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Custom content?

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I just noticed from this article:

--- Quote ---Tools for creating custom content will come packed alongside as well, so pre-order customers will play an integral part in the development process from alpha to launch and can, if they like, create and submit content that may be added to the official game release.
--- End quote ---

It's just a little short mention, but it opens up about a million questions. If I may, I would like to pry. What is customizable? Art, character sprites, monster sprites? Weapons, tools? Scenery, maps? Abilities or spells? Character dialogue? Stories? Without knowing exactly what the game will play like, it's hard to guess. Any information you're ready to share would be great. Otherwise I'll just sit here and wait for the sadly inevitable AVWW nude mod to be created.

The main thing that is customizable is chunk scripts:

Chunk Scripts: Yes
The way that the world population works is based on a huge hierarchy of what we are calling "chunk scripts."  These scripts as just small xml files define things such as how a building is constructed, or a certain way of arranging a blob of trees, or even a larger arrangement of a snowy landscape.  The various screenshots so far were all created with just three variants of one "chunk population script," and a ridiculously simple office building script.

Each of these chunk scripts is actually a vehicle for intelligent randomization.  One office building script can actually  lead to dozens or hundreds of different office buildings, depending on how many randomization points the script design has.

These scripts all rely on a library of in-game code methods for actually wiring up these components in a new way.  That's a fancy way of saying that if we haven't designed a general "building" template, you can't make in game buildings.  But if we have a general "office building" template, you could use it to make factories, or gas stations, or whatever.  More likely we'll have it broken out by broad categories of buildings for seeding purposes, of course -- that way there aren't gas stations cropping up downtown when people don't want them to.

Anyway, this sort of thing, depending on the type of chunk script, can define anything from building interior variants to tree seeding variants, to overall type-of-map variants.  The game organizes these xml files into simple folders, and when seeding it chooses randomly for each type of element in the appropriate folders.  It starts with the overall chunk definition, and then various other kinds of scripts get chained from that in a chunk-definition-defined-way.

So to add new office building types, for instance, all you have to do is just add a new xml file in the appropriate folder.  Designing your own or just altering one of ours is fine.  Then anytime an office building should show up -- city sections or whatever -- your new design would show up from time to time, with variants where you let it randomize your design (defined in your script). 

The best of these, which players choose to share, will be put into the game proper, so that not only do you have hopefully hundreds of Arcen-provided scripts all told, but hopefully we'll have even more from players.  For my part, I'll do my best to have a massive enough selection of art components (and growing), so that script writers can really exercise a lot of creative freedom there, which in turn leads to more varied worlds and regions in general.

Depending on how much players get involved, and if the income of the game is supporting us well enough to do this, we could really get an insane amount of intelligent variance with this sort of thing.

Art: No
The art itself is not customizable -- well, not any more than AI War is.  You can replace any images you want in any of our games, but you can't add new ones.  If players do create art that we like and that fits with the game, then with permission we would add it to the game proper and then it could be used (this is basically what some artists like eRaSer and HitmanN have done for AI War, in other words).

New Functionality: No
This game isn't going to be mod-able in the traditional sense.  No changing stats, or designing new functionality, etc.  We're looking to make a game ourselves, not make a platform for folks to make other games on top of our game.  But, as with AI War, once we pass a certain point we'll definitely be considering ideas from players, etc.  Right now we're all tied up with our own ideas, and we may even mostly remain that way through 1.0 of the game, but player ideas are always finding their way into our games in general, as of course you know,

Dialogue and Place Names: Yes
The place names will be generated through specific kinds of adjective-noun pairings from various lists stored on disk.  More robust and interesting than the planet names in AI War.  Players can replace or customize these as they like, and with permission we'll definitely be integrating the ones we like into the main game proper.  Having oodles of variety here will only be a good thing.

These would be broken down into categories, of course: things like town names, city names, forest names, mountain names, whatever.  So you won't get a mountain named "The Woods Of Despair" or whatever. ;)

Story Elements: Probably, If Possible
Honestly, a lot of the storytelling aspects are something we haven't fully figured out yet.  As with a Zelda game, to some extent the story takes a bit of a back set.  But we do want to have a lot of various scenarios with bad guys that pop up and threaten groups of regions, etc. 

There's definitely going to be way more story here than something like AI War, but we're hoping to keep it to that sort of poetic brevity from the classic SNES games.  No walls and walls of dialogue from NPCs.  "Say what you mean and get on with it!" ;)

Anyway, we're going to try and have as many scenarios as we can manage over time, but the actual mechanism for setting this up has only been loosely designed at best, and is one aspect Keith and I haven't really nailed down yet.  To a certain extent this is just too far off, and we need more of the underlying game mechanics in place before we can best decide how this will layer in.

My goal is definitely to have this aspect to be as customizable as we can, but since a lot of these sorts of elements ("my father was murdered, I must avenge him!" or "Baron Von Villain enslaves everybody in Town X") require coding functionality to really wire them up, I'm not sure to what degree that will be possible.  It's also definitely a problem that the more generic you make a story arc like this, the less interesting it gets. 

So this might be something that we have to take suggestions from players on, implement ourselves, and then take custom dialogue variants to keep things fresh between multiple versions of essentially the same storyline as it comes up in parts of the game.


--- Quote from: x4000 on February 04, 2011, 03:42:22 pm ---Art: No
The art itself is not customizable -- well, not any more than AI War is.  You can replace any images you want in any of our games, but you can't add new ones.  If players do create art that we like and that fits with the game, then with permission we would add it to the game proper and then it could be used (this is basically what some artists like eRaSer and HitmanN have done for AI War, in other words).

--- End quote ---

That sets my fears of a bald man running around the woods in his birthday suit to rest then. Whew!

I also like the idea of where you're going with the world generation. Randomly generating things is good right up until you find a gas station up a tree or an office park in the middle of a natural cave. It sounds like this will be handled so that things will be constantly new without anything becoming nonsensical.

I'll be interested to see where things go with the story. Procedurally generating scenery is one thing, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone do it with story, or if that's even a swamp that you want to wade in to. That's probably why something like minecraft can't have any real story outside of what people bring to it. A lot of sandbox games only contain the goals that players bring to them, which is fine up to a point. RPGs have the overall goal of character and gear improvement to keep them moving, so there is that. The status of the WoW story, before I quit, had gotten pretty thin. I think some of the monsters' stories were along the line of 'there's a big dragon in this cave and he drops loot, the end'. And even that is enough to motivate legions to pay their 15$/mo. (Although with MMOs a large part of the motivation is having shinier boots than the next guy, and that's a whole lot of psychological motivation that I don't even want to get into now) I guess you could always mix and match story elements out of a big box. "Hero! You must save my BELOVED UNCLE from the RAVENOUS SKY RABBIT in his lair at the VOLCANO OF DOOM. In reward you will get A DATE WITH THE PRINCESS." Although that might get obvious after a while.

I agree that a dab of story can be a lot better than pages and pages of text. I usually find myself trying to follow those sorts of things in games and eventually giving up. I always feel vaguely guilty about it for some reason. But if I wanted to read a novel, I'd look to a qualified novelist. I'm just here to fight bad guys. Not that game stories can't be excellent, but a large part of them aren't and there's no help for them. It's a trick of motivating the player to want to know the story, while also using the story to motivate the player to play the game. The best are those that only feed out hints and pieces of the story that keep you wanting more and grabbing hungrily for any new story scraps that come along (see Half Life 2 for example). The worst are those that start the game with a massive wall of text describing the history of the world of Whocares for the last few dynasties. A light touch is always better here. AI War, dare I say it, is another example of well handled story. You don't need much, and it doesn't give much. You can sum it up as 'the AI wiped out almost everyone, get 'em!' and there's your motivation. But it does have extra little tidbits if you're willing to look for them. I've seen experimental sort of flash games that almost make discovering the story part of the game. Then you're almost assured that players will be interested in it. Once you have to fight through a cave of monsters to get the next page of plot, you have all the motivation you'd ever need to read and enjoy it.

Anyway, it sounds like you're already pointed in the right direction here, so I'll just sit back and wait impatiently for the alpha to come along. :)

Thanks! :)

A longshot given the above, but what of Sound:?  The main thing that popped up in my head that might be good for community doings might be a fanfares for a levelup or other terse moments where it might lose a slight bit of luster to hear the exact same one perhaps hundreds of times within the same player world.   I dunno if anybody would/could wrangle any full-blown lengthy bits on the quality level of Pablo, but given the fanfare'ish types would only be a few seconds long in general as a perk to miscellaneous mini-events...


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