''I'm writing this in the interest of transparency and to give you an idea of how things are going on behind the curtain. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of the Prophecy of Bane update. Since then we've had Midnight Glade, Bows and Arrows, the Pirate Ship and a variety of other updates. The game has also received some amazing coverage and reviews in the games press in recent months. It's been a big year. The last few updates have been about ensuring the continued survival of the game and making sure that the costs associated with running the game are covered. This includes the mobile payment option and enhanced feature set for pets. They were part of the overall goals for this year. We cover about half of our costs from ads and the other half from pet sales. In effect, the players who pay for pets ensure that the game exits for the players who play for free. Simply playing the game alone does not ensure it's survival, even for those who have been loyal for years. Recent posts have made it clear that there continues to be some players who believe that it should be a simple mater for pets to be free and draw no connection between this and the survival of the game. To put it in perspective, we need to sell about 3000 pets a month to cover bandwidth and server expenses alone. So far we've been able to make ends meet.
The reason I mention this is because the long term plan is to expand the number of pets, mounts and allies from the twelve we currently offer to eighteen (a third row of six on the pet interface). I will be maxed out with coding work for updates to the existing game and with the transition to Flash in the coming year. I'm trying to find a way to be in two places at the same time and boost our production capacity. For this reason I started a search for a high quality 3D art services company to handle the modeling and texturing of new pets and allies. This will have the added benefit of providing a set of fresh models for monsters as well. I will provide art direction, rigging and implementation but most of my time will go to other features in the game. Some of these new pets will be allies and share the same animation set as the human style characters in the game. They will cost well over $20,000 to make and I hope they are going to be great, but I'm not willing to compromise on quality. So I'm sure the next question is "Are they going to be available as avatars?" The short answer is no. As pet/allies they can pay for their own production costs over time but as avatars it becomes an expense we can't simply absorb. Free players may consider this an issue of fairness, as many of them do with the existing pets, but although Sherwood is a fantasy world, it has real world costs that need to be covered and I truly believe we are doing everything we can to provide as much of it for free as humanly possible. Most future updates will continue to be free. It's about finding the right balance to ensure the future viability of the game and using outside help where it makes sense to boost our production capacity.
"Would it be viable to have a paid-for avatar? "
You could argue that with the transform button on a wolf or dragon, we are already selling "premium avatars". All of the new pets will have a transform button, including the ones that share the human/biped animation.''