On November 5th, Iron Realms Entertainment announces on the EE website the creation of a spinoff company, Sparkplay Media, to handle graphical games including Earth Eternal. The announcement reassures the EE Community that 'nothing has changed' and that the development and management teams are still the same as 'the founders of Sparkplay are the same people who founded Iron Realms.'
Sparkplay Media Inc. will be headquartered in an office building dubbed 'The Sparkplay Mansion' in San Francisco, California.
Quite likely soon after this announcement, the Iron Realms Entertainment logo seen at the bottom of the Earth Eternal website pages up to this point is replaced by the new Sparkplay Media logo to indicate the changeover in companies working on the project.
The same day, the second Demo Reel is posted on the EE website which “shows off a number of characters and environments”. The announcement mentions the video can be found on the front page or can be viewed via the YouTube link provided.
A second interview mention by 'Game Bunny' is posted on the News Feed on November 28th and a link to the full Game Bunny Interview is provided.
A second interview mention by IGN's 'Vault network' is posted on the News Feed on December 5th. It is the first interview mention on the Feed that calls Matt by his Earth Eternal nickname 'Aurelius'. This interview tidbit also hints to readers about Earth Eternal's origins as beginning as “an isometric RPG”. A link to the Vault Interview is provided.
Sometime between November 5th, 2007 and March 8th, 2008 Sparkplay releases the second Earth Eternal Video. In Matt's Message from the CEO, in which this video's announcement is mentioned, a link to a higher resolution version of this video is provided.
Sparkplay Media begins work on Earth Eternal with a low budget. More concept art is added to the website and the forums become rather active as more people sign on.
On January 17th, 12 new screenshots are posted up on the EE website. A link to the media page is provided. These images are touted as 'must-see for EE fans!'
On January 18th, Matt announces on the EE Forums that the SPM team has set up an EE Facebook page and invites everyone who uses Facebook to join the group for updates and an increase in chances to join the beta and/or alpha of EE later on.
On February 13th, 2008, Sparkplay Media manages to secure $4.25 million in funding for Earth Eternal from two major companies: Redpoint Ventures and Prism Ventureworks. The new influx of money results in a new and expanded idea for the game, the goal being a much more detailed MMO than previously planned. With the new funds at SPM's disposal, development ramps up and Earth Eternal enters it's Alpha stages during the course of the year.
Two interviews appear on the News Feed during the month of February. The first of these is from the site Allakhazam on February 2nd and is the first interview to mention Earth Eternal's version of player housing dubbed 'Groves'. A link to the Allakhazam Interview is provided.
The second of the two is the third posting by IGN on February 18th. This post is called the 'IGN Roundtable' and talks about how the 'IGN Vault Network' has asked 'notable industry developers' about 'the future of MMO Storytelling' and what their responses are. Matt Mihaly's own response is said to be on 'page 3' of the collective responses and the post gives a snippet of his comments. A link to the 'IGN Roundtable' is provided.
After the second of these two posts on the News Feed, it goes dormant for a year as Sparkplay busies itself with developing Earth Eternal.
On March 14th, 2008, Matt begins posting ‘Weekly Updates’ on the EE Forums so the forum goers know what all has been happening on the development side. It should be noted that as Earth Eternal is in its early stages at this point, Matt takes the liberty to post about a few IRE projects and the progress of setting up Sparkplay Media itself along with a occasional real life activities in addition to progress on EE itself.
The following is an exact copy of the March 14th post with quotes added and associated long defunct links deactivated:
“I (and eventually someone else likely) will be posting a weekly update of what we're up to here. It'll be short and perhaps sparse on details (as we're not looking to keep the wide world appraised of what we're up to, and posting here is not private obviously) but we'll try to keep to the weekly schedule!
This week we've been working on a range of things (as usual!) from ensuring that our new terrain techniques will work on lower-end computers to some organizational work around all of our art assets (which were not terribly organized previously) to continuing to define the 'look' of the various cultures in-game. So far we have:
* Midgaard (viking longhouse-style)
* Bremen (you've seen it multiple times)
* Moorish (for Andalusia)
* High and Low Roman
* The Warren (underground)
* Vampire fortresses (redone this week. Much cooler now.)
* Huts (both wooden and straw)
* Vespin hives
* Carrionite cliff dwellings
* Stone Lion hunting tents
* Various types of cave ("normal", desert, fire, ice, Dvergar)
We've also almost completed the detailed design (including UI mockups) for Groves.
Myself, I've spent much of the week dealing with setting up our new offices: Getting internet access set up (wireless broadband ftw!), getting office chairs, desks, various officey supplies, the different kinds of insurances we need, and so on.
We also started hiring as of yesterday! http:// www. sparkplaymedia.com/jobs.php If anyone's qualified or knows someone who is, please get in touch with jobs @sparkplaymedia .com
That's it for this week!”
On March 21st, 2008, Matt posts up the second weekly update. As Earth Eternal is still being built, Matt includes various IRE related tidbits as well. The exact post is as follows:
This week has been about a few things:
* Getting the office physically set up...we now have desks, computers, and even chairs! Chairs are particularly exciting, as we were getting tired of sitting on the floor.
* Hiring people. We hired one engineer already this week and have some promising candidates for design and engineering positions.
* 'Bloom' went into the game. It's a lighting effect.
* Our first Facebook app is nearly done. We're not going to talk about it until it's released though, which will be either today (the 21st) or early next week.
* We've figured out approximately how much extra art above and beyond what we have now we need. We're going to spring for over double the current amount of art.
* Defined a new cave style and a new quasi-Scottish building style.
* Got a bunch of new armors into the game.
That's it for this week!”
On March 29th, 2008, Matt posts the third weekly update. It should be noted that for whatever reason, the forum link to this post is dated March 28th, 2008, yet the post itself is dated March 29th. This is the first of several known instances of this date mismatching in the Updates. Anyway, this post is as follows, again with quotes surrounding it and a deactivated link:
“This week has been a bit slower on the development side of EE for a couple reasons, but here's what got done this week:
1. One of the engineers we hired had to drive out here from Atlanta, which, along with him finding a place to live, pretty much shot his week.
2. We released Supervillain and immediately reacted to some feedback we've gotten in order to start making changes to it.
3. We completely reorganized our asset tracking and project management system, deploying Jira as our new solution. It is quite awesome.
4. I've done a ton of interviewing for design positions (reading resumes and doing interviews took up most of my week, personally).
5. Defined the Broccan building style (reminiscent of Scottish highland tribal longhouses)
6. Worked on playing with the look of the dungeon sets so as to make them look nicer.
7. Yet more new armours/clothing sets imported into Earth Eternal.
That's about it for this week! (sorry about the late post)”
On April 4th, 2008, Matt posts a rather long update. This one is the first of the updates to mention both a side project (by IRE or SPM?) and one of the SPM team’s real life hobbies in addition to the company and EE related stuff. Again links are deactivated and the entire post is in quotes:
“Hello! Weekly update time again, as promised.
This week was another week of doing a lot of organizational stuff rather than working on EE, though progress was made there as well. We:
* Got a bunch more armor sets. Some of them are pretty sweet. Sorry about the lack of screenshots, but we're not expecting to release any more screenshots for a month or two. We've got about 50 unique sets of armor now, which actually means we can get quite a bit more out of them as that's 50 sets before we've done any recoloring, any mixing and matching (for instance, taking symbol X off breastplate A and moving it onto breastplate B, etc). We're going to be creating more sets as well, though the next set of armor/clothing we create will be more 'clothes' than armor since we'll be releasing Groves first and armor-only would be a little weird in Groves before EE is released.
* Various bug-fixes and system improvements (such as re-writing the text input widget to be much speedier).
* More work on trying to hire killer people to work for us. That takes up a pretty amazing amount of my time right now.
* More work on Supervillain improvements.
* More work on some bits and pieces of Groves design that needed clarification.
* Lots of work on breaking down the Groves design into individual tasks for the coders so that we can better estimate when Groves is likely to be released.
* Some more work on revising some of our various dungeon-types to look better.
* I began working with our new CFO (who is part-time). That is information that is likely extremely boring to all of you, but I thought I'd throw it in there anyway. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)
* This was the first week with more than 2 people in the office. Whooo! About time.
That's about it for this week! Next week is going to be a slow week from development perspective as everybody who is remote (there are 3 remote people and 1 guy who is remote but is moving here in 3-4 weeks) is flying in for part of the week to do some long-term planning and some team-building. We'll go play paintball together next Saturday and shoot the crap out of each other. Personally, I plan to imagine that each of the members of the opposing team are Anubians who, of course, deserve to be splatted repeatedly.”
The weekly update for April 12th 2008 is rather short and Matt explains why. It should also be noted that for whatever reason, the forum link to this post is dated April 11th, 2008, yet the post itself is dated April 12th. This is the second of several known instances of date mismatching in the Update posts. Anyway, this is the exact post, in quotes as usual:
“As I said last week, this week has mainly been a week of making sure everybody is pointed in the right direction (plus, of course, endless reviewing of resumes and interviewing people). We now know essentially every major task that has to be completed to release EE, what order they have to be completed in, and what tasks are dependent on other tasks being done first.
Having said that, stuff in EE is making progress though most of the progress this week was adding functionality to our user interface platform as well as working on making dungeons and a couple of the building types (neither of which you've seen yet) look nicer.
This afternoon/evening we're actually not doing much at all as all the remote team members are here physically and we're doing some team-building. I have to say, Rock Band on a giant 100"+ screen is sweet (we're playing it on a projector, projecting onto a wall here). And then tomorrow, as I mentioned last week, paintball!
Everybody goes home on Sunday and then next week we're back to buckling down. Sorry there's not more to tell this week but the last 2-3 weeks have been, for most (but not all) of the team an organizational period to prepare for all the new people who will be coming aboard.”
Matt’s weekly update for April 19th, 2008 is rather long as lots of things company side are done among other things both EE related and not. Yet again, and for whatever reason, the forum link to this post is dated April 18th, 2008, yet the post itself is dated April 19th. This is the third of several known instances of this date mismatching in the Updates and the first sequential set of these. The post itself, again in quotes, is as follows:
“Another week closer to release!
This week we:
* Hired an office manager/executive assistant-to-me. She starts May 7th and I can't wait, because I spend way too much time doing things that someone else should be doing. (everything from filling out HR forms to filing to ordering office supplies, etc).
* Hired a lead designer who will be moving here from Shanghai in a few weeks. He's been working on graphical MMOs since the late 90s, starting with being Lead Event Designer on Ultima Online. It's going to be great to have someone senior here who is focused 100% of the time on game design, as while I'll remain Creative Director I simply do not have time to do it all.
* Began building out the first full city test (doing it with Bremen). What we call a "vertical slice" meaning that for all intents and purposes all of the content (quests, NPCs, etc) that need to be there will be there. Although we've already done some world-building this is really the start of the headlong dive into hardcore worldbuilding.
* Got the final-ish implementation of shadows in. There's still work to be done here but (thank god) we managed to figure out a solution for building/tree/large world prop shadows that isn't just a blob of circular shadow under the object, doesn't increase download sizes, doesn't increase loading times, and isn't processor-intensive. We're really happy with it so far, though there's still work to be done in terms of things like fading the shadows out at nighttime, etc. This is an issue that's been plaguing us for awhile so it's a relief to have it in.
* Completely redid our chat bubbles. Now they rock. They'll dynamically shrink, grow, fade-in, fade-out, etc as they need to.
* Improvements made to Supervillain (the Facebook application). An invite system will be in by the end of today.
* Lots of work on our generic "messaging system" in EE, which includes things like how the game will notify you of things you need to be notified of, etc.
* Yet more organizational/scheduling stuff!
I have no doubt that I'm missing things but I must go eat some tasty Thai food now!
(This is where I'd say 'peace out' if I was a poseur.)
On April 26th, 2008, Matt’s weekly update, while not as long as the previous one, focuses more on EE. Yet again for whatever reason, the forum link to this post is dated to the day prior the actual post. In this case, April 25th, 2008, where the post is dated April 26th. This is the fourth of several known instances of this date mismatching in the Updates and the second sequential one. This post says the following:
* More work on shadows, as while they look and perform quite well now they're slow to generate which is a problem for Groves if not Earth Eternal proper.
* Lots of general bug-fixing and performance improvements (collision, UI, etc)
* More Supervillain tweaks (including ability to get special items).
* Design on Fishing nearly completed (need to fill in some content still). Fishing will be unlike any implementation of fishing you've ever seen before in any game before, I'd guess.
* Enhancements made to characters such that they can now wear forearm bracers (with geometry rather than just a texture) and so that boots can have cuffs with geometry (rather than just texture).
* The building out of Bremen proceeds. We've walled it now and it's broken into the rich quarter, poor quarter, market quarter, and the royal/military quarter.
* Changed the look of Bremen buildings somewhat to break up the uniformity of them (mainly by adding a stone layer to the bottom floor of some of the buildings).
As always I'm leaving a bunch of stuff out that's just not worth writing about (we finished moving all the art assets into Jira, our project management tool, for instance, and our first Board of Directors meeting was this week) but there you have it!”
Matt’s weekly update for May 3rd, 2008 is another lengthy one. Once again, the forum link to this post is dated to the day previous, May 2nd, 2008, while the post itself is dated May 3rd. This is the fifth of several known instances of this date mismatching in the Updates and the third sequential one. This one includes a posted image as a teaser for players along with an early concept for the Grove system. This lengthy post, again in quotes and with the defunct image link deactivated, is as follows:
“This week, among other things, we:
* Continued working on Bremen, having decided that it was too small. Aside from the four (small) city areas it had previously, we're adding in a park area and an expansion of market quarter. This is taking a lot longer than other cities as we're doing this to test a bunch of things both design-wise and technically.
* Completed the fishing design.
* Hired a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) engineer, who will start in 3 weeks.
* Continued working on, and almost finished, the complete art style guide for EE (stuff like defining some things about the architecture of various cultures we didn't have much detail on previously, etc)
* Redid the camera control into its more-or-less final model.
* Various performance improvements, bug-fixes (a lot of the milestone we're currently working on is around tightening up a bunch of code systems).
* Worked on account system/administration tools design.
* Searched for a UI/2d artist we like enough to hire. The search continues.
* Completed the design for the character creation sequence (our completed designs include precise descriptions of the behavior of every component of the design as well as UI mockups of every screen that will need to be produced by the coders).
* Lots of other small stuff!
I probably shouldn't do this but we haven't posted anything new for awhile, so here's the UI mockup of the first character creation screen. All the buttons, the icons, scrollbars, etc are placeholder art (note the search for a UI/2d artist above). Past this in character creation you also can customize the colors of your character, choose shirt, pants, and shoes, along with their colors, and first and last name (we've decided to suggest last names but let people choose their own last names if they wish) before entering the game (you get a chance to choose your Grove type soon after creation if you wish, but not in creation itself).
Character1.jpg ( 190.98k )”
On May 12th, 2008, Matt posts another weekly update. Once again, the forum link to this post is dated the day before, May 11th, 2008, while the post itself is dated May 12th. This is the fifth of several known instances of this date mismatching in the Updates and the fourth sequential one. The post itself is as follows:
“Bit late with the update this week, but here it is:
* My exec assistant/office manager started work, taking a bunch of the adminstrative load off me (and ensuring the office cereal bar stays stocked!)
* The city building test continues with Bremen. It's looking pretty darn awesome and they're currently in the final stages of it - putting in props (furniture, trees, decorations, etc). This last week they expanded the city as I had requested and worked on some unique props including statues, animated fountains, that kind of thing.
* I realize I said this once before, but shadows got redone again as we had one major problem with the last version of them caused by the fact that they were being done on the CPU. They're now done on the GPU, look better, and are hundreds of times faster than previously.
* Design on our next Facebook game nearly finished.
* Design on the back-end systems for game administration/moderation begun.
* Lots of bug-fixing/stabilization.
* Finished altering the way we display text so that EE will work in languages with more than 255 characters (such as some Asian languages).
Now I'm off to Sparkplay Manor. Our lead designer starts today and an engineer working for us from Colorado moved here this weekend to begin work at the Manor today as well.”
Matt’s weekly update for May 19th, 2008 is rather brief. It says the following:
“Another week, another update!
* There was a lot of bug-fixing in general last week as we were finishing up a milestone.
* Bremen continues to be worked on, to great effect. I can't wait until it's all kitted out with props and the like so we can show it off.
* Our lead designer, fresh off the plane from Shanghai, started work. He and I will be diving into the uncompleted game design tasks (of which there are many) this week
* One of our engineers who had been working remotely moved to San Francisco and began work in the office.
* Redid the chat entry system to be much speedier and more responsive.
* Right-click menus were put in (finally!).
* We also decided that, contrary to what I've said before, we're going to try and get in a basic crafting system for release. Keep your fingers crossed.
That's basically it from last week (the bug-fixing really occupied a lot of time)!”
For the May 24th, 2008 weekly update, Matt posts the following:
“This week we:
* Hired a 2d/concept artist, who will start on Tuesday. We're pretty psyched about him as he nailed our art style immediately in the art test we gave him.
* The details of Bremen are going in as the buildings are all done (the buildings are by far the hardest part as they have to be custom built for each city pretty much). Market stalls, wagons, bales of hay, scratching posts, etc etc etc.
* A lot of design work on EE's character development and EE's mob spawning system.
* Design on the next Facebook game will be completed this weekend.
* Our LAMP (linux, apache, mysql, php) engineer started this week. He'll be working on the backend stuff for EE (accounts, admin tools, etc) and on the next Facebook game.
* Music support went in, so there's now music in the login screens.
* Positional sound support went in, so there are a few things now that have sound hooked up to them (a fountain, some torches, etc).
* Lots more bug-fixing.
That's it for this week!”
Matt’s post for June 1st, 2008 is another short one that also includes an image. Once again, the forum link to this post is dated to the day before, May 31st, 2008, yet the post itself is dated June 1st. This is the sixth of several known instances of this date mismatching in the Updates. Anyway, this post, with the picture link disabled of course, is a follows:
OK, so, this week:
* Our new concept artist started working on, well, concepts and other art.
* Some banging of our heads against the wall on a particular technical issue involving loading.
* Near-final prop work in Bremen (including creating some new props, etc).
* Design work on character development, inventory, items, and currency. (No, I'm not going to talk about it!)
* Hired another engineer. He starts June 18th.
Sorry for the short descriptions, but some of those items (like the design work) are quite broad and involving.”
On June 6th, after several months of silence outside the forums, a screenshot of the Sparkplay Dev Team's characters which they use in game is posted up on the website. Included is a brief apology for the long silence as the team has been cranking away at development, but, were able to pause to offer the screenshot for the community's enjoyment.
On June 14th, 2008, Matt posts up another weekly update. In this post he includes a link to the image of Bremen posted the week prior on the website. The following is this rather long post, put in quotes and with the defunct link to that image disabled:
“I didn't post last week because I released that screenshot in Bremen, which spoke for itself.
This week we:
* Finalized character development design, along with all details relating to it. Much of what I've said previously about classes has changed. You can still multi-class (more easily than before actually) but almost everything else has changed. We're pretty excited about the possibilities though. Character development is really quite open. You'll still choose your 'core' class, but your core class only determines a few things (how heavy the armor you can wear is, what weapons you can use, and your stat progression as you level up). You could take Mage as your core class and then choose to learn entirely Druid abilities instead, for instance. It'll be fun! That was basically all the design work for last week (and for the previous 2 weeks).
* Lots of work on optimizing, optimizing, optimizing. With Bremen pretty much finished for now we can test in a fairly release-ready environment what the performance issues are, and so on.
* Lots of concept work on more, cool armors. Our new concept artist (Alex) rocks. Not showing you anything yet though, sorry!
* In-game manipulators for Groves were finished (think 'handles' to move objects around, rotate them, raise them up and down, etc etc).
* Planned out how to skin the UI (any screenshots you've seen with UI elements in them thus far were mainly placeholder art that will be replaced by nicer-looking art).
* The prototype for our next Facebook game is almost done.
* A bunch of work on the lighting in the game.
That's it for this week!
Matt posts up a weekly update on June 24th, 2008. Sadly, the contents of that post have not survived.
Throughout the months of July and August, Matt continues posting his Weekly Updates. Sadly, none of the posts for either of these months have survived. The dates for these posts, however, have survived and are as follows:
July 3rd, 2008 (this is presumably a Fourth of July post due to the dating of it though nothing survives to indicate that is the case)
July 19th, 2008 (this one came with an attachment, possibly another image, linked in the post)
July 28th, 2008
August 3rd, 2008
August 9th, 2008
August 18th, 2008
August 24th, 2008
On September 7th, 2008, Matt posts up the first Weekly Update of the month. Sadly, as with all the Update posts from June 24th onward to this first post of September, the contents of the post has been lost.
Matt’s Weekly Update for September 14th, 2008 is the first one since the June 14th post to have survived. It is a short update, but, by this time things are really ramping up for Sparkplay. The post says the following:
“This last week we:
* Had our VP of Marketing start work.
* Lots of work on world props (different kinds of trees, world building, etc.)
* Work on boss monsters.
* Work on building out England.
* Laid down hundreds of terrain tiles.
* Continuing work on class skills.
* Lots of bug-fixing, as usual.
Sorry it's so short, but I'm in a rush!”
On September 28th, 2008, Matt again posts an update. This one being two weeks from the last one. The following is that post:
“In the last couple of weeks we've been up to a lot as always.
* Lots of bug-fixing.
* World-building is carrying on in earnest.
* Lots of items for the world completed (various trees, forges, looms, grape vines, etc etc)
* Lots of concept and modeling work for new kinds of creatures. We've got almost 50 new creatures in progress.
* Design work on the four classes is nearly completed, as a first pass at least.
* More work on the story, focusing on the Age of Beasts. There are going to be some additions to the history of the Age of Legend, and they are epic.
That's it for today. Not a lot of individual items, but there's a lot of work within all of those bullets.
On October 5th, 2008, Matt posts up another weekly update. Once again, the forum link to this post is dated to the day before, October 4th, 2008, where the post itself is dated October 5th. This is the seventh and last of several known instances of date mismatching in the Updates and the first known instance since the June 1st post. As the posts from late June through the beginning of September have been lost, it is unknown if any of those had dating mismatches or not. At any rate, this post says the following:
“This week we:
* Worked more on combat abilities.
* Got pathfinding a good ways towards done.
* Continued building props (everything from bridges to bushes).
* Expansion of the environment system, so things like the atmosphere and sound changing smoothly as you walk towards something are possible.
* Sound work begun in earnest.
* Coding work on implementing various UI screens, like equip screens, and so on.
* New concepts of various types of creatures.
* Production of various animations and creatures.
* Marketing and PR plans worked on.
* World-building continues and accelerates.
I can't wait to be able to start letting some/all of you in! I'm not going to tell you when that'll be but it's coming closer every week.
Earth Eternal's first Community Manager, Ivan, joins Sparkplay Media on October 9th.
October 18th, 2008 marks a change in Matt’s forum Updates. From this post onward, they are known as Bi-Weekly Updates as Sparkplay is by this point starting to really get things together and is Matt’s last Update post as he no longer finds time to do the weekly updates himself. This Update comes with an attachment. Here is that post, with the attachment link deactivated:
“Since the last update, we've been working hard! Here's what we've been up to:
Combat, combat, combat. More specifically:
More work on stats (health, strength, etc)
Full design of all abilities in game is nearly done.
Game effects (polymorph, invisibility, etc)
Tracking targets and other things on the minimap
Beyond combat, a bunch other work, of course.
Working away on new website for EE.
Finishing up design on Guilds and parties.
World design and world building both steaming forward.
Lots of new props, from weapons to bridges, etc.
Some awesome new concepts for creatures.
Work on integrating sound and music into the game, and work on composing new music.
Ivan began work. You've probably seen him posting here. Going forward it'll probably be him posting these updates.
We hired our 20th full-time employee (plus four different contractors) - a new engineer who will start in a week and a half.
As always no doubt I've forgotten a lot of stuff, but that's a decent summary. I'm also posting pictures of a few new weapons for your edification. Enjoy!
new_weapons.jpg ( 22.19k ) Number of downloads: 263”
The Bi-Weekly Update for November 2nd, 2008 is presumably either the very last update made by Matt or the very first one posted by the new Community Manager Ivan instead of Matt himself. Sadly the content for this post, like all those from June 24th through September 7th, has not survived.
On November 21st, 2008, Ivan posts up a rather lengthy new Bi-Weekly Update. Due to the wording, it is entirely possible that this update is Ivan’s first Bi-Weekly Update instead of the missing one from November 2nd. The following is the first surviving post made by Ivan and is in quotes as always:
“Our fearless leader, Matt "Aurelius" Mihaly, is occupied with various CEO and Creative Director duties, so I'll likely be handling the bi-weekly updates from here on.
Since the last update:
Lots of combat work and implementation has been taking place. Combat design now resides in an enormous spreadsheet and should be in good shape leading up to inevitable Alpha revisions.
Combat targeting systems including multiple targeting support and ground targeting support.
Combat agro behavior is getting a pass.
Combat targeting cursors are shaping up.
Abilities window work is progressing.
Infrastructure and backend work is coming along nicely. Specifically, work is being done on the profiling server, router bottlenecks, deployment testing, and logging.
Texture animations are being developed.
Effects for weapons, attacks, skills, and more are being implemented. Ribbon trails on sword swings look especially nice.
World building continues. Camelot is looking nice, as are some of our moors and swamps.
More creature concepts have been created (lizards and lions and stags, oh my).
More props are being added to the game (the totems look pretty good). New trees are being assembled and made into forests.
Not only is AI design done, engineering's first pass of AI behavior is nearly finished.
Another zone with histories, characters, and personalities of its own has been completed.
Our UI is being improved to accommodate many screen sizes.
We've added a new creature to the game.
Potions are in and can be heartily swigged.
New website art is nearing completion, with final approval on first-round comps already given.
New website tech is basically in: content viewer, frame, Flash, navigation.
Another new engineer started working here at Sparkplay. Hi, Sara!
Our art outsourcing house(s) is now in full swing.
A big list of potential prefixes, suffixes, and item names has been generated.
Some solid LOD work has been put into EE ensuring our level of detail (graphics fidelity) scales correctly depending on distance.
Town and world optimization on near complete areas are commencing.
Of course, the above list of bulleted goodness is by no means complete. It simply represents a small cross-section of the work we've been doing over the past couple weeks.
The December 5th, 2008 Bi-Weekly Update is the last known of these to have survived and may in fact be the last one posted before the announcement at the end of the year regarding the website revamp. If any others Bi-Weekly Updates were posted after this one, no records of these last Updates have survived. The contents of this last surviving Update is as follows and includes a bit of lyrical referencing by Ivan:
“You don't wonder where we're going
Or remember where we've been
We've got to keep this traffic flowing
And accept a little spin
So this long line of cars
will never have an end
Since the last update:
Future milestone planning complete.
More in-game areas have been completed and decked out with props (Stonehenge, Nottingham).
Completed portions of the in-game world are getting seam and consistency passes.
New creature concepts have been created. Elementals and the Ice Goliath are among them.
Populating completed in-game areas with decorative NPCs: guards, civilians, travelers, etc.
Stag now animated, lively, and potentially aggressive (even includes a cute head toss and ear wiggle).
Inventory and equipment work (consumable items, quick bar, slot highlights, shop transactions, bag, UI changes).
NPC naming options generated for other races.
Abilities: manager, functionality, import.
Effects (fireball effect lined up with anims, for instance).
Content editor and quest tool work.
Laying down roads where appropriate.
2D maps of dungeons created to improve final in-game creation process.
Experience and related bars now working and looking good.
Most early points of interest complete.
Combat getting put in. Creatures can be killed, will chase players around, and drop loot bags.
Of course, the above list of bulleted goodness is by no means complete. It simply represents a small cross-section of the work we've been doing over the past couple weeks.
End of 2008-Beginning 2009
Around the end of 2008, Community Manager Ivan departs Sparkplay for other pursuits. Matt once again takes on the duties of posting announcements and other updates until a new Community Manager can be hired.
Sparkplay announces a completely revamped website instructing all current users to re-establish their accounts once the new website comes online. All data from the previous website will be archived then deleted.
Due to months of pressure from forum goers, Sparkplay finally caves regarding the issue of tails on the character models. Having originally planned not to put tails on the models, the playerbase responded to Sparkplay's plans with overwhelming insistence that they needed to add tails at least to the races that would likely have them.
After several months of preparation, Sparkplay unveils the new Earth Eternal website to the public on February 12th, 2009. Forum goers re-establish their accounts as new surprises await them.
Nearly a year to the day since it's last post, and to announce the opening of the new EE website, four posts are made to the News Feed in sequence on the afternoon of February 12th. The first post announces the addition of 12 new pieces of developer artwork and screenshots to tease forum goers with. A link to the new 'Art Gallery' is also provided.
The second post announces the opening of the brand new website forums describing how 'important' the community of Earth Eternal is to the developers at Sparkplay and encourages the forum goers to sign up, validate their accounts via email and then “give our new forums a spin”. A link to the Forums is provided for eager forum goers old and new alike.
The third post announces that Earth Eternal is coming along nicely, but, that since saying and showing a thing are two different things, it is just easier to show off the progress. To do this, SPM unveils the new 'Debut Trailer' video of Earth Eternal. The announcement explains that, while they did, indeed, create a video the year previous; as the new website is being considered “a new start for all of us”, all previous videos posted on the old forums are now considered “no longer indicative of the actual EE gameplay experience.” A link to the Debut Trailer is provided.
The fourth and final post of the day is the longest one as it is the main 'EE Web 2.0' announcement post. This post is essentially the official 'launch' announcement and details several things forum goers both old and new alike will find within the brand new website. It states that while the game itself is not quite ready for an official release date, it is still the right time to launch a brand-new website. Among the things detailed in this 'launch' announcement are the following:
The News section, of which the Feed is a part, as well as the Archive where even more can be found.
An encouragement for anyone interested in the upcoming game's format to come and 'Signup Now!'
The Art/Video section where everything from developer screenshots, to artwork, to video 'and much more to come' can be found.
An encouragement for anyone in the 'Community' who think the new website 'is neat' to come check out the brand new forums. SPM adds that they are starting fresh and to 'go say hi'.
A new 'Contact' section for those who are either 'in media' or 'looking for employment' or just wanting to offer support, including financial, to Sparkplay. They add that this section is the place to get started with these.
A mention that the new website is quite 'Thematic' and that there are four of these for those willing to explore the different areas of the website: “Pine forests, wintry wonderlands, desert landscapes and autumn woods”.
A mention of the Earth Eternal mascot 'Shroomie' that can be seen 'prancing above you' on the webpages of the site.
At the end of this announcement is the statement that 'this is only the beginning' with a promise of new features that prospective players and forum goers would want such as “podcasts, dev diaries, photo blogs, contests, game-to-web user integration and more”. Links to several of these new features are provided in their sections of this post.
On February 24th, Sparkplay announces on the News Feed the addition of several brand new player races to Earth Eternal mentioning that there would be 'over 20' player races in total. The first of these is revealed in this Feed post to be the Yeti race. The announcement includes various screenshots and a rather detailed bit of backstory lore for the new Yeti race. SPM adds that the other new player races would be revealed in time. In addition to the new race reveal, other enemy concept art is added to the website gallery. These are: Frostcicle, Ice Caster and Glacial Walker. A link to the new concept art is provided near the top of the post.
An announcement on the News Feed on March 3rd has the Sparkplay developers showing off a new version of an old group shot of their ingame characters from an alpha build of Earth Eternal itself to tease the forum goers. A link to a higher res version of this image is provided.
The second post on the News Feed that same day unveils the second of the new player races, the Daemon race. Like the announcement post revealing the Yeti, this one includes various screenshots and a rather long and detailed backstory lore for the Daemon race. As before, in addition to the new player race reveal, more enemy concept is added to the website gallery. These are: a 'fiery' Salamander, Fire Elemental, Flame Moth, Vulcan Walker and Fire Chomper. A link to the new concept art is provided near the top of the post.
The next day on March 4th, Sparkplay unveils even more concept art and adds them to the Gallery. These are: Flame Goliath, Ice Dragon, Shroomie, Ursine and Anubian warrior. Sparkplay also adds high res versions of these images for players to download as 'wallpapers and high quality prints' if they want them. As with the last batch from the previous day's post, links to both the new concept art as well as the individual high res versions are provided.
On March 10th, Sparkplay announces on the News Feed yet more art, this time as brand new screenshots of previous concept art now brought to life in game. These are: Shroomie, a 'fiery' Salamander, a Death Blossom and a Treekin. A link to the new screenshots is provided.
The second announcement of March 10th unveils the third of the new player races: the Cyclops. Like the Yeti and Daemon before them, new artwork and a rather long and detailed backstory lore for the Cyclops race is given. A link to the concept art is provided near the top of the post as well. At the same time, Sparkplay mentions that work on Earth Eternal continues and that they will continue updating the website with new content while they gear up for the expected 2009 launch of the game itself.
On March 19th, the News Feed announcement unveils the fourth new player race, the Clockwork. As with the previous three races revealed so far, new artwork and a rather long and detailed backstory lore for the Clockwork race is provided. A link to the new concept art is provided near the top of the post.
On April 9th, the first News Feed announcement of the month unveils the fifth new player race, the Grumkin. Once again, as with the previous unveilings, new artwork and a rather long and detailed backstory for the Grumkin race is given. A link to the new concept art is provided near the top of the post.
On April 24th, Sparkplay announces on the News Feed the last of the six new player races, the Sylvan. Like the other five, new artwork and a rather long and detailed backstory for the Sylvan race is given. A link to the new concept art is provided near the top of the post.
With the six new races now revealed, it brings the total to 22 Beast races in Earth Eternal.
A new Community Manager, Wyerd, joins SPM around the middle of the month.
During this period in time, one of the most heavily covered forum topics among the forum goers involves the concept of Groves in Earth Eternal and what sort of 'player housing' they would end up being.
A forum goer who goes by the name Kaji forms a group on the EE website he calls 'The Furry Group' and invites anyone who wants to join to sign up. This forum group gains a wide following as quite a number of forum goers take him up on the offer. The Furry Group becomes the largest 'group' of soon-to-be-players on the website.
This month marks a major milestone in EE history as two big things take place during this time.
The first of these happens on May 4th when Sparkplay announces on the News Feed their unveiling of a brand new flash mini-game called “Shroomie's Search”. To encourage players to play the mini-game, players are given a set number of Community Points each day for a top-ranking score.
The Community Point awards are broken down as follows:
2 points per day for reaching at least a height of 100.
Top Ten Daily Winner Community Points:
# 1 ranking gets 10 Community Points
# 2 ranking gets 9 Community Points
# 3 ranking gets 8 Community Points
# 4 ranking gets 7 Community Points
# 5 ranking gets 6 Community Points
# 6 ranking gets 5 Community Points
# 7 ranking gets 4 Community Points
# 8 ranking gets 3 Community Points
# 9 ranking gets 2 Community Points
# 10 ranking gets 1 Community Points
Players are further encouraged to post their scores on the forums if they wish to 'brag about it' or get family and friends to play to see 'who's the top leaf surfer on the net'.
On May 13th, on the News Feed, SPM announces several website and forum updates. The first of these is the completion of the Race Gallery that includes new screenshots of all 22 player races. Clicking on each 'race head shot' brings up a 'gallery view' of the race 'showing both genders and a race description.'
The second of the updates is the enabling of 'the website poll system on both the forums and main webpage'. Players are encouraged to vote for their favorite class in the first poll put up on the site.
Other website updates include the following items:
Anonymous Users now show in the “currently online” count on the forums.
Players can write an auto response for their personal message (PM) box, to set this view your options under “Your Account” in the Account Profile.
Added notification options for players to set when they receive messages, update this in your Account Profile.
Added new mail notification to the login box (top left).
Updated menu button text from “FAQ” to “FAQ/Help”.
Removed “Help” link from the login box.
The last update is an “Avatar Gallery” that allows players to 'select from a variety of avatars' for their profile page. Selecting 'Edit Avatar' on this page allows the player to choose either to upload a custom avatar or select one from the provided menu options.
The biggest of the two events of the month happens on May 18th, when Sparkplay officially announces on their News Feed and on other websites the beginning of Earth Eternal's Closed Beta phase. The News Feed announcement gives a quick rundown of the game, what creatures and races are in it and Sparkplay's expectations for the game. It also gives general information about Sparkplay Media itself, how to contact them, and so forth. Players interested in participating are encouraged to sign up for the Closed Beta test.
Like all press releases, though, quite a bit of the information gathered from other websites ends up being notoriously inaccurate in spite of SPM's efforts to clarify details. This ends up being a running theme throughout Sparkplay's run.
Also on May 18th, a second News Feed announcement, this one about IGN, encourages readers to stop by the gallery or go to the IGN.com website to view 5 new images of Earth Eternal released to the public. They are also encouraged to register on the Earth Eternal website for a chance to join the beta tests. A message at the bottom of the post tells players they can view and rate the images in the Media Gallery for Community Points.
The next day, May 19th, a News Feed announcement mentions that the website Onrpg.com is showcasing new screenshots and news about Earth Eternal. It also reminds players to register for Earth Eternal so they can be part of the beta testing pool.
Two days later on May 21st, another News Feed announcement mentions that the website MMOSite.com has more screenshots posted up on their own site. Again, it reminds players to register for EE so they can be part of the beta testing pool.
Sometime in mid-late May, Wyerd is dismissed from SPM for confidential reasons after only barely a month with the company.
May 18th-October 4th, 2009
Earth Eternal's Closed Beta Phase begins on May 18, 2009 and lasts until October 4, 2009.
During this time, several 'waves' of testers are invited into the server to test it. Each of these 'waves' are chosen based upon several factors including: how long a player's account has been on file, how active the player is on the forums and the ability for the game servers to handle 'X-number' of players for that session. Closed Beta tests are run every Thursday or Saturday-Sunday depending on the week and/or situation. Other days of the week are also chosen at times during the early weeks, but, Sparkplay chooses in the end to stick with these three days for the latter weeks so that more players would be 'available' during the tests.
The first few 'waves' of players start out very small with only a few dozen to a couple hundred at a time, but, this number is expanded with each test. By the last few 'waves' of testers near the end of Closed Beta in September, a few thousand players at a time are allowed in.
All players allowed into Closed Beta are bound to silence by a Non-Disclosure-Agreement (NDA) for the majority of the Closed Beta run. This is lifted near the end of Closed Beta when SPM runs three stress tests to see how the servers handle a large number of players and SPM begins offering 'Beta Keys' to those who have yet to get in. During the course of the NDA, a special 'hidden' section of the EE Forums is provided for the CB testers to post in to report bugs, talk about the game and to interact with one another without 'leaking' NDA specific info to those players who are as yet unaware of the CB tests in the rest of the forums. During the course of Closed Beta, at least one player is banned for breaking the NDA.
Due to prevailing lag issues during the course of Closed Beta and later in Open Beta, several locations in the game are given dubious monikers by Beta Testers that make them stand out as places of extremely horrible lag. Among these are 'Lagalot' for Camelot in Anglorum, 'Laggen' for Bremen in New Badari and 'Lagwood', used interchangeably between Heartwood in Great Forest and the region of Deadwood itself. The Eiffel Tower in Heartwood gets dubbed the 'I Fell Tower' due to the tendency of many players lagging off the top of the Tower to their deaths upon falling to the ground.
SPM Game Manager Asp leads the Earth Sages, EE's GM team, until July when she gives up her lead position to newcomer 'Storm' Damiana who retains the role of Lead GM for the remainder of the Sparkplay Media Era.
Sometime during the Summer of 2009, the first and oldest Earth Eternal fansite, Punkbunnie.com, comes online. This website will last for the duration of the Sparkplay Media Era and for a time beyond it before being relegated to history. During the Sparkplay days, it is this fansite that most avidly promotes Earth Eternal.
Player Dekker Wilder convinces a friend of his to try out Earth Eternal. This friend's decision to hearken to Dekker's request is a fateful one as they will eventually become more notable much later on due to events that play out through the course of the SPM Era and beyond.
On June 18, 2009, the News Feed post introduces SPM's third Community Manager, Andrew Sipotz, who has just been signed onto the dev team. The interview on the News Feed gives bits of Andrew's background in game development, including mentioning he has been a Community Manager of several other projects before joining Sparkplay, and even reveals the origin of his nickname “Piggypops” as told by Andrew himself. Piggypops becomes one of the more well known members of the dev team over time and remains with Sparkplay until the very end.
A News Feed post on June 22nd talks about the IGN interview with SPM dev Steven Blumenfeld and where he discusses many of the technical aspects powering Earth Eternal itself. A link to the full interview is provided.
The next day, June 23rd, another News Feed post talks about the five new screenshots posted up on the site MMOsite.com. A link to MMOsite.com's webpage is provided.
On June 30th, a post on the News Feed talks about an interview between Matt Mihaly and the website Massively.com where Matt discusses what makes Earth Eternal stand out from other titles. A link to the full interview on Massively is provided.
The next day on July 1st, another News Feed post mentions an article posted by GamesBeat, a division of VentureBeat, that discusses Earth Eternal.
On July 13th, the News Feed announces a brand new 'Earth Eternal Teaser Trailer' featuring “never-before-seen footage and gameplay videos”. The post adds the Trailer can also be viewed on the Art/Video page of the website.
A News Feed post on July 23rd, talks about the 2-part interview on Massively with several members of the Sparkplay dev team. Part 1 is the interview with Lead Designer, Greg Chapman and Concept Artist, Alex Madrigal. Part 2 is the interview with CEO and Lead Writer, Matt Mihaly and Programmer Ryne Anderson. Links to both parts of the 2-part interview on Massively's site is provided.
A News Feed post on August 5th talks about the interview with Matt Mihaly posted on the website Gamasutra where Matt discusses what makes Earth Eternal stand out from other free-to-play titles. A link to the interview is provided.
Early in the month, a fateful event takes place during one of the Closed Beta tests where a wave of 800 new players are invited into the server. Soon as the 800 swarm in, the servers completely crash forcing SPM to temporarily prevent them from getting back in. It would be two weeks before these 800 and another 1000 players would be allowed back onto the servers. This group would come to be known as the 'Fated 800'. Amusingly enough, player Liska Quicksilver was to be included in this wave of testers, but, was not home that weekend and would not experience Earth Eternal until the weekend that the 800 were invited back in.
A secondary event would also take place during this particular event that would, unknowingly to those involved at the time, sow the seeds for Earth Eternal's future.
On August 19th, a News Feed post talks about the 'exclusive' screenshots posted on MMORPG.com showing off several of the beasts that inhabit Earth Eternal. Among these are the Mad Cow and treacherous Lich. A link to the images on MMORPG.com is provided.
On September 1, 2009, Sparkplay announces on the News Feed a new partnership with Omake Interactive Services to help bring Earth Eternal to Asia and the Pacific Rim. Although this same post reveals this announcement originally had been posted elsewhere on August 12 th, possibly on Omake's own website, it gives information about both Omake, Sparkplay Media, their comments about each other and how to contact both.
While never publicly announced, and for whatever internal reasons, this partnership later falls through in the months to come.
The next day on September 2nd, the News Feed post talks about the 'Preview of Earth Eternal' on Gamepro.com and includes a possible quote from Matt Mihaly regarding Groves and some of the ideas planned for Earth Eternal's 'player housing' feature.
A post on the News Feed on September 3rd informs readers of the upcoming first Stress Test of Closed Beta at '5pm PDT'. “Everyone who participates will get a 'war banner' for their characters when the game goes live.” The post offers a link to Massively.com's website if players still need a 'beta key' to get in. It also mentions that 3X experience has been turned on for characters over level 10 and that the SPM devs will be hanging out in game as well.
On September 5th, another News Feed post mentions an article from IGN.com where they offer a 'sneak preview' of Earth Eternal 'which is currently in closed beta'. As always, a link to the article is provided.
A News Feed post on September 8th mentions the two interviews made by Earth Eternal fansite Punkbunnie.com with Jeff Simmons, CEO of Chasing the Sun Productions and the composer of Earth Eternal's music scores, and SPM Community Manager, Andrew Sipotz, aka, Piggypops.
On September 15th, the News Feed post mentions an interview with Matt Mihaly from the website tentonhammer.com where he talks about the 'unique features' that make Earth Eternal stand out from other MMOs. In the adjoining quote from Matt, he mentions that Earth Eternal is more 'solo-oriented' than most MMO titles but, has clans and raid dungeons. The latter is currently limited to 5-person groups instead of 25-persons (as that considered is 'too hardcore'), though. A link to the full interview is provided as usual as well as showing off an image of Matt dressed as a pirate for 'Talk like a Pirate' Day.
On September 25th, the News Feed announces another stress test on the CB servers for the weekend starting on the 26th. For those participating in this second stress test, those counted as logged in will be given a 'War Helm' when the server goes live. Players are told that if too many try to login at once, they will be put in a queue and only those who actually make it into the game world will receive this item for their open beta characters. As with the previous stress test, a link to Massively.com's website is provided for players still in need of Beta Keys.
A post on the News Feed on October 1st mentions an interview by Zam.com with Matt Mihaly. A quote from Matt talks about some of the customization options that make Earth Eternal stand out from other MMOs.
On October 2nd, the News Feed announces the “Earth Eternal Closed Beta Party” which will take place on October 4th. CB testers are invited to join the dev team in game for a special party as Closed Beta comes to an end. As an extra 'thank you' to those who make it to the party, any character they ever create will start out with the following items:
1 24-hour XP Tome
1 7-day Item Grinder
1 24-hour Speed Potion
The announcement also mentions that the SPM developers will be online and chatting with players and that there would be a chance a few 'dangerous, high level bosses' would make an appearance to 'stir up trouble'.
On October 4th, CB testers rush into the server for the “Earth Eternal Closed Beta Party”. While most crowd into Camelot along with the SPM developers, some choose to gather near Stonehenge instead due to the intense lag prevailing anywhere near Camelot. The Party lasts until Sparkplay announces that the servers are coming down so that they can completely wipe them so that any bugs lingering from the Closed Beta characters are eliminated before the launch of Open Beta.
There are a total of three stress tests that end up being run during the latter part of Closed Beta, the last of which happens to be the End of CB party itself. Each stress test rewards those testers who participated with special exclusive CB rewards. Sparkplay informs the testers that any of these rewards they managed to get will be bound to their account at the beginning of Open Beta. They add that every single character that each of these players ever creates in Earth Eternal, even through full release, will come with these items as a special 'thank you' for helping to test the game.
These rewards were as follows:
Stress Test 1: EE Beta Beast Banner (this banner featured a spinning EE on top)
Stress Test 2: Beta Beast Helm (this helmet featured a “ram's horns” like style with a sparkling EE on the front)
Stress Test 3 (the End of Closed Beta Party test): 1 24-hour XP Tome, 1 7-day Item Grinder and 1 24-hour Speed Potion
In addition to these rewards, those who participate in the last test are also given the privilege to play on the Open Beta servers the week before it is opened for everyone else. All other Closed Beta testers are given the chance to play on the OB servers one full day after the CB party goers and nearly a full week before the game is opened to the public.
It should also be noted that clips of the CB Party would later be featured in the next Earth Eternal Promo Video.
On October 7th, three days after the End of CB Party, those players who particpated in the final stress test of Closed Beta create their characters on the now fully wiped and cleaned Open Beta servers. As promised, those who participated in any or all of the stress tests now claim their rewards. A surprise extra reward is discovered among the items, a regular Beta Beast Banner. They are told all players who participated in Closed Beta have been given this reward whether or not they got any of the other rewards.
On October 8, 2009, all other Closed Beta testers join the ranks of those who are already ingame and are given the opportunity to enjoy Earth Eternal nearly a full week before the official unveiling of Open Beta.
October 13, 2009 is the official start of Open Beta and the servers finally open to the public.
A small News Feed post on October 13th announces to everyone on the website that 'Open Beta is Here!' and encourages everyone to create accounts and click the 'Play' button on the homepage to get started.
The rather long News Feed post on October 14th officially announces the launch of Earth Eternal's Open Beta. The article refers to the smaller announcement on October 13th, though. This one features a quote from Matt Mihaly, a bit of background info about Matt himself, about Sparkplay Media and about Earth Eternal's 'business model'.
Several major clans get their start during this month.
Called 'Failboat' during Closed Beta, player Wolf Cronos' clan is redubbed 'Heroes Reborn' in Open Beta and becomes one of the most exclusive clans in Earth Eternal comprised of quite a few of the top level players.
Kaji's 'The Furry Group' forum group is given an ingame incarnation as a Clan in Closed Beta and later in Open Beta. Kaji will depart both his clan and the game early in OB leaving The Furry Group to be led by player Temrin Sanjem. Temrin retains leadership of TFG from that point forward. The Furry Group will go on to become one of the largest clans in EE. It should be noted that The Furry Group actually has two incarnations during the Sparkplay Media Era: The ingame clan comprised of quite a few members and the original forum group that comprises a good number of players on the forums, many of which end up in other clans ingame yet remain part of TFG on the forum. TFG is perhaps the oldest of all of Earth Eternal's clans because of this split nature.
Due to a dispute that arises within The Furry Group at one point, a number of players led by player Danny Dumal break away from TFG and form their own clan which they name The Furry Inquisition. Like The Furry Group from which it came, The Furry Inquisition goes on to become one of the largest clans in EE.
The Earth Eternal Credit Shop opens near the end of the month. The first 'Credit Shop armor set' offered is called the 'Filligree Pink' set and is met with mixed reviews. The so-called 'Charms' that are also offered in the new Credit Shop are sold at exorbitant prices due to their stat augmenting functions. Players are told that the prices for the Credit Shop content is still being tweaked and to expect the numbers to change as the Earth Eternal economy stabilizes.
To the surprise and dismay of SPM's developers, quite a few players manage to reach the level soft-cap barely a few weeks after the servers open.
On November 4th, the News Feed post announces that the first Open Beta Patch of Earth Eternal, Patch 0.8.1 is released. A link is provided to the webpage containing the release notes for the new patch.
On November 16th, the News Feed post a preview of the second OB patch, Patch 0.8.2. This patch is notable for the first Earth Eternal in-game event: Harvest Fest. A tiny bit of 'story' is provided in the Feed post to give players a taste of this 'Fall' themed event which is loosely derived from various 'autumnal' festivals including the American Thanksgiving holiday.
The next day on November 17th, the News Feed post mentions an interview with Matt Mihaly by the website Gamers Daily News and a link to the GDN website is included.
On November 19th, the News Feed post announces the release of Patch 0.8.2 and the Harvest Fest event which is to last from November 19th through December 2nd. In addition to the Harvest Fest event, a new 'repeatable quest' feature added to the game called 'Bounty Boards' is also announced. A link to the full patch notes is provided.
The News Feed post for December 2nd, offers the new 'Merlin's Vestments' in the Credit Shop. In addition to this, it announces that the prices of Charms are greatly reduced with the Monthly charms being completely removed and the Permenant charm prices being lowered by about two thirds.
While it sounds like a deal, this last announcement turns out to be one of SPM's first visible blunders in early Open Beta as the price cuts cause a backlash in the community, mainly from those who had spent hundreds just to purchase these items at their previous prices only to have the very same items suddenly reduced in price soon after.
On December 8th, the News Feed post announces the official opening up of the Earth Eternal Credit Exchange. Players are told they can now exchange “Earth Eternal Credits for Earth Eternal Gold” between one another and can also sell their own credits or purchase credits from other players.
The News Feed on December 10th gives a preview of the upcoming Winter Dawning Festival event and, like the previous Harvest Fest event, gives a bit of 'story' as a bit of flavor.
On December 18th, the News Feed post announces the newest client release, Patch 0.8.3, which includes the new Winter Dawning Festival content, a Winter Dawning Guide, and brand new Player Vaults. It also announces the 'Winter Dawning Fan-ANYTHING Contest'. A link to the full patch notes is provided. The Winter Dawning Festival is the second event to take place in Earth Eternal.
Even though players are finally granted Player Vaults after lots of forum requests for them, a backlash among the playerbase occurs when it is made known SPM expects players to purchase all vault space from the get go. Following this second visible blunder, SPM finally relents after quite a bit of forum flak and agrees to offer the first row of vault space free. Unfortunately, the playerbase again complains once Patch 0.8.3 is released when it is discovered that, although SPM did grant their request for a free row of space in the Player Vaults, they had also quietly removed all the 8, 10 and 12-slot inventory bags from the game and added a 24-slot bag, the Dragonscale Backpack, to the Credit Shop.
Unlike the Player Vault fiasco, the 'Winter Dawning Fan-ANYTHING Contest', which is also announced along with Patch 0.8.3, is received rather well. The contest is open to all players who wish to participate. Submissions allowed in the contest are either personally drawn pictures, ingame videos of Earth Eternal with the contestant's personal touch to show that it is 'their work', or a written story/poem/etc. The dev team then decides who the winners are and these would then be granted various prizes. The grand prize, though, is the jewel. For the grand prize winner of this contest, a special Shroomie plushie will then be sent to them direct from the Sparkplay Mansion.
A News Feed post on December 23rd, mentions a 'Special Holiday Offer' on Credits that includes a special Shroomie Plushie. This 'offer' includes getting up to 40% in bonus credits along with receiving a bonus 'limited edition' Shroomie Plushie to those players who purchase 'select credit packs'. The 'Special Holiday Offer' lasts from December 23rd to January 15th.
Several players will end up tying for the top prize in the Contest and each one is given the Shroomie plush, though at least one or two never receive their prizes from either the contest winnings or the special holiday offer from December 23rd.
Due to certain complaints by players regarding various quests in Anglorum, SPM restructures these quests to make them easier to complete, or in the sole case of the quest 'The Treasure Map', completely removes the quest entirely. Other quests in Europe, such as 'The Quarter Note Quill', are said to have vanished during this time as well. The reasonings behind the removal of these other quests are never explained. The 'reason' given for removing 'The Treasure Map' quest, though, was something to the effect of, that too many players had complained the quest was 'too difficult and frustrating' to complete.
Another event involving a certain player takes place sometime during this two month span. Although this player shouted their success in Region Chat, the true meaning behind it remained hidden. This event will eventually play a very important role in Earth Eternal's future.
Known ingame as Brod Naj, player McSpeedfreak painstakingly does a bit of cartography in Earth Eternal during this time, creating detailed composite maps of quite a few dungeon instances and at least one or two towns including Camelot out of many screenshots of each area. These maps become quite popular among players. McSpeedfreak's reasoning for creating these maps is due to the fact none of the dungeon instances contain their own area maps like the overworld regions do.
On January 11, 2010, the first News Feed post of the year is the 'Letter from the CEO' by Matt Mihaly. In it he greets players and wishes everyone a happy new year. Matt then explains that he is aware the game's performance 'isn't where we want it' and that over the course of the following year SPM plans on making quite a few additions and changes to the game. Among the issues mentioned is frames-per-second being too low, system requirements not being low enough and lag being an ongoing problem. Matt adds that the programmers are working full time on the problem and that SPM has added the Ogre3D engine's creator to the dev team part-time to help sort through some of the issues.
Since 'performance improvements' are not the only thing to be mentioned, Matt informs players that a whole mess of things are coming and he lists them 'in no particular order'.
These include plans for:
The addition of 'more quests and new types of quests' so that players can level up just by running quests as level grinding is something SPM wants to avoid.
Improvements to Boss AI as bosses are currently just 'larger versions of other creatures that hit harder and take more damage'. Matt adds that players will see 'custom AI strategies implemented for different bosses'.
Players getting Pets. These are to be cosmetic and just follow players around at first; but, later on they would do other things such as performing tricks and assisting in combat.
More clan capabilities and purposes including more ways for clans to organize themselves and giving 'some goals for clans to work towards'.
Players are to expect Groves, 'EE's custom environments for players and clans' to be added sometime during the year. Like pets, groves will have 'basic functionality' at the start, though, the SPM devs will change that over time.
The addition of Player vs Player combat sometime during the year and that it will be 'released in stages'. The first stage of PVP is to be an Arena system that would involve 1 vs 1 or group vs group combat. While keeping quiet about 'the next stage of PvP' to be added, Matt does hint that it will involve 'somewhat more free-form PvP than just in Arenas'.
Matt wraps up his long post by mentioning that 'there will be other surprises that the dev team will keep quiet on as they do not yet know what all they will be working on in 2010. He then tells players to be patient as 'all of these features will not happen at once' and that SPM is 'adding to the team' to 'get more done' but that 'these things still take time'. He then thanks players for being a part of EE and tells everyone 'let's make 2010 an awesome 12 months'. He postscripts that 'Nixon wishes you all a great 2010 too!' A picture of Matt's dog Nixon wearing a Santa hat sits at the bottom of the news post right before Matt's own 'business signature'.
While Matt Mihaly seems very optimistic in this rather long post, much of what is promised in this speech, sadly, never comes to fruition due to many problems that plague Sparkplay Media during the course of 2010.
The News Feed post on January 18th introduces the 'Web Update: Player Profiles'. In it, the post mentions an update to the 'Earth Eternal Social Network' and provides a link. It also details that Clans now have their own 'profile pages' that members can visit. Features on these 'Clan Pages' include:
The Clan Leader can add or edit important clan info such as the 'clan rules, mission statement, allies and enemies'.
Clans now get their own private 'clan forums'.
Clan members can track their clan's 'Kill vs Death' ratio, Average number of quests completed, Race/Class breakdown and much more.'
Members can 'view a full roster of clan members.'
A link to the full article is provided in the post.
The first developer involved event takes place during this month featuring “Exterminator Porkins”. In later months it would be revealed that Exterminator Porkins had been played by CM Piggypops.
The News Feed post on January 26th announces the Preview of the next patch, Patch 0.8.4. In this upcoming patch, new abilities will be added and that these skills will be available to all classes. A link to the full Preview is provided.
On January 29th, the Earth Sages hold a Trivia event on Avalon Island in Anglorum. During this event, players are asked various questions to determine their knowledge of various parts of Earth Eternal lore both in and out of the game. Those who answer correctly are given rewards while those who answer incorrectly are teleported to the mainland. All participants are told that even if they guess wrong and get teleported away, they would be permitted to return and try again. A short video exists of this event that was created by one of the player participants. This video shows that even Piggypops himself participated in the event, even though he answered a question wrong and was teleported away. What makes this video important, aside from being the sole known documentation the event even happened, is that it also shows off two lesser known Earth Sages that have, for the most part, been mostly forgotten: Earth Oracle and Constance Terraegis.
Sometime in early 2010, amid many player requests to port the game to other operating systems such as Linux and Mac, player Rockfire Redmoon posts on the EE forums that she has successfully launched the game in a Linux environment using the 'Play On Linux' Windows emulator. She then offers her services to assist players who wish to play EE in Linux by giving tips on how to get it running. Rockfire continues this help until the end of the SPM era. During this same time, Rockfire creates a website called 'ArmourEE' that is dedicated to helping her clan record armor sets and posts links to it on the EE site for everyone to view. Unknown during this time, Rockfire's website will play a much larger role in EE's future.
In spite of public optimism, unbeknownst to players, Sparkplay Media has been going through difficult times. Efforts to get more funding becomes difficult.
The News Feed post on February 3rd announces that it's 'patch day' for Patch 0.8.4 and that the new patch includes 'tons of bug fixes, new abilities and a few offers you can't refuse'. A link to the full patch notes is provided.
On February 10th, the News Feed announces the third ingame holiday event, Hart's Fest. Players are encouraged to 'enjoy the holiday' with Earth Sage events taking place throughout the event's duration which ends on February 14th. Players are encouraged to pick up 'the official Hart's Fest' outfit' that includes the 'Velvet' set and a 'Crown of Hearts' which has been added to the Credit Shop. A link to 'read more about Hart's Fest' is provided.
All Earth Sages involved in Hart's Fest all wear the 'Hart's Fest' outfit for the duration of the Hart's Fest Earth Sage events. The events typically involved an Earth Sage asking players to hunt for a specific item and then bring it to them for a reward. Different Earth Sages would appear in different locations such as Fort Stonehenge in Anglorum or Listerm in the Midlands of Europe at different times of the day.
On February 16th, a post on the News Feed mentions an interview with the new Lead Designer of Earth Eternal, John Yoo. A link to the full interview is provided for players who want to 'get to know the newest member of the dev team'. John Yoo would also be known as 'Yoonity' on the EE forums.
Two days later on February 18th, the News Feed post mentions the new Mohawk item added to the Earth Eternal Store (aka Credit Shop) and adds that it comes in 'six rocking colors'. Images of all six color versions are shown.
On February 24th, the News Feed post invites players to discover 'What Lurks Down Below' with the arrival of the next patch, Patch 0.8.5. Some of the new features in the patch are:
'The Down Below, a massive dungeon with around 30 named mobs.'
'The shattered remains of the Moon now hang in the night sky.'
Players can now customize their playstyles with 'remappable hotkeys'.
'And much more.'
A link to the full release notes is provided as always.
The Down Below becomes the largest dungeon released to date. Players are told this dungeon was made as an answer to the many 'lack of content' complaints made by many players who have already reached the top levels by this point in time. Unknown to players at this point, Patch 0.8.5 would become the final patch prior to a major shift in the game's focus.
Shortly after the release of Patch 0.8.5, player McSpeedfreak decides to give up his 'Earth Eternal cartography' telling players on the forums that no one else was getting involved and that his last creation, a full map of the new dungeon The Down Below, had pretty much burned him out on map making.
It is sometime during this month that SPM manages to get more funding for a brief time.
On March 10th, the News Feed mentions a new item added to the Credit Shop, The Fishbowl Helm...complete with fish! The Fishbowl Helm would become one of the few 'silly items' added to the game just for fun and likely the most silly of them all.
On March 12th, the News Feed introduces what SPM calls 'Developer Diaries'. In the 'inaugural episode', Sparkplay Media Game Designer Derek McDivitt is interviewed. A link to the episode is provided with the encouragement for players to watch and give feedback including who players want to see 'grilled next' and what questions players want asked.
These 'Developer Diaries' would collectively be called “Earth Internal” episodes as a sort of nod to the people 'on the inside' of Earth Eternal's development.
The News Feed post on March 18th mentions a video article by G4's MMO Report. A quote from the host is mentioned and a link to the video is provided.
On March 23rd, the News Feed post mentions players can now share their EE adventures on Facebook. It mentions that 'Earth Eternal just released a Facebook app' that will allow players to link their Earth Eternal account to their Facebook account. A link to 'Learn More..' is provided.
On March 24th, the News Feed mentions the 'Last Day of Spring Break Sale' and encourages players to 'enjoy some time inside this Spring Break with Earth Eternal' and to pick up bonus credits adding that 'today is the last day to get a 25% bonus with all credit purchases'. A link to 'Read More…' is provided.
Unbeknownst to players, Sparkplay Media begins to fall apart as their backers begin to leave. The company's financial troubles make themselves more known though players are still blissfully unaware for the most part.
The event 'Bounder's Day' is intended to take place during this month; however, it is sadly never realized. In spite of this event never happening, 'Emerald Eggs' are spawned in various places ingame hereafter and players will occasionally come across them from time to time never really knowing what they were meant for.
Sparkplay hints at the development of two new regions to the game: Grunes Tal and Swineland. These areas will be inaccessible to players until they are finished and unveiled.
April 2010 is considered to be the pivot month in Earth Eternal history as many many things happen in this one month alone.
On April 1st, the News Feed announces 'the newest playable race' in Earth Eternal: Humans. Both a single image and a bit of 'lore' is provided along with a link to 'read more' about the new playable race.
While this News Feed 'announcement' is meant to be nothing more than an April Fools joke; unfortunately, SPM does not get the reaction they expected. The joke completely backfires with players as they are led to believe Sparkplay is breaking their 'slogan mantra' of 'No Humans, Elves or Dwarves' touted on the website and they have to be reassured by SPM that this 'announcement' is nothing more than a bit of April Fools fun.
The next day on April 2nd, the News Feed post offers players in a very tiny second 'Letter from the CEO' a sneak peek at the upcoming Patch 0.8.6 'and beyond'. A link to the full 'sneak peek' is provided.
Unknown to everyone, it is also in this month that the first visible nails in SPM's coffin make themselves known to players as Patch 0.8.6 would become the most infamous game patch of all when it is finally released.
On April 8th, the News Feed post encourages players to check out the new 'Earth Internal, Episode 2' where SPM's Art Director Chris Turner is interviewed. The link to the video is in the top of the post this time.
The News Feed post on April 14th announces the Preview of Patch 0.8.6 by encouraging players to check out the new trailer video of the new starter zone of Bastion Island. A link to the trailer video is provided.
Just days before the release of Patch 0.8.6, SPM runs their 'Earth Day' dev event featuring “Lord Darkbark and the Rotted”. Players who participate in this event are rewarded with a 'Shroomie Cap' helm.
On April 19th, 2010, the News Feed post finally announces the arrival of Patch 0.8.6 and 'The Island of Bastion' in a rather small post. A link to the full patch notes is provided.
On the same day, a second, much longer, News Feed post announces Sparkplay Media's new partnership with Sankando, 'a popular Japanese online game and communications company' to help bring Earth Eternal to the Asia-Pacific region. Info about both Sparkplay and Sankando is mentioned along with a small summary of what Earth Eternal is. The post also includes a quote from Sankando's president and COO, Masahiro Taramoto. This News Feed post is also the first one to mention Earth Eternal having 'an optional downloadable client' to connect to the game, which is a brand new feature added to the game in Patch 0.8.6.
Sparkplay hopes that this new exposure to the game will garner more interest and revenue for the company. Unknown at this time is that the decision by Sparkplay to partner with Sankando will play a deciding role in Earth Eternal's future later in the year.
Although Patch 0.8.6 is touted by Sparkplay, it is this patch that, for many players, ruins Earth Eternal, though the game itself continues to be developed.
In spite of finally getting a new “Earth Eternal Client” that players can now fully download and connect to the game with rather than requiring their web browsers to be open to play, this feature is overshadowed by what is taken out of the game with this new patch. Among other things, this patch removes most of the game's obtainable equipment drops and all money drops. It also restructures how armor is used in the game which also allows all classes to equip just about any armor with benefits reflected based on the player's class.
Although SPM reassures players that the removal of the armor is only temporary while they revamp things, a mass exodus from the game takes place as what players had dubbed 'fashion science' is now considered dead. Other things changed in this infamous patch that players express disdain for include such things as:
The turning of the mini-map dots all grey instead of the color codes players had used to determine a mob's difficulty.
Removing the 'tombstones' from dead mobs and replacing those with 'fallen' mob bodies.
The effective blanding and lack of variety in shops along with the now way overpriced 4 and 6 slot inventory bags.
The hyper-inflation of the Master Crafting Plans sold in Camelot.
As was shown in the Preview of Patch 0.8.6, players are treated to the new Bastion Island starter zone. Sparkplay explains to players that this change is an attempt to better 'streamline' the new player experience. Bastion Island is a more 'upgraded' starter zone and replaces the old Mushroom Isle present up to this point. While this change doesn't have a major impact on things, especially for newer players, some of those who had been playing Earth Eternal up to this point find that they somewhat miss the older starter zone that was now being retired. Others see Bastion as a welcome change. Like the new EE Client, though, the new starter zone's debut is overshadowed by the many things changed or removed.
Another major change in this patch includes 'rarity' color codes for equipment such as those seen in many other MMOs. An unfortunate side-effect of the new 'rarity' system results in the Master Weapons (which have been given the 'Epic' rarity) from the now Hyper-Inflated Master Crafting Plans now having lower stats than even some of the top level Epic rarity drops in the game. This, along with the outrageous costs now being asked for, end up rendering the Master Weapons and their Plans all but worthless to players.
In an attempt to reduce lag in the game, Sparkplay also changes two core mechanics in the new patch. Characters now load first and both characters and all spawns now enter the world as 'floating shapeless orbs' before their actual models appear ingame.
In reaction to all the changes, players express their distaste of this new patch rather vehemently and ask why these changes were made rather than SPM working on things like the long-promised-yet-still-undelivered Groves and pet system (which is still missing even though the description of the Druid class claims they would have 'companions' and even 'summons', neither of which ever happens) among other things.
Players are quick to place the blame for the Patch 0.8.6 debacle on new Lead Designer John Yoo upon learning on the forums that many of the changes were his suggestions. Yoonity replies to players' comments on the forums that the changes were sorely needed to make the game a success and that he was greatly upset after being hired only to discover how big a mess the game's current state had been. In spite of his explanations, players still blame him among others for the 'disaster' that is Patch 0.8.6.
The News Feed post on April 26th, offers players the new Templar armor set added to the Credit Shop for a 'limited time only'. It adds that this set will only be available until May 12th.
Still quite unbeknownst to the playerbase, though, it is during this month that several members of the Sparkplay dev team is let go due to the growing financial issues the company faces.
The News Feed post on May 7th encourages players to 'vote for your favorite clan photo'. It also mentions that the 'clan photoshoot contest is coming to an end' and that players must vote before it ends on May 10th at 10 am PST. A link to view the contest rules and information is also posted. A small postscript thanks the clan 'The Helping Hand' for the clan photo shown in the post.
A News Feed post on May 10th announces that May is “Zombie Awareness Month”. In the 'lore' parts of the post that talks about the month long event, it mentions that there are two 'sides' that players can opt into. They can side with the Beasts to rid the areas of the undead, or they can side with the undead and see what rewards they might gain by aiding the zombies. The post adds that the zombies 'only come out on the weekends' hinting that the event will only run on each weekend of the month.
To keep things interesting, the rewards for participating in the Zombie Awareness Month event changes each weekend. The event is primarily 'hosted' by the zombie known as “Deadhead Fred” who offers these rewards in exchange for various items the players must collect for it.
On May 19th, the News Feed post informs players that it is the 'last chance' to buy the two Filigree sets (Pink and Red) from the Credit Shop and that they are available for 'one more week' before being permanently removed from the Credit Shop on May 26th. Both can be found in the 'NEW' tab of the Credit Shop. Images of both sets are shown in the post.
At some point in time prior to the removal of the Filigree Pink and Red sets, player Valacar saves up his gold to purchase the Master Weapon plan for the Blossom wand Master weapon. To his dismay, this item turns out to be a pink heart-shaped wand. Instead of complaining, being a good sport about this turn of events, Valacar purchases the entire Filigree Pink set from the Credit Shop to match his new Blossom wand. Valacar then takes a picture of himself with both the Blossom and Filigree Pink set equipped and posts it up on the forums. An alternate version of this image is given the caption “Sometimes, life isn't fair.” This rather humorous picture becomes one of the more famous player images from the Sparkplay Media era.
The News Feed post on May 27th informs players that the upcoming weekend is the final weekend of Zombie Awareness Month. It includes a bit more 'lore' story about Deadhead Fred and a couple other characters. A link to 'learn all about Zombie Awareness Month' is provided.
On May 29-30th, 2010, the results of the 9th annual Ursa Major Awards (more fomally known as the Annual Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Awards), are announced for ten categories. Earth Eternal had been nominated for this award in the Best Anthropomorphic Game category during the voting in the weeks and months prior; however, it, along with two other nominees, did not win the award. Ironically, this was probably for the best due to what would transpire in the next few months.
Behind the scenes, Sparkplay CEO Matt Mihaly begins hunting for new backers who would help support and fund Earth Eternal as Sparkplay Media's funds are by this time beginning to dry up.
On June 1st, the News Feed mentions an article from Massively where they 'check out Earth Eternal'. It includes a quote from the 'Rise and Shiny' review and a link to the full article on Massively.com.
On June 3rd, the News Feed encourages players to 'Enter the Fray' with the release of the next patch of Earth Eternal: Patch 0.8.7. The two main items mentioned in the announcement are the newly revamped Corsica region and the implementation of Player vs Player combat with the initial Arena PVP Mode. This comes in two versions: The Camelot Arena or the Mountain Valley. Links to learn more about both the new Corsica region and the new Arena PVP options are provided.
Player vs Player combat, which is introduced in Patch 0.8.7, begins as 'arena-type' instances placed in the three major cities of Camelot, Bremen and Heartwood. Plans to expand the PvP options are announced, but, they never come to fruition. A fourth location for the new players is located in Earthrise.
Each arena serves a specific grouping of players and divides them according to level. The beginner arenas in Corsica and Earthrise serve players levels 1-10. The novice arena in Camelot serves players from level 10-20. The intermediate arena in Bremen serves players levels 20-30. Heartwood has two arenas, advanced and expert, which divide players into two groupings: players level 30-40 (advanced) and players level 40 and higher (expert).
To prevent unwanted problems among the players, no player of a different grouping can enter an arena outside their level range. At first this mechanic works like a charm; however, it isn't long before problems arise and exploits are found.
In the wake of the Patch 0.8.6 debacle back in late April, Sparkplay furiously works to undo some of their less popular changes while continuing to add in newer features. Among the redos, SPM changes the now-bland grey minimap dots to two colors, red and green, instead of one and changes the new 'loading' floating shapeless orb to a spinning 'beast head' gear icon.
Perhaps one of the only major complaints to Patch 0.8.7 is the nerfing of Bows for Druids in an attempt to 'balance' the class for PvP combat. This change is met with much disdain by the playerbase as those playing the Druid class complain this change has made a once viable weapon choice and it's skills almost completely useless to the class in PvE combat.
The newly revamped new player zone of Corsica, which follows the new mechanics of Bastion Island, is met with mixed reactions. Some players enjoy the more streamlined feel of the revamped zone while others express a bit of disappointment that Corsica seemed to have lost a good portion of it's original charm in favor of 'rushing' new players through the zone.
While players show some interest in the new Corsica zone and finally getting PVP into the game, many express frustration as to why the armor sets removed in the previous patch have not been put back in or why such things as Groves, pets and the new zones of Grunes Tal and Swineland have still not been finished and released. They are told in response that these are still forthcoming and that the armor sets are still being revamped; but, will likely be readded to the game in the next patch.
The News Feed post on June 10th informs players that the new Dark Knight armor set is now available for purchase in the Credit Shop. A link is provided so players can 'check it out'.
On June 16th, the News Feed post informs players that this is the final week to purchase the Fishbowl Helm and the Mohawks from the Credit Shop and that these items will be removed from the Shop forever at 10 am Pacific on June 23rd. Players are encouraged to 'get yours today!'.
The News Feed post on June 23rd informs players that the 'cool' new Glacial Armor set is now available for purchase in the Credit Shop.
The News Feed post on June 30th announces the Preview of the upcoming Patch 0.8.8. Players are encouraged to 'check out' the 'updated character models' and other highlights of the patch including 'improved grouping mechanics, 'tons of new armor sets' along with 'instant transportation to friends and party members'. A link for more information on the Preview of Patch 0.8.8 is provided.
In anticipation for the new character models, players create a 'before and after' thread on the forums to compare old look vs new look. The instructions to players are that they are to take pictures of all their characters before the next patch is released and then as soon as the patch is rolled out, they are to take pictures of their characters again and then post both versions into the thread. This thread ends up being rather popular with players, even after what follows once Patch 0.8.8 is finally released.
On July 7th, the News Feed announces the release of Patch 0.8.8. 'Revamped Character Models, Super Critical Hits, Instant Teleporting and much more' are among the highlights mentioned. Players are encouraged to check out the new patch and a link to the release notes is provided.
At first, players are excited about Patch 0.8.8; however, upon actually entering the game following the patch's release, players are met with a whole host of unexpected surprises, most of which are not taken very well.
Like Patch 0.8.6, this patch is considered to be a game ender for many players and a second exodus from Earth Eternal takes place. While SPM does indeed hold to their promise of returning the missing armor sets for this patch, what players end up getting are two 'versions' of older gear dubbed 'Melee' and 'Caster'. What really gets under players' skins though, is that these 'new' sets are blander, less colorful... and just plain horrid to look at. Worst of all, though, is that many of the original sets were not only changed, but, destroyed as well.
Then there is the new player models that had been announced and touted. These models only add to the outrage as body shapes no longer look reasonable. While they are indeed taller and more 'humanoid' than previously, certain specific body builds are totally messed up. The Male Athletic build now appears to be rather 'steroidite' in shape, the Female Normal build looks quite a bit more anorexic with a notable emphasis on a more 'mature' appearance and all Rotund builds now look more 'flat bellied' than before.
Other changes of note in this patch include the removal of the 'miss' mechanic and the addition of the 'light hit' mechanic. Both of these changes accompany the addition of the 'super critical hit' mechanic mentioned in the patch preview.
One of the more damaging new features to the game is the 'Instant Teleporting' feature better known to players as 'Port-to-Player'. Due to it's nature of allowing players to instantly teleport to friends anywhere in the game, this mechanic, for all intents and purposes, renders the Henge system of world travel completely useless.
Worse, several exploits within the Port-to-Player 'feature' are discovered by players over time that cause complete mayhem in every zone for the remainder of the Sparkplay Era. One of these exploits is the ability to teleport low level beginner players to high level player zones and vise versa. Many new players find themselves trapped in zones dozens of levels higher than them and high level players begin frequenting the new player zones.
Perhaps the worst of these exploits is discovered in the still-new PvP Arena system. While each arena is supposed to be restricted to only the players of that arena's set level range, the introduction of the Port-to-Player feature results in a surprise easy way to circumvent this restriction due to a bug that allows players to port to one another even if they are in an arena.
The original intention of the Port-to-Player feature was that it was supposed to only function in the PvE zones; but, it is discovered that, due to this bug, even the PvP arenas are being included as permissable zones. It isn't long before high level players are slaughtering low level players just to up their 'kill count' on the website PvP leaderboards and less mature players are porting into the arenas just to cause trouble and then porting back out to avoid being caught by the Sages or identified by other players.
Once again, players vehemently express their distate of the new patch and again complain as to why Groves were still not implemented and why PvP was not yet improved. Regarding the latter, Sparkplay tells players they would fix this issue as soon as possible, yet, like so many other things promised, this too, never happens.
Piggypops reveals on the forums in response to questions regarding the still-yet-to-be-finished regions of Grunes Tal and Swineland that all zones are planned for a revamp in the model of Bastion Island and New Corsica before work resumes on Grunes Tal and Swineland so that all areas of the game feature the same 'new upgraded' look as the two new starter zones. He also reveals plans regarding new Spain regions also in the works. Sadly none of these would be released due to events that would take place only a few weeks later.
In spite of the host of issues that plague Patch 0.8.8, unknown to everyone at the time, this same patch would end up being the final patch of Earth Eternal released by Sparkplay Media.
Inspired by Sparkplay's 'Earth Internal' videos, a group of intrepid players led by McSpeedfreak forms a 'radio show' dubbed 'Earth Eternal Radio' or 'EE Radio' for short. Skits and interviews with various devs are composed for it. Player Kitty Bock heads up EE Radio as it's emcee and keeps it going even after McSpeedfreak loses interest in it.
Players Volvox and Diby Doo create a few composite dungeon maps of their own to map some of the smaller dungeons that player McSpeedfreak had not created maps for when he gave up his EE cartography several months earlier and posts them up on the forums. Only one of these maps created is a duplicate.
In a last ditch effort to get funding for Earth Eternal, Matt Mihaly begins his final campaign to get support for the game through the end of July and the first week of August. His efforts sadly fall short driving the final nail in Sparkplay Media's coffin.
This is the final month of the Sparkplay Era of Earth Eternal.
On August 8th, the next-to-last News Feed post on the Earth Eternal website is a very grim and unexpected announcement 'letter' from Sparkplay Media CEO Matt Mihaly simply titled 'Some Bad News'.
In this rather long and unusually formal letter post, Matt informs all readers about the imminent end of Earth Eternal and the untimely demise of Sparkplay Media due to bankruptcy. Matt mentions that he had spent the past two months trying to either sell Sparkplay to any interested parties or get more funding for the company and that 'our last hope crumbled this weekend'. He also details that all SPM devs but himself and one other (Piggypops) had been let go as a result and he isn't sure if the two of them would be with the company either by the end of the following week.
As for what all this meant for Earth Eternal, Matt goes on to say that it isn't easy to tell. The game will be put up on the auction block later that day to hopefully pay back the investors and hopefully a buyer will come forward who will keep the game running. Matt admits that it's quite likely no one will want to 'take on the cost of running the game' and should that happen, “Earth Eternal will go down when our internet and hosting provider pulls the plug due to non-payment.” While not certain when that would happen, Matt reassures players that the game would still be around 'at least another week at minimum'.
Here Matt states that he is aware this news is a 'crushing blow' to many players and that their feelings are shared by him and the other former Sparkplay employees as some of them had worked on Earth Eternal for 'over four and a half years' and had “poured our hearts and souls into both it and Sparkplay.” He adds that “through the long hours, frustrating bugs and occasional problems so bad we had to laugh” the group had become “a very tight team as well as good friends.” and that it is “incredibly disappointing that it came to this”.
He continues by apologizing to everyone that he had failed in spite of his best efforts having “never worked harder in my life, but, it wasn't enough.” His simple explanation is summarized by “Things that we planned on happening didn't, and things we didn't plan on happening did.” Choosing not to go into detail, Matt states that the blame is on no one but himself and he again apologizes for letting everyone down.
Matt states that he has turned off the ability to get Credits or to earn Credits through offers/surveys and that he will set all non-permenant items in the Credit Shop to 'Free' later in the day so that players can 'have some fun'.
Matt wraps up his long post by stating that he will keep everyone posted as to what is going to happen with Earth Eternal even though they probably wouldn't know if anyone will be interested in keeping the game running until the following Friday. He then tells everyone to hope for the best and to enjoy themselves and help themselves to the free Credit Shop items.
His signature at the bottom of this post appears as follows: “Matt Mihaly, CEO (not for much longer) Sparkplay Media”.
This unexpected news sends shockwaves through the community as up to this point, those who still held on or had just started their journeys into Earth Eternal were now facing the 'beginning of the end' of a game they had come to enjoy.
In the wake of this announcement, a certain player begins experimenting with a few things that will have a profound effect later on.
The third and final exodus of players takes place during this month as those who really don't have an attachment to the game or those who see the 'death' of EE as a sign to move on, leave.
A 'former dev' going by the forum name 'Shazbawt' claims responsibility for an incident following the fateful announcement where he had used his dev powers to change the appearances of players in Camelot, upon request, to that of various ingame mobs including some of the bosses. Apparently, swift action against Shazbawt for this incident had also taken place, yet his forum posts indicate he is unremorseful for 'granting' requests by players in light of the news that Earth Eternal was soon to end and that it was all in fun.
In the middle of the month, it is announced by Matt that the game has indeed been put up for auction but, a buyer has yet to surface.
On August 10th, barely two days after Matt's grim announcement, player Jack Ceasar aka Jackuul, the clan leader of Fangren and Friends, creates a 'refuge' website he names “Earth Eternal Forever” for soon-to-be-former players to gather to keep in touch with those they became friends with ingame and to get updates on Earth Eternal's future. This site would end up being the 'last bastion' of the community during the next several months.
Discussions with Matt on this new fansite regarding the state of the game's future is met with much the same responses as on the official forums. He also reveals to players on this fansite, at request, his outline for the incomplete 'Age of Beasts' section of the Earth Eternal Lore along with other lore tidbits that were now likely never to be realized. Many players offer to pay money to 'help save Earth Eternal', but, Matt informs them that even if every single player offered to pay the same amount being offered, it would still not be near enough to save SPM or EE itself.
In response to questions regarding how long the servers would stay up, Matt informs the players on the forums that he has chosen to allow the Earth Eternal servers to remain online until the electric company shuts off the power to the Sparkplay Mansion at the end of the month.
In the final Earth Eternal News Feed post on August 17th, Matt announces that Earth Eternal is being sold. In this post, Matt tells everyone that there had been many parties bidding on the game and that the auction had come to an end that day with the winning bidder being a company that most people have heard of. He adds that he cannot tell who it is yet and for everyone to “take whatever your first five guesses are and toss them out, as it's not any of them”.
While he is unable to tell who the buyer is until the contract is completed and signed, which might take a week or more, Matt tells everyone that 'the game and the forums will be here' and that the free items in the Credit Shop will 'remain free for the short-term future'.
Here, Matt mentions that there is a good chance several of the recently laid off Sparkplay employees “will be involved in the game too” adding that he would probably do some consulting work with the company and they might want the help of other SPM employees; however, the caveat is that none of this is certain. He states that he was surprised that the buyer 'moved astonishingly quickly for a company of their size' and that they still do not know what they are going to do with EE and it's engine yet.
Matt wraps up this final post stating that he is pleased this particular company won the bidding and believes they have both “the resources and the pre-existing audience to make EE a success.”
His signature in this final News Feed post is as follows: “Matt Mihaly, CEO Sparkplay Media (a funny title for someone who currently has one employee beside himself)”
Near the end of August, what would be called 'The Mushroom Isle party' is held in the now-unused region. Former SPM devs, Earth Sages and players alike gather in a sort of farewell to Earth Eternal gesture.
Another event during this party takes place that does not make itself known for some time and, in many ways, happens by pure chance.
On August 31, 2010 at around 5pm PST, the lights finally go out at the Sparkplay Mansion and Earth Eternal's servers go offline ending the Sparkplay Media Era.