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Game development update

December 14, 2008

   OK, time for an update on the progress of Citadel of Sorcery. First though, a happy holidays to you, we hope you enjoy the season. Now,as to what we have been up to at MMO Magic, Inc.

It has been a busy time at MMO Magic, lots of work getting done, lots of progress on the game and engine. Let's start there, with technology.

We have a new game editor. It has been revamped and we had to extract out the old systems for animation and add in the new. Artists can now take their work in a more streamlined pipeline from our modeler into our animation package, and from there straight into the game editor. This vastly improves the speed in which art can be made and gotten into the game. The editor also allows adjustments and refinements of the art and animation, while showing it in the game rendering system. Thus we can now tweak tints, attach normal maps, specular maps, attach and adjust animations, etc.

In game, we have added the support for dynamic object shadows (to go along with other static geo shadowing we already had in place). These nice 'soft' shadows add a lot of realism to the look of the world as they cast shadows from sun and moon light. We'll be posting some screenshots of the new lighting very soon. These also include the character shadows, which replace the old system.

There has also been a round of bug fixing that has fixed up a number of the more serious bugs, like a memory leak that caused a graphic glitch after about 30 minutes into the game session, a loss of camera collision in certain areas, a ground 'mush' bug that made you sink into apparent stone like it was made of mud. A Vista only bug was also fixed, where the cursor showed 'busy' all the time. And more bugs were fixed, too many to list here.

Also, the support for our new animation format has been added, so that the game is fully switched over to using Collada models and animation now and all old legacy code has been removed.

We have added the Data server system to track PC world interaction. The character select screen has been added. You can now create characters, and save them for later use. The game now tracks data about the player and writes to the database server. This was an important step on the way to the next milestone, which is the completion of the in game editor, phase 1, of Enact. Progress continues on that tool, and we are already seeing NPCs moving about in the game as testing of Enact commences. This has a lot of work to go, but the completion of Enact Phase 1 is the current focus of programming and will be the next milestone you see listed here (in the next update).

The sound module has also seen work, though it will be part of the next milestone. We're using Ogg Vorbis as our sound compression format. We'll talk more about the sound module in the next update.

Of course, a character select system means that we now can have many characters in the game, finally. For awhile there we were all clones of the same ugly placeholder model. We have seen the last of the original placeholder character. Which brings us to art.

Artists have been concentrating on creating PC and NPC characters, both for the new PC select and creation and for the upcoming Enact control of NPCs. Many of the PCs being added now will be replaced later when we implement the character model adjustment system. For now, we donít have the ability to change the shape of the PC models, though we do have some control of the texture and tints. The model adjustment system is actually one of the last things we will be working on, just prior to Beta, so for now we will only have so many models to choose from when making a character.

Animators have been working in the new Collada system to apply more motion capture data and the inevitable tweaking it always needs. We are building up a library of 'cleaned' motions that can be transferred onto new incoming PC and NPC models. This work has only just begun, and will continue for many months to come as we build up all the standard animations and emotes for PCs and NPCs. The good news is that the pipeline is working, and an artist can make a motion and get it onto a character and in the game in rapid fashion now; all on their own. This means more rapid progress in the animations as artists can get their work in the game in moments after doing the work and see it in the game engine.

Level building has been continuing the placement of dynamic objects, with special work being done to the Merchant district and all the tiny little shops that wind through the narrow streets. Places like the Apothecary, shield shop, map store, wine shop, and others. Other areas of Tier 1 are also being decorated.

We're probably going to demolish Section A of the city and replace it with a new District called the Guild District. Design has decided to make a District filled with various Guild halls. Work on this is just beginning. Speaking of the design group, weekly meetings are helping as we rework and rework things like the combat system and player Abilities. This has been a concentration of the design team and will continue to be worked until we reach that phase of implementation, which is still several months away. Right now they are working on a system that gives players the chance to react to their opponent's moves and spells. In the Abilities arena, the work continues as we work on the hundreds of Abilities, with their multiple Echelons and endless Skill point improvements. Itís a massive undertaking that we will be tweaking, changing and balancingÖ well, as long as we work on this game (even after release).

Quest Design has slowed a little as we are concentrating on other areas, but we plan to get back to that soon. Right now more detailed political and societal aspects of the Reflected worlds are being further detailed to help with the quest writing consistency. Races are being further defined as well, and information on them will be released on the CoS web site in the future.

On a fun note, we took a break for our company Holiday party and had the artist do some quick decorations of the Citadel city, as well as a scavenger hunt. Some of our more distant team members made the trip to Southern California to come to the party, while others joined us virtually in the game.

So, what's next? Enact, Phase 1. As noted, work has already been done, but our next milestone is to finish Phase 1 of Enact, which lets us edit the world from within the running game, allowing instant testing without a 'build' process as we create the A.I. net for NPCs, add events and generally construct the things that players interact with in the game. Meanwhile, art will concentrate on using the new build that allows them to add more characters into the world. They will also be concentrating on NPCs in the next few weeks, getting those ready for the A.Io net coming with Enact Phase 1.

 

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