We are into the second quarter of 2013, and it is now after E3. So let me start by talking about E3. About 2/3rd of the company attended the show, which was a lot of fun. This year we were on a scouting mission to get a list of publishers we wished to approach later this year (more on that in a minute). We were also there to check out other MMORPG games. Sadly, not all the games under development were showing, and the ones that were, well, most of them were disappointing. This is not necessarily bad news for our game, but it is bad news for Gamers. Still, there are some games coming that do look interesting at some level. E3 seemed, well, subdued, this year, and smaller than normal. Of course, the big news was the release of the Xbox One and Playstation 4. With their hardware being basically a PC, at least fully compatible with one, it was an easy choice to consider a port of Citadel of Sorcery to both platforms, and so we started design on those so that we can offer them to publishers along with the PC version.
Once back from E3 our team was revitalized form the understanding that our game was still pushing the envelope of game design, and well ahead of the competition. Sure, there have been some baby steps in the direction of CoS, and we believe you will see more games heading their design our direction, it is the logical future of MMORPGs. Give better game play to players, that makes them happy, and happy players stay to play the game for a long time, and that makes publishers happy. Everybody wins.
On our demo front we have been working on the terrain system quite a bit. The level of detail systems are amazing. You can see from the top of a mountain over 500 kilometers into the distance before the world haze and curvature of the earth keeps you from seeing further (this is a LONG way!). Then, you can fly right down to the ground and see an incredible amount of ground modeled detail, even though the frame rate remains high. This is actual detail geometry, not just textures or normal maps. Right now we are working on using all that detailed geometry to create a more beautiful biome with more diversity. Right now it is amazing technology, but it needs to be more diverse in usage: different bushes, different grasses, different pebbles and rocks. This is coded into the engine, but it takes some time working with different algorithms to get more diversity. That integration and diversity are the only thing in the way of a finished demo of the game. We hope to have this work done in the next six weeks, right in time for our demonstrations.
Two other areas of focus for the programming staff on demo related elements are:
1) The User Interface system, replacing the old placeholder system.
2) The second phase of the Event system, which increases the options for the A.I. Net., and what things are happening live and impacting everything and everyone in the game world.
Currently the Writing team (and some Level Designers) have been focusing on dialog work with our NPC population. They are using the new Dialog tool (we talked about it in the last dev briefing) to allow the NPCs to always speak about what they are doing when they are doing it, meaning, a situational dialog system.
We have looked at other interesting dialog systems coming in new MMO games (we have seen them at E3 and via some net demos), but we still believe in our own dialog system. We want players playing the game, not reading or trying to figure out what an NPC has to say by going through either a long dialog tree multiple times, or by using a parsing text entry system what relies on “key words” in a typed question to get an answer from the NPC. Both of these systems degenerate into players having to slog through too much dialog while trying to pry all the information out of the NPC. Our system is a subject based system, and it generally works like a newspaper. You see a list of subjects (like the titles of articles in a newspaper). These subjects tell you what you will learn if you pick one. Once you do pick a subject the NPC will tell you EVERYTHING they know about that subject. This way you can quickly locate what you want to know, and get the details about that subject in the shortest amount of time and least reading possible. This gets the player back to action, rather than reading. We want you playing the game, and experiencing the story, not reading about it.
Our Level Designers are working with the writers on the NPCs right now, though they will soon be switching into full demo preparation mode as the newest version of the terrain comes together with all elements we have been working on for the past two years integrated into one system. To put this in perspective, that includes: gravity erosion, wind erosion, water erosion, ground foliage, tree and bush creation, the full planet scale world, our hybrid/voxel renderer, and LOD systems that go through multiple types of rendering techniques, depending on the distance. Each of these systems has already been built, and are working, but we are still integrating them together, and have been working on this for the past couple months, and we still have a few weeks to go. This is one reason we have not yet shown any screenshots of these systems (though we did show an early shot from the grass and tree system awhile back). Once the complete integration is done, the world terrain will finally be locked down to where we can really start using it in the Level Design department, and showing a little to the player community (starting with our Patrons).
In the Art Department, just like last briefing, work on the modular construction sets continue. We finished the second dungeon set, but are now adding an additional set of caved in pieces. These really help the dungeon with that old and lived in feel. The new Cathedral was finished and is now in Tier 1 of the Citadel. Right now it is not destroyed; it is the pre-destruction version. Work on the destroyed version is underway. That Cathedral also now ties into the underground structure of the Shadow League. Also, the Tower system is also ready for the demo, with some very interesting wizard towers. These things are huge! You can have an entire adventure just within one of these skyscraping towers.
In general, we are polishing up all aspects of the demo, and have started setting meetings with publishers. The first is in six weeks, and the rest will take place over the next few months. We hope to get a deal signed before the end of the third quarter, the Dead Gods willing.
Peeks in the game, webcasts, and private development briefings with looks at various bits of the game continue for those that join the Patron Team though our game website: www.citadelofsorcery.com. We would love to have you joins us. All the previous web casts and dev briefing videos are available even if you join the Patron Team now, (or later). The next webcast is on August 3rd, and will go over our extensive map system and talk about exploration. The following week, August 10th, will be our next dev briefing, with a look at some of the game demo.
We really appreciate the support of our Patrons, and we like to reward them for their loyalty. However, we will eventually release this information to everyone, they just get it a bit sooner than other players.
So that is the news that is to be had about Citadel of Sorcery. It is an exciting time for us, with our demo coming together at last, and publisher meeting on the near horizon.
Come talk to us in the forums, we love to hear from the players.