Well, it is December (in case you had not noticed) which is nearing the end of 2010. Our goals for this year were to have the new Terrain system functional to the level where the planet was created, continents formed, erosion (gravity, wind and water over time) completed, biomes generated, characters walking on the new terrain and the forest biome detailed. We have achieved these goals with the exception of the characters walking and forest detailed, but we still have a couple of weeks, so we are pushing the programming team to come as close to completing all their goals as possible before the new year arrives.
With the biome algorithms now working we are randomly generating several planets this week. The design team will then start looking at each planet to figure out which is the best planet for CoS. Since these are full Earth size planets, looking them over takes some time. We need a geographical layout that works well with the story of our war between Morphael and the Citadel, and we have a HUGE area to look over on each planet. Fortunately we have a nice tool to scroll around the worlds and zoom in here and there while we inspect the rivers, mountains, deserts, canyons, etc. on each world to see how it would break up into countries and territories.
Right now the planets look a lot like Mars (though not red). They have all the major terrain features, but no plants. The first plants will start growing in the next phase of creation started about a week or two from now.
In other areas of programming the massive Enact tool continues to grow with new features. This week we added a new tool to help the A.I. net weigh options for NPC decisions, particularly in path finding. In CoS all NPCs have goals and jobs, they are often if not always on the move doing these things. With tens of thousands of NPCs in our world, the routines for calculating paths to their next goal was a major undertaking. We have the initial system running now (so NPCs are starting to gain some intelligence). This system is functional, but will continue to be improved over time as we add threat analysis routines so that they not only decide where to go by time and distance, but by threat level as well.
Currently there are about 700 NPCs moving about in the Citadel Tier 1 area that we have had running for various testing phases while the terrain system is completed. New tools have been created recently that allow Enact to pluck any NPC out of the world into a staging area for alterations and tweaks, before being tossed back into the world to continue on their way.
In art we have been sketching concepts of the Demons. Imps and Fiends have already been modeled and animated, but we are moving up to the actual demons of that realm. (All demon kind come from another universe in our game, crossing over to feed on humans, body and soul). The concepts are coming along nicely. Initial versions were wicked looking, but not massive enough, so we are going back to the drawing board for some tweaks. Demons are the boogie men of this game, and directly confronting one in the game is generally death for a group of players, so these need to have the looks of a creature that will clean your clock.
In other areas the human forest village construction system is progressing. Each races (six) has its own style of village buildings, as well as different sets that are based on terrain biomes. Work on these will be ongoing for some time to come. The modeling of the Spirit League and Marksman league characters have been completed, but are going through the animation process before being added to the game.
In design we are continuing to work on the somewhat endless process of detailing the 1800+ abilities players can choose in CoS. Good progress was made during this period as another 400 were added. Our goal to keep every ability unique is still on target as we resist the easy way of combining things to make new abilities. For now we are still within the design goal of keeping each one focused on one thing so that no two abilities share the same element. In other words, since players can get any ability they want from any League they join, we do not want a similar ability in two Leagues, each must be unique. Of course, the Design team will take a break from abilities (yea) and take some time out for planet surveying and deliberation soon (see above).
The Design team also added a new type of game play to CoS during the past couple months, they are called League Actions. CoS has many types of game play available to the player, but in analyzing our current system we realized there was a gap that needed filling. We have what we call Quests, which are epic adventures that take weeks to complete and are like living through a series of novels. We also offer Adventures, which are things that are just happening in the world each day (since time moves forward in CoS). These Adventures can often be solved in short order (though they can be up to an hour in long cases). They are things like a town is under siege by a raiding party, or a village has been taken over by doppelgangers and are capturing people who pass through. Players just happen upon these while out doing other things and may deal with the situation as they decide. What we needed was something in between these shorter Adventures and these epic Quests. We came up with League Actions. These are war efforts that you may take on for your current League, and are similar to our Quests, but much shorter. These are things that you can do in approximately two hours of play (an average evening in the game). They are more involved than simple Adventures, but shorter than Quests.
Our Level Design team has been hard at work on NPCs, creating and adding them into the world as well as working on the A.I. net to control and assist the NPCs in their movement and lives. This work is ongoing and will probably never end (even after the game is released).
The Writing team is working on League Actions (see above). This is a new area of game play development that has required some new writing techniques and systems, so this has been a focus of a portion of the writing team recently. Other writers remain on Quest development as well.
CoS is still not ready for testing, but the progress on the new Terrain system is basically on track, and once that reaches a sufficient quality we can start placing everything in to the Reflected worlds. Our goal is to have some areas capable of test play early in 2011. Do not read Beta testing when we say this, we only mean that we are going to have some early Reflected World game play testing at that time, beta will still be some time off from there since that requires the whole world, not just some limited areas. However, this will be a major milestone in the construction progress of Citadel of Sorcery.
Finally, a Happy Holidays to all of you who follow the development of this game. Keep the faith, our progress may at times seem slow, but it is steady and with most of our technological hurdles behind us, we are down to just a lot of game construction to go. This means that this game has long past the chance of not being completed and it is only a matter of being patient before you can help us test and then play in this new kind of MMO game. We will leave you with the Holiday promise; it has been a long time since we put out new screenshots of the game, but you will not have to wait too much longer. We wanted to show a VAST improvement to the world when we showed it again (since the very early prototype shots). When the first Biome (forest) is detailed, we will release new screenshots for all you loyal fans.
Once again, Happy Holidays from the entire team at MMO Magic, Inc.