Development of 4.5
Greetings, companions of Edain!
Edain 4.5 is finally out, and the 4.5.1 fix has been released a few weeks later! (at the time this is uploaded to moddb: 4.5.2 is also uploaded! :D) We, as a team, are at least as happy as all of you are, all the fans who have been waiting for years, and we are equally very pleased that the update's reception was overall a positive one. Despite being perfectly aware of the fact that not everything is flawless and that we are yet to solve some problems, we are constantly working on it and are very much relieved to celebrate a new release after four years. It was a special release for all of us, really, given such a long break; for Elendil, in particular, it was his first release since joining the team.
In this post we would like to tell you more about the team and what we had to deal with in the latest years, and how we are to tackle issues for the time to come. It is going to be longer than we have originally planned, because there are so many things to touch upon and one cannot leave anything out.
There is a page about us on the Edain Wiki, but it is no longer up to date. It shows team members during a meeting we had, while we were developing Edain 4.2; that was almost five years ago! It has been a long time, indeed. If you consider that the team itself has been around for more than ten years, it will be much clearer how long Edain has existed as a team, and you will hopefully understand that it is normal for such a team to encounter smaller and bigger problems in their path.
The four-year span between 4.4.1 and 4.5 has been considerably daunting to bear, exceeding both our plans and expectations, and we apologise for that. We wish it had been completely different. Never in our thoughts had we imagined that we would work for so long without a new version being published in reasonable time. Nevertheless, we are glad to know that so many loyal fans have returned to playing the game and being active in our community, and that we achieved substantial results, download-wise: in just about a month, the combined number of downloads from both Modding Union and MODDB has reached 20,000. This is nothing short of fantastic! As a team, we are deeply grateful for it and we thank you all! xD
Why did we need so much time?
In short, one might say that we may have embarked on too much stuff at once, that we have miscalculated time, and that a lot of private issues have got in our way, as the team themselves underwent crucial changes in the meantime. We can say it was all a mix of different things.
Most of you already know that Ealendril used to be an extremely active member, and he had been our leader since the beginning of the modification. He gave his precious contribution to pretty much all fields of modding, except for mapping, and was very efficient in everything he tried his hand at, including finding time to work on the game in the first place, more than anyone else. Unfortunately, he left the modding scene during the development of Edain 4.5 completely. However, what some of you might not know is that there were other talented members in our team, as talented as Ealendril, who mainly focussed on 2D and 3D art (skins, models, icons, and so on); being less active in the forum meant that they often went off the radar or simply kept a low profile. Speaking of whom, Thorongil was also a founding member of Edain and has always done an excellent job, Adamin joined us relatively early and proved a valuable resource for the mod, and Radagast the Musical came much later, but was no less gifted member to welcome among us. When it comes to coding, Gnomi and Lord of Mordor have been able to care about the rudiments for a long time, and FG15 worked quickly to improve his skills and show his great talent. Therefore, although Ealendril did look after most of the total workload, we could still rely on enough talent and manpower to ensure that, event hough at a slower pace, our progress would never stop completely.
Yet, here is our next problem: Thorongil, Adamin, and Radagast had announced at about the same time as Ealendril their intention to quit modding. So, not only did we lose our team leader, but also four members as a whole, all working in the same areas of modding. You can think of it as the construction of a house: there are a few people carrying stones and bricks, others mix up the mortar, and some others put everything together. Eeryone works wonderfully as a team, and, if anyone were to do less, his fellows would keep up to it. If there are fewer bricks, less mortar, and not so many people to assemble each component, the own construction process will surely go on more slowly; but, if nobody insures a constant supply of stone, mixing up the mortar, or pieces all elements together, how is the house supposed to be built? One can try their luck and put one stone upon another, but, without any mortar, there would always be something missing and nothing positive would come as a result. Hence, people have to relearn to work on mortar, which they had never done before. Are they going to equal the skill of someone who has been doing it for ten years, in an instant? No, they would most likely not. And, in the absence of a member in a position of leadership, there would perhaps be chaos until a new person takes on that role and becomes familiar with every dynamic of the case. That was what the team had to go through, basically.
Luckily, FG15 and Lord of Mordor have led and navigated the team through that storm well. Furthermore, Joragon and Elendil joined the team and provided great help likewise, and Radagast has ultimately joined us back. Without any of them, the release would have been nowhere as great as it was. Nevertheless, Lord of Mordor has, too, bidden farewell to the project in the end, due to his private life, and real life will always have the utmost priority over modding. Additionally, not all team members of that time have been mentioned properly: Reshef and Trapper have always been there and done exceptional work. The former has made it possible to expand the AI in ways that surprised us a great deal; no one was expecting to see Isengard's AI blow up structures and walls with mines.
We wish Ealendril, Lord of Mordor, Adamin, and Thorongil the best in their life, and thank them for the extraordinary effort and time they put in Edain. You have all worked on it for very long time and certainly defined the mod's course in the long run.
You see, there have been waves of setbacks and various troubles that made it much harder to carry on progress. So, we now get to the second major point, which is why 4.5 took so long to be finalised: the high expectations we have committed ourselves to. In hindsight, it is clear to us that many of the internal Betas between 4.4.1 and 4.5 could have been standalone versions that we could have easily published; some of them would even have gone past the size of previous official releases. We had not realised it in that moment, though, and one of the reasons for that is encapsulated by the "change per time" principle.
Just to cite an example, let's say that a new update consisted of a new spell-book and an overhauled faction, and that we released said update half a year after the last patch. Now, we had also finished a new spell-book and an overhauled faction, but it had been a whole year since the previous update. Then we knew that releasing such a version would be a huge disappointment for the community (because of the long wait), and the obvious solution would be for us to create even more stuff to make up for the waiting time, thus increasing the ratio of changes per time. From a retrospective judgement, this whole argument was probably rubbish, and it would not have bothered anyone at all to have smaller releases out. The longer Edain 4.5 took, the higher the expectations around it and the more the things we set out to accomplish, falling prey, inevitably, to a sort of vicious cycle from which we had to break free. We also wanted to do too many things simultaneously; the original plan was solely related to siege for all factions (that alone could have made for a single patch). In spite of it, we thought that changing siege would have less of an impact on the game, if other key-aspects of gameplay itself had not been looked into in the same manner (economy and spells). It followed that we were soon faced with eight different spell-books to work on, eight siege overhauls, and the entire economy to adjust accordingly. That was much more than we had ever experienced with an update. It seemed feasible in the beginning, before we were put in front of the mentioned issues, and then everything got delayed by consequence.
Over the past year additional problems knocked on our door. We had planned to make 4.5 public at the beginning of 2019 (March, at the latest); we were sure we could do it, and that was the end of 2018. But, BFME modding would not be BFME modding, if something crazy did not occur: all of a sudden, we noticed that saved games could not be loaded and that customised heroes no longer worked. Releasing a bug-ridden game was unthinkable for us, and so we had to go back Beta after Beta until we found a version of three months before that was not affected by that critical error; this is because some bugs are quite difficult to spot. For example, I either test a feature briefly or play a whole game without saving. We had to reinstall everything from scratch and do several tests to make sure that the bugs did not show up again.
On the other hand, the whole Article 13 (later Article 17) chapter opened up, and we knew we were in a dangerous grey area. Surely, we are conscious of the fact that we are a small fish in a vast sea, but we do not want to risk anything here. We earn nothing from Edain and are mostly students who could not afford lawyers; and that problems may always arise is visible on the German website, www.herr-der-ringe-film.de, that also includes Ardapedia (the german part of tolkiengateway). The administrator of that page had to pay multiple thousands euros for lawyers, as he used by accident some copyrighted images over 10 years ago. We have therefore proceeded to remove all controversial pieces of music and sound snippets from the game. Thanks to the unexpected combination of both issues, we spent three quarters of the year looking for a solution and 2019 was drawing to a close.
This time we actually did it. Our goal was to release 4.5 in January, 2020. The trailer set a clear limit and we did not release the patch on 31st January, as rumour had it, but a few days earlier. :P
We would like to thank Turin and Simbyte again. Turin created our launcher and adapted it to 4.5, and Simbyte is our administrator and took care of everything.
It would be easy to have second thoughts and look back, knowing that earlier releases could have seen light, but finding mistakes in the past is no challenging task; difficulties lie in learning from them. We shall try, nonetheless. 4.5.1 fixed a couple of things in relatively short time and our main focus is currently on the forthcoming tournament, and we want as few bugs and balance issues as possible to be in the mod.
How will the future look like?
The next big objective is plain to see, as we have already pointed out: the Misty Mountains, as the last planned faction to be included (and we don't want to wait another three years for it). We intend to fix bugs, correct balance, and implement other little surprises along the way, so that we keep Edain fresh and periodically updated.
Lastly, we wish to conclude with the final topic of our post: the team.
We made mistakes in the past and rectified them (the right way, hopefully). As a team, we are definitely smaller than what it used to be, and are much more immersed in our lives than before, meaning that a few things now work differently, although we are all still motivated to go on and look forward to a future with Edain. After Ealendril and Lord of Mordor (our former leaders) ceased to be active, FG15 and Elendil had taken on the leadership of our team up to 4.5, but it was no mystery that this would be more of a temporary measure and that after the release the leadership topic would be dealt with once more, in order to find a long-term solution. First of all, we thank both of them for having guided us through the next phase.
In the future, the team will look like this:
* FG15 gives up his role as team leader
* Elendil remains deputy team leader
* Gnomi becomes team leader
Moreover, we are currently restructuring our internal forums a bit (the reason why we have not been accepting new testers for a while). As soon as we are done with it, we will be contacting you again ;)
Until then, we hope you will continue to enjoy Edain 4.5 and that everyone will have a lot of fun with the announced tournament. We are definitely looking forward to seeing it live-streamed xD
Your Edain Team
Side by side, unto death