As is customary at the start of a new year, let us ruminate upon Lusternia’s 2021.
There are two groups of people that 2021 would not have happened without – the godmin and the players. Certainly, that can be said of any year in Lusternia but it bears highlighting as the most critical element of any year. Our godmin (including Ephemerals!) continue to pour love, passion, and care into their work and whether they do more in front or behind the scenes, it is all essential to the Lusternian experience. The other side of that experience is you – the players. What you bring to the table is equally important and provides endless fuel and inspiration. Thank you for being so generous, patient, and excellent to each other, especially in such a tough, globally, year as the last one. Special thanks are also due to our various player volunteers – guides, builders, reviewers, coders, moderators – and any other kind of contributors who help make the game run smoothly and help improve it (for example, through submitting bugs and typos).
In terms of story, the threads of many events were woven into Lusternia’s Tapestry over the course of the year.
The biggest, of course, was the tale of the once-imprisoned Elder Goddess Li-varili who stopped at nothing to exact revenge on the Elder Gods who had wronged Her, or simply stood in Her way. As part of that months-spanning story, we witnessed an Awakening of a Great Spirit and its reversal done by an Elder God Formation to lull the Great Spirit back to sleep. Modern firsts for both of those events and a necessity as the vengeful storm unleashed by Sister Sea’s awakening was ravaging the Basin of Life. Monstrosities created by the Elder God Blooredi were swimming up and down the flooded highways, Balach Swamp had been reshaped, countless pilgrims, scholars, and bards perished, and the cities and communes had to resort to creative and drastic measures to protect their territories. The story took us to many new places – the depths of the Rhizoda Mangrove, the deck of the Empress’ Last Breath, deep underwater into the Namiraa Trench, and finally the eldritch Leviathan’s Cradle. The stories and secrets of many Elder Gods were laid bare, the Eye of Dynara shattered, Imperial era secrets revealed (in Hallifax, Gaudiguch, and Magnagora), and the terrifying implement known as the Morokeche Seat found. While Li-varili and the other Gods played a crucial role in the story, players rallying behind Her as the secretive Bloodtide Coven and those opposing them gave the tale an unforgettable new dimension. The story culminated in the Curse of the Sunken Heart and the Seal of Justice being cracked by Li-varili and Malayn emerging as the True Ascendant of Death. It was an immense story arc that involved a lot of roleplay, building, and scripting to get just right and we could not be prouder of the end result.
Behind the scenes, and later in front of them, we have seen three ArchEphemerals venture out into the world to learn all about “interacting with mortals”. Serenwilde was joined by Sythae, the Thoughtful, New Celest was joined by Vaevaya, the Refulgent, and Glomdoring welcomed Elyd, the Nightcrawler. Each came with an event of their own and helped tell stories in their new homes. We saw some more permanent returns to the First World as well in the form of two Elder Gods. First, the Elder Goddess Lisaera returned to Serenwilde drawn by the recent revelations therein (the mysterious Seralem!), and soon after the Elder God Ein was woken up from a nap beneath Gaudiguch. Let us also not forget the fiery personality that is the Elder Goddess Li-varili who, presently captured by the Elders, spent the better part of the year being a veritable spitfire to the adoration of many.
Many smaller events and releases happened throughout the year as well. Hugo Girard, a young Delportian bard, made his Basin-wide debut. Hunter Dannic was found wandering Snow Valley in search of heirlooms. The adorable fink Merri can be found on Avechna’s Peak and will school anyone about the Vernal Wars. The aforementioned Rhizoda Mangrove is full of nereids and kelpies, each with a tale of their own. The Kiakodan Nature Reserve hired a new Junior Keeper who specialises in penguins. Namiraa Trench deep in the Inner Sea is full of Blooredi’s creatures and will provide a challenge for every hunter. Mount Zoaka saw the return of the enchanting Glasswing Promenade which, outside of its beauty, can tell you much about the power of Paradigmatics. In the Undervault, beyond the addition of the Leviathan’s Cradle, a kephera nurse known as Sahma can be found tending to a most curious pet. Upon the Waystation Circuit, Mwami Honeypunch seeks to make a name for herself in due course of her apprenticeship with Chef Kioul. And finally, the fight against the darkness of the Tar Pits has taken shape and the dream of healing them is on the horizon. We should also not forget about two additions to the Planes of Continuum and Vortex – their very own beasts! Each with a unique story, polytopes and sarkiposes can now be bought on their respective Cosmic Planes.
Traditionally, the year was also full of regular holiday events and festivals. We opened with a celebration of Valentines with a redone Lovebirds event that put focus on all kinds of relationships, and then a re-balanced Leprechaun event in March. Last year’s summer Ascension also saw a favourite event return – the Ascension Gala – which saw a huge turnout as Lusternians partied like there was no tomorrow. Lusternia also observed its seventeenth anniversary (seriously!) in October and in-game we celebrated it in the form of the Festival of the Creatrix which brought back a revamped Menestrean Wayfaire (with its new coat of paint and expanded lore) and a slew of contests. The First World reached another milestone as well last year – the in-game year 600 – which we commemorated with a Year 600 Lecture Series hosted by the World Library (now also home to the Double Up Game). Attendance rates exceeded all our expectations and the lectures sparked many a debate and even written works. We followed that with the Haunting, our Halloween events, and finally the Solstice with its unique organisational quests, present-bearing gnomes, Ironbeard, and the ever-expanding Solstice Court upon the Jolly Drifts. Player-driven festivals were a recurring staple as well, peppered throughout the year and generously open to many foreign guests.
A lot has happened on the non-story front as well. We ran two rounds of reports in 2021 (which cover anything from combat balance changes to QoL updates) and approved a record total of 124 reports. We made changes to Ascension contests (and documented them properly) and the Final Ascension as well. There was a Prime Plane component to help sway the final score and on Astral we introduced rotating nodes which force the staff holder to move every so often. Lag-related optimisations and the May server upgrade has allowed for a relatively lag-free Ascension this year (tested in advance in the Klangratch Exercises). Further, auctions happened twice this year, had a visual makeover, and included new artifacts. We introduced a guise system to manage all your stoles, masks, and costumes; added sketchpads and letterboxes; released holiday-specific artifact skins; we launched our Official Discord; made the design system more transparent and well-documented; and much more. There are over 300 changelogs to look over to see what all happened in 2021 (changelogs #2277 – #2585). In addition to that, we started working on cutting down on ‘spam’ in roleplay situations by introducing what we’re unofficially calling the Ambient Be Gone system that allows us to quell ambients and other lines that introduce extraneous text not relevant to the situation at hand. We’ll be slowly rolling it out to pets as well to give players more control over this too.
That said, there were three areas we were not entirely satisfied with when it comes to 2021. The major one is the Economy Rework which was pushed numerous times due to life’s circumstances. We feel it is key that we focus on that project first and foremost as it affects a large part of the player experience. It is not all gloom and doom on the economy front, however, as a solid proposal is the foundation of a successful project. Lusternia underwent many economy overhauls over the years in various forms but many of them either introduced new issues (for example, manse commodity generators), or created new problems (for example, timequake artifact commodity sinks), or simply did not go far enough. We are confident in the multi-step proposal we have on the table and will be looking to get to work on that soon as we can. Another aspect we think needs adjusting is the Final Ascension event. Last year we set out to try gradual changes first (see above) and observed how they played out in practice. The bottom line though is that no matter what incremental changes we implement, Ascension as a whole is an event that spans months (especially for those preparing, running routes, etc, way in advance) and requires the collective effort of almost the entire player community… yet always leaves half of that community walking away emotionally exhausted and crushed. Even when alliances put up an even fight, an entire alliance loses and months of their work are seen as going down the drain because the True Ascendant is the reward that truly makes a difference and is available once a year only. At its root, that is an unfortunate setup, even if with exciting stakes. We’ll be brainstorming a more thorough change for the next Ascension. We will also be looking at conflict events as a whole as previously announced. The crux of the Ascension problem also pervades the last area of concern – Reports. In their current form, they have devolved to old-fashioned heated Envoy disputes and are seen as biased and stressful. We are not clear on the path forward for Reports yet but we will be looking into changing up the process, especially as concerns combat balance changes.
So what’s on the roadmap for 2022? A lot! Coding wise, first and foremost the concerns listed in the previous paragraph – Economy, Reports, Ascension. We do not wish to commit to more than that just yet as we want to deliver that to you first and foremost. Instead, we would rather let you know as work gets underway and one such project is the Celestine revamp which is around the corner. On the story side, we have exciting things planned but, as always, that must remain under wraps for that fabled element of surprise. We want to keep connecting to everyone via livestreams and other sorts of events that keep you in the loop, tackle bugs and ideas with ferocity, re-release our fixed up areas, make further progress on various inclusivity issues (many are currently works in progress), look at the newbie experience, the quest system, and more. There is no end to plans, plots, and projects that we are working on to keep improving Lusternia and giving you new adventures and experiences. We hope to keep developing a game that you want to play, even seventeen years after its release!
Orael & Uilani