As all project managers know, a fixed scope and a fixed release date are often incompatible. You end up either cutting or half-implementing features to meet a deadline, or you end up delivering the full product late.
This, as it turns out, is also the case for TR1803, our planned and announced as-such March release.
It is obvious right now that the deadline we set ourselves is not possible to keep. As such, we are releasing it when our content criteria are met, which, at the time of this update, should still be in Spring 2018.
The reasons for this are simple: content scope and quests.
Around half a year ago, we were undertaking the Aanthirin visual overhaul and planning ahead on Old Ebonheart. This, we felt, would be the next milestone release - the first one in scope to "Sacred East" and TR1609 "Tamriel Data". As such, we decided on a set line of features, including questlines for the guilds and factions present in Old Ebonheart and its surroundings.
Displayed are the borders of our internal Section Files, with planned progression.
From left to right the sections are: Roryn's Bluff, Hlaalu-Thirr, Old Ebonheart, Indoril-Thir, the southern section is Lake Andaram.
As it turned out, this became a problem for several reasons.
As mentioned in our last status update, we develop Tamriel Rebuilt in several individual "section file" esps. The section files which we considered for this release contained the eastern bank of the Aanthirin, including the settlement of Roa Dyr, which is currently under reconstruction as an Indoril Chapel-Stronghold, and Almas-Thirr, which, while already containing NPCs and dialogues, would need its own questlines as well.
In the end, it was decided that these two settlements will be added to TR_Mainland in a future release.
For the Spring release we are including Old Ebonheart itself and the settlements of Felms Ithul, Vhul, and Dondril. All of these will contain new dialogue, quests, NPCs, and features. In addition to a finished Aanthirin visual overhaul, this should give everyone plenty to do and plenty to see.
At the same time, the content scope requires additional assets. A release of Tamriel Data v5, originally planned for January, has similarily slipped due to the sheer scope, both on our and on Project Tamriel's ends.
While it might sound obvious, quest development takes time and quest developers are rare.
With Old Ebonheart not only containing miscellaneous quests, but also faction questlines for the Mages Guild, Fighters Guild, Thieves Guild, Imperial Legion, Imperial Cult, East Empire Company, the bottleneck is in the amount. Namely, the amount of NPCs that need dialogue and need to be kept track of, the amount of questlines, the amount of individual quests, and the amount of quest coordination.
As the center of the Imperial presence in Morrowind, Old Ebonheart is a unique place with unique individuals. Not only do some of the faction heads of the unified factions reside here, but also scores of diplomats and bureaucrats do.
The duke of Ebonheart, Vedam Dren, might have relocated to Castle Ebonheart on Vvardenfell and takent the Skyrim and Black Marsh missions with him, but the Curia, the ambassadors of the Dunmer houses, and the missions of Elsweyr, Valenwood, Hammerfell, the Summerset Isles, High Rock, and Orsinium still reside here.
What else is there?
Roth Roryn is currently undergoing an exterior overhaul, as shown in a previously published album
Similarily, Roa Dyr is being reinvented as a prototype for Indoril Chapel-Strongholds, where the proper members live, isolated from their lessers who live in Velothi-style settlements, such as Ildrim, Vhul, or Dondril.
On the west bank of the Thirr, Gol Mok has been fully NPCed, and the same work continues on Menaan. Our coordination with the Project Tamriel mods continues as well, as the Old Ebonheart release is aiming to adhere to Province: Cyrodiil's conventions in regards to Weir Gates and a functioning Heartland banking system.
And in general, a ton of bugs have been fixed, thanks to the ardent reports. Thank you for this!
We expect that the Spring release will be followed by a period of bugfixing and consolidation. Despite internal and public test periods, it is nearly impossible to find and fix all bugs prior to release.
While we intend to have a more lively bugtesting period this time around (the big feature is - after all - not an internal change, but a content release), we are under no illusion that a lot of "obvious" bugs will slip through.
Additional quests will be added to Old Ebonheart in future releases, especially as the western bank of the Thirr and the remainder of the eastern bank will be our next focus.
After the bugs have been extinguished, our current plan is to complete work on the content we cut from the Spring release and the west bank of the Thirr. It is likely that a content release next year will see these as part of TR_Mainland. Existing lands within TR_Mainland will hopefully see progress on new questlines as well, such as the legion questline for Firewatch and the post-main quest questline.
After these, completion of existing work will focus on Roth-Roryn and the Ascadian Bluffs. At the same time, we will expand exterior and interior work south to Lake Andaram and through it to the Deshaan Plains. As the assets for the Deshaan are still under construction, this will still take a while.
Additionally, while we received quite a bit of interest for the Concept Art Contest, which is intended to help develop the cutscenes for our post-mainquest questline, actual entries have been slim. Therefore, we have extended the deadline out to the end of May. For more information, please check our forums.