Birth of Shadows will be released on December 21st, 2007. I pushed it back 3 weeks to make sure there is enough time to polish the campaign content. I have almost all of the coding done now, so it’s just a matter of finishing the content and polishing everything. I’ll be updating the screenshots in the near future to reflect the GUI improvements. I’m still planning to create a movie clip for the game. Obviously, my focus right now is on getting the game completed.
Archive for the ‘Birth of Shadows’ Category
I sent out the (internal) release for the Beta 2 milestone last night. It was the last closed release for Birth of Shadows. In about 1 week, I will have a Beta version of the demo available for testing. The main goal of the demo testing will be to gain feedback on bugs, difficulty, content, and Vista compatibility.
I will be working on proper Vista support this coming week. It is the last major task before final release, not including the remaining content. I don’t have Vista, so I am just going to try and make the necessary changes, which mostly involve saving user content in the recommended folders. I use a few REG keys that need to be changed too. That should eliminate the legacy mode that is currently required for my game.
The other items are mostly minor… stuff like adding more autosave slots. I think I am going to just add the extra editor features during an update. I want to get the game out on time and people will be busy playing the game before wanting to create new content. I should be able to get the update out before it is an issue.
The game itself is working very well. There are no known bugs at this time. I just got done playing a network game with a friend. We were playing non-stop for the past 5 hours. Multiplayer games are such a blast. Now that I have portals in place, it’s not a big deal if you keep dying. We just kill stuff up to the destination portal, activate it, then go try strongholds and bosses in the area. If (when) we die, we can just take the source portal that will be typically near the spawn point. This lets players try out different strategies without becoming frustrated, while preventing “zerging”. Good fun
I will try to get the final task list posted in the public forum soon. I also want to get that movie created. I need to figure out how the recording application works. Otherwise, I could have taken some cool movie clips tonight. In addition, I want to comment on another game feature in depth some time this week. I haven’t decided what it will be yet. Check back later if you want to find out
I haven’t really explained how enemy bosses work in Birth of Shadows. I did mention that they are similar to strongholds. I call them both enemy sources since they spawn waves of creatures. In fact, they both inherit the same C++ base class, using multiple inheritance since one is an enemy mob and the other is an immobile entity.
The main difference between the two enemy source types is that the enemy boss is able to move and therefore attack players the entire fight. You can avoid the strongholds by keeping out of range. Although, some creatures have a large range and use the strongholds as a defensive position. This means your summoned pet may get hit while attacking the creature.
Also, the enemy bosses are all immune to fear and snare, regardless of “creature race” type. This adds another dimension to the fight. For instance, minotaurs aren’t normally immune to fear, so you can mez them, which makes the fight much more manageable. The minotaur boss is able to use its rage ability during the entire fight, which forces players to change tactics. For example, players would need to make sure that the minotaur boss isn’t near any mezzed enemies, so positioning is crucial.
In addition, enemy bosses are immune to damage until all of its guards are slain. Players will need to be careful that they don’t add too much rage to the boss during the fight. They also need to make extensive use of their summoned pet to absorb the large amount of damage. This makes the fight pretty chaotic since you must defeat the waves as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, each boss has a special item that greatly helps mitigate its damage (about 50 percent). This provides an opportunity to quest for the item. Custom boards could be mean and just force players to defeat the boss without it. Players don’t actually level up against the bosses. You basically fight them at full strength every time. Instead, you must become stronger versus their guardians. This design makes the fights flexible so the level of the event can be changed as desired while the boss remains relatively constant.
Finally, enemy bosses are present both in the campaign and skirmish games. However, the final boss is only available for the campaign. The bosses are very challenging and a lot of fun to fight in multiplayer games. I got to try the slime boss a few nights ago with a friend. We found ourselves constantly retreating as we faught each new wave. Eventually, we defeated all the waves and finished the boss. It was definitely a different experience than the strongholds, which was my goal.
So, that’s my enemy boss design. I left out some details, but you can see them in action when I release the game
I uploaded the IGF update around 8am this morning. I stayed up all night to get it ready. I ran into a few bugs that I wasn’t expecting. I also made the second campaign board way too hard, which forced me to modify it about 10 times. It’s still probably too hard, but at least they won’t be bored
I’ll get the gameplay balanced in about a week when I start the final phase of Beta. I pretty much know exactly what to ask the testers now. Most of the feedback will involve the difficulty of the game. I also want to know if anything is confusing. I think I did a good job of introducing new things at a reasonable pace. Up until now, most of the testers have been “gamers” that play RPGs. I will make sure to get some casual game testers to play it next.
Over the remaining weeks, I will try to post on my blog more frequently to update the progress. I would also like to reveal various game features in more depth. If I have time, I’ll try to post about something new every week. For now, I am going to go get some rest before my eyeballs fall out
I’m trying to finish the new dialog for the second campaign area by tonight. It takes a pretty long time to create dialog for NPCs. I want the dialog to sound interesting and stay within the theme. I also don’t have a script, so I have to come up with the story details as I create the new boards.
I really like how the second area is shaping-up. There’s a lot of different stuff to do, and the story starts to gain momentum. I have several main goals for the board and they are important to the story. I’m anxious to finish the board so I can play it. I think it will be a lot of fun.
I will have the IGF update uploaded before Saturday… maybe the judges will be able to check it out over the weekend. Then, I will immediately work on getting the open Beta version ready. I expect to spend a little over a week on that process. If possible, I will get a movie recorded before I finally show my game to the public. By the way, the open Beta release will not be shown on my site. I will get feedback from another forum.
That gives me about 3 weeks to finish up the game content. It should be enough time. It’s usually not a good idea to give a precise date, but the November 30th release still looks good.
I want to give a quick update on Birth of Shadows to those wondering about its progress. I am currently finishing an update of the Beta version that I will submit to the IGF competition. I don’t know if the judges will have a chance to look at it, but the update will provide some significant additional content. I also added portals and enemy bosses to the game.
In the near future, I will begin to list the exact items I am working on until the release. I also want to add a movie to show the multiplayer game. In particular, I want to show a few people attempting to defeat a stronghold. I hope to convey how players must work together to take on some of the challenges. It will also help show the multiplayer component of the game, which won’t be available in the demo.
I think I am on schedule to deliver Birth of Shadows by November 30th, 2007. I’ll have to move a few “wish list” items to the first update. However, I expect to have all main features and content ready in time. I am focusing on polishing the campaign content and gameplay. I can continue to improve the other parts of the game as I update it. I will give some more specifics within a few days.
Last night I submitted the Beta version for Birth of Shadows to the IGF competition. I guess I cut it a bit close, uploading the release about 1 hour before the deadline
I think I’ve provided a version of the game that is fun and contains enough polish to show its potential. I got a lot done between Beta releases. The first board is now finished. In addition, NPCs and strongholds are all in game. The net games I played during the week helped a lot. We caught a few nasty bugs and I made some gameplay tweaks too.
The multiplayer games also provided a chance to try out different strategies with encounters. I’m really happy with the stronghold design. They can be configured in many ways that require different strategies. At times, I felt like I was back in EQ coming up with strats to beat an encounter. Sometimes we failed 4-5 attempts in a row, before finally coming up with a good strat and executing it for a victory. It was a lot of fun
Next, I need to finish up the remaining major features and get all of the art assets in game. I still need to add the “boss” creatures and finish the portals. The bosses will be similar to strongholds, but there will be some additional tactics required. I may also spawn creatures indefinitely until the boss is defeated. I’m not sure yet.
Portals will enable players to travel between campaign boards. They will also speed up travel within a board. Players will need to unlock the destination portal and optionally obtain a required item for the source portal. This mechanism will be important for multiplayer games. I may even allow players to respawn near an unlocked portal.
I need to finish the file design so campaign boards will work beyond the first. I have most of the design implemented. I’m hoping to provide an IGF update in about 3 weeks that allows the judges to continue from their current progress. I tried to think ahead and ensure the file design was in a state that would work for that goal.
The user interface needs some more work for the game setup as well as a few other places like the editor and character window. I would like to display more player stats, especially for the items you gain. I hope to finally add the cinematic intro in the near future. The GUI could use some more polish too.
Finally, I just need to finish the game. I have to add all the quests, boards, NPC dialog, etc. I have most of the major quests and lore already defined. It’s a matter of setting aside the time to add the data.
Anyway, hopefully the IGF judges like my game
Today I released the (closed) Beta version for Birth of Shadows to begin testing. I improved the game in many areas since the Alpha version. For instance, I figured out a way to implement destructible items without any noticeable limitations. It adds another dimension to the game and I’m really happy it worked-out. It did take longer than expected, though. In fact, I had to skip a few other things for this release such as the cinematic intro. I’ll have to push hard these next 10 days to get as much done as possible before the IGF deadline so I provide a good experience for the judges.
I think I’m in pretty good shape for it, even with just a Beta release. I played through the first board a little while ago and had a blast. It’s easy to forget why your game is fun when all you do is work on technical stuff for it. I often wish I could just focus more on the game itself, but that’s what I get for wanting to do everything from scratch :) Some day I hope to have a mostly data-driven game engine. Until then, I will have to grind it out.
As for the image above, it is from the game editor. It was reduced in size and cropped to get rid of the editor GUI. I wanted to provide a “lit” image to show some of the new scenery assets. If that board was shown from a running game, the “lit” part would surround players. The rest of the screen would be covered by a veil to indicate “fog-of-war.” I will get some more screenshots uploaded when I update the web site in the near future.
I’m exhausted, so I’ll post more info after the net game tomorrow night
The new web site is now up. I think it looks much more professional than my previous one. I tried to add as much info for Birth of Shadows as I can at this stage. The screenshots page will soon have some images of the Alpha version. Mark has a lot of the core scenery designed. We just need to work through the process as we see what looks good in game.
I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but BoS will have building scenery in addition to outdoor scenery. For instance, there will be a variety of wall segments and furniture that can be used to build houses. Of course, you can then create towns and possibly really big structures such as castles, complete with strongholds. I’m even trying to add some destructable items, although they might only be present in the campaign game. It will depend on how the design looks when completed.
I envision a scenario such as a haunted house guarded by wraiths. Once you defeat them, you notice a crumbling wall and destroy it. Then, you go through a secret passage to an open outdoor area, guarded by various creatures. You manage to defeat them and then loot a treasure chest for your reward. You could possibly also gain an item required for a quest, which will trigger more events. I think that kind of stuff will be fun.
The previous 2 weeks since Alpha have been a bit more relaxed. I didn’t want to get burned-out from working too hard, so I decided to work on a bunch of little things. For example, I made a lot of tweaks to the interface, especially for the editor. I added the ability to “inject” music so that I can play certain themed-tracks. My intro story now has a creepy music track to go with it. The cinematic view port is in place too. Hopefully, I can get the basic animations added this week.
The bulk of my work this week will involve modifications to my file design for the campaign game. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my campaign game needs to save progress across multiple boards. This includes saving the state of each board so the world is persistent. In addition, I need to add portals so players can travel between boards. After that, I need to work on the visual effects, further improve the interface, and re-design the first campaign board.
I already started picking up the pace again. I’ll probably continue all the way until the end of September when I need to submit “Birth of Shadows” to the IGF competition. I also need to meet my goals for the (closed) Beta milestone, which is in less than 3 weeks. So yah… I’ll be busy :) As soon as I get some screenshots I will put them up on the site. I’ll probably post about it here too.
It’s been a grueling 2 weeks, but I survived. I worked until 8am every “day” for the previous week, with a nice 35 hour push before releasing the Alpha version to be privately tested. Even though it’s pretty rough to work that many hours, I find that I get so much done when I really push hard. Plus, it gives me an excuse to drink an unhealthy amount of coffee
So what exactly did I get done these past 2 weeks? Well, the biggest accomplishment was that I finished the remaining items required to make “Birth of Shadows” feel like a game. I’m talking about things like an intro story, relevant quests that have an impact on your character, progression of new abilities from completing those quests, dialog with NPCs, etc.
I had to finish a lot of code to implement those features. The abilities needed a way to enable/disable them according to quest progress. I had to add some code to trigger various dialog and new abilities. I needed a way to display the intro story, with the option to skip it. Same thing with NPC dialog, which then needed to still trigger various events. I need to tweak it a bit, but it works as intended. I think the intro/ability quests flow pretty nicely even for an Alpha release. It’s fun to finally have concrete goals in game too.
I finished up most of the code for the skirmish/multiplayer games too. Players can choose their character model (gender) and their progress is now saved correctly. In fact, I came up with a design to create a persistent game. The saved games hold up to 50 players and match the data according to name. So, a group of friends (perhaps from an MMORPG guild) could play together at different times, working towards the same goals. That same saved file could even be played offline by the host and then used later to continue with the data for other players in tact. Note: the game is limited to 6 players active at the same time.
I finished up a lot of other tweaks and fixes, but that’s the major stuff. My next goal is to polish up some of the Alpha version. I need to use a slightly different file design for the campaign game so progress is stored across multiple boards. I need to add the cinematic for the intro story. The interface needs some improvements too. I have a pretty well-defined taks list, which should be manageable, though I expect to put in some monster hours towards the end.
I am going to finally put some screenshots up very soon. I now have the terrain as well as all animations in game. The ability icons for players has been completed too. I’d like to get some of the new scenery in game to give a more accurate idea. I’d also like to get my new web site up, but if it isn’t done in 1-2 weeks, I will start putting screenshots into my blog.