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23rd October

Its been a while since the last time we did a Status Update on FunOrb and I know that a lot of you are asking questions about releases and the like, so here goes our most in-depth and honest appraisal of where we are with FunOrb currently.

First off, weve had a number of major back-end infrastructure changes take place over the summer. The first and most visible of these was the display names project, which allowed players to choose a different name. This has been the equivalent to a games worth of work for us, principally due to the number of systems we needed to update. The development team have been working hard on integrating the changes required to every one of our games and service modules; its been time consuming and complex and has highlighted the need for us to improve the maintenance overhead that the games currently require (more on this later).

Prototype screenshot from Mod Cloud's current project
Prototype screenshot from Mod Cloud's current project.
Click here to see a larger version of this image.

The second, currently invisible, change is the release of our Graphics 2 library, which will allow our games to use graphics card acceleration. We will be able to provide multiple screen resolutions (whatever fits your PC best), high speed 3D rendering, texturing, lighting, reflections and other 3D effects. Essentially well be able to use all the best bits from RuneScape HD. No game is currently live using Graphics 2; we are working to build our new games on this library now. The first of these is likely to launch next spring (again, more on this later).

Thirdly, weve appraised what we originally wanted to do with FunOrb Central, and compared it to the strategic direction that Jagex now wants to take. In certain areas weve expanded on what FunOrb Central was going to deliver and in others curtailed it somewhat. One area of expansion is into what we call our 'game skeleton'. Skeleton 1, the current framework on which we build all of our games is showing its age; it was tailored towards level-based, single-player games first and foremost. With the release of our real- time multiplayer games and the growing need to improve the maintenance cost of the service, weve taken the step of building 'Skeleton 2'.

Prototype screenshot from Mod Nirdgerl's latest game
Prototype screenshot from Mod Nirdgerl's latest game.
Click here to see a larger version of this image.

Currently Mod Zeph and Mod Artifice are both assigned to the architectural and code work construction of our new game development framework. Once complete, this will allow us to make games faster, but its major benefit will be in improving the maintenance overhead of the entire service. It will also provide other benefits, such as global chat in single-player games (once theyre converted).

Here are the other projects that the team is working on (please note that these projects are not complete and are subject to change):

  • Mod Photon is finalising the revised version of Shattered Plans. This has essentially been a complete re-write of the games display and the AI, and the addition of a new rules set and a number of new game modes. It brings a lot to the game and we hope the update will improve the fun in this title immensely.

  • Mod Sporx is putting the finishing touches to Bachelor Fridge. We plan to have this game with you before the end of November.

  • Mod Shade is continuing his quest to add the campaign mode to Armies of Gielinor. This has required us to add complex AI routines, a campaign map, missions, Achievements and improved win conditions. The first campaign, 'Zamorak', will be with you before the end of the year. The next two campaigns should be available before the end of February next year.

  • Mod Thor is fighting with the hostile spawns in Hostile Spawn. This is a complete graphics rework and the addition of a new campaign. The new graphics look superb and the campaign will offer hours of monster-blitzing mayhem.

  • Mod Vile has the glorious task of making Dungeon Assault 2 a reality. Its tricky task, due to the nature of what we have planned. Currently its being made fully 3D with the new Graphics 2 library.

  • Mod Wivlaro is swashbuckling his way through the development of Pirate Empires. The timescale for this massive project has been affected by the introduction of the Graphics 2 libraries. When the game is released, we hope it will look suitably stunning.

  • Mod Dunk is battling with another early prototype: a work-in-progress, multiplayer, starship combat game.

  • Mod Quark, Mod Iain, Mod Crispy, Mod Cloud, and Mod Nirdgerl are all working on very early stage prototypes. More information on these projects in future dev diaries.

  • And as for Mod Thomas? He is working as our Lead Designer, and generally helping out with everything.

Our Graphics team is working hard to get the games looking as polished as possible, along with trying to understand the complexities of just what the new Graphics 2 libraries are capable of.

  • Mod PeteS and Mod Vega are working on the concept art and concept models for the game Mod Dunk is making.

  • Mod Davroc and Mod JessH are making aliens for Hostile Spawn

  • Mod Smudgerinc is working on some corporate imagery that the company needs (the chaps here often do 2D graphic work for the website and other business needs). Prior to this, he was working on the interface for Shattered Plans.

  • Mod LauraW is working on finalising Bachelor Fridge.

Our QA team Mod Ken, Mod Thaddeus, Mod Star and Mod Socrates, are desperately working to hunt down bugs from our releases and playtest the games to death in an effort to make sure they are balanced.

So there you have a real snapshot image of what the team is working on. We do try to keep the service up to date with new content as much as possible. This year has seen some excellent games released so far and we aim to add to these before the year is out. There have not been as many releases as we would have liked, Ill be the first to admit this and a lot of what we are doing now will make it possible to release games more frequently in the future. From the beginning of next year, its our plan to release a new game every month, and if possible, updates to popular titles too.

We also feel that our games are capable of standing up on their own as independent, commercially viable products. Next year you will see a greater push to popularise the games individually, rather than to try to market FunOrb as a whole. Having said this, there is discussion concerning the FunOrb model of global Achievements, Highscores and Ratings and how well it has worked, and how Jagex can extend this model to more of its services. Interesting times at Jagex at the moment!

Well Hallowe'en is just around the corner, and for me at least this hails the start of a period where we plan to have more releases than we have recently. I can give you no guarantees, as we still want to make sure we get everything we release to as high a standard as possible, but hopefully the creative products of FunOrb should begin to flow a little more freely from now on.

Thanks, and keep on having fun.

Mod Korpz
Head of FunOrb

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