Tis the season… to wait.
Our last couple months have been taken up with a big push to get the last major portions of R&D, engine development and Tool creation to a point where there was little risk to any publisher looking at a ground breaking game like Citadel of Sorcery. This also involved building a demo of the game play. This is because we have been talking to various publishers and arranging demonstrations for the upcoming weeks. However, we have now reached the season of holidays, and that makes scheduling meetings just that much more difficult. To avoid all the holiday mania, we are now scheduling our future (or ongoing) meetings in January and February. Unfortunately, this pushes out any news of actually signing with one of these publishers until that period, but due to the holidays, it just cannot be helped.
As for the development of the game, lots of progress has been made! The single biggest area of visual improvement has been the Level Designers making use of the A.I. net. The world is very much alive now with NPCs living their lives, going to work, getting off, going home for dinner, going out to on the town for fun, etc. At night they get in bed and go to sleep, sit down the next morning for breakfast, etc. The complexity of a fully dynamic NPC population doing what they want when they want, has, of course, come with bugs. Toward this end NPC monitoring and reporting systems have been added that log any abnormalities, and allow a Level Designer to see exactly which NPC, where, and in what state, choose what action to take that was questionable. A simple double click on the issue and it takes the L.D. right to the source of the trouble in the world. This has allowed us to cut the errors in the Citadel (where we are testing all these systems) down from hundreds to (as of this morning, zero). Every NPC (hundreds of them) is now working quite well, and this system will allows us to iron out any issues with future NPC A.I. populations in newly developed areas, quickly, and with a minimal of fuss.
Our Subject selection system is coming along, this is the system that allows PCs to interact and talk with NPCs. Our system is a Subject system of implied PC questions and actions based on what the NPC says. The idea behind the system is to let player get to the information they need quickly, concisely and in the shortest time possible, with the least reading possible, yet make it so that what the player chooses in the conversation affects what happens to this NPC with consequences to the development of the story and reactions in the world. Whew… yes, just that.
For the player it is actually quite simple and straight forward. Green Subjects will still be available after choosing something else, Blue Subjects come in groups that when you pick one of that group, you know you will NOT get a chance at the others. Simple example: You can threaten, bribe or politely ask for your information. These three choices are blue and in one grouping. Therefore, once you do one, you will not be able to choose one of the other two, so you end up having to live with the consequences of your actions. You cannot go through the conversation and make a different choice. This system is basically working, and under testing right now, and is one of several important systems for the Stories of the game (Stories include: Quests, Missions, Adventures, etc).
The art team has been busy with bug fixes and general improvements for the demo, but with that now mostly finished, is moving onto more art creation for the Reflected Worlds. With literally thousands of castles, towers, villages, towns, dungeons, forts, palaces, fortresses, ruins, etc., their work is cut out for them and this work will be ongoing even after the game releases. Our world is massive in all senses of the word, it is so large that there will be places no human has seen years after the game has been released, so there is always room for more development.
Design is still slogging through making Abilities, though we take time off now and then from that to work on other areas. With 1890 primary Abilities (more if you include our Uber Abilities), this is a mountain of work that will also not be completely done until nearly release time. It is important work though, and we do not take it lightly. Our design goal is to make every Ability something you would want, though getting them all is (nearly) impossible, and getting them all to a powerful level would be impossible. We feel that most players will likely use about 50 total, and only really seriously develop 20 to 30 of those. This will allow a VAST difference in players, with countless different kinds of player made classes based off of unique combinations of Abilities and levels of their development. Work goes on.
In Writing we have continued to chip away at the mountain of work. With each Quest/Mission being the equivalent of a novel or multi-series of novels, each one takes a LONG time to write, but our writers are working diligently so that you players will have so much content at launch that you will not have to repeat any quest prior to reaching the grand climax of the Epic Story (several years down the line for an average player). But… let us be clear, even if you were a power gamer, and you live in your basement, playing this game 24 hours a day, with pizzas slipped under the door at various intervals, and you somehow managed to plow through all of the quests in the game in a few months… the quests are designed to be different for each player and PC, making any quest replayed so different from the previous time that it might as well be another quest. The replay ability of our system is extraordinary, but I digress.
Now that the LDs have the A.I. net running fairly smoothly in the Citadel, we are planning on moving into some game play creation within the Reflected Worlds. Combat is still not possible, as this is actually one of the latter systems we will deal with in programming. The reason for this is simply that our NPC combat A.I. is going to take a lot of work since they will use advance tactics, taking terrain into account, taking player actions into account and using group tactics against players (NPCs cooperating with other NPCs to beat you). These tactics are based off of their intelligence level (so not all of them will clean your clock) and difficulty level advances as intelligence increases, which is tied to the advancement of the player). So while this is being developed LDs will focus on other kinds of game play elements. With our Stories being much deeper and more interesting than just hack and slash, there is a lot to develop and test prior to getting combat running. And no, do not worry, there will be LOTs of combat it the game, it just is not ALL there is to a quest). We will talk more about combat progress as it develops in the future, stay tuned.
So there you have it, progress, as always, continues. We had hoped to have some more definitive news on the publishing front, but since the holidays are in now getting in the way of our meetings, this will have to wait for January/February. All we can tell you is that there are several interested parties at this point, some of whom we have had several talks with so far. They recognize how important and extraordinary this game is, and how much it will impact the MMO market with a depth of game play unseen in MMO games at this time. CoS is a game where players will find a home, and become part of a long term community. They will experience a constantly changing world, where players have personal adventures that differ from every other player. The game community will love it, and happy players make for happy publishers.
We will keep you posted about progress as it happens on all fronts.
Next up: the MMO Magic Holiday party (a yearly event, where the team gets to take off a day from work, and actually play a special event in the game world.) What happens in the game is always a secret from the main team, so you will have to wait with them and hear about it afterwards. Last year the staff divided into race based groups (Team Tyven won, but there was Team Gargoyle and Team Jenemos and Team Human). They discovered the new sewer system running under the city, with all kinds of clues, riddles, and secret compartments. There was spying involved as secret bases were uncovered, things stolen, people sneaking about, and lots of fun was had by all. Each of these holiday party games generally progresses some part of the actual game forward, so someday you will get to see those same sewers and have fun in the maze of tunnels and passages, black markets, secret league location, etc. that are down there. As for what we are adding to the game for the party this year… we will tell you later, and perhaps show some screenshots ;)