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Lead Designer Brandon Ulm Discusses Today's Big Update


Earlier today, we released the largest update in the history of Prominence Poker. It includes all kinds of tweaks, fixes, changes, and additions, and should drastically improve the game for all players. You can find comprehensive patch notes on the forums, but for more insight into what's included in the update, and for a glimpse into the future of Prominence Poker, I spoke with Lead Designer Brandon Ulm.


Earnest Cavalli, Pipeworks Community Specialist: As I’m sure players are aware, this update took a bit longer to release than we had initially planned. What happened? 

Brandon Ulm, Prominence Poker Lead Designer: We wanted this update to be as good as it possibly could be, but there were difficulties in the development process like submitting the game to Microsoft and Sony. So, what we decided to do was take a little bit more time, gather a bit more feedback from the community forums, and really focus on some of the issues that have been called out by the community. We wanted those to be the first things we fixed, and we also wanted to focus on really polishing up the current features that we have. 

That’s why this update has taken longer than our previous updates, but it will have been worth the wait because the update is a lot bigger, you’ll see a lot of big changes – and there are a lot of changes to come as well.

Earnest Cavalli: This update is an especially large update, with numerous additions. Can you describe the most important ways the game has changed?

Brandon Ulm: We’ll start with some of the fixes. Some of the huge issues, like ghost players and the multiple crashes that were happening, both in the front-end and during gameplay, were right up front on our list of things to fix. Additionally, there were a lot of delays in some of the gameplay animations that were causing certain parts of gameplay to pause. The drama was being snuffed out.

Earnest Cavalli Is part of that the issue players have reported with the card reveals being synced with the dealer?

Brandon Ulm: We have synced up the cards! That’s always been a part of our plans -- and we have more plans around that coming in the future – but that’s a good example: When the dealer deals the cards now, the cards appear on the HUD at the exact same time. 

There were also a lot of pauses where the game was waiting for other, unimportant animations before resuming gameplay. We’ve tightened that up a bit; it’s always going to be a work in progress, but you can expect that to get better and better over time.

We’ve also decided to remove and redesign the dry cleaning system. Anyone who currently has dry cleaning will have the benefits until they expire, so you will not have wasted your chips, but in its current state the system was kinda confusing and, we felt, really lackluster. We feel we can do better, so expect big changes to come to that system in the relatively near future. We’re hoping it will be something that is a lot more fun, and makes a lot more sense.

We also noticed that a lot of people seem to be confused by the current Affiliation system and its rewards. We’re working on a fix for that. But we also felt that for those people who understood how it works, the Affiliation system wasn’t very rewarding. It’s kind of like a chore, and once you get done with your chore, you don’t get a payoff at the end. So, we’ve reorganized all of the Affiliation rewards. Now, players can expect that when they join an Affiliation, they will receive the Affiliation’s outfit (which we consider the best item available from Affiliations), as well as an additional chip reward. And as always, players will receive both the male and female versions of those outfits for free.  

On a similar note, we noticed that the Underground mode experience is really hard. We don’t think that should be so hard right out of the gate. Players are just starting and they have to play through a six-player table? That’s really hard, and it takes a long time! So, we’ve made some adjustments, and now the Underground mode will scale in difficulty based on your current rank.

It will be really, really easy when you’re a Tourist, and when you rank up it will get a little harder. When you start gaining ranks in an Affiliation it will get harder and harder for that Affiliation’s Henchmen and Boss battle. For instance, if you’re Rank 3 in the Clubs Affiliation, it’s going to be a really hard experience, but if you switch over to the Hearts Affiliation, where you’re only Rank 1, it’s going to be much less difficult. Also, the rewards scale with the difficulty, so you can expect more Reputation and chip rewards from playing at higher Ranks.

Finally, we’ve changed the way Prominence Poker loads. Previously, we were loading everything in a level then dropping players into a table. As players have seen, this caused long loading times. Instead, we’re now just loading the environments initially, then loading the background avatars and the life in the background later. This should get players into the game much faster, but you may notice some weird spawning of avatars in the background. Don’t be alarmed, that’s for everyone’s benefit and should drastically reduce load times.

Earnest Cavalli: And that won’t have any impact on gameplay because it’s just background aesthetics?

Brandon Ulm: Yeah. Players may notice some framerate loss when the avatars are being loaded, but that’s something we’ll be continually tweaking to smooth out.

Earnest Cavalli: How do you feel the Early Access test has gone so far, and can you share some examples of what we’ve learned?

Brandon Ulm: I feel that it’s going well. I’m grateful for the community, all of their support, and all of the work and effort they’re putting into reporting issues and telling friends about the game, and being good community members to one another. It’s been a pretty positive environment at the tables. It’s really appreciated.

Earnest Cavalli: It has! We’ve got the nicest players. 

Brandon Ulm: Yeah, I think that’s something every game strives for: a positive and welcoming community. 
I think we’ve gotten exactly what we wanted from the Early Access test. We wanted to put the game out there for our players, see how they respond to it, see the things they like and dislike, and change our plans to accommodate our players. So far, on all counts, I think it’s been very successful.

Earnest Cavalli: Final question: Obviously you can’t guarantee anything just yet, but can you give us a brief overview of what sorts of plans are in the works for the future of Prominence Poker?

Brandon Ulm: Players can expect to see two additional Affiliations, as well as more Ranks for all of the Affiliations. They can also expect to see a lot of tuning and tweaking with the Affiliation systems in general until we get it right and we get it fun. That system is what makes Prominence Poker different from other poker games, so it’s important that we get it right.

Expect a lot of tweaks -- and we’d love to hear as much feedback as we can about what players want to do. What kind of gametypes and situations do players want to be in that makes them feel as if they’re representing their Affiliation while feeling like they’re competing against the others?

We also have additional game modes coming soon, like Ranked Play (which we’re very excited about). That’s going to start out with a variation of an Elo rating system aimed toward multiple players. It’s going to be really interesting to see how people like it, and how everything shakes out.  

Edited by Nex

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