In october of the last year, we from Portal Tibia did an exclusive interview with Tibia’s product manager, Craban. We talked a bit about himself, the actual problems of Tibia, PvP, vocation balance and much more, check it out!
Portal Tibia: Hauopa, Florian! So you’ve just came from a trip to Brazil and turned down to be the first (I think) CipSoft member to be on our country. How was that?
Craban: It was definitely a worthwhile trip. A beautiful country, very nice people. The trip itself was quite stressful sitting in 8 airplanes in 8 days, but we have seen a lot, learnt a lot and had some very helpful meetings and specific visits. In the end, I took a lot of personal experiences with me and I hope we also took some inspiration with us from which our Brazilian community will benefit in the future.
Portal Tibia: Can you tell us about your hobbies, dreams and any super power you might have?
Craban: Haha, sweet… Well, apart from spending time with my family, my primary hobbies are music (listening and making), horseback riding, canoing, swimming, snowboarding and all kinds of games (not only on the computer). Most of my dreams are and will stay secret, except maybe to one day actually give Tibia some sound. Any super powers that I might have are yet to be discovered. I hope I am around when that happens 😉
Portal Tibia: How did Tibia come to your life?
Craban: Actually, I first started playing when I was still a student. Mercutio and I are not quite sure when it was, it must have been either 1998 or 99. I played for a while, never reached level 20 on three characters and then I stopped around 2001. When I was then looking for a job in Regensburg in 2005, I more or less stumbled upon a job at CipSoft in Customer Support for Tibia. Surprisingly, when I started again then I had level 20 in two weeks!
Portal Tibia: How long have you worked at CipSoft?
Craban: Since Mai 2005.
Portal Tibia: What do you most enjoy on your job as Product Manager?
Craban: First and foremost that I have the pleasure of working for a game that I personally really like. It really is luxury to work on something that you are personally positive about. Add to that a great team of great people that I am working with and finally, that no day is ever the same as the day before. It never gets boring!
Portal Tibia: Are you an active player? If so, can you tell us your level, vocation, favorite city and favorite hunt place?
Craban: Due to family and work, I cannot say that I have really been an active player lately, but I do play occasionally and it does happen that I find a few days in a row to play, so I still feel that I am fit to answer your questions. My highest level is 100+ (not much above though). I am in the highscores with two characters on skills. I have several vocations but my personal favourite is the druid. I have gone through most of the cities and lived in each for a while. My favourites are Yalahar, Liberty Bay and Port Hope. I don’t really have favourite hunting spots, but one that I spent a lot of time in was Vengoth Castle.
Portal Tibia: Now, put off your Product Manager’s hat and, as a player, what one new feature would you love to see implemented in Tibia?
Craban: An extensive and flexible guild system with alliances and some kind of community driven guild reputation system. That along with a totally different client (I would love to have the game window full screen) and sound!
Portal Tibia: What was the most noobish thing that you ever did?
Craban: Oh my, where to start … Well, I fell for a pretty obvious fast hands trick a few years ago, and the last noob thing that happened to me was that I killed myself with the flash client because I wanted to chat while I had chat mode off and instead started running into a mob.
Portal Tibia: Can you cite one change in Tibia that didn’t go as expected and what you learn with failing?
Craban: Well, the most prominent example is the flash client. The features are good and would be accepted, but what failed was the overall acceptance of that technology in the community and that we underestimated how different the system performance of that client would be. The next attempt at a new client will definitely focus on performance and stability and build on that.
Portal Tibia: Is there any specific change on tibia you have regretted?
Craban: Very hard to answer. “Regretted” would be the wrong word. I still believe that the changes we did (and kept) had more positive than negative sides to it. If you want me to name one where I miss what disappeared because of that change, then I would say the selling of runes through NPCs. I still am convinced that it had to be done for people to be able to enjoy more of the active game, but what fell with that was the endless hours of rune making and chatting. I do miss those, and I do think we should try to get some of it back by supporting the community interaction in some other way.
Portal Tibia: Some players close some servers to only friends and guild play there. In the past, it was considered destructive behaviour and a punishment was given. Nowadays nothing is done about it. What do you think abut it? Is CipSoft going to stop this behaviour?
Craban: Destructive behaviour punishments have always required deep investigations. Decisions upon this rule were always made on a case by case basis. The “destructive behaviour” rule has not been removed, by the way. So, if players do act in a way that really goes beyond anything that can be called role playing or playing the game or assuming power in the game and start actually affecting real people and their experiences, then yes, we can start investigations and in extreme cases will also act upon it.
Portal Tibia: It is well known that several worlds in Tibia suffers of monopolization: a small amount of players enforces their own rules with power abuse. In the past, it was considered destructive behavior and a punishment was given. Nowadays, nothing is done about it. What do you think about it?
Craban: This is basically just a different scenario to the same case as above: If people try to affect the people behind characters by forbidding them to play the game where and when they like and they do that to an extreme, then that is still destructive to the community and the game. Obviously, we do not want that.
Portal Tibia: What does CipSoft thinks about players enforcing their own in-game rules?
Craban: As long as it is in-game, meaning that it resembles something like a government that rose in a world and now sets the law, I believe it is interesting and in a way also something that makes Tibia special, but the other people still must be able to play the game, maybe under certain additional in-game laws that were made by players, but still when and where they want.
Portal Tibia: What is the real CipSoft position concerning merging servers?
Craban: We want to do it. We think it is necessary because game worlds where there are so little characters online that they do not meet each other are not healthy worlds in our eyes. Tibia is an MMO, and we certainly want to keep and enhance the feeling for players that they actually meet other players constantly. We always prefer servers being as full as the Preview Game Worlds to empty ones.
Portal Tibia: Do you think that, in the future, all players will prefer the flash client than the standalone?
Craban: No. We have come to terms with the flash client. It does have positive effects for new people because it offers a much faster way in, but it just does not cut it for “Pros”.
Portal Tibia: In an 2012 interview you have considered the possibility of rewriting the client C++ from scratch. Do you still plan to do this? Could you tell us more about it and what to expect?
Craban: We are just starting to work on that new client where we want to focus on addressing the lessons learnt from the flash client. It is still too early to give details. The plan is to make a client that will ideally replace both old clients. Therefore, it has to be at least as performant as the stand alone client, it has to work stand alone, and it has to offer a mode where it basically looks and feels like the stand alone client. In addition to all that, we hope to be able to provide an alternative mode where we can offer all the good features from flash client and hopefully even more really nice things concerning the UI.
Portal Tibia: The new PvP system has received a lot of criticism at the beginning, how this feedback interfered on the plans?
Craban: Actually, the feedback didn’t really interfere. We knew that this update alone would not help with the general negative feedback about PvP. We also knew that some of the changes, especially those that now make many of the tricks and abuses to get other people skulled impossible, would not be accepted if we just left it like that. Yes, the abuses had to be stopped, but there were reasons for people using these tricks, namely that they helped in some situations to work around other weaknesses of the old PvP system.
A real improvement for the players can only come when those weaknesses are tackled. It was the plan all along to continue with the system, next should be a rework of the unjustified system, then tackle the war system. What interfered was all the additional topics, mainly the DDos attacks, that basically stopped us from continuing to work on PvP for too long. That is also why the negative feedback prevails. We should have been a lot faster with the follow up steps. The only way that the feedback “interferes” is actually a positive way; especially the feedback that is descriptive and constructive helps us see much more clearly what the real weaknesses are and find solutions as to how to improve on them.
For example, when players complained about certain skull traps not being possible anymore, that alone does not help, but those who described specific situations in which they used those traps and why also gave us details about what the real problems are that they were trying to work around with those traps.
Portal Tibia: You have stated that you have more projects for the PvP, how is the progress of these projects and when we’ll see new changes?
Craban: A rework of the unjustified system is in the late planning stages. I hope we can start work on that within the next few weeks. After that, the plan is to work on the war system and the general motivation for PvP which means the rewarding. Many ideas still come from the old PvP focus group and are still very much alive. We just finally want to get to work with those.
Portal Tibia: What is your opinion about vocation balancing? Can we expect this in the near future? What can you anticipate for our readers?
Craban: Here too we had many obstacles and setbacks that slowed us down way more than we actually wanted. The topic is still very much alive. We want to put together a complete concept and plan in the course of this year and hope to be able to go through with that plan throughout the next year once we are satisfied with the PvP changes. So that will be the next big topic after PvP and may very well be the main focus in 2015. The general ideas and direction that we presented a while back is likely to still be the foundation, but we want to look at it with fresh eyes and an open mind, so right now, I can’t really give any hints as to what can be expected.
Portal Tibia: Players that didn’t get the outfit and promotional mounts should expect a second chance to have them?
Craban: I would never say never, but what we said still stands: Those were one time offers and we have currently no plans to make them available at any other time or occasion.
Portal Tibia: There is a kind of Shop on Tibia Me where players can buy mounts, outfits, access to the islands, double XP vouchers… can we expect something like this in Tibia any time soon?
Craban: We are looking into ideas like this, so yes, it may very well happen that we may expand our offer of things that players can get through a shop. It is however very important to us that Tibia players can be sure that they are able to compete with every other player, even if they have less real money. Therefore, something like buying double XP vouchers or weapons or other things that actually make your character stronger or better than the one of players who do not want to pay for that is highly unlikely.
Portal Tibia: Do you believe that, in the future, Tibia can have a system similar to WoW and Eve, mentioned by you, to mitigate the DDoS attacks?
Craban: Actually, with Prolexic we now do have the same system as they do. What makes the situation different is not the mitigation system that we all use but the way the games work. Tibia is very dependent on a good latency and is very unforgiving if that connection quality changes. On the other hand, that is in part what makes Tibia what it is. I tend to call Tibia the “shooter amongst MMORPs” because the battles are very fast paced and just a few seconds have a much greater impact in Tibia than in many other MMOs. Therefore, we will have to look for additional ways to help fight the DDos attacks on top of Prolexic.
Portal Tibia: In 2010, you said that the low resolution of the game is one of the greatest graphics challenges, with smooth walking recently implemented, is this problem solved?
Craban: We decided that there was more potential to improve the optical impression of Tibia by enhancing animations (of which walking is just one kind) than increasing resolution. Additionally, we see a tendency in the past few years that this old school pixel art look is actually becoming more popular again, and it really is also one element of Tibia that clearly makes it different from most other MMOs. So, currently, we think that we should improve on the client UI and look and feel rather than on resolution of ingame graphics.
Portal Tibia: You seem to have returned from GDC very motivated. Can you tell us a bit about the event? Have you had any new idea for Tibia?
Craban: In many of the answers to the previous questions I have already mentioned ideas and plans. Some of them have also been influenced by experiences at the GDC, others have profited from meetings I had there with potential partners that can support us in already planned topics. Getting in touch with other game developers and all the people working around that area is very inspiring, a good reality check for our own views on what is happening in games lately and therefore every such conference gives me a good deal of motivation.
Portal Tibia: Players seem to have really appreciated the blog and Twitter initiatives. Is it planned to be continued or was it a special case due to the DDoS problem?
Craban: The decision to actually do it was definitely a special case. However, since this was indeed received very positively despite the special circumstances, I intend to continue with Twitter for the time being. In the meantime, we will see whether we can find even better ways to improve our communication with our players. Realistically speaking, my own use of Twitter and my presence on our forums that you saw during those times was very extensive, and I will not be able to uphold that kind of level of communication all the time. I already am less active on Twitter and I have closed the blog, but I will still try to feed interesting news or ideas through Twitter because I too think that this close contact with a part of the community was and is very valuable.
Portal Tibia: You have talked on twitter about projects against cheaters. Can you tell us what to expect in the future?
Craban: Not much more than what I already tweeted. We have a deal with an external partner that can provide us with a system that may help us in the fight against cheaters. We are just now starting to work on the integration of that system. It will take a while before we can actually start testing that, and once that is running, we will for the first time be able to see whether that system really works with Tibia. Before that, I can’t make any promises.
Portal Tibia: What is the most difficult thing to prevent/monitor the action of cheaters?
Craban: Generally, preventing cheating in Tibia means preventing people from doing what the game actually wants people to do. The main cheater problems are botter problems which means that those people just do what everyone else does, only longer. Real cheating actually refers to things that the cheats do that are technically not possible for a real player with a real client to do. An example would be if someone was able to shoot 2 SDs in 2 seconds instead of one. That would be a real cheat. Those are pretty much controllable in an online game because those rules happen on our side. Botting has to be detected rather than prevented.
Portal Tibia: Why were Premium Scrolls introduced to the game? What is the main problem it was designed to solve?
Craban: The main idea was to give a way to players to pay safely for other players. For years, our community has done that before. Someone bought premium for someone else and got gold for it. Basically, the fact that this was done so much clearly showed that players want to be able to do that. However, the way it used to be done was unsafe for at least one of the two sides because one had to give before the other. We wanted to offer an absolutely safe way to do this.
Portal Tibia: Are there any plans of translating content to Brazilian Portuguese and other languages?
Craban: We have been thinking about that time and time again. It is interesting but it would be quite a big project and at least for now, we have more important projects to work on.
Portal Tibia: Thank you, Florian, for sharing your time with us. What message would you like to leave for Portal Tibia readers and all Brazilian players?
Craban: Thank you all for being with us and for making the Tibian community so great. Especially after our visit to Brazil I can add that we love you and we love your country! I hope that we will make this year a very good one for you.