As the development process of this game becomes more complex, it seems that slowly, the organization of this project is falling apart. What I am proposing is a basic plan to keep this project organized. It is by no means complete as of this time, and I will post it in the forum when I feel it is ready to be reviewed by the Community. I will attempt to learn more about the development process of the game and readjust my statements accordingly. Please leave comments at the bottom of this page if you have any. --Sj04736 06:14, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Contributors to the game need to know who's in charge. Right now, it seems as if there's programmers in charge of art, and programmers in charge of programming, and programmers in charge of the game world. There should be a defined project manager that is very active in the various channels of communication that has a clear vision for this project. This manager should be preventing conflicts between the teams mentioned in the following statements. There should be a sort of committee who decides the plan for the game world. In the strictly controlled server (see Game Servers), this committee should be sanctioning content for inclusion in the game. This committee should be about a 50/50 split between programmers and artists. The committee should direct any teams of artists that are intent on completing the required artwork for the next planned expansion. The artists in this team should be well versed on the mission of the project, and its ultimate goal. Freelance artists could still provide content, but it may be put in to the 'reserve' or 'less organized world' (mentioned in Game Servers), until it is needed in the controlled world. The programmers team should generally report to a single leader or small group of organized individuals who organize the tasks that await completion. Each of the teams should have no say in the other's work. Sure, the programmers can offer their opinions to the artists, but it is not up to the programmers alone to deem the material provided as acceptable. Only the World Committee could do that. Likewise, the artists could send feature requests to the programmers, but in no way are the programmers obligated to complete these tasks as high-priority, unless the project manager or World Committee says otherwise.
All of these groups should be clearly and publicly defined, as well as all of their activities; this is a must in open source projects.
There are many different methods that this project uses for communication or information; the forums, several IRC channels, Mantis, and this Wiki. The first improvement I am proposing is that a bot is added to all of the various TMW-related IRC channels that archives transcripts of the channels. If this is not possible, at least summaries of developer meetings should be archived. This way, people that don't use IRC can look closer into the development process, and it allows everyone to know exactly what the leaders of this project are looking for.
Recently, much progress has been made on the backstory. So much that there is now almost a need to freeze certain parts so that they become law for all future contributions. Anything that conflicts with these frozen aspects should be immediately discouraged.
Once the scenario and mechanics of the game has been finalized, the game world should be created. Each area should be clearly and descriptively described with a high level of detail. While every detail may not be followed to the word, it gives tileset creators something to work towards. This kind of detail can also help artists to think of things to create that are highly likely to be included in the game world.
We need very detailed artwork guidelines to tell us what we can and cannot do. While the guidelines shouldn't stifle innovation, if a clear infraction has been made, it should be written in a way that the part of the guidelines restricting a practice is easily referanceable. For example, the guidelines could be in numbered sections, with sub-sections. In an ideal world, these guidelines should be finalized as quickly as possible, and assigned a version number. If a change is made that affects the numbered positions of the sections or subsections a new version of the guidelines should be declared, and noted when providing references. This will keep communication clear when enforcing the guidelines.
Once the specific regions of the world have been defined, the required tilesets should be listed, and each required tileset should be added to Mantis as a task, for artists to post work in. Corresponding forum topics should also be created (see Other Artwork Ideas section). When the developers/imagineers of the game world request a tileset, specific requirements should be noted, such as requirements for transition tiles, or specific objects/landscape features.
Other Artwork Ideas
The state of artwork right now is a total disaster. There is a complete disconnect between the plan for the game world, the developers, the artists, and the community. What I propose is simple: ban attachments on the forum. Artists/mapmakers/musicians should create Mantis items where they can attach their content. There should be a clear naming standard on these Mantis items with a tag (i.e. [GFX/NPC] [GFX/TILESET] [MAP] etc.) followed by a short description of the project. Attachments should have unique file names so that they are easily referenced. Somewhere in the Mantis item should be a link back to the forum topic. This way, the content can stay in a controlled place, and comments can stay in the forum. Also, it prevents losing old content that expired on free hosting servers.
There should be multiple game servers with multiple worlds. This may seem like a naive comment, but I feel that it is entirely justified. There should be an Official world with delicately controlled content based on directed efforts and contributions, but there should also be a less strictly controlled world, primarily for seeing what works and what does not. This less controlled world could be required to feature all contributions, for example, to ensure that artists get the satisfaction of seeing this content in-game. I see this world as an expansion of the current world.
The Official world should be very closely organized. All planning should be meticulous and organized. The world organizers can use content from the lesser organized world when new content is needed, as per the Plan. If this content does not meet the guidelines, then a request should be made for the artwork/content to be made guideline compliant. Also, being an open source project, the Plan should be made public so that it is easily available. Secret content updates are a big problem for contributors and players. A specific thing may be requested of the artists, for example, but without knowing the context of the project, there will be serious shortcomings in the result.
I propose to continue to use the eAthena server as the content-testing or less organized server, but to introduce the TMWServ server with brand new organized content, with the first content available being Tutorial Island, or whatever it is that's planned, with the controlled releases beyond that. Also, there should be a copy of the lesser organized world on TMWServ to test the server under a load. Eventually, the eAthena server should be phased out by restricting the ability to create new accounts/players on the eAthena server (as TMWServ becomes more stable).