Assembling all the things! – gamesread.com

Folks,

Happy Friday, all! We’ve had a great week here at CSE. Progress continues along as we work on merging multiple systems together and begin shaping all of this hard work into a game. When I write up these top tenish lists, I have to think back through the week and collate all the progress we’ve made. This process usually starts Thursday afternoon, as Brittany and I begin parsing check-ins and Trello cards into a presentable update for our Backers. I love when I’m pleasantly surprised to see the top tenish turn into the top thirteen, as has occurred this week. If you want to catch the more verbose version of the list, plus a bit of theater, you can catch the stream with Tim and I from earlier this afternoon. (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/119458559) We also go over a a bit of Q&A and thoughts on our work here. Thanks for all the good questions, to those who were in chat!  With that said, let’s get on to the top tenish for the week:

Top Tenish

  1. WIP – Tech – Continued Animation Work: After landing the first pass of the animation refactor last week, Andrew has been working on getting abilities to play the correct animations for damage types (crushing, piercing, slashing) and high, mid, or low attacks. Additionally, he’s syncing animations to the actual skill duration, and at the same time, he’s also working on making sure the correct animation plays, based on the weapon equipped.

  2. WIP – Tech – Item improvements: Early this week, Christina finished a first pass at assigning the correct armor art asset to a player regardless of gender or race. This means that when you pick up a male Luchorpán helmet and equip it on your female Arthurian, she won’t get “huge head syndrome.” She also moved gear setup into Ben’s hands, and he is currently working with the Art Team to set stats on the finer level of armor parts. Previously, we had an item like the chest piece include the undershirt and chest armor, as well as shoulder armor. Those will soon be distinct pieces available for testing. As a WIP, Christina is also improving the ease of updating item data, which will make it much easier for testing. This is a precursor to crafting work, which she is currently planning out.

  3. WIP – Tech – Combining Patchers: After all the feedback and testing for the experimental patcher, Dave has an updated version going through final review. Our plan is to merge all the improvements and to no longer maintain a secondary version.

  4. WIP – Tech – Terrain Editor Improvements: With our island size increase from 16km to 32km, we’ve had a more difficult time navigating our way about the map when editing it. Bull is currently working on upgrading our tools to get around the world faster. It was actually becoming too easy to get lost!

  5. WIP – Tech – Bots Using Abilities: Marc is finishing up the change from OpenSSL to LibreSSL for security improvements. Additionally, he has been working on getting our updated Bots to use abilities. We’re still in the early stages of this change, but it’s an important one. As we’ve said, Bots try to mimic player behavior to help us better find pain points on both our server and client tech. This will also work well for testing with George’s WIP performance update to our particle system.

  6. WIP – Art – Characters: Jon created an updated hand for our characters, both male and female. We’re currently updating the existing nude hands, as well as armor glove parts to make use of them. We all agree the new ones look much better than the old ones. We’ll still need to make some small tweaks to existing animations as we go.

  7. WIP – Art – Characters: Jon’s secondary task of hair research and improvement has moved steadily along behind hands. He’s currently creating new head materials with shaved heads to support a wider range of hairstyles, without having to create unique head materials for every variation. That will soon progress into improving exactly how we do great hair geometry and materials.

  8. WIP – Art – Environment: Despite catching the plague last weekend and being out most of this week, Tyler spent his upright moments continuing work on assets for the new dark forest biome, and has begun fleshing out a “master” tree, from which variations will be created. Jon also completed the additional body sculpts for this forest, in addition to the ones we showed in last week’s update.

  9. WIP – Art – Updated Animation assets: Scott finished entering over 1000 lines of animation data into the new master animation spreadsheet, and has been working with Andrew to make needed updates. He’s also been prototyping a full-body animation to test with the new system, as opposed to keeping our upper and lower body animations as separate assets.

  10. WIP – Art – Place of Power: As mentioned at the end of last week, Dionne began roughing out UV maps and materials on the entirety of the Place of Power. That work continues this week, as we hone in on getting a look that respects the concept art and looks good in the game. Check out screenshots later in today’s update!

  11. Art – Sound: While working on armor foley for movement and stance transitions, dB found the time to add in some subtle ambient music to the world late last week. This plays randomly, along with the generic background ambient SFX.

  12. WIP Design: Last week, we began breaking up our armor into a finer level of parts, as well as moving items into the hands of Design as part of crafting. Ben is wrapping up the armor and weapon side of data entry. We’ve been calling this the “sheet of all the things.” Mark has been working on Technical Design Documents for Christina, in order to speed up her work on the crafting system.

  13. WIP Updated German Website: Many thanks to our Backers Apollon and Tanztante, who are absolute translating beasts! We have a few more small items to check off, but we are planning to update the site next week, unless bugs prevent us.

    As I said, a good week of steady progress. As Brittany and I write these up, we try to point out correlations between items, where applicable, so you can see how these items lead into one another, or into upcoming tasks. It’s one of those tricky things Producers need to keep track of, to make sure everyone is working as efficiently as possible.

    Moving into art this week, let’s take a quick progress update on the Place of Power model, which has gone from a geometry pass last week into a rough pass of materials this week. I like throwing the concept up first, so you can see what we’re working from:

    Assembling all the things! - gamesread.com

    And a rough texture pass image from the WIP model in Maya:

    Assembling all the things! - gamesread.com

    You might notice that the crystals and such in the above image aren’t glowy…yet! The next step is fairly multi-faceted, where we turn these textures into materials and pay attention to specular and roughness values, as well as making the crystals shiny and semi-reflective. This will add more saturation and contrast into the model. We’ll also begin adding in some rough lighting and VFX in many places around the model, and see how that changes the look of those materials. The planned lighting should make nighttime battles fairly fun. If you’ve watched the progress on this over the last several weeks, where we first focused on the layout, or design, of this place to support gameplay, you’ll understand “fun” is our primary focus. For such a large model, it’s nice to not only get into this next phase, but also see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Jon has been fairly busy this week, making updates to our models that haven’t been too sexy to show off. However, being the modeling superman we’ve come to know, he knocked out several more bodies to integrate into the large trees for the deeper, darker biome I’m currently working on.

    Assembling all the things! - gamesread.com

    Our goal with these guys is to create a sense of unease when you notice these silent visages glaring down at you from above. To further color your imagination for this forest, Michelle has been hard at work this week, supporting the creation of this biome with additional concept art. Depicted below is the progression from drier and sunny, to wetter and darker.

    Assembling all the things! - gamesread.com

    That wraps up a busy week here! Animations, characters, buildings, art, items, oh my! Thanks for taking a look at the week’s progress, and have a great weekend, wherever in the world you may reside!

    -t & b

WoW Fans Think Heroes of the Storm Picked The Wrong Rogue – gamesread.com

Heroes of the Storm released its latest hero, Valeera Sanguinar from World of Warcraft, onto the PTR on the 17th. However, some fans of HotS and WoW alike are disappointed in the character choice.

Advertisement

Valeera is a new Assassin class character for HotS, and the first Rogue class character from WoW to be added to the game. But her release fell on the heels of three other HotS Assassin class characters, all from World of Warcraft. In the eyes of fans, four WoW Assassins is, ahem, overkill.

On top of that, some players think Valeera isn’t the best Rogue character to import from WoW. While Valeera’s first appearance in the lore was over a decade ago, her time in in-game events has been scant. WoW players aren’t necessarily disappointed, but they’d have preferred more recognizable characters like Garona, the Van Cleefs or Matthias Shaw.

When I reached out to fans, they theorized that Valeera’s status as the face of the Rogue class in Hearthstone might have had something to with the choice to include her.

Advertisement

“Valeera was essentially invented for the DC Comic and only made it into the game after the fact as someone connected to an already established character in the form of Varian Wrynn,” blogger and podcaster Belghast told me. “While I can think of better examples, Blizzard did choose her as the rogue deck for Hearthstone so it seemed pretty obvious she was likely going to be the first rogue.”

Hearthstone definitely had everything to do with it,” said Twitter user @unimplied. “Just counted and nine of the characters are in heroes, and it double-dips into WoW since it’s based on that.”

Advertisement

Sponsored

Blizzard, for their part, addressed the the abundance of WoW Assassin’s in a post on their forums yesterday:

Something that’s important to consider is that our development process for each hero starts nine months to a full year ahead of their planned release dates. After a certain point in the pipeline it becomes very difficult to shuffle heroes around without slipping on our goal of putting a new hero into your hands every three to four weeks … By the time we took a step back and said ‘You know, we sure have released a lot of assassins lately…’ we were well past the point where we could change things up.

They also said:

Advertisement

About 3 months after we had started work on the next set of Heroes to follow Zul’jin, we had to shuffle up Valeera to follow Zul’jin first, due the needs of the team as a whole. At the time, we didn’t pause to consider the ramifications of what it would mean as a player experience, in terms of getting a diverse roster of Heroes in regards to our Archetype definitions and our Universes.

While this helps to explain the lack of hero diversity, and fans were glad to have this amount of transparency from Blizzard, but it’s understandable that WoW players would be frustrated nonetheless. Here’s hoping that Heroes of the Storm will see Garona, the Van Cleefs or Matthias Shaw—but not anytime soon. We’ve already got enough WoW Assassins.

gamesread | World of Warcraft Cooking Show Debuts In South Korea

[Image: 플레이팅TV]

And it’s even called Wow! Recipe? The Meal Is Ready. Of course it is.

Advertisement

As tipster Sang points out, the Blizzard-backed show will be hosted by Choi Hyun-seok, a famous chef in South Korea known for his TV appearances. Choi is also apparently a WoW fan.

WoW inspired dishes will be created, and guests will talk about their World of Warcraft experiences.

Inven and Game About report that the first episode will be aired tonight in South Korea.

[Image: Game About]

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

gamesread – The Invisible Bunnies That Power World of Warcraft

Yesterday, I posted about a Fallout 4 mod that uses a complex, intertwining network of, er, kitties to make radios work. Turns out, game development is full of stories like that. World of Warcraft, for instance, is overrun with ghost bunnies.

Advertisement

WoW encounter designer Nathaniel Chapman explained it to me via Twitter.

“A lot of stuff behind the scenes that you wouldn’t expect to be a spell in WoW runs using the spell system,” he said. “Spells need casters, so we often have to rely on spawning in an invisible creature to be the one to actually ‘cast’ the spell. Other things that creatures are good at doing would be hard to implement any other way, so we use an invisible creature instead.”

Advertisement

He offered the example of the laser turret in this raid:

Video courtesy of FatbossTV.

The ‘point’ of this laser turret is actually an invisible creature that is following a player with [a] laser visual and beam attached,” Chapman said. “It’s periodically casting fire zone spells.”

Advertisement

Sponsored

Different games use different invisible creatures. For WoW, it’s mostly bunnies. Chapman pointed me to a list of bunnies in the game, noting that every bunny on the list that’s not categorized as a “critter” is an invisible bunny oompa-loompaing around in the background of WoW’s endless chocolate factory. The list, I should add, is 1,000 damn entries long. These bunnies have some incredible names, too. For instance, there’s the Projections And Plans Kill Credit Bunny. I’m also partial to Pony Gun Bunny.

Why is WoW a front for a morally questionable bunny labor operation? The short version is, programmers’ time is limited, and NPCs’ time is not. “Programmer time is extremely valuable, and most of the ‘stuff’ that can be done in a game can be done by NPCs,” said Chapman. “NPCs already have to support things like pathing, casting spells, using weapons, doing various actions to other NPCs, etc. So, while you could in theory have a programmer separately implement every ‘effect’ you wanted in the game with some minor benefit, if you already have a class of thing in a game that can solve your problem, it’s a better use of time to use the existing system.”

Advertisement

“NPCs check off every box in the ‘what I want’ column, except ‘not visible to the player,’” he said. “So you make an invisible creature.”

He noted, however, that this is all case-by-case, and some individual effects and functions are better left to programmers. Principal server software engineer Kurtis McCathern added that there aren’t as many invisible bunnies in WoW as there used to be. The WoW team’s tools have become more refined over time, so they don’t have to duct-tape rabbits to lasers as much anymore. “Sometimes,” McCathern said, “you don’t know designers need a kitchen until they’ve made ramen in a flower vase with an iron.”

Other designers pointed out that games they’ve worked on or played were also built on the haunted remains of pet cemeteries:

So there you go. If you think you’re alone in your favorite game—quietly taking in the view, breathing the gentle spring air, and shouting your secrets as loudly as you can—you’re probably not. Beware the bunnies, for they see all.

gamesread – Top World of Warcraft Guild Boots Raider Over Sabotage Scandal

In World of Warcraft, major guilds race to pull off world firsts in new raids. It’s serious business. There are, however, limits. One member of a guild called Method thought it would be cool to sabotage another top guild’s efforts. It was not.

Advertisement

Jadelolz, a member of Method, hatched a plan to prevent a rival top guild, Serenity, from running WoW’s newest, toughest challenge: the Nighthold raid on Mythic difficulty. According to PCGamesN, Jadelolz and a friend named Isabellab invited a main raider from Serenity into a group. Then they entered the raid to fuck with Serenity’s raid ID, aka the thing that tracks your progress across multiple attempts. When Serenity charged in, swords and staves aloft in pursuit of the holy grail that is making a boss fall down before other people do, they got kicked because their ID was already being used by Jadelolz and co. They couldn’t make any progress.

At first, Serenity’s members were confused. Then they were pissed.

Ultimately, Blizzard admins stepped in and teleported Isabellab, who stayed logged in to continue hijacking the ID, out of the instance. Isabellab went on to claim he was seeking vengeance against a “fan base of Serenity” for an attack on Method’s server, Tarren Mill. “The downtime Serenity had was equal to the time lost for Method,” he said. He believes he “even[ed] out the race.”

Advertisement

Advertisement

Method say they did not condone Jadelolz and co’s actions. He’s now out of the guild. “If this was Jadelolz that griefed another guild, then he did so without our blessing,” tweeted Method founder and co-owner Scott ‘Sco’ McMillan. “Removed from guild until we know more after progress.”

“Nobody will be covering anything up,” added Method community manager Darrie. “What happened, happened. Jade didn’t act as Method. He had his own agenda.”

gamesread | Now You Can Farm WoW Gold For Overwatch Loot Boxes And Hearthstone Cards

Thanks to a change in the way Blizzard’s WoW tokens work, players can now farm World of Warcraft gold and apply it towards credit for Overwatch loot boxes, Heroes of the Storm character unlocks and Hearthstone cards.

Advertisement

WoW Tokens are items introduced to World of Warcraft to give players a way to buy subscription time for in-game gold while giving others a legitimate alternative to purchasing gold from third-party websites. The player in need of World of Warcraft currency can buy a WoW Token for $20 in cash, then sell it for a fixed amount of gold in the game’s auction house (current asking price on North American servers is 62,393 gold). Players buying these tokens at the auction house would then redeem them for 30 days of game time.

Starting today, players can trade those tokens for $15 of Battle.net credit instead of game time (amounts may vary by region). Here’s a video explanation of how that works.

Depending on your World of Warcraft gold farming acumen, this could be a nice way to turn that lazy grinding time into extra in-game items or even full digital Blizzard games. Check out the WoW Token feature page for more info.

gamesread – Folka Part 3

Part 3 of this exciting short story from Nika Harper is now live!


The bear within Bolverk had awoken and he lumbered through the cold forest, hands and feet digging into the icy soil. The rites spoke of primal living, of natural existence, and shouldering the cruelty of desperation. Living at all costs was what mattered. Bears were built to withstand the harshest and worst winters, to flourish in the verdant summers. They could sleep through the cold months if the land had been kindly, but Bolverk shared the winter nights and days with the less fortunate and more hardened kind. His kind.

The rites of the berserk were strict and secret. Every few years, or any time as desired, they reconnected with the ursine spirit within them through trial and distance. Bolverk was wrong to keep any thoughts in his mind, wrong to use words in any capacity, but ever so rarely they crept back in.

The Ravens were temporarily absent of their captain. To what would Bolverk return?

Back to the woods, if all was gone. The Ravens were motley and not of his creed, nor of his capability. A finer bunch he could never find, but no fellowship among them. Bolverk was not the man to create it. He did not nurture, he enforced. The wind bit at his shoulder, an aching twinge from the scabbed arrow wound, making the cold feel deeper. That foolish girl. He broke the rites when he spoke to her. He should have chased her where she stood. That was the true way.

More land passed beneath his legs. Walk on until varl instincts were left behind.

Brigands held no interest to him, their presence only spoke of trouble elsewhere in the civilized world. Bears do not pick fights when there is naught to gain. Bolverk stayed high in his tree, watching the thin-skinned ones communicate and trek so inefficiently through the cold. Bears do not bother with talk, and Bolverk did his best to keep his ears full of the forest and not words.

But words crept in.

“Aye, the only smoke we’ve seen for days.”

“Across an entire valley, and we’re supposed to trust it?”

“Rotten yox stew is not as satisfying as it once was,” they bickered back and forth.

“Whether a camp or a home, our packs will be filled.”

To think, bears were the ones noted as savages.

Their talk grew distant as the sun hit peak in the sky. Off to make waste of their own kind. A putrid thing, civilization, rotting in its own juices.

A gust stung his cheek, his shoulder prickled with the fresh memory of the arrow. Unlikely it was the girl’s homestead that was the target of the brigands. They were a shoddy sort in any case. If she was any evidence, her family was a strong clan and would benefit from the supplies they gathered from the lowlives headed towards them.

The wind bit his new scar. He leapt down from the tree, cushioned by the crisp snow.

A bear does not use words, just instinct. Bolverk’s arms and legs followed the path cleared by shuffling human feet. He pushed out thoughts and followed the scent of battle towards a distant smudge of smoke on the side of the valley.

gamesread - Folka Part 3

Folka Part 4 on gamesread

The finale of this shot story series about Folka from Nika Harper

 


Folka heard the yox’s long moan outside and sighed. It had a tendency to free itself from the barn and yowl, trapped in the cold. Yox are not intelligent, and this one was nearly as old a family member as herself. Her boots were conveniently by the door and she trudged into the dim night.

 

Though, it was not as it seemed. Immediately Folka was aware that she was weaponless as she watched her yox get dragged through the crunchy snow. There must have been three thieves, their shadows barely visible in the night, and sounds from the barn suggested more. Folka had nothing with which to attack, but that’s never stopped a lumberer from fighting. Though the preference was strategy, she had learned to be resourceful. This would not be the first time it saved her.

 

Without even a grunt, she ran toward the stolen animal, eyes searching for something to grab and swing. The figures had stopped shuffling away and stood ready, when—

 

An enormous bulk dashed into them first, bowling into the mass and leaving deep gashes in the ice-crusted snow. It was impossible to tell the ruckus from itself, all screams and growls and the yox’s wails. Folka did not slow her pace, but leapt into the fray, twisting the first arm she saw and releasing leathery reins from its grip. It was mayhem and the yox reared back, the yoke catching a brigand in the gut and Folka in the face. Her blood joined the others in the moonlight, splattering on a sword she wrenched away from the wielder, hearing the pop of his wrist breaking under her force.

 

The barn was not in great repair before the night began, and Folka saw the shadow just before the roof crashed down by her side. Groaning, the rest of the structure could not hold as remaining brigands slammed open the doors and fled.

The white beast was upon them in an instant. Wood creaked, snapped, and the walls folded forward, toppling around the struggling figures. Dropping everything, Folka reached out her arms to stop a falling door–

And slammed it onto the outstretched heel of a brigand, causing him to drop his sword mid-thrust. Reactively, she hefted the barn door and crashed it to the ground, sending a flimsy buckler skidding across the ground. At her side, the white creature kept its stance ready to charge. But there was no longer anything to fight.

 

A trail of blood, dragged limbs and ripped clothing signaled the departure of the thieves, faster than Folka could bother to chase them, fast as it all began. She dropped the door deep into the snow and pushed past the beast to reclaim her yox, but death had claimed it first. Damned shame. The bear-varl, panting and familiar, was looking at her, then his eyes searched the glowing, empty windows of the house. His voice was hoarse as she remembered, the voice of an animal. “Where is your family?”

“I am all my family.”

The night smelled like pine and iron.

 

He huffed into his beard, “Your nose is broken.”

Folka held his stare, “I didn’t notice.”

The bear-man stood, taller than the home in which she lived, “You pretend to be so strong.”

“Why would I pretend? What would I pretend for? The trees don’t care. The sky does not care. I bring down the forest whether it believes me or not.”

She felt she owed him no thanks nor explanation. His appearance was a boon, but it did not save her yox nor her livelihood. At least there was good meat to be had, and she would get another animal somehow.

He stretched his arms and tossed a tightly-bound leather package to her feet. Folka didn’t need to open it, she had made it herself. It contained a cloth and salve, but she had no intention of using it, just as he had not. Folka had fought her brigands with a broken nose, and did not find it as difficult as the town stories said.

The land was frozen around them, so the yox would keep until morning until she was ready to prepare the meat. But dinner was on, and the warmth of the house beckoned her. Gathering an extra log for the fire, she walked back to the open door of the house. The bear-man had not moved, still surveying the night that held no other disturbance. He looked feral and fearsome, but something in him had placed him there. The gods may be dead, but their work was ever an enigma.

“I’ll finish cooking the stew,” she called out the door, “don’t leave the door open long.”

 

Folka walked back into her modest family home, remembering how many people it once held around the table, remembering the ordinary sound of living. A hulking shadow appeared at the door and for the first time in a year, she fetched two plates for the table.

 

Folka Part 4 on gamesread

The Banner Saga coming to Consoles January 12th – gamesread.com

AUSTIN, TX – December 16, 2015 – Stoic, an independent game development company and Versus Evil, one of the leading independent video game publishers, today announced that the epic Viking RPG strategy game The Banner Saga is coming to the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and to the Xbox One via the [email protected] self-publishing program on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016.

The Banner Saga, which launched to much critical acclaim on both PC and mobile devices has received several awards and nominations, including winner of the 2014 Geekie Awards for “Best Video Game”, winner of 2014 Game Developers Choice: “Best Debut” award, finalist placement for “Excellence in Visual Arts” category at the Independent Game Festival, 3 BAFTA Award Nominations, and winner of Pocket Gamer’s 2015 Best Adventure/RPG Game and Best Android Game of the Year.

“We have been working on porting Banner Saga to consoles for some time” said John Watson, founder and technical director at Stoic. “Porting the game certainly presented technical challenges that we needed to overcome, and gave us an opportunity to redesign the user experience for console controllers. We have managed to merge the story and gameplay from Banner Saga with a refined controller interface to make it a very enjoyable console gaming experience.”

The Banner Saga is a single player driven Viking saga, where a player’s choice in travel, conversation and combat determines the outcome of their own personal story as well as the survival of an entire civilization. The game also features stunning 2D animation and art, a unique tactical combat system and a cast of unforgettable characters, all of which drive this epic journey forward. Players will enjoy a beautiful and haunting original score by Grammy nominated, two-time BAFTA winning composer Austin Wintory conducting The Dallas Winds orchestra, as well as a powerhouse trio of acclaimed YouTube sensations: Peter Hollens, Malukah and Taylor Davis.

“Launching the Banner Saga on next gen consoles is a huge step forward for Stoic and the brand” said Steve Escalante, general manager of Versus Evil. “With this latest achievement, the Stoic team is able to work on more platforms and reach more customers with its games and technology.  This is not a small thing to consider for such a small team.  Looking ahead at what this could mean for Banner Saga 2 gets really exciting.”

Localized in French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Italian languages, The Banner Saga was one of the earlier funding successes on Kickstarter, which originally launched in partnership with independent games publisher Versus Evil.

To learn more about The Banner Saga visit: http://stoicstudio.com/

To learn more about Versus Evil visit: http://www.vsevil.net