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July/August 2011 Update on CoS progress

August 27, 2011

   It has been a couple months since we updated the dev blog, so here is a progress report on CoS. As noted in the previous blog, we have been talking to publishers, and have some meetings coming up to show some of the technology, tools and game play. A lot of our recent work has focused on getting ready for these demonstrations.

We have been making some better art in specific areas so that publishers can get a better feel for where the graphic side of the game will head, even though that is one of the areas that will get the most work once they partner with us on this project. Certain buildings have been redone from scratch, others improved. There have also been some new characters created, like the Bondead commanders Foulbreath and Faceless. Art will continue to polish these specific demonstration areas of the world until the game has a publisher, at which point we will expand that work to the entire Reflected World.

In Level Building we have been making use of new features to the Enact Tool Set, which will continue to be added for some time to come. Since Enact has to be able to make any kind of gameplay/storyline that our writers create, it has to be a very robust set of tools. Already it can do a lot of important functions. We have been working with a specific set of 430 NPCs in once area (again for the demo) that shows off how Enact can be used to give NPCs realistic lives. They already have their homes and work, and go about their business correctly, get off work and go home… but we are working diligently to give them leisure activities, friends, hobbies, etc. These are not simple scripted actions, but behaviors with full choice based off of the personality of the particular NPC. Work on these NPCs will continue until we are satisfied with their behavior and move onto the next location. Like art, work such as this will expand serious after we get a publisher on board.

The improvements to Enact have really helped, and though these tools put the power of programming into an LDs hands, it is made entirely as a GUI interface that runs in the online game world. This is not to say it is not complex in some ways, but it does not take long to learn. With so much power at your fingertips, we have to make sure that everyone knows how and what they can do with the tools. As the features of the tool continue to come online we have started having to make a lot of video tutorials to teach new Level Designers how to use all the functions of the various tools. Still, with the videos a new LD can get up to speed on the tool in a matter of a couple days. We feel that this tool is the main reason that CoS will be able to offer so much unique game play and story to the players. A single LD can quickly turn a written quest design into reality, with a minimum of training.

The writing team continues to develop stories for the game that will eventually be handed to the LD group for creation in Enact. The writers have recently been concentrating on League Actions and Quests.

From a design standpoint we have spent some time working on the Community Worlds game play, looking for ways to add more group cooperative elements. Community Worlds are where many players interact at once. Because of this we decided that this is where many player groups will have the option to work together to accomplish larger goals. One of the newer types of game play we added to the game are called Incursions, which will involve multiple player groups banding together to penetrate into Morphael territory. That is as much as we want to reveal right now, but the more groups work together and use strategy, the further they will penetrate on their Incursions and the greater the rewards and impact on the war. This is just one of several types of cooperative game play available to players, all of which use multiple player groups taking on big goals.

The programming team continues to deliver new features regularly. Besides new builds of the Enact tool set, we have also been getting some of the new forest generating features that grow our trees, bushes, and other ground foliage. Since our game world has forward moving time, the world has to age, which means the foliage needs to continue to grow. Therefore, the trees cannot be made as a traditional model, but are instead grown, textured, and aged algorithmically.

The code to create trees has been completed and this new kind of foliage can start replacing the existing prototype modeled trees. Upon seeing the new trees we were suitably impressed. We can dial in parameters to the tree system and create virtually any kind of tree or bush. The growth patterns also take their environment into account, and will alter their growth pattern if there are obstructions. Roots grow down into the soil as the tree grows upwards, and each type of tree knows which kinds of soil it can grow out of, helping to develop our biomes logically.

Right now we are concentrating on one of the primary forest biomes until after we complete the publisher demos. However, the tools for making trees and foliage work for all types of biome foliage, and it is only a matter of an artist taking the time to tweak elements with the tool to create more types of plants. The hard work was creating the code to generate the foliage; now that it has been created we can start developing foliage for each of the RW biomes, but forest first.

There are many other areas of the game also being developed, but these are just normal ongoing work as the game progresses. Since we started the official forums a lot of information has been released, or at least consolidated. We suggest you join and read through the forums at www.citadelofsorcery.com and join into the discussions.

 

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