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Will There Ever Be New Achievements Again?

by Rogue Shindler, Achievement Master

11th February 2015

Greetings achievers!

It's been too long since I've been able to address you about more than just achievement errata and clarifications. We all know that. An unfortunate confluence of decisions and events has meant we've had no new achievements for over a year. It's nearly always the first thing a non-local TCCer asks me about after saying 'hi' (and sometimes even before), and while I've made an effort to mention it periodically both on the boards and on Section 31, word hasn't quite reached every corner of subspace, so cool your warp coils and let's clear the air. To understand where we are now, we need to take a few steps back and follow along with the dilemmas facing the Achievements system.

Accelerated Aging

After the last full release in early 2013, we could tell the achievements list was getting a bit crowded. We had to reorganize the list to a set of tiered tabs just to be able to find everything efficiently, and we were already covering a significant percentage of the potential themes and feats possible in the game. In reviewing the numbers, it appeared that indeed, we were releasing achievements faster than most could achieve them. In addition, we were working on an idea that would be something new and different than achievements we'd seen before, but would require a good deal more planning.

On top of this, the achievements system had become something of a victim of its own success. With the possible exception of the Chairman, no one on the committee was prepared for how overwhelmingly popular achievements would be right out the gate. I was brought in as Achievements Master, and as fast as everyone was earning them, the Achievements team started churning them out even faster. Your excitement fueled our excitement, players wanted even more (because, let's face it: when we like something, we want more of it whether we really need it or not), and we obliged. Achievements grew faster than was really needed, and as it turns out, faster than our system could really adequately accommodate. But we'll get to that.

Command Decisions

With all of these considerations (and several others) in mind, I made the decision to adjust the next full release from six months to a year. Certain aspects (such as adjustments as new sets released and keeping up with release achievements) required a small release in the fall, but otherwise, the numbers held up. Even without new achievements, the rate of weekly achievements remained constant (even now, after so long, there are still scores of achievements earned every week, so we are by no means running out), and while there was some minor grumbling, it didn't seem to slow those people from finding other things to play and other achievements to earn (which is one of the core missions of achievements!).

As time for a new release approached in early 2014, a set was designed and prepared for release only to discover from our Chief Programmer and estimable code monkey Chris Lobban that the system was simply overloaded. To make the achievement system as reliable and cohesive as possible it interacts directly with the deck builder. While this has proven invaluable for players verifying their decks to qualify for desired achievements, it has also caused a significant impact on the loading speed of the system in general, and the deck builder in particular. I was alerted that adding a full set's worth of new achievements would simply cause an intolerable grind in loading speed. Achievements were done.

Distress Call

This was news to me, despite the obvious system slow-down. I knew there were issues, but thought it was a static drag, not something that would increase with the achievement load. As a result, I was shocked into inactivity for a bit. This was not something I had anticipated, nor the welcome release I was looking forward to at the end of a significant development period. When I finally regained my acumen, I asked for a sit-down with Chris and Charlie so we could address the issue.

It is at this point that I made the poor decision to not make a general announcement about this delay. I was frustrated, and wanted some concrete info to disseminate before calling attention to the achievement wall. Unfortunately, due to the very nature of the Chris' and Charlie's jobs in the Continuing Committee (to say nothing of their actual jobs), it took some time before we could discuss the matter and identify potential solutions, and even longer before we were able to have the time and resources to implement them. I was hoping to have good news to deliver with the bad, and in waiting for that, I delayed far too long in giving a general announcement regarding the situation. For that, I do apologize.

Coordinated Effort

Once we did convene, two remedies were eventually settled on to alleviate the system load, one time-intensive and one financially intensive. But at last, we are able to begin implementation of both. (Skip a bit, brother.)

Thankfully, this month we will be able to upgrade our server with a package that provides both much faster processors and more RAM, which should include overall performance. This is something that has been some time coming, and was already being financially budgeted for this time frame (hence the wait). This will obviously have repercussions on more than just achievements, but for the purposes of this article, the big help will be in processing the achievement load. In addition, Chris has begun adjusting the way the deck builder interacts with achievements so that it does not automatically check for qualifying achievements every time you load a deck. Instead, it will only checks decks automatically when they are attached to tournaments. There will be a function allowing an optional achievement check, but only as needed, and not every time you load a deck. This, too, has taken significant time, considering his already significant duties managing all aspects of TCC coding, but when complete, should also significantly reduce the server load.

Once both of these remedies are implemented, we will re-evaluate the system load, but expect that we should be able to resume regular releases for achievement sets. The previously delayed set from last year is currently being updated to accommodate the current meta (as applicable), and we are hoping for a new release sometime this spring.

New Advancements

As for what's coming next, we'll start by trying to get things back on track. We're looking at the sets that have come out in the interim and what achievements would be suited to those expansions. We would still like to introduce the "new and different" project we've been conceiving, but much will depend on just how well the new system holds up. If we need to, I am prepared to move to smaller, more frequent achievement releases so we can add a little at a time and make sure we don't run into this same problem again.

As for the actual content of future achievements (the next most popular request I get), I'll respond with a statement similar to one we've heard elsewhere. Because of its impact on the shape of the game and local meta, design of achievements can be very much like design of the game itself. The things the players want aren't always the things the game needs, and vice versa. We will continue to add achievements that are fun for players and healthy for the game. Some decks need no encouragement to be played or won with multiple times, and thus there will not be additional achievements focusing on that deck type. Meanwhile, some decks that might not otherwise garner attention might get tried in the effort to earn new achievements. That is the spirit of this system, and we will continue to add achievements that will best support the game in its current state.

Urgency

TL;DR, we know you want more achievements. We want to give you more achievements. But our systems, both machine and squishy organic human things, and resources, both financial and temporal, have limits. There should definitely have been more communication over the past year, but nothing can be done about that now. We are all working to do what we can to bring you more achievements, and we're nearly there. We are putting everything we can into accelerating these resolutions and hope your enthusiasm for achievements will continue. The only thing we require of you, as players, is your patience.

Thank you for your time,

The Achievements Team


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