ongoing project.

As usual, I want to thank the volunteer admin who make Lusternia possible. This year has been very hard for us as several of our most active and long-standing admin have retired. I can’t say how much they are missed for it extends not only to how much they helped Lusternia but also because they were close friends and I miss our almost daily interactions. However, our now small but dedicated group of volunteers are here for the players, continuing to build areas and quests and events, dealing with issues and customizations, overseeing guides, rating library contests and checking designs. There’s a lot to do and they do it for you, the players. As a hobby! So thank you, Zvoltz and Mysrai and Valtreth and Isune and Nocht and Maylea and Hoaracle and Yomoigu and Raezon! And thanks also to the ephemerals who are waiting in the wings and whom I hope to see become full admin!

I must say a word about Iosai who has been a part of Lusternia for a very, very long time. I knew Iosai well as a player over 6 years ago, and who was a god for a time, then finally as a coder who did a spectacular job. I can’t deny that I leaned on Iosai a lot and was devastated when Iosai retired. Fortunately, we found a very able coder in Ieptix but, as was said in the Devil Wears Prada, he has some very big shoes to fill! (Fortunately, I heard Ieptix has big feet!)

As a final word, I would like to say a few words about Vathael, who tragically passed away in real life and much too soon. He was a large part of Lusternia and I know Lusternia was a large part of him. In multiplayer games, we form attachments to other players that span from friendship to enmity to even love. The more immersed you are, the stronger these attachments become. As Vathael was such a vital part of Lusternia, his departure has affected many of us deeply. If nothing else, I hope we remember that behind the masks we wear as players are others just like ourselves, flesh and blood, fragile and unique, and sometimes we need to step away from the mask to embrace their existence. Good-bye, Vathael. May you find many wonderful adventures in the realm where you now travel.


– Robb French (aka Estarra the Eternal)