Interview with Dentin 2009

The year 2009 in Review - Featuring Dentin


Ouch: Okay. We are in a year in review with the great Dentin, creator of Alter Aeon, for the year 2010, the review of 2009.

Ouch: Interview date is December 27th, 2009 and system time 839 pm.

Dentin: And now comes the part where someone asks me, "When did the email system go in?" and I respond with something that makes me look retarded, like, "We have an email system?"

Ouch: Actually, about having two email systems, will one die?

Ouch: When will the old system be destroyed?

Dentin: It probably won?t. I like the email god.

Dentin: He's cute.

Ouch: You don?t feel it is too confusing to new players that we have two email systems?

Dentin: A good rule of thumb is not to nuke stuff unless it is a maintenance hassle, if there's a cost in keeping it. The email bot really has no associated cost, he just runs on autopilot

Dentin: I've separated the commands and notifies as strongly as I could. Honestly, there's a point where I give up - if the player really wants to push uncooked waffles into the CD drive, then perhaps playing a video game just is not meant for him

Ouch: Is the new email system to allow for better messages, for better sorting, and most of all, does it block messages from people on ignore?

Dentin: Yes, the newer email system is superior in a lot of ways. Locane seriously needs to improve the parser though. A handful of the conveniences in the old email still don't work right in the new one.


Ouch: Dentin, overall, has the year been positive?

Dentin: The year has had its ups and downs actually. It was definitely a year of experimentation.

Dentin: It started out with a massive web/advertising push, at least massive compared to previous pushes. That settled down around March and appeared to have a decent impact - though far less than I was hoping for.

Dentin: Things kind of tapered down mid year, but then something strange happened.

Dentin: Looking back, I think that what happened is I pissed off a certain very high level player and the resulting propaganda in the player base drove off a lot of people.

Dentin: The player base has recovered over the last couple of months, but it is still very unusual. I am still figuring out the social dynamics of that one.

Ouch: Are we talking about the Tyrant situation?

Dentin: No - another situation having to do with the mana regen changes. These changes were fought viciously and now not even questioned. It is almost universally considered an improvement.


Ouch: I have noticed this year a total increase in skills/spells, areas, commands, socials, etc. Can you confirm that as far as expansion of the game, it has been a year of expansion?
It appears Dentin is frustrated that he can not be programming the game 24/7, just like many players are frustrated they can not be playing 24/7. If all of this were otherwise, AA would not be AA now would it?

Dentin: No, not really.

Dentin: About the only part that has seen a massive expansion in my opinion is the area/world map.

Dentin: Command and social changes have been pretty minor compared to the total, and skills/spells are almost completely locked down pending class changes.

Ouch: But of the new spells and skills - is it normal to see such an increase?

Dentin: What new spells and skills? Compared to previous years, where I'd consider there to be strong, active development, I didn?t really think there were that many.


Ouch: Okay we were going to ask about the class changes... When are the class changes going into effect? The Ralnoth Times staff has been imperative about making sure that I ask... ROFL

Ouch: And what classes will they be?

Dentin: As would be expected, I gave people minimum time schedules for when it could theoretically be done. Everyone assumed that would be the due date. In reality, a lot of other stuff has happened too, and we are not even done with all the infrastructure changes yet, much less complete new spell and skill trees. So I'd give it a couple months and see what else we manage to get in.

Dentin: There is a lot more high priority things that I think are short term important - fixing up the newbie areas and improving the new player experience, getting the client into shape, and getting our name out there so people can find AA and want to play it.

Ouch: What classes are we talking about?

Dentin: I have three pretty clear classes in mind, at least at the moment. Draak hates the names, but what I see in my head matches my definitions of these words, so I use them. I envision a paladin, druid, and necromancer class, because they're separate enough that I think they can be done without hugely breaking everything.

Ouch: So... We will still have the other four classes but we will add these three?

Dentin: I planned to add the first couple of classes with minimal damage to the others, kind of like how Diablo II did it. Complete new spell/skill trees, separating things out as necessary from existing classes but hopefully without causing major problems.


Ouch: Has the player base increased this year?

Dentin: It has gone up and down. For the first half of the year, the player base was up quite a bit. There was the dip later as I mentioned, and we're back about where we started right now.

Dentin: About the only positive I can pull out of it is that we did not decline, where a lot of other games have. If most of your competition is sinking, treading water doesn?t look so bad anymore. It is disheartening though.


Ouch: What about gods? Clans? Articles on the website? Have those increased?

Dentin: Blink.

Dentin: Clans are player base constant. For articles, of course, there's a date stamped index on the web site (keyword indexes now too, heh).

Ouch: So the website and the client have improved?

Dentin: Yes. Website and client are definitely way better. My personal client builds have XP bars in them too, heh.

Dentin: As for gods, I think the overall number of active gods remains about constant. They come, they go, etc.

Dentin: The number of admin gods has decreased, and I rearranged all the god levels not too long ago. I am gradually getting to where there is very little admin power required for normal game operation.

Ouch: How come Wyvren is not on much? I heard it is a big secret only you and her know.

Dentin: You'll have to get that information from Wyvren or her mortals, that is an internal affair and not up for discussion, by agreement.

Ouch: Heh. So I guess we confirmed that only you and her know.


Ouch: Okay... So what new areas have come about?

Dentin: Most of the actual new areas that I can remember have come from Morpheus, Draak, and Shadowfax. I know other builders have built stuff but my impression is those three are responsible for most of the new integrations this year. The southeastern combine area has had a number of huge expansions this year.

Dentin: I think though that the expansion is a lot less important then the overall architecture.


Ouch: What are you most proud of - that when all was said and done you
were very happy either with yourself or with others? (In terms of everything this year)

Dentin: A LOT of work has gone on this year to get the world map straightened out, and get things flattened out. This lets us do a lot of other neat things, like the experimental boat code, for example. The latest area maps on the web pages are another example of the neat stuff we can do with these changes.

Dentin: The global map changes haven?t made a huge impact on the players - yet - but they will. It's like having a solid foundation to build on, finally.

Dentin: I am probably most happy with the world maps and the client. Both have turned out to be a lot better than I expected.

Ouch: So overall, would you say the game has been streamlined?

Dentin: Yes, but I would not say that has anything to do with the map part of it. Certainly the introduction/newbie islands/low level experience has been streamlined and is much more polished than it used to be. But the islands were already largely mappable by design.

Dentin: It is kind of the wrong adjective to use when describing the mapper. The mapper has made things sane, not streamlined. The streamlining has happened elsewhere.

Ouch: Like where?

Dentin: I?d say the most streamlined aspects are definitely on Sloe, getting new players into the game and up to the level 10 ranges. I've also put a lot of work into the mid level ranges, between 15 and 25, but I still feel that the ranges where Kordan lies are pretty weak.

Dentin: Keep in mind though that I do not usually play in the level 30 or higher range. I have been very focused on lower levels to try to bring in new people.

Ouch: Would you say the AA team itself is streamlined as far as working together and what to expect?

Dentin: As much as you could expect from volunteers who have a life outside of AA, yes :)


Ouch: What do you think of the system events that took place this year?

Dentin: My only regret with them is that I didn?t make time to do them monthly, all year. The fact of the matter is that they consume a pretty big amount of time and effort, even when mostly automated, and that sucks. Even just putting up event reports can take several hours, because I hate to put up reports that have typos or look stupid.

Dentin: Consider it my personal OCD failing - I do not like to put stuff on the Web for the world to see if it is going to suck. I feel it makes me look bad.

Ouch: What was your favorite event this year?

Dentin: My personal favorite was the lack of events in the middle of the year. Like I said, they're a huge amount of effort and very draining.


Ouch: Do you consider this year particularly challenging?

Dentin: Like I said, it was a year of experimentation, success, and failure. Some things worked, some things didn?t, and some stuff worked better than other stuff.


Ouch: So Dentin the million dollar question is ... What is our mission for 2010? What do you want from us?

Dentin: From the players, all I can really expect is for the players to have fun and pull in other people if they like it. Spreading the word and getting more people playing is what I would consider most important, but that is incredibly hard to get people to do.

Dentin: It is really hard to get players to do really useful things, because a lot of the really useful things for AA either require advanced technical skills or they are crappy, un-fun, things that people do not want to do.


Ouch: We have the 15th birthday coming up on January 15th (the golden birthday)... Can we get in on the party planned? Any details you care to share?

Dentin: Nope, it is a surprise. I still need to talk to Fionna and see what other ideas she has for some of the time slots.

Dentin: I figure for a fifteenth birthday, it is kind of important, so we'll see what we can do :)


Ouch: Well Dentin, we thank you for a great game... and we appreciate all the efforts of the builders and gods and of course all the hours of fun of the players...

Dentin: That was my plan when I started, it is nice to see it work out that way. I'd really like to be able to afford to do it full time, but if it's not meant to be, I can always go back to doing what I used to do :)

Ouch: Do you have any closing remarks or anything you want to say in particular to The Ralnoth Times or its readers?


Dentin: Cackle.

Dentin: Feel free to disregard that, it is probably a bad idea. After all, I suck at marketing :)

Ouch: Smile.

Ouch: So we enter the year 2010 with an overall recruiting mission...

Dentin: It is as good a mission as any other. If the players recruit, then I can get around to building more interesting aspects of the game

Ouch: Thank you for sparing us some of your time Dentin.

Dentin: No problem, thanks for the interest.

Ouch: System time is 913 pm.

TRT Comments

It appears Dentin is frustrated that he can not program AA 24/7, as some players are frustrated they can't be playing 24/7. If any of this were otherwise, AA wouldn't be AA now would it?

Also, as a reminder, the dynamics of potion throwing and of micro levels, added this year, have changed some of the dynamics of the game.

Of the three possible classes mentionned, one was written about in this very Issue 5 by unrelated co-incidence. Those interested can read the role playing perspective entitled
The Way of the Paladin.

Copyright © 2008-2010 -- Ryan Kazemi (OUCH in-game)