Author Topic: A Valley Without Wind Pre-Alpha #10 -- Overworld Maps, Soft Focus, and NPCs  (Read 14808 times)

Offline x4000

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Well, it's a quad, but with hyperthreading makes the OS think there's 8. :)
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Offline getter77

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Definitely a very meaty update!  Congrats to all on the hard work put in.
The Roguelike Guy...also hopefully an overall skilled developer as time rolls on.

Offline x4000

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Thanks!
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Offline Phlarr

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I'm pretty new to the Arcen catalog, but man oh man I have not ceased to be impressed.  Awesome work!  Looking forward to AVWW while getting schooled in AI War =)

Offline Hunam

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Looking good! I loving the vivid colors and unique textures, and that snowy scene at the end looked great. The bat swarms though look absolutely evil...

Offline Flatfingers

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A quick follow-up:

1. On personality traits, I completely understand not implementing features that have no direct impact on the player's experience. There's only so much time, and a LOT of work still to be done.

2. I suspect there will be players who would like to focus on crafting. Keeping that process simple should help retain the action/adventure focus, but I do wonder: what about players who do choose to go out and collect all kinds of resources? It sounds like the list of craftable items could get pretty long without some kind of organization.

3. As for the game economy, I'd respectfully suggest that the plan to pretty much eliminate the trading and selling of loot should probably be made very clear to prospective players. This is a pretty typical feature in a "world-y" game, so to go without an economy could seem pretty confusing.

I'm not saying I disagree with the idea. In fact, it's pretty refreshing to see a game that really wants players to focus on the post-disaster experience rather than on conventional gameplay. I'm just thinking that the economy-free approach could be a shock to a lot of today's gamers, who've come to think that games without certain features are somehow "broken." Explaining those things very clearly beforehand won't completely solve the problem -- some people just won't read anything -- but I believe it might help.

At any rate, "it's not a sim." Got it.  ;)

Offline x4000

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I'm pretty new to the Arcen catalog, but man oh man I have not ceased to be impressed.  Awesome work!  Looking forward to AVWW while getting schooled in AI War =)

Thanks!  And welcome to the forums! :)

Looking good! I loving the vivid colors and unique textures, and that snowy scene at the end looked great. The bat swarms though look absolutely evil...

Also thanks. :)  The bat swarms are quite a bit over the top at the moment mainly because Keith seeded in so many monster spawners for testing.  I'm sure we'll have situations with so many bats as that, but it definitely won't be the norm throughout the game!

2. I suspect there will be players who would like to focus on crafting. Keeping that process simple should help retain the action/adventure focus, but I do wonder: what about players who do choose to go out and collect all kinds of resources? It sounds like the list of craftable items could get pretty long without some kind of organization.

Bear in mind that it's already inherently organized by type of crafter.  You have to be or go visit a weaponsmith to make weapons, but a lot of the same materials there can be used at a crestsmith, or a gemcrafter, or a trapper, or at a pharmacist, etc.  Beyond that, we're mainly waiting to see what sort of options become available to decide how to subcategorize; bear in mind we're used to working with games with massive amounts of content (AI War), and we're not in the habit of just making giant unsorted lists or something. ;)  But I really have no idea how to break it down at this point, because we don't yet have enough in any one category where it yet needs subcategories (aside from materials-in-use).

3. As for the game economy, I'd respectfully suggest that the plan to pretty much eliminate the trading and selling of loot should probably be made very clear to prospective players. This is a pretty typical feature in a "world-y" game, so to go without an economy could seem pretty confusing.

I'm not familiar with "world-y" games, whatever that subgenere is. ;)  But we always make demos available for people to try, as well as lots of information about the game and how the gameplay works.  But I don't think there's much to be confused about in the fact that this is an action adventure game, which we've always trumpeted really loudly, despite the fact that the world is infinite and procedural.  But still some folks assume this is going to be a sim game, I guess, and I don't really no how to combat that -- generally it's bad marketing to put a list of all the things the game is not right at that game description page. ;)

I'm not saying I disagree with the idea. In fact, it's pretty refreshing to see a game that really wants players to focus on the post-disaster experience rather than on conventional gameplay. I'm just thinking that the economy-free approach could be a shock to a lot of today's gamers, who've come to think that games without certain features are somehow "broken." Explaining those things very clearly beforehand won't completely solve the problem -- some people just won't read anything -- but I believe it might help.

Well, and I appreciate that.  Thing to remember is, we really don't want to do what other games have done.  And I really don't think that, once things are to a certain point development-wise, people will see the things we omit as a flaw -- because we're including so much else that's never been seen before. 

It's kind of like with AI War, where there are no civs basically unlike every other strategy game out there, but I've literally never had anyone complain about that fact because the way we made it was basically "build your own civ" and works just as well or better.  In terms of not having any PvP in that game, despite the fact that's the RTS mainstay mode, there have been some folks that looked, didn't see that feature, and avoided the game I'm sure.  But that's a pretty easy decision to make when you're evaluating games; I've self-sorted out many games without co-op, when I'm looking for new games to play.

I think the most confusing time for prospective players is now.  When the game isn't done, and there's no demo, and there's no legion of existing players talking about it and giving clues as to what gameplay is like.  In terms of my developer diaries, interviews, our game preview page, and these forums, I do my best to make it clear what the game is and isn't, and that's about the best I can do, I think.  I've never had a customer who told me they felt misled after buying a game from us and finding it wasn't what they thought, so I guess we're doing something right. :)

The other thing to bear in mind is that in a fairly literal sense there is an economy, in the same sense that AI War has civs without having them.  We just streamlined it.  Having an in-game economy is all about power, and options.  What are you able to do, and how can you become able to do the things you currently are not able to do. 

Having a currency is the least possible imaginative way I can think of to do that, because then the answer to any question is almost always the same: get more money.  Grind monsters, collect their money and loot drops, sell the loot you don't like, and buy the thing you want.  I used to really enjoy that in RPGs, but that's been done so many times since the NES days that now I'm really sick of it.

Here you're not bartering with other folks or buying things from shops -- that whole survivor mentality and all that -- but you are bartering your time against the types of activities you undertake.  You want a level III fire spell?  You can't just go grind monsters and then build it.  You'd better go find a level III ruby, which requires figuring out where level III rubies might be, and then going there and essentially going through the "dungeon" (to use the Zelda term) to find one or more.  Then once you have that level III ruby, suddenly you realize you can build a lot more than just a fire spell -- but you can only choose one of the available options per ruby you have, so that creates an economy of choice.

You could just grind away getting level III rubies to build everything, of course, but by the time you finish that you'll be leveled up enough that you might want level IV rubies to really keep up with the monsters that are appropriate to your level.  So just trying to grind is futile, you have to actually make choices.  And those choices have permanent effects either great or small, but they aren't irreversible -- if you make a level III fireball spell and find it not to your taste, at level IV (or even if you find another level III ruby) you might use your rubies for something you like better.

Anyway, the reason we don't have shops or money is because every other game does it, it's played out to us, and we have a more interesting and strategic way of handling things.  Even though I don't want to be labeled a "strategy game developer," both Keith and I do think along those lines when it comes to game design, and we're always looking for ways to add in interesting decisions rather than the time taxes that are common to RPGs.  I really can't imagine that someone will come and see this system and then be mad they bought the game because they thought there was going to be shops and money. :)

At any rate, "it's not a sim." Got it.  ;)

Though it IS a "sim of a sim," if that distinction makes sense.  This is a game of Zelda or Crystalis in terms of most of its gameplay, but one thing those games have in common with each other but not AVWW is that their worlds are static and unchanging, and you can't really interact with NPCs except in really scripted, limited ways.  Here that's not the case, because you can interact with each NPC in various ways, and the overall world quite a lot.

It's not a sim, in the sense that the simulation isn't deterministic or high-fidelity, but we will have lots of "approximation algorithms" during the "fast aging" step that simulate what a sim might have done during the time you were away.  So if you've been away from some NPCs for two game hours, and you come back, then during the fast aging step it does two hours worth of stuff.  It looks and thinks "what were the NPC's goals, and what would they have had time to do during the time," and then approximates those things.

Thus you wind up in a world that feels alive and which is ever-changing, but it's incredibly light on the CPU and it's also easier to program in the sense that we don't have to be super-specific in detailed simulations of characters walking around, chopping wood, re-growing trees, and so on.  All of that stuff is off-screen and not related to you-the-player and how you play, anyway, you only care about the result.  It's much the same reason that with AI War I shortcutted the AI from having an economy.  As some players have put it, "the AI is playing Risk while you play AI War," and that's really true.  The combat AI is the real deal, but the AI economy in AI War is just a simulation of a simulation because it's stuff that happens offscreen and that you-the-player only care about the result of.

Put another way, my focus is always on the player experience.  What is fun, what is new and interesting, what twists your brain a bit?  To me, having a detailed simulation usually has nothing to do with any of those things: at the level that most games do it, it's simply a programming parlor trick.  "Look how clever I am," says the programmer, "that I could simulate an enter [whatever] to this depth!"  I like being a clever programmer as much as the next person, but I take that in small doses -- I like shipping games that are huge and fun and made by incredibly too-small teams even more.  So my attempts at cleverness manifest as ways in which to "simulate simulations" and thus cut out the boring behind the scenes work that nobody sees, anyway.
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Offline Echo35

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I dunno. Personally I would like some form of cross-town economy (I'm liberating these towns and saving people, why not have them make supplies and trade between each other?) but I'll of course have to play it first before passing judgement.

Offline x4000

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Offline x4000

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I dunno. Personally I would like some form of cross-town economy (I'm liberating these towns and saving people, why not have them make supplies and trade between each other?) but I'll of course have to play it first before passing judgement.

I've cross-posted from the blog in a topic here: http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,8592.0.html

And I've responded to your quote there. :) 

Any other further discussion about the economy, sim, etc, please take it over to that other thread.  Other stuff about this overall topic of the new visuals and other new stuff from dev diary #10, would be the topic for this thread.  Thanks!
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Offline superking

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I'm pretty sure everyone concerned would choose 8 directional characters over a 70mb reduction in download time. I suppose it does mean more graphical work for the artist though

Offline x4000

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I'm not sure about that, honestly -- and by the way, the only artist is me. ;)
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Offline Reapy

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Very cool updates so far. I just had an idea while looking at the screenshot with the red grass while you were talking about the colors, and that really was that while you are looking for things to make the world more dynamic, changing plantlife would really make an impact I think.

I was just thinking of that sort of angry looking red grass and how it stands out, and that you could do a ton of different things with it. You could use a certain tree/bush of a certain color that might only grow around the lair of XYZ monster. So you might stumble on a patch of red grass, and start freaking out, because you know "IT" is out there.

You could also use changing vegetation/colors to indicate states of a map area, like a certain tree or plant only grows when the wind shelter is up, and go further that you might only be able to get X craft materials from wind sheltered areas after the plant has grown.

You could also have maybe certain types of plants be hostile or poison, maybe if a plant gets introduced to an area somehow, it could slowly start taking over the area in time, affecting settlements and/or plant life that might be there.

I figured since you can swap the color of the plants and have a bunch of them, a few 'special' colors or plants here or there could really impact you while traveling the world. You might go back to some place you had cleaned up, and find that the "IT" monster moved in, brought with it the 'red grass' which is slowly taking over the area, creeping towards the wind shelter, slowly breaking it down.

Offline x4000

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We're just getting started with the plants, don't worry!  We're able to vary not just the color, but also the plant species, without too much work.  So a lot of things will come down to regional differences, and then I'm sure we'll tie some of those to monsters and lairs, etc, too.  I really like the idea about the red grass signifying something dangers -- reminds me of The Village, and could be interesting to play with symbolism like that. :)
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Offline superking

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I'm not sure about that, honestly -- and by the way, the only artist is me. ;)

well, that poll you did regarding filesize VS content came out strongly in favour of content.

I think of it like this: I am about to download and play Age of Empires II (a game that holds up visually even now, as 2d games though, for the quality of its 8-directional sprites and animations) for the first time. there are two versions avaliable:
a) 570mb, 8 directional sprites
b) 500mb, 4 directional sprites

It would take a certain kind of person to choose b) over a), as what it effectively represents is a 13% reduction in download time in return for horribly atrophied visuals. Given that with 1 meg download speeds 500mb is somthing like an hour, said person is going to be very impatient and thinking on the short term... a description I dont see as correlating with the audience of any existing acren game  :P