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Afternoon Update – Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Folks,

Last week ended well for CSE, as we had a very successful “24 hours of Alpha” test, and met our previous Stretch Goal. The former saw the end of the obnoxious “grey world” bug, and the usual stability from the server. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of new and interesting code and/or content to test, but that will be changing over the next few weeks.

We’re thrilled with the support that our Backers have shown us by helping us meet that Stretch Goal. Things are moving along very nicely on the hiring front, but we don’t have anything to report yet. It is likely that will be changing soon…

As for the new Stretch Goal, I talked a little about what might make this pet-focused class a bit different than any other pet class I’ve experienced in an MMORPG, and as usual with me, what makes it so different is a mixture of evolutionary, revolutionary, and maybe some BSC components. Of course, this class will make its appearance in all three Realms, and each Realm’s version will be a bit different from the other two Realms.

Before going any further, let’s examine what I mean by a pet-focused class, and how it is different from a traditional flesh-and-bone pet. Well, spirits can fly/float over the ground and move through objects. Pathing, one of the banes of so many pet-based classes, would no longer be a major issue. Now, does this mean that pets can fly through walls? Yes and no. Line-of-sight (LoS) issues are a common issue in a number of games, and allowing all pets to be able fly through all walls would make those walls less useful, of course. OTOH, certain pets, just like certain classes that can fly through walls using the Veil, is an entirely different matter. However, since the vast majority of the game’s action will not take place in and/around walls, even if we were to allow spirits to do that, it wouldn’t be a game-breaking decision. Then again, having spirits fly though a battlefield directly towards their target should work out very well. Since a pet-focused class would have paths, just like we have talked about for the Drengr, having paths (and pets) that specialize in different types of attacks also would work out well.

Treating some of them as spells also means that we can also leverage our ability tech to add them to the game at a very low programming cost. This is one of the reasons that we set the Stretch Goal amount at a lower number than people might have expected. While we will have to add some new behaviors for these spirits (more on this later), the majority of their behaviors are already coded or will need to be for another part of the game, so it’s a win-win.

Using spirits will also allow us to use less the usual amount of “tris” that go into making pets. As a jumping off point, let’s use this illustration that Sandra did for one of her spirits.

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As you can see from the illustration, the spirit is depicted as being less substantial than the player. Thus, his type of pet will require less rendering time from the engine than would a typical pet. And depending on the pet’s abilities, it is reasonable to assume that the pet will have the same basic impact on the renderer as would a spell cast by a magic using class. This is not accidental, and is illustrative of one of the reasons we believe that we are comfortable saying that a pet-focused class will be confirmed for the game post-launch.

Diving a little deeper into what makes this class special: this is a pet-focused class, and not a pet class that is “fire and forget” pet, or a class that needs to use its pet and other attacks to be successful on the battlefield. Thus, a hunter-type class where the player releases the pet at its target while the hunter sits back and does nothing, fires arrows, has a cappuccino, etc. is not the point here. We don’t want this class to be that simple to play. How would this work? Well, one thing we are looking at is the use of portals to more actively engage the player in gameplay. In the simplified version displayed below, the player sets up a series of portals that the pet will have to move through in order to attack its target.

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For fans of the X-Men movies, you might want to think about how Blink’s powers were used in the latest movie (X-Men: Days of Future Past).

Of course, portals do not have to look like the ones in the above illustration. They can come in all different shapes, sizes and abilities. Here are some quick concepts for a variety of different portals. We hope to design the system so that players will be able to gain important clues about the attack that is coming their way based on the portal that has been summoned by the opposing member of the class. Here are some very rough examples of how different we want portals to be from each other.

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And while “portal play” has the potential to be cool and challenging, it isn’t the only thing we are thinking about that differentiates this class from most other pet-centric classes. While not as unique as portals, we have some interesting ideas on how to use these pets in everything from using them as turrets, in helping crafters find things, to ritual spells, etc. In the illustration below, you’ll see how the same spirit can be combined with other components to create a unique-looking and functioning pet.

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As our long-time Backers know, we’ve talked about how we could use pets as messengers, scouts, etc. and here is an example of how a more common hunter-type pet could be transformed with magic into something entirely different. Once again, we’d leverage the same tech/art that is used within the game to then take it to an entirely different level. For example, the normally peaceful raven could be used here to create a fire-raven that could be used to attack players, structures, etc. Other ravens could be used to spread disease, darkness, etc. By letting your imagination wander a bit, you can see how spirits could play a very important role in RvR, whether in small-group or large-scale combat.

More than just ravens can be used by this class of course, especially when it comes to sieges. After all, we have already confirmed that siege engines are not the only way buildings can be attacked by other players. So, why would we limit the ability to be useful in a siege to only one class? We wouldn’t and we will be looking at how to make this class useful in non-traditional ways. And, of course, group and ritual casting is already confirmed for mages…

Here’s another piece of art showing a TDD pet, a stag, which appears more spell than pet. How would you like to see this flying across the screen at you?

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These spirits would use the same base spell effect that can be easily tweaked by the components used to summon it. And of course, different Realms would have different spirits associated with them.
In terms of using spirits as turrets: I believe these pets can take on a role that is a bit more interesting than turrets. These would include being used to lay traps for incoming players prior to a keep siege (very long duration spells), protecting “clothies” and of course, within The Depths™. We need to be very careful with this mechanic because, well, it would be easy to abuse as has happened in other games that use turrets, pet-based or not.

One of the things we are also thinking about with these creatures is how they will interact with the environment around them. Will some of them be more powerful at night? During storms? One thing we know for sure is that these spirits will be part of the A.I.R. system so that players will be able to interact with them through the use of their own abilities whether you consider these pets to be more like spells or NPCs. So, this would mean that you not only can weaken/destroy these pets and portals but also that members of your Realm can also help power them up.

As to where these pets will come from, at first they will be treated as spell components, but depending on how things go with their design, we could expand their concept considerably. While we don’t want to make this a Pokemon game, we could add a capture/leveling system for these spirits that would mirror the component system that we are currently using. Given that these spirits will be born from “normal” NPCs and/or spirits of the dead, capturing them will not even lightly tread on the “no PvE leveling” principle of the game, but will allow for a fun, interesting, and strategic game, where the pets that a player chooses to align with have a major impact on their gameplay. However, this would require additional time/effort on our end, so as usual, we’ll start with the simpler system and then build upon that going forward.

Okay, that’s enough rambling from me regarding the addition of a pet-focused class for this game. I hope you are all as excited as I am about the possibilities with these very interesting creatures. Lots of other things are going on here at CSE, so here’s a quick update on them as well!
As per above, programmer interviews are continuing with several very promising candidates. Hopefully we’ll have something more definite to say in the coming weeks but for the first time in a long time, we’re starting to feel optimistic about these candidates. We have added a senior part-time coder who is working for us on a short-term, contract basis, and we should be seeing the results of his work before too long. Our current art intern is working with our minimalist tool set and the world should soon start to be filled with his work product before the end of the month.

By the end of next week, our “User Stories” update system will be ready for its first pass on our website. We think that this will be a fun and informative way for us to keep the lines of communication open with our Backers. It will include a way for anybody who wants to gain a whole lot of insight into what we are currently working on as well as what we will be working on over the next few months. It is an interesting way of doing things and we’ll just have to see how it works out.

As so often is the case, here’s a fun way to end this update, Sandra created some new duck images for the Stretch Goals that didn’t have any, so head over to the Stretch Goal page on our website and see some new and very cool duck illustrations (my favorite, not surprisingly, is from The Depths).

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-Mark

P.S. Here’s two other pieces of spirit-related artwork from Sandra and Michelle. The first shows a player with a spirit that was captured in The Depths.

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Here’s an illustration of some wolf spirits being summoned by a caster.

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BTW, we hope to find the time in Michelle’s busy schedule to make this an iconic illustration for our game.