Looks like quite a bit of work going into the next release and from what I can see, a lot of it will center around fixing and polishing what’s already there versus trying to add new content. I don’t know if it’s an emphasis, but Combat seems to have a predominant role for this new release. And that’s a good thing. It’s not going to be a very good adventure game/dungeon crawl if the combat system isn’t worth a damn.

One thing I don’t see if Housing – and that’s a good thing! As I mentioned before, housing, emotes, decorations and all that periphery stuff just need to be on hold for awhile, so the core game can get the attention it needs. I’m not trying to pick a fight or make an issue, but just think what Combat would be like if it got all the attention Housing has gotten so far.

Anyway, there are some rumblings of when the official release date for Shroud of the Avatar is going to be. Obviously, the projected date was October 2014, but with the work left to be done, people are getting a bit jumpy about hitting that mark. But I have to ask, who cares if the release date isn’t October of this year? Since when has a product ever hit a ship date?

I’ve done QA work for 15 years and product never meet their deadlines. It just doesn’t happen. I’ve worked with major apps, web apps, operating systems and games and they start to slip when you get 3/4 of the way through. That’s when you realize things aren’t hooked up, they don’t work as expected, it’s not quite what the customer wanted, it’s not bad, but not good enough, the must have features need more tuning and a million other things. It’s the nature of the business. It’s nothing to get distressed over. Personally, I would rather wait 6, 9 or even 12 months in order to get all the details of this game worked out. It’s not just the Kickstarter backers like you and I that want this game to work, it needs to work for the public at large. If this doesn’t meet the standards and level of play people expect, not only will there be problems with this game, but what you think will happen to Episodes 2-5? If Forsaken Virtues doesn’t capture the attention of the marketplace, we may never see those additional episodes.

There is a huge amount riding on these games, not just financially but reputation as well. This game and it’s developers have a pedigree in the field and standards to maintain. Forsaken Virtues needs to meet and exceed those. If that takes a couple of extra months, then that’s what needs to be done and I for one support it.

RELEASE 6, May 22 – 25, 2014: Without further ado here are the details of the new Release 6 plan:

  • Visual Improvements: We really want to improve the quality of our visuals to a point that we feel competitive with modern games. To that end we are allocating time each release for some ongoing work. Here is just a short list of some of the things we are working on for Release 6 in the area of visual improvements:
    • Lighting Fine-Tuning: With the switch to the new lighting model we now have to retune our lighting levels across the board. Tuning and balancing the brightest day and the darkest night takes some time. It is a careful dance to get a strong contrast between well lit areas and dark shadows. We want light sources to mean something in underground areas and at night so they will be dark. This means having a torch and/or light spell handy is a really good thing. We also introduced tone mapping in R4 which is a technique that simulates your eye irising back and forth. This technique also requires careful tuning to get the brightening and lightening just right. Tune it too bright and we obviate the need for any light sources, tune it too dark and you won’t even notice it.
    • Shaders: Right now we use very simple specular and bump mapping shaders. We are going to investigate some other shader types including Relief and Detail that might create more details in our textures.
    • Characters: We have several efforts in progress including getting our skin shader happy with the new lighting, deformation issues with the female arms, polishing movement and combat animations, and fixing wearables sorting issues. After we get those issues sorted we can move on to making hair better but we are waiting for our transition to Unity 5 for that so we can take advantage of some new features there.
    • Environment Art: For performance optimization we had originally kept the number of triangles in our buildings, walls, dungeons to an absolute minimum. Recent performance analysis suggests we are not bound by this constraint so we are going back through and adding geometry to some assets so that they will look better in lighting. For Release 6 we are focusing on Dungeon and Castle Walls to make them not be such flat planes.
  • Player to Player secure trade: Did you discover something cool you wish to give your friend? Need to share some potions with a party member? Did you craft something amazing you want to sell? Secure trade is the answer and will allow you to make exchanges of goods between you and other players.
  • Crafting: We now have specific animations and tools for each crafting table so we will replace the default animation in Release 6 with these specifics. We will also take a pass on alignment and sorting issues related to crafting tables. As a stretch goal we may try to add some more sound and visual effects to crafting and harvesting
  • Combat: Our first pass at abilities in R5 did not include secondary effects like stun, knockback, root, etc., nor did many of them have visual effects. And in some cases they didn’t work at all (I’m looking at you Light spell!). For R6, we will be finishing out those abilities and adjusting the casting animations to work better with equipped weapons. We are also fixing some blending bugs that prevented many of the weapon animations from displaying properly. Once we address all these issues, we can resume work on card combat, deck building and the death system for Release 7 and 8. We are also going to take a pass at better color coding for combat floaties. Finally we will work weapon sheathing and unsheathing functionality so that we can explicitly know if you are ready to talk or kill!
  • Looting: We are making some architectural changes to how we create, store, and transmit data in containers (chests, corpses, player houses, inventory, etc.) that should fix some of the looting exploits, like the one where all players could loot the same corpse equally, and corpses could be looted multiple times just by exiting and reentering a scene. We are also going to work on fixing issues related to targeting a corpse.
  • Emotes: We will be working on some improvements to emotes that include looping emotes (dancing, conversation, etc.) as well as adding audio to them (clapping, laughing, etc.). We will also make it so when you are chatting we will play the convo emote automatically.
  • Animals: Currently all our animals (bears, wolves, etc.) are purchased assets and the skinning, rigging, and animations for them is not meeting our quality standards, so we are going to reskin and rig them so that we can redo their animations.
  • Dialog: We are going to do an overall sanity pass on all dialogue, making sure it meets our standards on quest accessibility, making NPCs respond to more things, and that as many responses as possible are accessible through the dialogue tree.
  • Navigation: We will continue to iterate on the overworld map with more animations, texture improvements and party member locations when they are inside a scene. We are also going to introduce a standard visual for entrance and exit locations on maps. For now that will take the form of an archway.

Release 5 Impressions & Release 6 Revised

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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