2020: A Year In Review
What more can be said about 2020 other than it literally being the worst year ever? Well, fortunately for us it has been another good year for NirvanaOnline and Network Nirvana from a company perspective.
This year started out with the Season of the Sidewinder, which saw the Wild Hunt Update add tons of new features and Wild Hunts to the game. This brought with it new mini shops to the NirvanaOnline Shop and brought with it a ton of gameplay improvements. This Season also saw the introduction of the Klondike Kove game world, the full renovation of Sidewinder Springs to bring it up to the standards of a Flagship Game World, the New Dionysus limited-time game world, and the Murder Mystery game mode with two maps.
Then along came the summer and we released our largest summer offering yet with EtheriaOnline and the Season of Perdition, a massive new open-world Game World with more to offer than even Chernobyl Carnivale, a game world which had been around for nearly three years already. EtheriaOnline saw not only the reopening of AdytumOnline after the first players completed its main quest, but it also saw the introduction of The Asylum as well as the first players to set foot in New Hamenos. Later in the summer we released the Bastion of Opulence, a massive new 12-player Vault set in Etheria. This Vault was one of our best-received Vaults since Wicked Wilds, and still continues to elude players with secrets and riddles hidden within the Vault that have not found their way to surface quite yet.
While Etheria was going strong with a meaty content calendar over the summer, a welcome new friend came to join NirvanaOnline. Camp Lovecraft and the world of WildMountainOnline joined the NirvanaOnline family as our first Social World. This world was built with the express purpose of enjoying Nirvana without any combat. Activities included hiking, wall-climbing, obstacle courses, mini golf, parkour courses, and more. This fantastic social experiment all actually came together in just 14 hours as part of a speed build weekend I decided to do. I took and gutted some old projects that were unlikely to see the light of day and recycled their assets into the Camp Lovecraft we know and love(craft)! Fear not, because Camp Lovecraft may be gone for the winter but you can be sure that it'll be back again this summer with a whole new expansion and new Campfire Tale quests to complete!
Additionally we released a few surprises into Nirvana over the year. The Ace of Spades Vault and the Darwin's Mortal Coil prototype are two notable examples of content that have snuck their way into the game without an official announcement. While these are always fun to produce they might not always be the best idea for NirvanaOnline, as it seems that our players moreso prefer for the biggest challenges to be made apparent to them. That's not to say that we won't continue to add large hidden secrets into the game from time to time, but we will definitely make them a little less obscure (like the Malfeasance Vault that still hasn't been uncovered yet).
To end the year we pulled out all the stops with the Season of the Nightmare which introduced a lot of firsts for NirvanaOnline. First of all we introduced Wonder Heists with the Operation:235 expansion. This gave players the power to launch nukes all over NirvanaOnline to wonderous (and also disastrous) ends. This was the first time that the game actually forced the players to plan and prepare before going in and taking on the big challenge the lay before them. This was one of the most profound successes of the Season of the Nightmare, as it admittedly took a while to build and plan out but the number of player hours spent launching nukes throughout the Season was astronomical. Even now we are prepping for more Nuclear Bunkers in additional game worlds and more content to continue to expand Operation: 235 through the next two Seasons. Additionally, we saw the release of the Masquerade: Imperiale Vault which was the first of three Vaults rolled into a massive Apex Vault offering. This also drew record player numbers as for the first time players had to earn an invitation to the "party" that was happening within the fiction of the Vault. Then to cap it all off, we released our second-ever full-on game with Zombies In Paradise. Zombies In Paradise ("ZIP") was built as a sister to NirvanaOnline, with both taking place in the same universe and both interacting with each other, ZIP brought a whole new style of gameplay and exploration to the table. This product is also built entirely free-to-play, allowing anyone and everyone to join in one the fun. In addition to many firsts for gameplay mechanics, ZIP is also labeled as a "weekend excursion", meaning that the servers are only open from Friday at 3:00 PM to Monday at 9:00 AM and remain closed during the majority of the week. This not only gives us ample time to add new content and change things around in the game, it also builds anticipation throughout the week. This has been a particularly successful venture in terms of pure player hours. Lastly, we also introduced new Player Titles, allowing players to obtain some extra player agency within NirvanaOnline and customize their names as they appear above their heads and on the leaderboards. These highly-addictive collectibles have been so popular that we're not only adding more (some of them even arriving this week and next week), but we're also going to be upgrading them to be more important than ever. This Titles allow players to show off their proudest accomplishments in-game and give themselves a sense of identity. Fortunately, there's still more to come in the way of customizing your avatar, but we'll share more details about that later in the year.
Lets not forget the elephant in the room: Covid-19. This pandemic has hit everyone a little differently and Network Nirvana is no different. NirvanaLabs shut down for a period of time and almost all work was being carried out from our Haus of Nirvana studio. Our entire fall Season for this year had to get canceled as we didn't feel comfortable releasing something called "Season of the Plague" right now. Everything had to be rethought and our in-person workshops transitioned to online workshops facilitated through Discord. We also brought in what we call the "Library Guest List", which allows libraries to add patrons to their player lists, giving those teens access to NirvanaNet 24/7. This in turn saw a substantial rise in total player hours throughout the week, though with this overall rise we saw a decline in the number of participants coming to the actual workshops. This is because with the 24/7 access to NirvanaNet, coming to the workshops became less crucial, although player hours are certainly higher than they were before the pandemic.
Now we look forward to the future. We at Network Nirvana are beyond excited to put 2020 behind us and look forward to a brighter future in 2021. NirvanaOnline's living story is even looking to brighter days as well. At the end of EtheriaOnline the Keepers found themselves with an empty box filled with lies and instructions from Emperor Ifrit to begin the hunt for something called "The Great Elevator". This elevator will carry the Keepers to some sort of mystical Safari later this year when the Season of the Safari begins in June. This has all been crafted with the library summer reading program: "Tales and Tails" in mind. This summer we'll be encouraging our players to hop aboard this mysterious elevator and join us on a wild safari unlike anything Minecraft has ever seen when our next Flagship Game World launches on mid-June. While I won't be sharing too many details about the Safari just yet, take a look at a couple of screenshots of this gorgeous new Game World. Unfortunately it seems as if there's something wrong with these images right now. Did the color get lost from all of the textures? As the Season progresses, players will be restoring the color to images like the ones you see below, slowly getting a better and better idea of what this magnificent adventure into the Season of the Safari will bring!
Additionally, we at the Haus of Nirvana are staring down the barrel of the Season of the Dreamer coming up this spring. While NirvanaLabs is working to finish up the Safari, our other development studio has been hard at work on the spring Season coming this year. At the end of the Season of the Nightmare the Keepers chose to side with the Nightmare Supreme in an attempt to break the Nirvana simulation that makes up NirvanaOnline. This ended in a catastrophic failure as Nirvana's elusive host, Zane Wyndham, has been pronounced braindead. With Wyndham's gray matter going dark, the only hope for the Keepers to repair Nirvana will be to follow Ifrit's plan and locate The Great Elevator and spark life back into the simulation itself. This Season will bring with it the Canyon City expansion pack for Sidewinder Springs, the Friday Night Frights and Vista Dorado expansions to Zombies In Paradise, the Dreamer's Grave expansion to Etheria, and the Revenge of Dr. Chickenstein (yep, you read that right) special event to Chernobyl Carnivale. This Season will bring with it more content than ever before. While there may not be as many new game mechanics as were introduced in the Season of the Nightmare, players can expect tons of new content and wonderous new experiences and adventures to keep the action going right up until The Great Elevator opens and takes us all to the Safari later this year.
However, there's one new feature that players can expect more of this year. Rather, there are a few actually. First of all, the Season of the Nightmare saw an increase in demand for players to be able to read more of the lore they've come to know and love. While I won't be producing my fourth book for a while, I'm happy to oblige in the sense of a multitude of Lore Pages that will be dropping throughout the Season, giving players new insights into the World of Nirvana. Additionally, we saw an incredible demand for new 12-player Vaults and 4-player Raids over the last two Seasons, so I'm excited to announce that the Safari will feature more Vaults and Raids at launch than ever before! Additionally, the Safari will bring with it the highly-anticipated next 24-player Incursion to NirvanaOnline... but more on that at a later date. Finally, with the introduction of a proper Questing system we were able to tell more stories in-game while challenging players to complete different tasks and explore environments they wouldn't have normally encountered. I'm proud to say that more Quests and Exotic Quests are on the way in the Season of the Dreamer and subsequent Season of the Safari! With these being NirvanaOnline's most popular features and content types, we'll be focusing more on these when Season of the Safari hits. That doesn't mean that we'll be abandoning the rest of the content types that players have come to know and love, we're just giving more attention to what's getting played more.
Overall it's been one wild year here at Network Nirvana and in NirvanaOnline. We saw a rise in subscriptions and overall player hours. We introduced dozens of new content additions to NirvanaOnline worth over 400 hours of gameplay. We released our second game: Zombies In Paradise to overall positive acclaim. We introduced the first-ever Wonder Heist to the game and allowed players more command over NirvanaOnline as a whole. We brought Titles into the game to allow players to customize their names and their digital identities. We added a whole new Flagship Game World with EtheriaOnline. We added the highly-anticipated Murder Mystery game mode to NirvanaOnline with two stunning maps. Finally, we renovated Sidewinder Springs and added more content, more polish, and more of what makes NirvanaOnline great.
If you're reading this, I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting us this year. It's been a tough year for many and for a while I thought I was going to lose Network Nirvana to the pandemic. Thanks to you, that didn't happen and we're already in the process of crafting another great year of incredible updates and some things that I cannot wait to share with you. I'll be in touch sometime in February to tell you more of what I'm planning, but until then please stay safe, stay healthy, and remember that you are loved. Goodbye and good riddance, 2020!