March 01, 2019

This is our first interview with a Cip member in over 14 years of TibiaWiki. And it is with the man ahead of the development team, the lead Product Manager. Thanks for accepting it, Delany! It's an honour for us.

You're very welcome. I hope I can provide you with interesting information and still be a little bit entertaining.

Before we start with the questions related to your job, can you tell us who is Delany outside of Tibia and CipSoft? What do you like to do when you're not working?

After work I return home to my little family - my girlfriend, our little son (almost 2 years old) and our cat. They are my greatest joy in life and so I devote lots of time and appreciation for them. Besides that, I like playing the guitar, reading (mostly fantasy and science-fiction) and I still enjoy playing games, mostly on PC.

When you were introduced to the players, you were a tester and had a slightly different name. Regarding the different character name you have now, were you required to change it due to internal naming rules? And if the answer is yes, did that bother you?

We changed the internal naming rules a while back to a single name pseudonym, therefore “Andrej Delany” changed to “Delany”. That change of alias did not really bother me, especially since my direct appearance in the community is even less then it was as a tester.

Quite some time has passed and you're now Tibia's lead Product Manager (PM). Can you tell us a bit about your career at CipSoft, the positions you've had and how your promotions happened?

I joined CipSoft in May 2009 as the first software tester. In autumn 2012 I became the Lead Software Tester of our team, which by then consisted of 3 testers. I managed the team until summer 2015. During this time I worked closely together with the Tibia Product Managers and our Managing Directors. In summer 2015, I left the test team, which is available for all of our products, and switched to the Tibia team in order to join the Product Management of Tibia. In autumn 2015 I was then officially promoted to Tibia Lead Product Manager.
I was mainly considered for the position because of my knowledge of the Tibia technical infrastructure as well as the game content. I knew both from years of experience as a tester. In addition, I had experience in leading a team and some of my strengths on the interhuman level, in the area of soft skills, were an extra plus. That was especially important, because the Tibia team is much bigger than the test team.

Was TibiaWiki ever useful to you while working for CipSoft? Could you share one or more situations you used our fansite?

Actually, there are often situations, in which we use TibiaWiki for quick basic information about specific items or NPCs, as well as some historical information (e.g., when has something been implemented). Of course we double check sensitive information with our own data. TibiaWiki information is not the base for any critical decisions, but it is a convenient way to quickly view intuitive information. We greatly appreciate the effort that lies behind the creation and maintenance of such a large knowledge base.

Back in November 2018, a License Agreement between CipSoft and selected providers of Open Tibia servers was leaked. Can you talk about how many potential partners were contacted already and how many were interested in it?

At this point I cannot share any information regarding this topic. As soon as we are ready to publicly share information, our CMs will use the appropriate channels to bring this out to the community.

Concerning the upcoming increase of rent prices for houses and guildhalls: Can you talk about the data you analysed that lead to decision to make such a drastic change?

Generally, we have been improving our insights to data concerning the gold economy as well as statistical player data within the last years. We added lots of quality of life features to Tibia, we provided content that raised the power level of players and we provided some adjustments that were an enrichment for the gaming experience but also greatly increased the efficiency at which players can generate experience and wealth in the game. I am convinced, that these changes were the right thing to do in order to revitalize Tibia (besides fighting botting and improving connection stability). These were adjustments that bring advantages in the midterm, but they must be followed then with appropriate long-term adjustments to keep the game economy working and to keep the game itself interesting and challenging.
Especially since autumn 2018, that was when we adjusted the general respawn rate for all creatures, we noticed a substantial increase of the rate at which players can hoard wealth. At that point, we had already planned to reevaluate some basic things within the house systems and honestly, that was the first time that me and my team took a dedicated look at the prices for renting a house. And it was really obvious that the current prices for rent are way too low in terms of a vital gold drain. You could even say the current rent system does not provide such a drain at all.
At the same time, we know that a lot of active players with large amounts of gold are very eager to rent attractive houses, but are shut out of this system, because it is nearly effortless to keep a house, e.g., just for that sake of blocking it.
So, for those reasons we did a deep analyses of the attractivity of Tibia houses based on several factors and created the new price structure we then presented to the players.

Can you talk about alternative solutions you considered and their downsides?

First, let me say that a general reduction of the price increase rate would reduce the effectiveness of the adjustment as a gold drain, and it would also reduce the positive aspects for the volatility of the house market. So a massive reduction of the increase rate was not considered an alternative.
During the analytic and design phase, we also talked about other basic rent models. For example, we talked about an approach in which the rent price would depend on the offer the player made. The higher the offer, the higher the monthly rent. However this system also had difficult aspects (e.g. house trading).
We are well aware that this increase is a really huge change for a lot of our players, but we are convinced that it is the right thing to do for the game in the long term.

In a past interview with TibiaVenezuela you spoke about attracting new players while keeping the game entertaining to both new and old players. How hard it is to balance this? Do you frequently come across decisions that will benefit more one of these groups over the other?

Over the past years we could verify that bringing new players to Tibia (or a well-aged MMO in general) is very difficult. For a large group of new players, Tibia is way too inconvenient and inaccessible. A lot of the unique aspects of the game lie within its unique community and the challenges of playing a game that is more than 20 years old. On the other hand, changing the game to be more intuitive and accessible would massively impact the gaming experience of our current playerbase (and most likely that would be a negative impact). So for the past years we dedicated more effort to please our existing players and bring back retired players rather than attracting completely new ones. So far this has worked out well for us, but we plan to evaluate some generally new and minimum invasive approaches concerning this subject in the course of the year.

In the same interview you mentioned “Tibia's old and true community serves as a pillar of stability within the fast market of online games.” Given the changes on Tibia's community in these last 3 years, how do you see this pillar of stability nowadays?

I think that the importance of this aspect is more firm than ever. This effect can also be seen in the success of a few other old MMOs, but it also shows that listening to the needs of the base community is a good thing to do. In the example of the house rent discussion, I would like to explain, however, that "listening" does not always mean to automatically revert unpopular announcements, but to carefully balance the first impulsive reactions to vital long-term effects. I can only assure you that me and all my colleagues that work on Tibia are making the decisions we find most vital for a long and stable future of this game and its community.

Currently, tutors can report bugs either in the game or on their private board. The reports posted on their board are analysed by a member of the Customer Support (CS) who forwards them to the Development Team (devs). Regarding the miscommunication that sometimes happens either between tutors and CS or CS and devs in this process, as you see it, is there a need to improve the communication between tutors and devs (which could avoid the abuse of severe bugs)?

On an overall view on the quality of Tibia as a game - especially compared to the amount of changes, adjustments and updates that we provide - I am very satisfied with the level of quality we can provide. I do not think that other game companies (with sometimes substantially higher investments and employee numbers) provide a significantly higher game quality concerning bugs (in many cases quality concerning critical bugs is substantially lower).
An area in which we definitely want to improve further is the field of balancing and insight to in-game behaviour aspects, but in my opinion this cannot be achieved by direct contact to few players, but in an improvement of internal knowledge, better analytic tools and approaches, as well as improved internal communication. So to answer the question - no, I do not think that improved communication between tutors and devs would reduce bugs or improve the quality on a significant general level.

Can we expect improvements on the in-game bug report system in the near future such as allowing the devs to ask for further information when needed?

Because of the reasons I explained previously, no such thing is currently planned.

Sometimes important information is not communicated correctly by the CMs, for example the vanishing items of the Winterlight Solstice event. Can we expect an improvement on announcements of new content and content changes?

We are working very closely and constructively with our community managers. Let me take this opportunity to express that in my opinion they do an overwhelmingly good and valuable job. We are constantly looking for ways to improve, but in the big picture I think that such things can always happen as long as humans are communicating with each other. It is perfectly fine for me if these are few exceptions to a generally high standard.

How did you come to the uncommon decision to implement an event such as the Winterlight Solstice with not testing it on external Test Servers? Regarding the aftermaths of such choice, would you say this will have some influence on future, similar decisions?

We discussed our test and release strategy for this event within the design phase with testers, CMs and our developers. We agreed on the conclusion, that an external test of this event would most likely not bring very much additional information concerning critical bugs. On the other hand, a public test would have been a huge spoiler for the event itself. We actively confirmed that decision after the internal test for the event had finished.
We have tested a redesign of a world event in an external test before. That was a few years ago. Our insights back then had been that external tests are not well suited for such events. Most of the problems that would occur in the live system are not found or not communicated in an external test phase. Based on the kind of feedback and bug reports we typically get in external tests (especially concerning balancing of rewards), we assume that an external test of the Winterlight Solstice event would not have brought up the problematic reward structure concerning Gold and Silver Tokens. Our future approach will be to improve data insights and alert systems for the live system rather than increasing the number and scope of external tests.

Last year we had a couple of patches that brought changes which had to be reverted afterwards. Are there concrete plans concerning the improvement of the content creation and testing process that you could share with us?

As a former tester and lead tester I do have a deep understanding of the economic aspect of deciding how many resources and time should be invested for testing. I understand that from player perspective it is tempting to suggest simply more time for testing because this leads to less bugs, right? The problem is, that basically every improvement of test resources costs time and money - and this time and money we are missing then in other projects. Considering all of our players' feedback, our internal reviews and evaluations as well as player numbers and our key performance indicators as a company, I think that we do have a very good quality level and a well-balanced proportion of development and test. But just to be clear, this does not mean, that we are not constantly looking for improvements concerning our internal workflows, tools and communication structures. It only means that I currently do not see any urgent or critical problems within the team structure and therefore we have no plans to critically change our way of working in that area in the future.

After some major updates, we can find items that are apparently “ready to use”, however there is no way to obtain them in the game, yet. Can you tell us a little about some of the reasons that could explain why these “ready-to-use” items are sometimes implemented with no actual way to obtain them, but are made obtainable a few major updates later on (or are never made obtainable at all)? Does the dev team see any problem with such situations?

In fact this is something that has been a part of Tibia since the very beginning (at least in my opinion). Sometimes, it is a long-term plan of the developers to introduce items they want to use later to expand a story. Other times, circumstances might have changed that made it necessary to alter a previous plan and “ready-to-use” items are a remnant of that. In few cases it also may be a simple mistake.
We currently do not see any of these things as problems.

Thank you for your attention and the time spent on answering the questions.
Best of luck in your personal life as well as in your role as Tibia's lead PM!

I hope I could provide some new insights and interesting information.
Goodbye and hail TibiaWiki!