It is the end of April, so we better post a new report before people think we have gone on vacation or something. All is well in the development of Citadel of Sorcery! First off, we brought in two new Business Developers. One has been the CEO of both a Game Development company making MMOs, and also CEO at a publishing company for online games. He is very well connected, especially in Europe and Russia (which are his main areas for business development for CoS). The other has also been CEO of both game and publishing companies, for over twenty years, and knows pretty much everyone. His main focus will be U.S. publishers. Meetings continue, interest is good, but this is a special game, and requires the right publisher, one who understands the huge potential in something this new and innovative. With our two additions to the business development team, we are sure we will find the right publisher soon.
The team has not been idle while we work on business development. There has been a lot of work done on the terrain system as we get that unique piece of technology tweaked and working correctly within our game world. Last blog we mentioned work on the LOD systems, this has continued, and taken several months to get right, but it is close to completion now. We added a new translucency system, to help improve frame rate, and that did achieve its goal, but added a few new bugs to the system, which we are trying to iron out. At one point some door way portals suddenly looked like the old Poltergeist movie, when the little girl was sitting in front of the static TV screen. These issues will swiftly be resolved. In Tools we have continued to add to the Enact system, this month we have improved the Event system with more features critical to adding more of the designed game play of CoS. Since our game is a reactive world, where events and decisions change everything, this is a critical system to achieving our game play goals, and it is swiftly reaching some of its most important potential. The Level Design team has been having some fun using the new features, getting them tested and ready for use in Quests.
The art department has been working on several areas. Under the Citadel there is a massive sewer system, and that system leads to several important locations. Two of these are the Black Market and the Shadow League. Both of these are large areas, particularly the Black Market. In CoS, since time matters, things are more logical in a lot of ways. For example, shops close at night. This does not sound earth shaking, true, but it is important in that it is just one more example of a living world. However, what happens if a player wants to shop for that new shiny magic sword, and the shops are closed? Well, we do not like making players wait, so we have the Black Market. When the shops close at night, and those NPCs go home, or go out on the town for fun, etc., down in the sewers NPCs gather to open temporary untaxed selling stations to offer items of various natures. This is the Black Market, and it only exists at night. This is very large and interesting place. The central sewer hub is the heart of it, though it is much larger than that, virtually a small city in itself. Artists have been working on it, and we expect the models and art for this to be completed in the next three weeks. The Shadow League is the fifth and final League to be built, and this one is underground. By night there is a secret entrance, but by day you have to approach it via the sewers. This is an unofficial league, where skills in things like stealth and information gathering, psionics, etc. are taught under the constant threat of the Eyes of Darkness finding out. Being underground this league does not have an exterior structure, so we made sure the interior was special, since players will spend a lot of time there if they join that League (and most will at some point). Other art being worked on are things like village objects, and a wooden fort system for the Reflected Worlds.
Level Design has kept working on NPC control, and testing new features of the Enact Tool set (see above). We are poised to expand their work load significantly as some critical new features will open up a lot more game play possibilities in their construction set.
Writers continue working on new Quests and League Actions. We are thinking of adding a new writing tool that allows us to more easily visually represent all of the twists and turns, choices and consequences. Right now our writers have to use a flowchart program to visualize the quest, and then a document to describe each element (hundreds per quest). We can easily tell you that there are no deeper quests out there, with more variance and change. Each quest could be an entire RPG game. This makes for a lot of writing work, and by switching to a system that integrates the text, maps, and flow of each quest in one tool, we think we can improve the efficiency in writing more quests, and the speed in which the Level Design department can construct them.
In the Game Design department, we have spent a lot of time just shoring up smaller details of the design, and this continues. Right now, for example, we are looking at one of the tutorial portions of the game. CoS has some very new and different kinds of game play, and so we have to teach players how to get the most out of their new choices and options. However, we do not want to bore them with long tutorials. It was a conundrum on what to do. We decided (some time ago) to have four separate tutorials. This way players may skip any one of them if they know that information, without skipping stuff they need. The first tutorial gives you instruction on basic control of your character. This one is easily skipped if they are a long time gamer. The second details some of how our very unique User Interface works, and introduces new kinds of health/magic systems. This tutorial can also be easily skipped, but players can come back at any time and get this instruction. Thirdly, players go to a ruin outside of the Citadel where they are taught the ten starting Abilities that all players receive. This is done through a small quest, which also teaches them how our quests work. We do not recommend that any player skip this third tutorial, since almost everything in it is new, even to a long time game player. This tutorial can be done together by a group of players. Still, if they really want to skip it, they may. Finally, when they reach the Citadel of Sorcery for the first time, we turn them loose in the big city, but there is a Tour office right at the entrance, and players can take a general or specific tour, right then, or anytime in the future.
New hires: We have added a few new people over the past few months, writers and level designers, as well as business developers (see above). We are always looking for new people, and expect to have to expand the team in the near future. We still bring on the occasional intern as well, though we have not done that recently, as we have been very busy getting things ready for possible investors and publishers.
We took the long road in developing CoS because we wanted to stay true to our goals for the game. This means a lot of years of work, and these still continue, but at least the game is taking shape now, and we are marching swiftly toward Alpha. Regardless of the time it has taken, this has never been about rushing to market, but about quality and pushing the MMO game to new levels. We toil onwards, climbing a mountain to our goal, kind of like ascending the Tiers of the Citadel to reach that grand climax at the top. We continue to expand the team, and to add to the game world. Keep the faith, CoS is still well on the way and healthy.