Progress Toward Pre-Alpha 3

Artwork Inbound

Just a quick update about where things are at. The Legends of Etherell guys are cranking out awesome character artwork for Project: Gorgon. As I mentioned a while back, we’re going to do something like an art-for-server-tech swap.

If you’re interested in their progress, you might want to check Will Barry’s scrapbook web page every day or two. (Unfortunately it doesn’t have an RSS, and the pictures come and go, so checking it periodically is the only way to see everything. Artists! Whimsical.)

Here’s the current version of the third race, the cat-like Rakshasa, in one of their armors: (click to embiggen)

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The Rakshasa have a leather motif in their armor, whereas Humans are more about plate armor, and Elves are more about nature motifs, magical clothing, and exposed flesh. But  any race can wear any other races’ armor, so if you want to be a plate-armored elf, that will work fine.

Each armor style will have slightly different game mechanics (for instance, elven armor tends to be less effective against being stabbed, but better against psionics and lightning). But thanks to the random-treasure system, every piece will be different, so it’s likely you’ll end up mixing and matching styles based on what you find. At least while you’re leveling up.

Here’s an early elf male, showing off one of their clothing styles. (The armor’s finalized here, but the face and hair are placeholders.)

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(You can also see lots of other stuff, in various stages of completion, on Will’s site. I especially like the Wood Spirit.)

I’m jazzed to see the Rakshasa in the game. They’ve always been a part of the backstory, but I didn’t expect to have them playable at launch. Actually I’m pretty excited to see all this stuff coming together — three custom races, plus faces and skin tones for each, plus several interchangeable armor suits for each, plus new monsters… it’s a lot of art! And it looks great!

So I’ve changed plans for pre-alpha 3, and I’m focusing on getting this art into the game as soon as possible. It’s important to locate any kinks in the art pipeline ASAP, so this has to take priority over other stuff, like new content and game systems.

And in fact I’ve already hit a major flaw in my tech. It can’t accomodate multiple downloaded materials in a single piece of equipment, and that’s necessary if we want to let flesh poke through the armor (e.g. in the elven armor where you see the torso exposed under the armor). In the stock artwork I’d been using, that just never happened, they were all full-body armor suits. So I didn’t think about it. But there are actually a bunch of weaknesses in how I stream character assets. It needs to be a lot more flexible.

So I’m neck-deep in a rewrite of the asset-management system. Not a fun task at all, because the game is unplayable while I do this rewrite, and it involves a lot of cursing and late nights of coding. But in the end it will mean I can handle almost any sort of avatar artwork.

I doubt I’ll hit the January deadline for pre-alpha 3 now, but the delay should be worth it: there will be lots of new avatar options and, I’m sure, tons of hilarious bugs to find!

Death Penalty Coding: Done!

Before I forget: I finished up the “Hardcore” death penalty system. There’s a bulletin board in the newbie town called the “Hardcore Declaration Board” where you can announce that you’re “hardcore,” effectively switching your death penalty to the harsher one. (If people examine you, they’ll see “Hardcore” in your list of active challenge bages. Along with any other voluntary challenges, like Vegetarian or Lycanthrope.)

You can switch between normal and hardcore at will, and I think that’s probably fine, I don’t mind people backing out of it if they get too frustrated. However, I do need to avoid one scenario: people leveling up in Normal, and then switching to Hardcore when they’re high-level and pretending they were always Hardcore. That seems like it would take away from the prestige too much.

So maybe I’ll record the number of levels you’ve been Hardcore for, and display that… damn, I don’t have character levels! So maybe I’ll record the amount of XP you’ve earned, or something, as a Hardcore player, and show that to people. (You should still be able to level up on Normal and then switch to Hardcore… I don’t want to prohibit that, I just don’t want you to look identical to someone who leveled up on Hardcore from day 1.)

Item “Lost”? Out. Item “Broken”? In.

I’ve also implemented another of Matt’s ideas for Hardcore mode. Instead of the items dropping on your corpse when you die, the items “break”, and “a piece of the item” remains on your corpse, rendering the item useless. The item is shown with an X in your inventory, and it can’t be used.

If you go back to your tombstone and click it, all your broken items are fixed and you’re back to normal. If you don’t get back within a few hours, your tombstone fades away, but there’s an alternate way to repair your items: you can right-click any broken item and it will guide you toward where its missing part is. When you’re standing in the right spot, right-clicking the item repairs it.

This “broken” conceit seems pretty weird when something like a bottle of water “breaks”… you’d expect a bottle of water couldn’t be repaired, at least not without the water leaking out. But hopefully players can roll with it and won’t be too bugged by the incongruities. “It’s broken, you have to go to a certain place to make it work again, the end.”

One down side is that there’s now no chance of permanent item loss: you can always trek back and make your broken item work again, even if you have to wait a long time to do so. I like that for the convenience factor: lots of us have lives that don’t allow us to stay up all night searching for their corpse before their items melt. However, I’m a little afraid that this takes too much oomph out of the death penalty, because there’s never any real danger of losing your item forever. (What do you think?)

There are lots of benefits to this approach, though, which is why I picked it. First, you can give those broken items to friends, and they can go repair them for you. Or hell, you can sell your broken junk to people and they can go repair the items and keep them! The broken items are fully tradable.

This also simplifies inventory management, because the items never disappear from your inventory, they just change state, so you never have that awkward situation where you’re carrying too much junk to loot your corpse.

This approach is also a lot easier to code, and has fewer special cases… which weighed heavily in its favor when I was trying to decide what to implement.

This blog post is likely the last one that will talk about Hardcore mode for this pre-alpha, because I’ve moved on to other stuff. But we’ll re-evaluate after pre-alpha 3, and of course I’m always interested in hearing your ideas now! (Even if I don’t act on them.) And again, thanks Matt! And thank-you to several others whose names I’ve forgotten! You guys have been incredibly helpful on this.

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15 Responses to Progress Toward Pre-Alpha 3

  1. livercat says:

    1) Hardcore – you can show what percent of their current XP a player had gained while in Hardcore mode. So a high-level character who recently switched to Hardcore will be “2% Hardcore”, for example, and someone who struggled through Hardcorness for all his life will be “100% Hardcore”.
    2) “Broken” items could be perceived (and named) as something that “faded out” into the world of dead, so you don’t “repair” them, but just retrieve their “soul” (wrong word, but hopefully you get the idea). In that case “faded out bottle of water” makes sense.

  2. Rolan Storm says:

    1) models – “whoa, that how it will look like? impressive”;
    2) showing amount of xp… don’t know; how about hardcore badges? ranks of some kind; with cosmetic rewards; strolling through midcity in armor/clothing that indicates you are hardcore is probably any player of that kind wants; also cosmetic abilities that come with rank;
    3) maybe make an exception for those? potions recovered only if you go back to tombstone, otherwise they are lost; actually it is thought for all items of that sort; scrolls are torn or just gone with the wind, potions are broken, provisions are eaten by scavengers if player don’t get to his tombstone in time

  3. Rolan Storm says:

    addition about 2)

    badges can be for hardcore achievements also, not only for amount of xp gathered; killing famous monster in hardcore gives title and some kind of cosmetic reward

  4. Mouse says:

    If Hardcore winds up feeling too generous, you could still introduce permanent loss via multiple deaths. I.e. first death causes an item to be broken. Each additional death with the item still broken generates an increasing chance for the item to be destroyed.

    Dead once: A few/all items damaged and need repairs.
    Dead again: 1-2% chance per damaged item that it’s destroyed.
    Dead third time: 3-5% chance of loss.
    and so on.

    If you feel at risk of losing something spiffy, then you can store the item in bank, give it to a friend to hold, or toggle off Hardcore, then go to retrieve.

  5. Ysharros says:

    I like Mouse’s progressive ‘breakage-to-gone’ idea. I also really like the idea of being able to trade ‘broken’ stuff – it’s just the kind of activity a slacker like me who likes running around the countryside would find interesting.

    The artwork looks *awesome*.

    I’ve been following this with a great deal of interest, just not commenting much. If you build it, we will come!

  6. Ben Overmyer says:

    Great update! Thanks.

    I like both of livercat’s ideas.

  7. Zubon says:

    What livercat said about Hardcore. I feel better about the world that someone posted exactly same implementation idea before I got here.

  8. Ken says:

    *thumbs up* I can wait for pre-alpha 3 because I agree that you would take extra time to respond to the graphics complains. It seems that a lot of gamers are expecting good graphics lately. I like deeper gameplay mechanics so I would not like to see the game get diluted so I know it would take more time to satisfy everyone.

  9. Samuel says:

    You could go a step further with the broken items: Have at least one step of repair (but also multiple), and give an estimate on distance for all of them, summing up the distance between all the points

    Fatally Broken Sword
    [4 Repairs necessary. Total distance: 25km + 1km from where you are right now]

    That way, you could even add these items as loot, and have people go on quests to repair them. And the more an item breaks, the longer its chain gets? Sure, you can never completely lose your item, but you might need to spend 4 hours to repair it. Might as well replace it.

  10. Samuel says:

    Forgot to mention: I really like the idea of crafting allowing to customize appearance, but usually, one runs into balance problems where either crafting results in superior gear (and everyone only uses crafted items and the actual game becomes pointless) or crap only (where crafters can’t make a living from their garbage). Why not allow crafters to make appearance changing items without stats? You could apply them to your own armor and the only thing it does is change appearance. That way, you can keep recipes incredibly rare, or even ask for real money for some (F2P done right!).

  11. Brad says:

    The thesaurus offers up “etiolated” or “ashen” for synonyms of “deathly” if you want to avoid the words “broken” or “cursed” to for the hardcore-damage. :)

  12. Lolin says:

    I love the Rakshasa! Moo! I wanna play!

  13. Matt says:

    That’s awesome, Eric. I’m glad the idea was relatively easy to implement. I hope it works or in play testing add well as it did in development!

  14. Matt says:

    Ahh, so many typos. That’s what I get for trying to type on my phone. :-\

    “…out in playtesting as well as it did…” *shame*

  15. Timulus says:

    Just stumbled across a Wikipedia article and discovered that a Rakshasa is a mythological being in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakshasa

    Is the lore for your race going to be based on this or is it just a coincidence?