I’m still slogging through the code. Not going as fast as I wanted — there’s been lots of interruptions, but also I’ve just had a hard time drilling through the rest of the tedious stuff needed to make the game workable for pre-alpha. I have the ADHDs pretty bad, and some days no amount of pushing myself can get me to work on something that’s boring. (Yet another reason a coding partner would be ideal… but not really practical given the budget at this point.)
But it’s getting there — I’ve slogged slowly through some of the boring stuff and can make decent progress again. To get back on track, I’ve punted some of the combat skills, as well as lots of the quests and other details for now. But I’ve been finishing up systems that are lying around partially-completed. One of those is Pathology.
Classic MMOs have a window of combat text spewing nonstop throughout the fight. I don’t want to do that for several reasons. First, displaying reams of text is clumsy in Unity, and it’s hard to manage it. Second, some MMOs really just provide it so that third-party tools can analyze the text… but that seems like a weird relic from bygone text-MUD days. The question is, why do players want a text log? The biggest reason is to see how much damage they did, who killed the monster, what their DPS was, that sort of thing. So I’ll answer those questions in a gamey way with the Pathology skill.
You’ll need to find a field autopsy kit to practice your Pathology skill. This isn’t standard-issue newbie-town fare, so it will require some effort to find. (Although in pre-alpha, it’s easy: the crazy guy in town just sells them for 50 bucks after you do his initial quest.) When you have this kit in your inventory and examine a corpse, you have the option to “autopsy” it.
When you autopsy, the game makes a skill check — that is, it rolls virtual dice and compares your Pathology skill to the monster’s anatomical difficulty. (Animals are easier to autopsy, people are harder, demons are harder still… that sort of thing.) Depending on how well the autopsy goes, you learn different info about the death.
The easiest thing to discover is how the monster died. This is based on the very last attack the monster received. This is mostly just for flavor, but it has a couple of minor game-mechanic details I’ll get to later. Another easy thing to learn is who dealt the fatal blow to it.
If you’re more skilled at pathology, you’ll also get a little report of how much damage each player did to the monster. If you’re really good at Pathology, you can see how much armor damage each person did to it. (Remember that there’s both a “health bar” and an “armor bar”.) But if you botch the autopsy, the corpse is ruined and you can’t figure anything out.
Only one player can autopsy a given corpse. After it’s done, though, anybody can view the corpse to see the “autopsy report.”
I imagine I’ll add more options to the report over time, like being able to see how enraged the creature was during the fight, and so on. And when it’s fully fleshed out, I’ll make a custom GUI for it. Right now, the autopsy information is shown as clumsy text… but it’s completely usable for pre-alpha, and maybe all the way through early beta. (I’m hoping to put off doing too much more GUI stuff until the new Unity GUI system is released in Unity 3.6. Otherwise I’ll just have to redo it later.)
Other Death Verbs
You can do a lot of things with a dead body in this game. Necromancers will want to harvest organs, sages will want to study the corpse’s anatomy to learn combat tips, that sort of thing. There’ll probably be a dozen different ways to use a corpse by the time beta arrives. I think that’s fun, but it does presents a management problem: who gets to do what?
To prevent griefing, I’ll implement the usual MMO rule that says only players who killed it (or their group members) can loot it/harvest it/etc. But that just prevents griefing. How do I help players manage corpse activities effectively? That’s the harder question. If one group member only cares about loot, but another person wants to practice autopsies, and the group’s werewolf wants to eat the corpse to boost their metabolism, who gets to do what?
Obviously, eating a corpse would make it difficult to autopsy. So you’d want to autopsy the corpse first and then eat it. And if you want to harvest body parts for your necromantic rituals, that would make the autopsy much more difficult. It might make the corpse less filling when eaten, too! So different players will have a different optimal order for doing things with corpses. The game should help players organize that behavior to make it easy… I haven’t really figured out how that will work, though.
I’ll probably start with a classic round-robin system, so that each player takes a turn getting first-pick of the corpse, and once they’ve done whatever they want to with it (loot it, autopsy it, etc.) then if there’s anything left over, other group members can jump in and do whatever to it, first come first served.
(For pre-alpha, there’s no checks at all — any jerk on the server can loot any corpse! So obviously there are lots of baby steps before I get there. But it’s something I’m thinking about.)
Art Diary: Video Test
Here’s a very tiny video — I’m trying to figure out the best way to do video footage. This is just me stuck in wolf form, killing a wussy goblin.
Lots of bugs! The goblin has no loot (oops, he should have — I forgot to fill out his loot table), so I just autopsy the corpse. That’s a bug too: as a wolf, I shouldn’t be able to use a field-autopsy kit! Instead, I should have the option to eat the corpse. Also, the floaty numbers aren’t sizing right, and it’s hard to follow them. Yet more bugs to figure out.
But I do love the mental image of a wolf killing a monster and then doing an autopsy, only to discover “Huh, this goblin was mauled to death by a wild animal. Weird!”