Design Notes

March 06, 2012

What Goes Into a Release?

Chaos isn't just a part of the game!

Making a videogame that releases each Friday is the ULTIMATE quest! Recently, players have been asking on Twitter to see just what goes into getting an AQW release from concept to playable in one week.*

So we'd like to invite you to /party up with us and take a closer look at a week in the life of the AQWorlds team (the ones that work out of the Secret Underground Lab. The rest work in dark, mysterious, far-off lands and keep their own schedules):


  • Plan out the release for the week, send out the to-do list to the team
  • Begin writing the week's cutscenes, mail to Samba


  • Monday morning meeting for Cysero and Alina, discuss release plans with other game leads and Artix and Galanoth, divide up team members onto Friday and mid-week projects
  • Beleen works on the content pages which will turn into an on-site AQW knowledge base
  • Samba sketches monsters, roughs out art for new ones

Samba's sketch of the Deorysa for a future event

  • Dage's Art warm-up, sketching new armors and items, dodging nerf bullets in the artist's room
  • Yorumi is fixing bugs from the weekend, optimizing the game, working on side projects until release is ready for coding  
  • Cysero continues production on mid-week release. The mid-week release schedule is shifted; it's on a Wednesday to Wednesday schedule
  • Alina meets with in-Lab and off-site team members to go over more details of Friday release requirements


  • Alina writes up detailed outline of Friday's release (quest requirements, cutscene order, NPCs required) for Yorumi and "Guest Lecturer," send J6 descriptions for NEXT week's map and NPCs, get backgrounds for current week's release from J6

The map for Cysero's Xan release this Friday!

  • Cysero pushes full steam ahead on production of mid-week release (art production, map building), review Solrac's mid-week reward art, database work for release
  • Dage keeps on making more release art, work on art for future projects.
  • Samba makes monsters dance: monster art and animation, research movement and art, get feedback on monsters, brainstorm new ideas
  • Yorumi works on bug fixes with Reens, database improvement, administrative issues, begin any special release coding required (like classes or boss fights requiring engine changes)
  • All artists continue sketching, vectoring, and coloring item/monster/NPC art for release


  • Write intro/outro text for the NPCs pop-up boxes. Work on special projects: plan upcoming events and holidays, fit them into the 2012 schedule. Review new in-game music. 
  • Mid-week member-only release day! The Chaos starts early and ends late.
  • Begin cutscene animation.  /samba /samba /samba!
  • Yorumi helps with map coding necessary, start coding the release map for Friday, work on side projects (like redesigning classes in the database)
  • Artists keep pushing out more release rewards! Work on side projects for future release

Don't drop these weapons like they're hot.


  • Write newsletter, create new Battleon file, get in all the new item art, upload and database new art, finsh any miscellaneous writing for release, answer design questions on the map and cutscenes
  • Start planning out the next mid-week release, work on future projects and with outside artists, help with any art/animation the Friday release needs
  • Animation in progress! Breaks for pet or boss monster animation
  • More art! Finishing armors, moving onto weapons, sketching concepts for future pieces.
  • Release coding, changing the engine to accommodate release requirements, other release content (coding/balancing classes)


It's Friday, it's Friday, gotta release on Friday! Everybody's looking forward to the weekend, weekend. /Party'ing /Party'ing, dodge! /Party'ing /Party'ing, CRIT! Fun fun fun fun, gaming through the entire weekend.

ALL HANDS ON DECK! Fridays are a mix of silence, focus, and intense effort at high speed. A flood of items get put into the database, items, quests and cutscenes get tested, Samba goes into the zone and knocks out the final cutscenes. Design Notes and homepage updates get written.

As the day wears into the afternoon and it becomes clear that the release IS going to happen, the team gets looser, relaxs, and the jokes start to flow... until about 5pm.

Then things kick up into high gear again until, in a frenzy of testing and re-testing, fixing and re-fixing, the release is made live.

Things that happen every day

A lot of the work of running a game involves activity you never see, but that we tackle every day:

  • Twitter, Facebook, and forum time:
    Keeping track of feedback, making announcements, and interacting with players happens throughout the day Monday through Friday. It's an important part of the job; we need to know what you like and don't so that we can design future releases.
  • Meetings:
    Planning meetings with the other game leads, meetings with individual AQW team members about side and future projects, marketing and business meetings... They're vital to improving maintaining AQWorlds (and there are a LOT of them), but they do take time away from making the release for you guys.
  • Design Notes:
    Building up excitement for new releases is a big part of the week. We're always excited about what we're doing, and want you to be, too!
  • Database work and File uploading:
    The database is where ALL of the information about your character, inventory, factions and achievements are stored. It also has a list of ALL the items in-game. And every new item needs to be put into the database. And every piece of art you see needs to be uploaded onto the servers. If that doesn't happen, maps don't load. It's an important step.
  • Brainstorming:
    Possibly one of the funnest parts of the day. Teams sit around long tables to work, promoting spontaneous idea generation. Find an interesting article online? Share it with the table! You'd be surprised what this has spawned inside AQW. (Or maybe you wouldn't be. Anyone remember the Honeybadger pet of the month?)

Only at the Secret Underground Lab

  • Get AWESOME swag from amazing players across the world! 
  • Make sure you don't grab the wrong soft drink!
  • Star in videos (have you seen the one where we're all zombies singing Happy Birthday?).
  • Discover EbilCorp ninjas have infiltrated the Lab, spend the day locking up valuable items.
  • Hope the Creepy Clown isn't moved into your office.

This was moved into the artists' room. Luckily, it hasn't moved again.

Critical Hits and Failures

It seems like almost everyday we'll get an word of something that needs immediate attention. HeroMart surprises, website going down, badges that WERE working suddenly disappearing...
But then we get awesome surprises - guests visiting the lab, awesome swag from Australia or Japan, shipments of new HeroMart items to check out... seems like no day is ever the same!

This is a VERY brief look at some of the things we do during the week. Listing all of them would triple the length of the Design Notes, and we want to avoid that. But you asked for a sample of what goes into a typical AQW release, and this is that. Making videogames is a lot different from playing videogames.

So much of what makes the release happen is never visible on your monitor, but without the coffee, crits, and carpal tunnel that goes into them, it'd be all Chaos and no-one Battling On!

* Future videogame designers: it can be a lot more fun than the following list sounds... most of the time. But it's also a lot more work than many people think. It's good to know what you're getting into before you jump into a new career.

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