On Fire, and Wolf-Talk, and Competitive Systems

The pre-alpha testers’ comments and feedback have been extremely enlightening, and I really appreciate each of you who took the time to give me feedback, especially the play-by-play format where you describe what you’re feeling as you play the first few minutes of the game. That’s very revealing and useful. I wanted to talk about some of those:

Fire and Water
“Fire magic works underwater?!”
“The monster kept lighting me on fire, but I was too far away from the lake to jump in and put it out.”

Comments like these baffled me at first. “What sort of MMORPG have these people played where skills don’t work underwater, or where you can put out fire DoTs by jumping in a lake?!” But then I realized that the MMORPG they’ve been playing is… Project Gorgon. And that’s what they expect to be able to do.

My guess is that it seems logical because the game supports a lot of other real-world metaphors. Or maybe it’s because that works in Minecraft. My game has more subtle Minecraft-isms than I ever realized. (I only recently seriously got into Minecraft, after playing the tutorial on the XBox version. My game is nothing like Minecraft. Except in all the subtle ways that it is.)

In any case, this expectation is something I can support pretty easily, so I’ve added to the task list to make water put out flames. Speaking of which…

Standing in Water
One of the recurring complaints is that you can’t right-click to fill an empty bottle with water unless your head is entirely underwater. I agree that this is kind of dumb. I didn’t think this was a big deal at first, because most of the time, higher-level players won’t be filling bottles from a lake. They’ll use a well, or their own innate Water Magic. But if I’m going to let you get water from a lake, you shouldn’t have to be drowning before you can do it.

I think I have a plan for detecting when you’re partially submerged and letting you fill bottles in shallow water. This will have some amusing side-effects, like being able to fill your water bottle with “clean, refreshing water” while standing hip-deep in a sewer main. But I think it’s a win overall.

Secret Languages
One great idea I can’t implement right now is animal languages. Several people have asked, “if you’re a werewolf, and a monster wolf says ‘Howwwwwl’, can you understand what they’re saying?” They expect this to work because player werewolves have their chat text turned into howls and snarls until they learn the Beast Speech skill.

It would definitely make sense that the wolf is actually saying something funny, and it’s getting translated into “Howwwwwl” just like player-werewolf speech does, and player-werewolves can understand the actual message. Sadly, I can’t implement that. The way the code works, each chat message has to look the same to all players who hear it. So if one person sees “Howwwwl”, everybody else does too.

This restriction exists because the chat server is somewhat isolated and removed from the rest of the game systems. That lets me have world-wide chat, even though most game systems only work in a single zone. It also makes chat resilient to lag, and will (eventually) let me support chatting even during loading screens and such.

Before I coded chat, I carefully added some “hooks” for the game features I wanted: language filters (such as the wolf-howls) and Words of Power (which trigger game effects). But I had to design those hooks into the system before I implemented it. Right now, I don’t have time to rewrite the chat system to add this additional feature. It’s not un-doable, I just can’t currently get it into the schedule for a January 2013 open-beta.

Hopefully the game will be successful and I can revisit topics like this, though. I still have lots of leeway to change the game in dramatic ways, but a few systems are starting to get “hardened” and become more expensive to change. I’m trying to keep things fluid for as long as possible, though.

Competitive Systems?
Most of the interpersonal mechanics I’ve got planned are cooperative, but I also want some competitive social systems. Here’s some works in progress:

I want to have a few competitive mini-games for werewolves. The first one I’m working on is “hunt the deer”, a game that wolf packs can play together for points. It plays about how it sounds: a deer is randomly picked as the target, and the wolf who gets the killing blow on the target gets a point. The first werewolf to 5 points wins. Or something like that. I’m still working on it, but I think I can make this one work.

A competitive game for crafters is the Hourly Crafting Challenge: an NPC declares that he wants a certain item, and the first person to deliver it is the winner. This is not very fun right now, because there aren’t enough recipes. Maybe it’ll be more fun when crafting is fully fleshed out. But eh… we’ll see. It’s pretty dull, but I’m not sure what would spark it. So it’s mothballed for now.

One failed idea was the Daily Combat Challenge. Each day, two random combat skills were picked by the game, and players who completed a dungeon using only those two combat skills could compete for prizes. However, this was mothballed before I got very far, because it just doesn’t work without better instancing technology. Every player needs to have their own instance of the dungeon, and my instancing tech is not currently good enough for that. It’s something that I’d like to do, but not before launch.

Item Inscription
I’ve finally gotten most of the Item System rewritten, which lets me do fancy things like randomly-generated loot. But I don’t have random loot coded yet. To test out the new item system, I started with some smaller features. The first one is item inscription.

You can now visit a Writing Table to inscribe a message on an item. It requires ink and some Calligraphy skill. You write a short message and it shows up whenever someone examines the item.

What’s the purpose of this? Lots of things:

  • You can inscribe messages onto gifts for your friends
  • You can craft items and put your “crafter’s seal” on them
  • You can throw items on the ground for newbies to take, after first writing “Jon is awesome, bow down to him” on them

And so on.

The inscriptions aren’t completely permanent, though. If your Calligraphy skill is higher than the author’s was when they inscribed the message, you can remove it. But it takes some semi-expensive jars of Ink Remover to do so.

This is also the same basic tech I’ll use for writeable books and notes.

Using Calligraphy skill for this was actually unplanned. I originally planned to have a separate Scribing skill for this stuff, and Calligraphy was just for creating magical sigils that give you buffs. But that seems pointlessly bloated now. Maybe it’ll split into two skills when more features are in place, but right now, Calligraphy can handle all of these tasks quite nicely.

New Mantis!

Anthony Cook has struck again, creating a new Preying Mantis model. I like it a lot, and it has enough detail to be a relatively big mantis, so I’m planning to create several variants. Will show a pic soon! Thanks again, Anthony!


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6 Responses to On Fire, and Wolf-Talk, and Competitive Systems

  1. Stropp says:

    Just a thought, if the player is standing in sewerage, why not fill the bottle with the same and then let them use it as a thrown weapon? It could provide disease damage, or simply repel the enemy. After all it’s quite smelly.

    I like the inscription concept too, it reminds me a lot of Asheron’s Call.

  2. Have you written a profanity filter for your inscription feature yet? You’re going to need one :)

  3. Ahtchu says:

    Keep up the great work, Eric. It’s fun to see the stages of development progress!

  4. kalamona says:

    “fire magic works underwater” isn’t the weirdest. When I played WOW the first time, I didn’t dared to use lightning underwater, because I somehow tought it would damage me, like in Quake 1 :)

  5. blub says:

    Hm. Wonder what happens if you inscribe the weapon with a word of power ;)

  6. Eric says:

    Robert: I forgot to add that one to the todo list, sigh.

    blub: I didn’t forgot that one. :) It does something very slightly useful.