Thursday, September 13, 2012

Middle of Month 9

Hey guys.  As I mentioned in my last post a month ago, I've been really busy, but much of that is behind me.  School has claimed a few members of the team who are struggling to handle work and class loads and the Dawnshine Project at the same time.

For some reason, I've had a pretty hard time recruiting character modelers.  At least this means we have a huge collection of armor, hair, and clothing concepts built up and ready to pass off to be modeled.  That's a good thing.

The modelers and animators we do have are currently working on the cinematic.  I especially wrote the script for it to be easy to do from a technical stand point--not a lot of environmental assets needed, mostly simple walk animations and only one line needing to be lip sync animated.  And that line is two words.  I think I mentioned in the last post that Jared took the team out to Howe Park to shoot video.  Sarah played the part of Sahka.  It's useful to have live action footage to use as an animation reference.  I don't have anyone in particular in mind to voice act it.  It's all one actor: young female.

Meanwhile, as the 3d team is doing that, the concept team is working on layouts for instances.  This is kind of tough.  I mean, level design is easy work, however, we want to make them as realistic as possible.  You know how instances are either mazes with a spawn of bad guys every 40 to whatever feet, evenly spaced out or they're a twisty, one way tunnel with evenly spaced out spawns of bad guys?  Then you go through these spawns for a while, fight a boss, repeat.  Or you get to the end and fight just one boss.  Whatever it is, it's pretty stilted.  I'm not going to completely condemn this kind of level design.  I've certainly had a lot of fun in MMOs that relied on this.  But we're going to try and make our instances seem more natural.  I want players to forget they're playing a game as they peer around corners to watch patrol movements because the enemy behavior seems natural.

Speaking of that, I've been working on our AI system.  I'm not sure how the final system will end up.  I want to make our AI as complicated as possible, but we can only send so many server calls before the game is too laggy.  Still, there will be some randomization.  Let's say you're fighting 3 Neg Wath warriors.  All three might fight differently.  I remember something Jack Emmert--lead designer for City of Heroes--once said.  He said that players all claim they want challenging AI and variety, but then they all flock to fight the easiest, dumbest AI monsters in the game.  Although that might be true, I don't think players actually want boring AI even if that's what the flock to.  The bulk of players will flock to the fastest point to a ding whether it's fun or not.  If it's not fun, they'll still put some hours in, then just drop off suddenly, tell everyone how boring the game is, and never come back.  The job of a game designer is to figure out what players will flock to, then try and make that path as fun as possible.  You don't lure people with "fun."

In terms of coding, the development team is getting some momentum.  We're starting to get some systems up and working.  Hopefully by next month we have some of the basics working.