Dev Hangout

Pretty exciting business during the telethon last night. Not only did we get to see some unique interpretive dance by Starr, but the musical stylings of both Chris and Lum. When it comes to the musical interlude, I’m not sure which was more striking, the ad lib Macarena or Chris’ rendition of Tom Sawyer.

But it wasn’t all fun and shots, there were some serious dealings during the ten hour event. Chris, Starr and Richard delved into multiple aspects of the game like combat, crafting and player owned towns.

Once thing that was iterated was that the upcoming “launch” is not a release of the game despite what many might think. In fact, launch is probably the wrong word. The game world will be persistent, not prone to vanishing without a trace as it currently does. Being persistent means a lot more people will feel comfortable playing as their progress won’t be erased. Additionally, the monthly cycle of releases will continue for the foreseeable future. So SotA will be persistent, not exactly launched.

And with that sentiment, the team stated there is a lot more work to come both in story, balancing, UI, quests and just about everything that makes the game cool. You have to admit, they took a pretty big risk with a change to the combat system this late in the process. But it clearly shows they are listening to feedback and are willing to make big changes when it ultimately benefits the game.

Crafting and Combat will get lots of attention as we move forward. As they battle with players and make weapons for themselves, the Devs see room for improvement.

I found the topic of Player Owned Towns pretty interesting. While I don’t like that PoT owners can’t place houses ahead of the Lot Selection process, Starr is sticking with promises made during Kickstarter, well before PoTs came on the scene. People paid for that privilege and he will honor it. I can’t fault him for that.

It was also stated they didn’t want a PoT to become a house – meaning, they didn’t like the idea of making the entire town your backyard. I can see their point as we already have enough Fred Sanford junk piles around the place, especially in Owl’s Head, and it would be easy for a Town owner to scatter Addon store items as far as the eye can see. I personally like items being available to place outside lots, but not everyone shows the same level of moderation and taste that I display. (Stop that damn laughing)

And finally, for the big event, it was supposed to be a PvP Battle Royale. Alas, there was a glitch or two that prevented it from reaching its full potential. Not only could we have done without the commentary, there were too many people in the scene and the latest update actually generated a few errors.

While Chris, Starr and Richard were able to lay down the hand of smiting with impunity, there were problems with getting kicked off and a hefty login queue upon your return. The frame rate dropped pretty drastically so it was hard to keep track of the carnage. Not to mention Chris was in one basement dungeon while Starr was in another so you really couldn’t see anything.

I will note that Lord British had quite the thirst for blood. I admire his fighting spirit.

And let’s not forget, that soon we’ll be able run along with our butterfly or dragonfly wearing a crown of flowers and tossing petals to all who cross our path. Glorious indeed!

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

There was a ton of information to be gleaned from watching the Shroud of the Avatar “Streamathon” yesterday and I wanted to put down a couple of thoughts about some of the things I heard. This is by no means all encompassing. It’s merely a few ideas of the things that really struck a chord with me and piqued my interest.

There are still tons of features, locations and quests that need to be added to the game. From the way it sounded, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the final game will contain. Many of the things we see and interact with are merely “testbeds” to check viability and playability for future systems. For example, the size of towns themselves are an example of density and layout. What is a good size? What is too big? What is too large for a city to look dead or players to get lost and miss quest NPCs? Additionally, the quests we see now are tests of the conversation system to confirm what works and what doesn’t. It’s also a way to gather what words we type in to interact with them. So, with that in mind, this really is just a working demo and the final game will have so much additional content.

Player towns will be a huge part of the final release. Starr indicates there are 80 player owned towns so far. Holy hell! That’s a huge population and tons of places to visit! So, besides all the towns the SotA team plans on sticking into the game, an entire collection of player towns will be added. That is pretty damn amazing! And considering most of these will be specialized areas such as PvP, Crafting, etc, just exploring those will take a huge amount of time. And think of all the experts we will find there?!

The Blade of the Avatar will be expanded to a Trilogy. We all knew the Blade of the Avatar would be a printed book for those of us who pledged for it, but as Richard and Tracy talked with publishers it was agreed that the original book would be expanded and two more volumes would be written. This will certainly expand the lore and history of the world and give even more backstory and character development for Novia and the rest of New Britannia. What happens after the trilogy is complete? Is this the start of a new series? Well, that remains to be seen doesn’t it?

But speaking of lore and history, Tracy Hickman made an interesting statement regarding “canon” for Shroud of the Avatar. In essence, it just doesn’t matter. History is written by the victors, so writing something that contradicts the lore of SotA isn’t a big deal and in fact he almost seemed amused by people doing just that. Writing something that went against the grain simply added to the myth and legend of the story and the world. If everyone wrote the same sort of thing, then what’s the point? So when it comes to fan fiction and writing your own tales for SotA, feel free to walk whatever path suits you. Now, that’s pretty cool. As he said, the Obsidian’s thought they were a great people and would glorify their exploits in their tales. But those they raided would have a bit of a different story wouldn’t they?

There were hints at Episode 2 and hints at how the game would progress. The game is not linear and your actions will have an effect on later events. The simple example they presented and one I’ve seen personally is The Clink. If you get the quest and then take one from Morgan where you lie about the meat being rancid and making you sick, it affects the outcome of The Clink quest, meaning, you can’t finish it because Myra won’t talk to you after she hears about your lies. That’s exactly what I did in R11. Plenty of these “tests” will be peppered throughout the game and your “reputation” will be built based on how you respond. Even some of the things you say to an NPC could have an impact. Many people try to seduce the barmaids of the game and in the future this might cause a ripple effect. You may not get served when you come back, you may not get side quests, or you may be refused in other towns.

To be honest, this sounds absolutely fantastic! I love the idea that what you do in one part of town will follow you to other NPCs as well as to other towns. This basically means that each of us could and should get a different experience when playing the game. What I do and see won’t be the same as what you do and see. We may not get the same quests. We may not get to talk to the same people. We may get sent down two different paths. That would be so amazingly fun when comparing notes! “Why won’t this Merchant sell me anything?” Perhaps they heard of your theft in the last town.

Some more details about Crafting came out that really had me intrigued. Right now, you pick up resources and make an item. Every try is a success. That won’t be so later on. Once the Crafting skill tree is implemented the chances of failure will outweigh success. Just because I have the right ingredients for a sword doesn’t mean I can actually make it. Or I might be able to make it, but the durability is very low, or the damage is low. For people who want to be crafters and dedicate points to these skills, it means you can make better weapons and can make weapons and items other people can’t. I won’t be able to imbue a weapon because I’ve dedicated points to combat, but you can since you took the time to invest in quality crafting. The way it sounded, this could literally mean it’s possible that only a couple of players can make a couple of extremely high quality items. This goes with what Chris said, which is that the game will not give better items than a player can make themselves. Oh wow, does that sound cool or what? You could quite literally be the one person in the game that can make a perfect type of jeweled or enchanted sword. That is pretty wild to think about. Unlike Diablo where you did Magic Find runs to find the best loot, that loot will now be crafted by players so you need to seek them out and perhaps haggle over the price. Or, develop your own skills in that area.

It makes me wonder, can I build myself as a melee fighter and then change my skills over to being a master craftsman? Would I get enough skill points to do both? I could see my character living the life of the warrior and the returning to a quiet life to craft amazing weapons and armor for other players to use.

The “random encounters” will be much more useful in later releases. I’ve read a lot of people are annoyed by them right, but from some of the descriptions they will change radically. You may be drawn to help defend a town, or intersect with merchants carrying rare weapons, or bandits pretending to be merchants, or some other encounter that will have meaning and story behind it. Being attacked by wolves is just a test scenario.

And finally, the Oracle will play a much bigger role as we progress in the game. What that means remains to be seen as both Tracy and Richard were somewhat elusive, but wickedly snickering. I can only image that means visits to the Oracle will be quite important in later Releases.

Listening to parts of the Steamathon got me so excited about the game and what it has to offer down the road. There is a huge amount of work to be done and what we see is merely the tip of the iceberg. Sounds like we’ve barely gotten a taste of this game. The future depth and scale are almost hard to imagine. That also means there is a lot more dev time needed and this rascal won’t be done in a couple of months. But you know what? I’m fine with that. It may take another year to hit a release date, but we’ll still have so much to work with and explore. And as Richard said, we’ll be on this adventure for the next decade. Can you imagine? In 10 years from now, we’ll be talking about the final episode and what the total journey has meant. And think of what the game will look like and what features it will have. And how big the world will be. And what travel from one side to the other will be like.

Oh my goodness, what a world it’s shaping up to be!

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

For this Dev Hangout we get a 2 hour presentation of what it’s like to create levels for the actual game. Chris went through several of the tools they use in-house to build the towns, dungeons and other player areas of the map that we walk through. It was an incredibly interesting behind the scenes look at game design elements. Chris literally starts at the beginning to create a terrain map, then jumps over into Unity where he adds texture, refines the size of the plateaus, adds some trees and in one fell swoop changes all the grass elements over to lava. We also get insight into how the team approaches making levels such as how to enter, exit, what you can walk on, what’s off limits and where the boundaries are.

As a bonus, this level will actually be something we can see in the game during the R6 test. Chris will do some cleanup, refine the elements and when all is said and done we will be able to use some super secret special command set that will unlock that level and we can enter his lovely area of death. It’s full of lava remember. Nothing says fun like scorched earth.

But anyway, if you want a look at what goes into the game, this is quite enlightening. It’s far longer than most chats with lots to take in and world building as you watch. Check it out and get ready for R6 which comes to us tomorrow.

On-the-Fly Level Creation and Map Design with Chris Spears

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

So we have a new Dev Hangout and quite a few interesting tidbits of information came to light. First, we have Amber Raine who becomes a member of the Order of the New Britannian Empire for all the work she’s done with the community and Avatar Radio. And to that end there is a want and perhaps even a goal now to make a “wireless” device that can actually pick up Avatar Radio in game. If I understand correctly you’ll be able to tune-in while playing the game itself. I’ve never heard of anything like that being done before and it sounds wickedly exciting.

Next we Richard and Tracy showing off different parts of the map while explaining what sorts of cultures we can expect to find. Tracy hinted at some Asian influences and Stephen backed that up with some concept art.

Speaking of maps, Chris said he’s working on a new map and will do everything he can to push that into the R6 release. He didn’t give all the details, but it sounds like it will be a stab at the new overland map. You may have to play some keyboard trickery to get it to come up, but he says something new will be there waiting for us.

And further speaking of the map, we got a bit of a guided tour by Tracy and now that we have most of the pieces together there is a tremendous amount of detail to take in. You can see there are lots of town out there, roads that crisscross each other, volcanoes, mines and dungeons. And if you look closely you can see the icons that show what sort of power source is in that town. There are icons for windmills, Tesla coils and geo thermal power next to the volcanoes. Obviously I need to study this map in a bit more detail.

Lots of interesting history and backstory about the game so well worth the time to watch. And everything is on track for the R6 release. And for the next Dev Hangout with Chris, he’s going to work on the map “on the fly”. Gonna have to tune in for that!




More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

Some new housing to show off today and check out the Castle for the Lord of the Manor. Not only does the house look pretty impressive, check out the inside. You can see the Darkstarr Metronome as a massive focal point in the room. And if you look to the side it looks like a pipe organ. I wonder if that works?


Anyway, the housing looks really good with wide open spaces, multiple floors and even upper decks where you can set up eating tables and crafting stations. That won’t be a great place to hang out when it rains, but in the summer months it will be quite lovely.

Alas, I don’t have a Lord home. If I had that kind of cash on hand I would have gladly pledged it to this project. For now I’ll have to settle for one of the other homes. But to be honest, no matter which one you look at, they’re all impressive. It’s not like any of them are slum or anything. Even the so-called “starter homes” look pretty upscale. It’s not like it’s a box with a leaky roof. You get a pretty nice place to live and lots of room to walk around.

Along with the houses we get a glimpse of the Female Avatar clad in both the starting leather armor and the plate armor. She actually looks pretty bad ass. I remember Stephen working on her during the Pen of the Avatar updates and I have to say she looks quite formidable. I used to play the Amazon in Diablo 2 because she was such an awesome character with long range rapid fire, cold shot, multi-shot and the Valkyrie that she could summon to help with battle. Since this character is supposed to be a ranged fighter as well, I wonder how she’ll compare to my beloved Amazon from the days of yore?



Update of the Avatar – 10/04/13: Founder Lord Home, Benefactor Edelmann Home, Avatar Outfits, & Scene Jam #2

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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