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2nd Quarter Dev Blog, 2016 on Citadel of Sorcery

August 31, 2016

   We hate to start with frustrating news, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Our plans to integrate the New Hybrid LOD system with the new 3D Cube renderer and mixing them both with the foliage system has created some challenges and held us back from where we wanted to be this year. In other words, we are still trying to get those all working nicely together.

In the end, we had to go back to the foliage system (which we wrote some time ago and rewrite how it handles patching. It seems that the patching system was having trouble with the border area between Polygons and Voxels. Hey, there is a reason other engines we know of don’t attempt to mix these in the same scene! Anyway, the foliage patches were interacting with the LOD system in odd ways, creating areas where foliage didn’t render in the correct densities and other areas where the scale was way off (think 20-foot-tall blades of grass).

Remember, in CoS, every blade of grass and every tree, bush or other foliage piece is an individual piece, not billboards with transparency (which is what most other engines do). Not only that, but each tree is unique, no repeated models. So, getting that kind of unique detail to show up for hundreds of kilometers, rendering through multiple methods of drawing, with correct patch changes, all in a new kind of 3D cube renderer… had unique problems. This means, there is no help out there, no place to go see how ‘they’ solved a problem. Every problem we have is brand new, and we have to solve it from scratch, just like we wrote it from scratch.

Now, a little bit of good news, the newly re-written foliage patch system is (mostly) working. We are bringing it online this week, and seeing how IT plays with the LOD and 3D Cube rendering systems. Cross your fingers. Assuming (and it is a big assumption) that this goes well, we are kind of home free. This really is the last major hurdle of technology standing between us and this whole crazy, massive, detailed, unique and wonderful world building creation. Everything else on our ‘ToDo’ list is something fairly known, or so the programming staff tells us.

If you go to the CoS main website (www.citadelofsorcery.com) you will see a screenshot to go with this. What you are seeing in that shot is the foliage system running (with just grass turned on) and the Hybrid Voxel/Polygon LOD system. But, it isn’t running the 3D Cube renderer, or the new foliage Patch system (as I said, that comes later this week, hopefully). But… it does show that Hybrid system running, (which is a first of its kind, code unique to the Trident3D engine).

In other development news, (hey, it isn’t all about programming!) we have been redesigning the combat system somewhat, or maybe a better way of saying it is, we have been detailing and smoothing out the system. CoS, like everything, uses its own unique method of combat. We’re NOT going to go into this in detail here (if you want more detail, come to the Development Briefing as a Patron, on September 12th), that would take 30 pages of text, flow charts, spreadsheets, formulas, etc. But, I will give you a Cliff Notes version of how it works.

In any battle in CoS, the first thing you have to consider is the terrain and your opponents. How tough are they, how are they using the terrain, and could taking up a different position (or running) help you out in winning… or surviving?

OK, so once you pick a position that helps you and hinders them, and you decide to take this mob on, and assuming you decide to attack an opponent (rather than do other things, like help out a party member or prepare some nasty surprise, etc.) we get into the actual Combat system of CoS.

An attack always begins with what we call a Preamble. This is a windup, aiming or gesture animation, depending on what you are doing. For example, if you are using a sword swing, this might involve cocking the sword back before the swing, if you were casting a spell, it might involve drawing three fiery runes in the air with your hands, before releasing the ball of fire that creates. The point is, it takes a couple seconds, not too long. However, the important thing to know it that the more powerful the attack is (meaning, a higher Echelon Ability) the longer the Preamble takes.

This is important for two reasons, it gives your opponent some time to see what you are up to so that they can decide if they want to do something defensive, and it also tell them just how powerful it might be, but not WHAT attack is coming.

This is important information. Let’s say YOU see your opponent draw SIX fiery runes in the air… this is a powerful damn spell they are cooking up! Then it is up to you to decide what you want to do about it. You could just attack them with your own big time attack, and see who does better… or you could decide to Foil that attack or run. You can also bluff.

So, in this phase of combat, you have around four options, pick out your own attack, block your opponent’s attack, fake an attack or, well, run for the hills. Let’s talk about blocking. This involves using a special button on your U.I. (or keyboard shortcut) to try to Foil that spell (or Parry a melee, or Hinder a ranged attack). If you do that, and the attack was real, you have a great chance of avoiding that big nasty spell they were aiming at you!

But… and this is a big but, if that spell was a fake, then you just not only wasted energy to try to foil it, but you are open to their next attack by magic, without the ability to Foil!

This is a Feint, Parry, and Attack system, just like real combat. You have to try to use strategy and to figure out what your opponent is up to. You have some data to work with, like how many Hit Points they are at, and how much Vitality and Concentration they have left. These are clues to what they might attempt. You can even figure in their intelligence level.

Of course, there is nothing stopping you from just beating on them with your own attacks and ignoring all of their attacks and possible fakes, but strategy can help you beat a monster that you might lose to in just a straight on attack.

Take a melee attack, once that attack takes place, assuming it wasn’t a feint, the game calculates several factors to find an outcome. First, did you avoid the blow altogether by dodging it? The chance of this happening comes from how much Vitality you currently have. Every time you dodge or do something physical, some Vitality is lost. The less you have, the less chance you can dodge. If you manage to dodge all you lose is some Vitality, but the blow never lands.

Now, assuming you don’t manage to dodge the attack (you were getting tired, reflected in your low Vitality bar). Now your passive defense comes into play, in other words, your armor. All of your armor pieces and other things, add up to a single Defensive Rating, the higher the better! Your opponent will have an Attack Rating, based on many things like skill with that kind of weapon and how well they crafted the weapon. A calculation between these two numbers decides of the armor stopped the blow, or if it got through to actually wound you. Assuming it blocks the blow you take no damage, though your armor may degrade slightly from getting whacked.

However, let’s assume that the blow got through, this time, that means you are GOING to take damage. This is not good.

CoS does not work like most other games you may have played; it uses this far more realistic model of combat. Most blows are dodged or blocked, costing you Vitality points, not Hit Points. However, once Vitality gets too low, chances are a blow is going to get through and if your armor doesn’t stop it, you take physical damage. This will be SERIOUS! No chipping away small amounts of Hit Points, once you take physical damage it will generally be a lot big chunk!

However, you have one last thing in your arsenal, Resistances. In CoS Resistances don’t stop you from taking a hit, instead, they mitigate how much damage you take. If you have a 30% resistance to Crush Damage and this weapon is a War Hammer (doing Crush damage) you take 30% less damage than if you had no Crush resistance.

So, there is even some strategy, especially in a group situation, where you might want to take on the monsters that are using things you have good resistance to, and let your companions take on the ones that do damage where they have good resistance.

Anyway, this is just a small bit of how combat works in CoS, but we believe it is a more realistic model, and adds a TON of strategy possibilities for player, without forcing them to use that strategy (like we mentioned, you can just go toe to toe, it just isn’t as efficient). The system rewards strategic thinking in using the terrain, evaluating your opponents, predicting what they are up to and using your own strategies to get your opponents to make mistakes, but doesn’t require a player to use any of that to play.

In Art, we have been working on the massive Tower generation system, hundreds of unique models which can assemble a gazillion different towers. Of course, this is just one system, we already have others for different dungeons, etc. We had already finished the exterior system, but are busy building all of the interior pieces to go with it, and that has been coming along nicely. You can see a tower built by the game system in the screenshot over on the main CoS website (see link above).

Level design has been busy working on the fort system. This involves building an A.I. net that not only runs the lives of NPCs in the forts but allows them to react to things naturally as any situation unfolds. Once the very robust A.I. Net is in place, we can use it for any fort, just by replacing the NPCs with all new people, but let them use the A.I. net to make correct decisions. Of course, these can be modified by location, but much of the logic works regardless. It takes a lot of work to get the first one done, but after that, only small amounts of time to tweak a new location where it is used.

So that’s where are at the moment, having some LONG delays in getting all of the new terrain, foliage, LOD and rendering systems to play nicely together, but getting very near that happening, and working on refining the design as well as new art for the tower interiors and Level Building on the fort system.

The game is moving forward, as always, but with our small team, each thing takes some time.

 

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