2020. Holy smokes, what a year.

Our story in 2020 started with the Vernal Paradox and the Seal of Time being discovered. To uncover its secrets, adventurers meandered the labyrinth of four new timequake areas – all dealing with the mysterious Isikathi, the Vernal Dragon of Time, whose essence was used to form the Seal itself. The need for an Ascension was averted, but a whole other crisis was slowly and quietly brewing not that far away from the Basin of Life.

In the lulls between world-changing events, smaller but no less important stories unfolded. The shrine of Arimella, Carver of Mountains was discovered and a dutiful dwarf pledged to ensure it remains in good condition. The L.L.L.P.A.C. was founded by one Nada Sunfar, a landscape artist with a fascination for the vivid colour of lapis lazuli. And finally, the returns of Lord Crumkane, Lady Lantra, and Lady Terentia brought much joy to the Basin.

Much merriment took place at recurring festivals and celebrations – the Ascension Gala, the Creatrix Festival, the Haunting, and finally the Solstice. Various cities and communes were not to be outshined and hosted colourful festivities all of their own, celebrating anything from refounding to the spring itself.

Peace did not last long, however. First, the Great Spirits of the communes were drawn into the Dreaming by dragon dreamers of unknown origins. They were awakened, but Mother Night and Mother Moon soon fell to the Dreaming as well, and not even the mysterious dracnari who came to advise the communes knew how to aid them. With the help of Queen Maeve – and the True Dragon who assisted her – they eventually awakened, but so were those who stalked their dreams.

Then, meteors tore through Gaudiguch and Hallifax both – the wrath of scarcely coherent dracnari emissaries come to call. They sought to gain power and understanding over the First World but their impatience and arrogance brought ruin in their wake. Lives were lost and both cities had much work ahead of them to rebuild.

New Celest and Magnagora were not spared these curious visitors but through careful and strategic preparations New Celest managed to avoid their direct ire at first. In Magnagora, the emissaries were manipulated into sampling the tainted gases of the Megalith of Doom. Thus transformed, they brought about their own doom at the hands of Sachiana of the Eternal Hunt, the first True Dragon seen in her true form in Lusternia since time immemorial. Unfortunately, one of the blackened Mature Dragons survived and aided her kin in a full out assault of New Celest. They were all repelled, but not without heavy losses and much destruction. Ultimately, however, that change ushered the city onto a new path – with the unification of Church and State under the Crown of New Celest, and the discovery of the first non-merian Saints.

By then, the goals of these Mature Dragons were tumbling into the Basin’s knowledge. A group of them had crashed into Mount Avechna, seeking to fuse with the Seal of Time, and causing the True Dragon Nemuruko to come forth and offer his unique form of assistance once more. The process of Yugomaru was explained: a stage in the maturity of Dragons, it was the process by which younger dragons fused their essence with a True Dragon, becoming part of them. The Mature Dragons that had so besieged the Basin were revealed to have Quickened to the essence of Isikathi, who now remained only in the world as the Seal itself.

Faced with several groups of Mature Dragons – made up of those who had previously troubled the cities and communes – adventurers worked to prevent the destruction of the Seal of Time. They sought to trick the Mature Dragons, send them to slumber, and even turn them against each other. They succeeded, but the assault was enough to weaken the Nine Seals through their connection to the Seal of Time – which stands now to protect them from temporal interference.

These events led up to Ascension, pushed back until the summer for the first time this year, a decision that proved to be a great one for both us and you. The majority of the events this year were among the most competitive we’ve seen in a long time, and it culminated with over 100 players being online for the final event. Unfortunately, we failed to deliver on the promise that everyone should feel like they can compete and massive lag impacted the entire event, interfering with the player’s ability to compete. This lead to us making the controversial decision to reward a second True Ascendant. This decision helped to put much distress to rest, but in the process caused more in others. We continue to feel that this decision was the correct one, but acknowledge that there was more we could have done to manage the decision better.

We’ve also been pushing our inclusivity project, a project that was catalysed by the Black Lives Matter movement to address not only systemic racism present within Lusternia’s setting, but all forms of prejudice. In the past months, we have made adjustments to all manner of things – from NPC descriptions to area names to racial descriptions – and there is much more to come. Presently, we are working on some of the larger concerns that are more heavily baked into our lore, and thus will require more effort to unweave. We know that what we have done is not yet enough, but we remain firm in our pledge to make Lusternia somewhere where everyone can feel comfortable, however long it takes.

As far as mechanical changes go: we put an enormous effort into revamping the Demigod Powers system, and then added the Demigod Perk system. We then introduced our very first Endzone area, the Ruins of Grimkeep. Endzone is a unique hunting experience never before seen in Lusternia. It calls for strategy and consideration when hunting, while also now boasting the best essence rewards of the game. Grimkeep is an area that can offer a little bit of everything for any type of player. The lore of an ancient ruined city ripe for exploration; achievements; rankings to continually push yourself; strategising what the best strategies there are to use. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.

All this has happened in the middle of a year with a pandemic raging across the globe. We are incredibly proud of all of our players who made Lusternia a place for anyone that needed to be somewhere they could just be. A place where you could forget about the toils of the world and distract yourself from reality for a time. Some incredible good came of this too, with IRE’s charity drive for the Helping Covid Heroes Fund. Players from across all of IRE purchased fun little plushies and dolls and 100% of those proceeds went to the fund to relieve medical debt for front-line workers amid the pandemic, as well as a proportion of all sales made during the drive. $15,000 was donated by IRE, paying off $2.3 million of medical debt. That’s an impact everyone should be proud of, and if you are interested in helping out more, please check out their website.

We would also like to extend our huge, and immeasurable gratitude to our incredible volunteers. Even in a normal year, these wonderful people give their time freely to make Lusternia all that it is. There is almost nothing you see that is not touched by them in some way. But this year they have by necessity gone above and beyond, by continuing to do this despite all of 2020’s challenges. We have volunteers in essential jobs, volunteers who have had to quarantine with dependants, volunteers who have contracted the Covid-19 virus, and volunteers who have lost jobs or experienced economic difficulty as a result of this year’s events. Through all of this, they have returned to Lusternia again and again, just out of love for the game and its community. There are no words that we could give that would truly thank them enough. We are privileged to call them our team.

After taking over from Ianir as Co-Producer in March, at the beginning of December it was announced that Aonia would be leaving us at the end of 2020, marking a sad close to a difficult year. We are incredibly sad to see her go, but are grateful to have had her with us for the past six years. Much of Aonia’s impact on Lusternia has not only been in the stories that you have seen told; her lasting legacy is one of caring deeply for our volunteers, and offering them the support and encouragement they have needed to produce the incredible roleplay and content you have enjoyed this year. Fortunately, we are blessed with Uilani (Drocilla) as her replacement. Her knowledge and storytelling abilities have been seeded throughout Lusternia for a decade, and we know she will do a fantastic job at filling Aonia’s shoes within our team.

We had quite a year overall, and we’re looking forward to the next year, building upon and expanding on our successes and learning from our failures. One thing we have learned is that we are only able to deliver on one or two major projects a year – so with that in mind, our focus for the upcoming year is working on the Economy and taking a look at our conflict mechanics to start. We aim to figure out how to solve the commodity woes that concern the player base, and how we can both encourage combat participation while at the same time, not making it a chore or discouraging for the losing side of those mechanics. These changes include differences in the Ascension event that are designed to make the contests as fair as possible.

We want to continue connecting with everyone through livestreams, which we have done every other month this year, and may try to expand this out towards townhall type meetings with players and other venues. We strive to continually listen to you, our players, and take your input on things – so we can continue to develop a game that you want to participate in and play!

We’re looking forward to 2021 and hope you are as well.

Aonia, Orael, Uilani, and Ianir