Ganezzar beta - week 5

This week's changelog:

  • Added 'Maadoran is destroyed' scenario that comes with several Mind Shield checks
  • Added two NPCs in Ganezzar (a nobleman and a MG clerk), presenting a slightly different reaction to the religious fanaticism
  • Added filler NPCs in the upper districts
  • Improved Al-Akia exploration (text, visual improvements, the Qantari quarter, etc)
  • Improved the combat AI

We started working on the combat AI. Step 1 - more regular and power attacks (before the enemies switched to fast attacks too eagerly, so now they will hit less often as their THC will go down but it would hurt more). Step 2 - aimed attacks, already working on our end, will be added in the next update. Step 3 - special attacks and alchemy.

Also, we're working on an exciting (well, I'm excited!) armor change. If all goes well (i.e. we test it and it would actually work well and not just on paper), you would be able to damage enemy's armor DR and since we're all about equal opportunities, the enemies would be able to damage your armor.

Anyway, for next week we're planning to add an option to break the siege using the ship, so get your saves ready. You'll need the jellyfish artefact (it's a must) and either the mantra from Antidas' treasure room or high lore.

'til next week!

Ganezzar beta - week 4

This week's changelog:

  • Added House Crassus questline
  • Added the ruins of Al-Akia (first pass, will be developed further in the upcoming updates)
  • Added two NPCs in Ganezzar (a guard and a local guide)
  • Added descriptions in Lowtown
  • Added several new Dodge animations
  • Fixed Critical Strike's bleeding effect
  • Minor interface improvements (new talk icon, fade on dialogue start, AoO/IA tooltips on tiles, etc)

Some notes:

  1. The issue causing NPC who should be gone or dead to return should be fixed or seems to be fixed. For now it's fixed in the beta only, so if you're playing the beta and run into this problem again, please post detailed reproduction steps.
  2. The fight involving Faelan (where he takes over some enemies and turn them into allies) is too easy at the moment. The difficulty will go up once we improve the combat AI (the next task for our programmer).

Plans for next week:

  • "Maadoran is destroyed" / "House Aurelian is ruined" questlines
  • Al-Akia exploration improvements
  • Visual improvements
  • More NPCs and text descriptions

That would complete the faction questlines and allow us to focus on Ganezzar's side quests and visuals.

Ganezzar beta - week 2

This week's changelog:

  • Added House Daratan questline
  • Added two NPCs (one shows up only when the city is under siege)
  • Removed the 'horse travel', now you can exit the city via the gate and use the world map to travel.
  • Fixed the combat loop in AG7
  • Added gunner's log in the Hangar location
  • Fixed infinite XP loop when talking to Gaelius after Zamedi
  • You can now travel to Ganezzar after killing Gaelius in the AG questline
  • Added a combat panel showing your Attack and Defense stats (it's pretty cool even if I do say so myself)
  • Hovering your mouse over the enemy shows the THC breakdown
  • More tooltips and minor improvements (like color-coordinated textbox)

In the next week's episode Lord Meru will join the Dark Side. Stay tuned.

Ganezzar beta - week 1

As I mentioned in the previous announcement, we’re planning to update the Beta on a weekly basis until the third chapter is completed, then we’ll go back to monthly updates until the game is out. So, week 1...

Week 1

  • Added the Aurelian Praetor questline
  • Added the ‘Hangar’ (to unlock talk to the cartographer Domitius sent you to)
  • Added the power armor quest (at the moment the quest is available to all regardless of whether or not you got the quest in Maadoran)
  • Added a new NPC near the ‘pillar of skulls’
  • Added tooltips for the attacks
  • Added traits descriptions
  • Fixed various scripting issues and bugs (antidote should be working as advertised now)
  • Fixed journal crashes (hopefully for good, but if you do get one, let us know and describe the steps to reproduce)
  • Added filler NPCs to Lowtown in Ganezzar
  • Made visual improvements
What to expect next week:
  • Daratan Praetor questline
  • *Possibly* Crassus Praetor questline (there is a lot of stuff there so we might push it to week 3)
  • new quests
  • new NPCs
  • Improved Ganezzar (art, filler NPCs, text descriptions)
  • Various design improvements and fixes
Power armor

It’s working but it’s still rough around the edges. There are 3 modes plus an optional 4th mode. Right click on the armor’s icon in the inventory to interact with it. Once it’s charged, you’ll be able to go through the different modes the same way you go through different attacks. There are no tooltips yet to explain what does what, but they are coming. Play with it (keep in mind it’s work in progress and the very first iteration of the armor), then post your thoughts and suggestions. As usual, we’ll go through them and improve the design with your help.

As always, thank you for your support.

Jan update - Ganezzar beta is out

The beta of the third ‘chapter’ is now available to anyone who has the game in their Steam library. To access the beta build, right click on the game in your Steam library, select Properties, click on Betas tab. If it’s set on “None - Opt out of all beta programs”, change it to Test – Private Testing Branch.

Enter the Access Code (‘blacksheepwall’), click on Check Code, and wait for Steam to download the files.

About this beta. It’s a 'work in progress' build with many rough edges. It's in the same state Teron and Maadoran were when we released them to the testers, so for us it's business as usual (except for releasing it to all Early Access’ patrons rather than to the closed beta testers). For people who just want to play the next chapter expecting a few odd bugs here and there, it might be not what they expected.

To remind you, we put the very first playable build on Dec 24. We spent the next 3 weeks improving it, testing, moving things around, tweaking, etc, so the chapter is in a much better shape, but at this stage it’s still about functionality rather than form.

It would take us at least 4-5 weeks to bring it to an ‘enjoyable’ level and another 2-3 weeks to get it to the same state as Teron and Maadoran.

What makes a game city a city? In AoD it’s:

  • Interconnected faction quests that are the foundation. They are the hardest, most time-consuming development aspect. Scripting them is a nightmare.

  • Side quests that aren’t connected to anything. They are isolated situations that fill the city with activities and random things to do. They are a pleasure to write and script and can be done in 2 weeks at most.

  • Static NPCs and visual touches that would make it *look* like a city

  • Things you can click on it and read descriptions or interact with.

So far we did a rough implementation of the faction quests, which means that the city is fairly empty and lifeless, which can be jarring. So if you want more, wait a few weeks.

Now that we did release something, we will update it on a weekly basis, improving the foundation, adding all the missing things, and making it an enjoyable and atmospheric location, so stay tuned.

December update - beta in January

Two days ago we put together the first playable build of the upcoming 3 locations (Ganezzar – the third city, the ruins of Al-Akia – the birthplace of the Gods, and the ‘hangar’ giving you access to your very own flying ship). As I mentioned earlier, we discussed whether or not release it now as a questionable New Year gift or sit on it for a couple of weeks.

In the end we decided to wait and push the update release to Jan 19, which gives us about 3 weeks of work. This date won’t be changed or pushed back, so consider it a promise.

It’s tempting to release it now for the sake of saying that we did release an update in Dec. After all, we’re still in Early Access and work-in-progress is the norm here (in fact, that's the idea). Still, I think that if we take some extra time to smooth over the rough edges, your experience will be a lot more enjoyable.

So, the silver lining here is that after 6 months of work we’re very, very close and almost ready to get this ball rolling. The third city was the last major hurdle to overcome and soon you’ll be able to play it.

* * *

Since I don’t have much to add here, I’ll entertain you with our design process. As I mentioned previously, towns are the hardest, most time-consuming locations because of the multiple interwoven questlines with double-crossing and multiple solutions. The amount of scripting that goes into it is huge and it takes a long time to sort it out.

So step 1 – I write the faction questlines. It takes a while. For Ganezzar we needed 4 guilds: the Imperial Guards, assassins, thieves, and merchants. Plus 3 praetors: a praetor serving House Daratan who did not ruin House Aurelian, a Daratan praetor who did, and a praetor serving House Aurelian (they all have different paths to follow). Plus the main quest and key side quests (like the power armor quest). Overall, that’s 24 quests right there. Usually, it takes about 3-4 days per quest. When the quests are written, I enter them into the database, do ‘basic’ scripting that allows us to run through dialogues, and pass them to Oscar who is our artist/designer.

While I’m busy writing, Oscar is busy putting locations together, while Nick, Ivan, and Mazin are working on programming tasks (for example, now Nick is working on the power armor, which is a very unique item that requires its own interface), extra animations, and 2D art (portraits, icons, the aforementioned interface, quick concept art, etc). It takes about 4-5 days to fully implement a quest, so overall that’s ((3-4)+(4-5)) x 24 = 168-216 days right there (5-7 months) just to do the basic implementation.

Step 2 – the first draft:

When we have the first drafts of both the locations and the quests, we put them together, add ‘advanced’ scripting (usually checking events and variables) that allows us to run through and jump between the questlines, and see what we got there.

Basically, there is a difference between quests ‘on paper’ and an in-game questlines. Sometimes the difference is minor and can be disregarded (i.e. ‘sure, it can be tweaked here and there but overall it’s ok’), sometimes it’s not and you have to go back to the drawing board.

So, after debating it back and forth we decided that everything looks good except for the merchant guild’s questline's flow. The first quest (technically, the 7th quest) was quite good but required being sent all over the place. It was moved to the House Crassus questline as it fits it better. The merchants’ quest in question had to be replaced which is one of the reasons for the delay to January. I finished writing it last night and it’s a fun quest which will require you to perform miracles and dabble in the mysterious arts of faith healing.

Step 3 – once the first draft is discussed and approved, we start building it up. The faction questlines are a solid foundation but it takes a lot more work to turn ‘a place where quests take place’ into a city with its own atmosphere. It needs:

  • side quests
  • flavor characters to talk to
  • ‘diaries’, messages, flavor text (various descriptions)
  • various intros and endings
  • expanded conversations with main characters
  • new quest options that become clear after you play through several times

Step 4 – balance, bugs, minor things like journal and reputation

So now we’re at Step 2. I don’t think we can jump to Step 3 in 3 weeks, but we can do quite a lot, which will make your experience more enjoyable. Overall, we did release the first two towns when we hit Step 2, so it's sort of business as usual but we released it as a beta to testers. Now we're about to release it directly to Early Access, hence the desire to ensure that we give you more rather than less.

Overall, for those who’re curious about our progress rate, we released the first 3 locations in March 2012 (which included a starting town). It took us 20 months to do another town plus 6 extra locations, which were released on Nov 2013. It took us 13 months to release 6 more locations, add different states for the starting town, and almost finish the third town. Another month and we’re there.

Thank you for your support, patience, understanding and encouragement.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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