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Alpha-1 testing

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The term "alpha" is a tricky one, and it typically has 2 meanings in gaming. The development meaning for alpha is a point in the process where we are ready to test the fundamental systems in their core form, without polish and without much of the content. Then, there is the external or "marketing" term for alpha. This is typically applied to Eastern-ported MMORPGs, when in fact that is a completed game being localized for a region, and not really indicative of a true development alpha. As you may know by now, game development has many stages - from the initial tech demos to the pre-production and pre-alpha states, then on to the alphas and betas and eventually launch.[1]Steven Sharif

I want to make emphatically clear, our alphas and betas are true development alphas and betas, and some have said I am crazy to allow these phases to be seen without an NDA…maybe I am crazy? lol… But I am trusting the community of gamers out there to get a glimpse into the process, and understand the long road ahead for what will eventually be worth the wait. Given time and talent, amazing things can happen, so make sure you help us in communicating that we are in open development which means people get to see the bare bones before the meat. And look, I know people see our 4K footage and say, "This looks better than most released games!", but trust me when I say, you ain't seen nothin’ yet.[1]Steven Sharif

Phase Release Estimated/Actual date
Alpha-1 Alpha-1 early preview livestream.[2] March 27, 2020.[3]
Alpha-1 limited QA testing (NDA).[4][5] May 28, 2020.[6][7]
Alpha-1 preview pre-test 1 (NDA).[1] Dec 18 - Dec 21 2020.[1]
Alpha-1 preview pre-test 2 (NDA).[1] Feb 19 - Feb 22 2021.[8][9]
Alpha-1 preview intermittent spot testing (NDA).[10][11] Mar 19 - Jul 9 2021.[10][11]
Alpha-1 preview weekend (no NDA).[10] July 9 - July 11 2021.[10]
Alpha-1 (no NDA).[10] July 14 - August 13 2021.[10]
Alpha-1 additional tests.[12] To be announced.[12]

Read more...

Over the last month, several new developments both internally and externally have led me to err on the side of caution and postpone the NDA release and Alpha One dates to July. If it had only been any one of these issues, we would have powered through it.[10]Steven Sharif

First, with the inclusion of siege systems and the combat backend revamp, our internal code-lock dates slipped a bit and ate into our QA and optimization timelines. While our feature timelines typically include a 30% padding to account for unknowns, I knew including this for our testing would be cutting it close. I made the call to take this risk due to its benefit for the overall testing period. The siege systems now being in place are still going through bug testing before they are ready for primetime. Oftentimes the bug fixing (QA period) can really tighten things up pretty quickly, so I gave it until the end of this weekend to evaluate. Suffice to say, these systems could benefit from another week or two of testing and bug fixing before being ready to include in Alpha One.[10]Steven Sharif

Second, our timeline for the move back to the studio has been accelerated, and this would have put our move-in dates in the middle of the June test window. That would have been a difficult task to juggle for the team, yet we were prepared to do so, and had plans in place for how to accomplish this. However, given the other factors of the delay equation, it made more sense to get the move out of the way first and allow our teams to be in the studio together during the testing period.[10]Steven Sharif

Finally, several new expansion launches for other live games were announced that would have coincided with our test starting June 1st. We estimate roughly 25% of our current testing pool are active players across these titles combined. This fact presents us with forcing our testers to choose between participating in our testing environment (which will be a long and arduous responsibility), or playing an expansion with their friends in other popular titles. As I outlined earlier, this testing period is an important one. It will require not only participation, but also the attention and feedback from both our testing audience and the broader Ashes of Creation community and general public.[10]Steven Sharif

Coupled with the above facts, media coverage and content creators would have been asked to cover either Alpha One for Ashes of Creation, or the other live launches on June 1st. While the primary purpose of this testing and NDA release is to collect data, gather feedback, and test systems, it is also an opportunity to grow our community, building on the already millions of people who are following our development and participating in the success of the project.[10]Steven Sharif

So, with the above information, I’ve made the decision to position our Alpha One presentation and testing period in the month of July, instead of June. If you are already a member of the Alpha One testing group, you will still be testing on May 14, but this testing will remain under NDA. Additionally, during the month of June there will be spot/stress testing that you will have an opportunity to participate in. Also, given the delay in our testing schedule, I will be extending our refund policy from 30 days to 90 days going forward for all pre-orders retroactive from May 5, 2021, out of respect to those who purchased anticipating the NDA release for this month.[10]Steven Sharif

As usual, we will continue to showcase in-game footage during our live streams this month and next. With the launch of our Content Creator Program, this will also provide some additional time for those of you who are interested in creating content around Ashes of Creation to prepare.[10]Steven Sharif

Again, announcing a delay is not the highlight of my week, but it is my responsibility to protect the project and position ourselves for success. While I will take this on the chin for the next few weeks, if it means a better Alpha One presentation with more time for QA, a smoother studio move, and better participation and coverage overall for the test, then I think it’s the right call. Hope you agree.[10]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 testing goals

Server deployment and performance testing
  • Stress-test our server deployments and player concurrency numbers with high volumes of player activity and interactions.[10]
  • Stand up multiple world server deployments across different geographical regions.[10]
  • Soak test server grid health over a continuous period of production use.[10]
  • Evaluate current networking architecture, and identify non-performant code and areas for additional optimizations or refactoring.[10]
  • Test our build strategy and hot-fix deployment procedures, account services, web-based systems, launcher and patcher stability, and cloud-based infrastructure.[10]
System functionalities and behavior testing (in their core state)
Player character systems (in their core state)
Ancillary systems (in their core state)

The above is not a comprehensive list of everything being tested in Alpha One, but it hits the primary points. There are many other data metrics being collected for our approach to the content production pipelines, system definitions, and refactoring as well. Not to mention a plethora of technical art implications and optimizations, but you get the gist. This is a very fundamental test that will impact the direction of development post-Alpha One, so you can understand the importance of testing and its need for player participation, attention, and feedback.[10]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 combat revamp

4K Alpha-1 preview open world PvP (2v2).[13]

All of you out there who are waiting to see all of these changes remember that these are iterative changes and they're kind of rolled out in different phases. So you're going to see kind of the early aspect of them and don't expect them to be fully polished or all the animations to have yet been adapted.[14]

A revamped combat system will be rolled out during and post Alpha-1 testing.[15][14] This was originally targeted to be ready to test in the Alpha-1 March preview testing.[16]

  • The goal is to give more agency to the player and achieve a more fluid flow of combat with greater mobility when using abilities.[17][18]
  • The current hybrid tab and action combat system will remain after the revamp.[17]
  • This revamp will not represent the final form of combat, but will set the general direction that combat will be taking.[16]
  • The revamp will be iterative and will be rolled out to testers in different phases.[18]

The revamp is taking a bit longer than expected. We are still in the process of overhauling the backend of the combat and ability systems before we touch the front end components. The changes and prototypes will be rolled out slowly and in phases during and post alpha one.[15]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 availability

Alpha-1 is available for purchase again via the Adventurer pre-order pack from May 5, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific until August 13, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific.[19][20][21]

Adventurer pre-order pack FAQ

How long will the Adventurer pre-order pack be available?
If I purchase the Adventurer pre-order pack, when can I participate in Alpha-1 testing?
Will there be a limited number of Adventurer pre-order packs available?
  • We have not announced any plans to limit the quantity of available Adventurer Pre-order Packages. However, keep in mind that the Adventurer Pre-order Package will only be available for purchase until August 13, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific..[19]
If I already own a pre-order package, how can I get access to Alpha-1?
If I’m a Kickstarter or Summer crowdfunding campaign backer, how can I get access to Alpha-1?
Who is eligible to participate in Alpha-1 testing?
Where can I get more info on Alpha-1 testing if I’m participating?
  • Keep an eye out for emails from our team with more details on how to download and play! We'll also email you more info on how to get the latest testing updates on our Discord and forums. If you don’t receive any emails and you believe you should, please reach out to our Support team directly here.[19]

Alpha-1 participation

Alpha-1 testing is available to the following participants:

There were slightly under 10,000 participants in Alpha-1 testing as of August, 2018.[24]

Alpha-1 castle sieges

Trebuchets in the Alpha-1 preview castle siege attackers headquarter camp.[25]
Alpha-1 preview castle (work-in-progress).[25]

An initial implementation of castle sieges based on Ashes of Creation Apocalypse castle sieges is being tested by the developers.[27][21]

  • Players will be able to join guilds. These guilds can register for the siege events.[25]
  • Castle siege events will be 100v100 battles that occur daily and will last for three hours.[25]
  • Attackers will start on the opposite end of the map (from the defenders).[25]
  • Attackers will be able to use trebuchets to drive to and assault the castle.[25]
    • Trebuchets have a single primary fire that does a small amount of damage to players and heavy damage to buildings.[25]
    • Trebuchets will be fully physical when they are being driven.[25]
  • When the attackers have breached the castle they will be able to channel a cast on the relic in the throne room to try to capture the castle from the defenders.[25]
  • The victors of castle sieges will receive benefits, such as cloaks, flying mounts for guild leaders and potentially also for guild officers.[25]
  • Alpha-1 castle sieges are in a separate zone that is accessible via a NPC teleporter.[28][29][30]
    Currently the siege zone is actually in the open world, but separated by mountains and off in the sea a bit. There is actually no instancing in A1, although the siege zone will only be accessible in A1 through a registration NPC teleporter.[28]Steven Sharif
  • The opposing team is notified when these raid bosses are being attacked.[27]
  • Teams who get the last hit on these bosses will receive buffs that will help them in the siege battle.[27]

Last year, I spoke of attempting to incorporate sieges into the Alpha One experience. This has obviously been a goal of mine because it provides considerable data and a consistent event within the world that players can participate in to help stress test the deployment. Well, I am happy to say that it is appearing more and more likely by the day! Initial implementation of the Apocalypse siege code has been migrated into the Alpha One client, and we should begin internal testing next month. I will caveat this expectation with the fact that we are cutting it a bit close from an internal QA standpoint, but I have some confidence that the system will be online and capable of inclusion for the Alpha One test in the month of June. The siege component will obviously not be representative of what the siege system will be at launch, or even in Alpha Two.[21]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 PvE content

PvE content in Alpha-1:

There's over 200 quests in the game right now. There's a bunch of dungeons. We've retooled all of the boss fights. Those dragons that you see in the siege are also in the world- part of the open-world too. There will be a slightly different- there are some extra mechanics in the siege versions versus the ones that are in the world, but there's plenty of cool things to get on both of them, so make sure you check them out and hunt them down.[29]Jeffrey Bard

Artisan classes in Alpha-1

Artisan classes (Gathering, Processing, Crafting) will come online fully in Alpha-2 and the Betas.[32][33]

In Alpha One the core basics of what crafting represents as a gameplay loop that is represented. So that means that there are gatherables out there. You will have to have tools in order to service those gatherables. There will be processing that's necessary; and then there's crafting stations that are available and can be constructed by the players. This is in Alpha One. You have to collect the recipes, you have to collect the materials, and you have to refine the materials; and then you have to create the reagents and then use those to kind of create the final crafting component of that you're trying to create. So that in and of itself is present, but it is a very very small piece of really what will be the larger crafting puzzle for Alpha 2 and betas.[32]Steven Sharif

Crafting honestly will not come online in any sense of its true form until Alpha-2. Alpha-1 has essentially what are intended to be the core gameplay loop of crafting, meaning the collection of materials, the translation of those materials into processed goods, and the use of those processed goods into item acquisition. That's the core gameplay loop that is currently present in Alpha-1. But those are mostly facilitated kind of piggy backing the merchant systems right now and not actually using the real crafting system; and that's because crafting hasn't been completed in a form that can be implemented in Alpha-1, but will be for Alpha-2. What's present in Alpha-1 doesn't even really scratch the surface for crafting.[33]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 servers

info-orange.pngSome of the following information has not been recently confirmed by the developers and may not be on the current development roadmap for Alpha-1.

Alpha-1 servers will support 1,500 concurrently connected users per server.[35][36][37]

Alpha-1 servers will be provisioned in the following regions.[38]

Server wipes

Alpha and Beta servers will be wiped prior to launch.[42]

  • Alpha-1 testing phases will include full wipes.[43]
  • Servers may also be wiped between individual tests, unless the developers require progression to be saved for certain spot tests.[44]

As a general rule, if the testing phase contains the word Alpha, it is safe to assume there will likely be wipes.[45]Steven Sharif

Alpha-1 NDA

Alpha-1, Alpha-2, Beta-1, Beta-2 releases are not covered by NDA (non-disclosure agreement).[46]

  • Alpha-1 testing prior to the full release of Alpha-1 is covered by NDA.[47][5]
    • NDA review and acceptance is done via the game client.[48]
    • The text and voice NDA was lifted from the PI QA testing phase on May 28, 2020.[47]
    • The NDA will be lifted for the July 2021 Alpha-1 preview weekend test.[10]

Our plan at the moment is for you to review and accept the NDA as part of the game client itself. Keep an eye out for emails in your inbox on how to test as we get closer![48]Sarah Flanagan

Alpha testing system requirements

Alpha-1 stress testing, March 17, 2021.[49]

Funny story; So yesterday as we are stress/density testing with our NDA testers, I accidentally summoned 5k bears around our few hundred players. But hey, it didn’t crash! Can you spot Lt. Toast here?[49]Steven Sharif

These are fully operational NPCs. They have behavior trees, they have AI blackboards; you know they are functioning as an NPC would; and to my surprise, to everyone's surprise actually, the server handled it quite well: 5000 entities all within a very dense area.[50]Steven Sharif

Ashes of Creation alpha testing minimum system specification.[51]

  • Operating System: Windows 10 64-Bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-2125 3.3GHz / AMD Phenom II X4 3.3GHz
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 or AMD Radeon 6870 HD with 1GB and DirectX 12
  • Memory: 6 GB RAM
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 35 GB of available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible Sound Card

Recommended specification.[51]

  • Operating System: Windows 10 64-Bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz / AMD FX-9590 4.7GHz
  • Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon R9 Fury with 4GB and DirectX 12
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 35 GB of available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible Sound Card

Alpha testing zone

Alpha-1 testing tropical zone featuring a war beast and a tribe of pigmy goblins.[53]

This is a rather large tropical area; and what we use some of the creatures for is kind of like establishing character for different parts of this tropical place. So that even though it's the same biome, it feels different when you are going from place to place based on what's there and how those things are interacting with the environment.[54]Jeffrey Bard

Alpha-1 testing takes place in a zone to the north west of the world map.[55] This zone has many islands and a mainland area.[56]

  • There are 12 different (sub)zones in the Alpha-1 testing location.[54]
  • The Alpha-1 zone is almost 100 km2 in size.[54][56] This is approximately 20-25% of the total world size.[54][36]
    • This was estimated to be 70 km2 by Steven Sharif in a recent podcast. Since this was an estimate, the original sizing has not been updated.[57]
    • Traversing the width of the zone (10 km) on a mount would take about 30 minutes.[58]
  • Alpha island (also called Alpha-0 island) was the first open-world testing zone for Alpha-1 participants.[59]
  • There are approximately 4 biomes in Alpha-1: Flood plains, Sahara (Desert), Snowy mountains.[60]
    • A tropical/jungle zone was added for the December 2020 Alpha-1 preview tests.[55][53][54]
  • Temporary teleportation points will be present in early tests until ships are introduced later in the alpha testing.[61]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Blog: Creative Director's Letter, October 16 2020
  2. March 2020 newsletter.
  3. Video, 23 March 2020 (0:01).
  4. alpha-1-nda-2.png
  5. 5.0 5.1 alpha-1-nda-1.png
  6. steven-a1-testing-start.png
  7. Creative Director's Letter, 1 April 2020.
  8. Livestream, 26 February 2021 (14:58).
  9. Blog: Creative Director's Letter, January 2021.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 10.15 10.16 10.17 10.18 10.19 10.20 10.21 10.22 10.23 10.24 10.25 Alpha One Schedule Update, May 10 2021.
  11. 11.0 11.1 An Update on Alpha One Schedule, March 12 2021
  12. 12.0 12.1 alpha-1-tests.png
  13. Video, 26 February 2021 (30:02).
  14. 14.0 14.1 Video, 26 February 2021 (6:17).
  15. 15.0 15.1 steven-combat-revamp-update.png
  16. 16.0 16.1 Interview, 7 February 2021 (49:18).
  17. 17.0 17.1 steven-combat-revamp-update-2.png
  18. 18.0 18.1 Livestream, 26 February 2021 (27:41).
  19. 19.00 19.01 19.02 19.03 19.04 19.05 19.06 19.07 19.08 19.09 19.10 19.11 19.12 19.13 19.14 19.15 Ashes of Creation Store: May cosmetics.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Livestream, 30 April 2021 (4:02).
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Blog: Creative Director's Letter, April 14 2021
  22. steven-alpha-1-sales.png
  23. steven-a1-upgrade.png
  24. Livestream, 17 August 2018 (24:07).
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 25.6 25.7 25.8 25.9 Video, 30 April 2021 (19:25).
  26. Livestream, 30 October 2020 (20:40).
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 Video, 30 April 2021 (13:02).
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 steven-siege-zone.png
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 29.5 29.6 29.7 29.8 29.9 Livestream, 30 April 2021 (41:18).
  30. 30.0 30.1 Podcast, 11 April 2021 (49:40).
  31. Newsletter, 7 August 2018
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 32.4 32.5 32.6 32.7 Livestream, 26 March 2021 (42:28).
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Interview, 7 February 2021 (35:30).
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 Livestream, 26 March 2021 (39:08).
  35. alpha-1-participation.png
  36. 36.0 36.1 Interview, 19 July 2020 (1:21:49).
  37. alpha-1-phase-2.png
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 Livestream, 31 October 2018 (35:53).
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 steven-a1-servers.png
  40. eu-servers.png
  41. eu-servers-a1.png
  42. server wipe.jpg
  43. Alpha one test schedule, Mar 12, 2021.
  44. Livestream, 30 November 2020 (7:27).
  45. server-wipes.png
  46. Livestream, 18 January 2018 (49:26).
  47. 47.0 47.1 Livestream, 29 May 2020 (31:37).
  48. 48.0 48.1 toast-nda.png
  49. 49.0 49.1 steven-a1-stress-test.png
  50. Livestream, 26 March 2021 (12:34).
  51. 51.0 51.1 What are the minimum requirements for Alpha?
  52. steven-a1-testing-leaks.png
  53. 53.0 53.1 Livestream, 30 November 2020 (12:09).
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 54.3 54.4 Livestream, 30 November 2020 (22:43).
  55. 55.0 55.1 Livestream, 30 November 2020 (9:51).
  56. 56.0 56.1 alpha-1-map-size.png
  57. Podcast, 11 April 2021 (53:01).
  58. Livestream, 30 November 2020 (25:45).
  59. steven-pi-not-alpha-island.png
  60. Livestream, 29 January 2021 (26:38).
  61. Livestream, 30 November 2020 (24:51).