Hey everyone, we're very pleased to report that things are going great! The technical stuff is frozen at this point. We're in a kind of pre-alpha testing feedback loop mode that involves playing through parts of the game over and over, building up lists of things that need tweaking/changing, actually tweaking them, and then starting all over - again and again and again. There are so many tiny issues, like what towns to put what spells in, how many early spells to make available via vendors at early levels and how much should they cost, how much gold do you want the average player to end up with by level 5, what should the distribution of common low-level alchemical ingredients look like across the early major dungeons and how do you prevent the player from acquiring too many. I feel extremely comfortable that we're totally nailing all of these balance issues.
I want to talk a little bit about skills because so much has changed since we started heavy testing. The final skills are: Black Magic, White Magic, Gray Magic, Archery, One-Handed Weapons, Two-Handed Weapons, Defense, Lock Picking, Pickpocketing, Barter, Persuasion, Lore and Alchemy.
Persuasion - Allows you to manipulate NPCs in dialog. We're trying really really hard to make this skill valuable by adding tons of opportunities to use it in dialog throughout the game. Our goal is to make Persuasion as desirable of a skill as Two-Handed Weapons, Archery or Black Magic.
Pickpocketing - This was a tricky one because of balance issues but we feel pretty good about the implementation. The way it works is that you've got to be right next to whoever you're attempting to pickpocket, then you right-click and select "pickpocket" and then a little window pops up showing their inventory contents. You can then mouse over each item to check it out and it'll show you your odds of successfully pickpocketing that item. So basically it works on an item by item bases and not on the entire inventory making is much more likely that you'll get caught (which will result in a hefty fine or jail sentence). Naturally whenever you're talking about pickpocketing a lot of people are concerned with potential saving/reloading exploits. Our goal has always been to design the system with this in mind. I think as long as the value and number of the items available for pickpocket is not totally outrageous, then the reward should be pretty much proportional to the amount of work done. Plus 100 points invested in pickpocketing is 100 points not invested in black magic or two-handed weapons so that alone pretty much balances it.
One-Handed/Two-Handed Weapons: After we added shields, we split the Melee skill into these two skills to introduce more choice into the game. Fighters and Warriors will now be forced, more or less, to choose between fighting with a one-handed weapon and shield or a two-handed weapon.
Lore - This does several things. First it allows you to identify unidentified items. Second, it allows you to spot and open hidden passages (yes we have hidden passages now!). Third, certain books will have a Lore requirement that must be met in order to make sense of them. And fourth, certain objects will require Lore in order to be used or activated. This skill more than any other really rounds out everything and significantly adds a lot of depth to the non-combat side of the experience.
Overall we couldn't be happier with how things are shaping up. Thanks everyone for your excellent and continues support!