End of the year briefing, 2013
November 28, 2013
It is past time for a development update on Citadel of Sorcery. We had hoped to give you some really good news, and delayed this briefing waiting on it, but we can’t push it off any further, so here goes.
We have tried to be as honest as possible with these briefings through the long construction of this massive title, and will continue to do so. Part of that is explaining the ups and the downs of developing a ground breaking title that uses brand new technology. In our last briefing we noted that we thought we were six weeks or so away from integrating a lot of systems together that we have worked on to get our new terrain system fully functional for the Publisher Demo we are building. We had a lot of systems working individually, but needed to get all of them integrated together.
As I mentioned in the last Dev Briefing, some of these systems were: gravity erosion, wind erosion, water erosion, glacier erosion, growing grass, ground foliage, unique tree and bush creation, foliage dispersal, soil typing, LOD systems, polygon in foreground to point cloud in background systems with real time transitions, terrain shadows with their own full LOD systems, static and dynamic objects placement in the new terrain, and all of this on a full planet scale world. Easy right?
Each of these systems was working already on its own, and in our optimistic view, they should then work together. Not so fast, Einstein. Six weeks turned into three months, as we kept trying to get the bugs out after attempting to integrate these various systems. We needed these routines to play nicely together, but after those three months we were still having difficulties getting these systems to integrate. That put us well into September.
Finally, we faced a grim reality; it was not going to work, at least, not on the current foundation. We bit the bullet, and went in to the main engine to do a complete refactoring of the code. The idea was to rebuild the foundation so that it was robust enough to handle all these systems at once.
If you do not know what 'refactoring' means, here is the Wikipedia definition:
Code refactoring is a "disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior", undertaken in order to improve some of the nonfunctional attributes of the software.
The time we had to take to do this caused a backlash, without all these systems working together and ready for prime time; we could not do the Publisher Demos, worse we were already into September. Once we got into late October we decided that the best time to do Publisher Demos was over, we would be entering the Holiday Season. We quit trying to setup meetings, and have had to push off the dates for that until after the Holidays, so mid January or February now.
So that was the Down side, now for the Up. The refactoring is completed, and that new foundation seems to be working quite well. This has cleared up a LOT of bugs that were plaguing us like a locust swarm. Load times are better, visual errors are gone (things like invisible models, issues with point lights on transparencies, a hitch in the animation system, static build limitations, and lots of other little things). Most importantly the integration of all those other systems is back on the plate.
However, this integration is still underway, with some weeks yet to go (so though we won’t be showing the demo in the Holiday season, we will be working hard ourselves to get it ready for showing.)
As we said, ups and downs.
While this was going on, we did not stand still. Other departments were continuing to progress the game. The Art Department put out a lot of great models for the world, including hundreds of new models for the dungeon sets. These are dynamic models, meaning all the stuff that goes into a dungeon, from furniture in various states of decay, to gooey bits of bodies. We have also started on some new monsters, and started the development of the finished version of our Demons. Since demons are the third leg on our world power tripod, it was important to make them horrifying, powerful, and deadly looking monsters. Unless there are a lot of you, at high levels, you will want to run from a demon, trust me. Think of them as a Rhino mixed with a Bengal Tiger on Angel Dust, and yourself as a tasty meal.
In Level Design we are working with the new dungeon modular system to build our demo dungeon, and then placing all the hundreds of new dynamic objects for those systems. We are also shoring up the A.I. net in the Citadel, and working on the human village we are using for some of the game play demo. Finally, we are getting a new A.I. net built into the demo dungeon to control monsters properly.
In writing, among other work, our author has finished up the first draft of the first book in the Citadel of Sorcery book series. The idea of this series is to have it release at Alpha, so that future players can read the back story of the world in a novel setting. This series of novels will tell the story of this world, right up to the point where the player begins. The players will then continue the story, which will continue to unfold as time move forward in the game, but it will be colored by what players do. Now, you do not have to read the series to enjoy the game, but it will add a LOT of flavor to a story that will matter to you as a player, since that story will continue to evolve as you become part of the next ‘book’ in that series, this one done in the game.
So, for now, we are back to working on integrating a lot of previous work, and still getting ready for demos early next year (just a couple months from now). The last four months our programming team was caught in a whirlpool, going around and around, still working hard, but not seeming to go anywhere, but now that the refactoring is over we are back into the swift flow of the river, headed downstream again.
We would like to thank those that have joined our Patron Team by donating through our website system. We have been giving the higher levels monthly briefings (which go into far more detail, and we show them things we will show the rest of you later on). We have even let them go into the game world and run around for a few hours in the Citadel. For Patrons at a lower donation level, we have been running webcast briefings on parts of the game. In fact, next Saturday there is a webcast coming up on Warfare and Incursions, two of the primary game play types in our Community Reflected Worlds.
If you do join the Patron team and reach these either of these levels of donation, all the previous Dev Briefings and Webcast recordings are available to watch, approximately 15 hours of video and audio information so far.
Of course, all of this will eventually be available to everyone, but if you want to know more about the game now, and get to see things, then come help us make the game by joining our Patron team!