I’ve been recently stepping up how and how much I communicate, starting by creating video, and I’m now trying to increase a bit the news on Twitter, on what I work, and when possible, with a small screenshot. That’s what happened especially last week, since I was working on graphical improvements. And here comes the recap of all of these screenshots:
I started the week by improving the combat system, not only gameplay wise, but also by adding some polish to it with better skill chaining and a somewhat basic but very efficient special effect : the weapon trail. Thank to it the combat looks a lot more dynamic than before.
Last week was also a good time to improve a bit the environment, with the sunny (and hot) weather that matched well the development done, which started by adding both water and swimming:
And also, clouds! And a sky! Giving a nice aspect to clouds when using voxels is really hard. Considering what I ended up with, I’m very, very satisfied:
The next step was to add more travelling methods, which included this “balloon”, that does not really fly, but soften your fall a lot. You can’t go higher, but can glide quite far away:
Considering how I quickly came to hate swimming in water (which divides the speed by two), I’ve added a non-planned feature in the form of sailing. It restores a normal move speed, but to sail, you’ll obviously need to get a boat:
And last, but not least, I’ve also added a new mob, mostly to renew a bit the game for me, but the result is quite interesting, especially the weird skill cast animation of the thing (you’ll see that in the next video for sure!):
New screenshot based on what I’ve worked the most these days: improving the environment. To do this, the map editor has been upgraded (check the video below to see it in action), the biomes has been slightly reworked, a sea level has been added and both a vertical fog and an horizontal fog has been implemented. Nothing ultra fancy but the rendering is quite better, and it now allows to find some interesting sceneries that I’m not necessarily aware to create when editing the map from above. For example, this scenery :
And here the video showing the map editor. Quick and efficient with the procedurally generated biomes transforming a plain heightmap into green hills, rocky mountains, or sea shores:
And I’m back. I didn’t post for a bit more than a month, so, to make up for that, I’ll be posting small recaps of all the work done during this time, since, of course, I’ve been far from being inactive (except mid-may when I was under the malevolent effects of the obligatory cold).
I’ll begin this first recap with the user interface. If you’ve been following my work on Metaworld, you’re probably aware that it’s something that I started a while ago. It’s not something that I was originally planning to do this early in the development, but knowing how tedious it can be to do it at the end of the development, it felt like a good milestone to do it earlier and rely on it to display informations instead of debug logs.
Controls and windows
In the case of the game, the UI is built from scratch, what means that I need to create every single UI control (buttons, scrollbars, windows, etc), and once that is done, I can work on the functional windows that will be used by the players (character profile, city building, etc). Most of the windows I’ve begin to work on are work in progress, and include so far:
– city building,
– character profile,
– game settings,
– main menu,
– and small stuff like speel casting panel, mining panel, item detal panel (see next part).
You might have seen something similar on Twitter if you follow me, but when all the windows are open, it looks loke this:
As you can guess looking at this, I’m not an UX designer, so it will take some iterations before I get something satisfying. For the people who have noticed the “map editor”, it’s something for dev purpose only, I’ll talk about in one of the incomings posts.
Also, a note worth to be written : the font used for the interface is not definitive. XNA, that I’ve been using so far, is really bad when it comes to fonts, and I’ll have to replace the automatically generated bitmap font by a proper looking one.
Item details and item icons
Amongst the few panel type windows I created, there’s the item detail panel. The one that displays the item stats and icon. It has a part for itself since I’m still looking for opinions about the best icon style:
The pixel looking one is fast to create, but such a style is overused by indies, and tend to give off a less serious vibe. On the other hand, the drawn icon is longer to create, but avoid the pixel-indie pitfall. So far I’ve had most votes in favor of the second style. What about you?
Amongst the side features of the game that I’ve already talk about: a skinnable interface. I use the fairly old school tileset method to render the interface, using an image like this one:
That is described by an XML file so that the game know how to display everything.
Using such a technique means that it’s fairly easy to modify the look of the interface as long as you know to use a drawing software. It’s something that I intend to fully support since it does not cost much in terms of development, and will allow the players to customize a bit the game.
If you’re used to RPGs, you’re probably used to the key binding windows, too… Depending whether you play with the mouse or keyboard, it might be necessary to be able to customize the shortcuts used to open or close a window, even if defaults are often good (the [i] for inventory, for example… who would change that?). The system for this is already completed… But not plugged in the game settings window. To be done soon.
Still on the key bindings, the skillbars are now properly working, too. The keys displayed are no longer just for the show.
Another long time since the last update. Not much happened regarding features development, but I’ve fairly well advanced on the character style, enough to show more properly what they’ll look like in Metaworld. No big suspense since people can immediately see it, this is how they’re looking :
Chibi looking, somewhat cute, big heads with room for facial features, small bodies, closer to SNES/Game Boy character sprites than to 2015 AAA character models. I’m fully aware that comparison will probably be made with other games (Cube World ahead), but I expect experimented eyes to be able to make the difference!
My objectives with this character style were various.
If there’s one thing that I like when playing RPG, it’s to create characters. I can waste hours there. When it’s well-done, not only does it allow one to have a (potentially) unique character, but also a recognizable character. But sadly… Many RPG/MMORPG does not have a well-done character creator (for my tastes, at least).
The current trend seems to have powerful tools for face customization, but little to no body customization. This focus on faces is something that I’m struggling to understand. Faces sure does allow one to have a unique character, but how many occasions are there for a player to zoom on characters faces when playing ? Whether it is a player character or an NPC, in online RPGs, You hardly recognize characters by zooming on their face, you recognize them thanks to their clothes, hair, body features, equipment, etc (unless of course there’s an auto-zoom).
From the beginning, I wanted Metaworld’s character to be recognizable, not only due to their bodies, but also thanks to their faces. It implied to have big heads that would emphasizes on facial features (eyes, eyebrows, facial hair, etc). What I had in mind at the moment was a style as a remembrance of characters sprites from the NES/SNES/Game Boy era. Something that I hope to have been able to capture to some extent.
Another constraint was the need for coherence and harmony. Example : if I want to play a bald character, I want it to be as nice as a character with long hair. Similarly, male, female, tall, large, fat, thin or small characters should be equally nice to look at. A character should not be inherently ugly or beautiful, unless its player wants it to be. That’s the reason I don’t like character such as TESO’s one, for example (whatever you do, they are not nice to look at, even if you can hide them under gorgeous armors).
To settle for a character style might sound easy and be a light task, but it’s something more complicated than it looks like. As far as I can remember, every single time I had to design a character style, whether it would be sprites or voxel models, I would take an eternity. Thus, I’m quite happy to already have a satisfying one.
Amongst the various things that can take a lot of time when developping a video game, you can find the user interface, aka UI. In many games, it’s one of the major way used to interact with the game, when it’s not the only one. Thus, it’s *kind of* an important task to complete. It’s not usually a complicated one, but it requires a lot of time considering the amount of features it needs between the simple variety of controls needed, and the many game windows and popups to create.
Here is what it’s looking like at the moment :
On the left you can see an item detail panel. This one is a test, it’s not linked to real data, which is the reason why it’s still incomplete. It’s the control I’m working on at the time.
On the middle, there is a test inventory window. It can move freely within the bounds of the screen, contains a text button and a checkbox, both working the way one could expect. More interesting, the bottom part of the window is a “container”. If you’ve ever played to a RPG, especially online ones, you should know fairly well what it does : represent an inventory and the used/available storing space.
Items inside a container can be activated (e.g, : use a potion, a scroll, etc) or moved between different slots of the same container for reordering purpose.
If you look at the bottom and right of the screen, you can see two skillbars. Both contains a container. The difference between the inventory container and those of the skillbars is that the later only contains “shortcuts” to items (or skills). It’s possible to drag-and-drop an object from the inventory to a skillbar.
If you’re attentive, you might notice on the right skillbar an image button above it : it’s the rotation button, used to switch between horizontal and vertical display. The skillbars can be moved like any window.
I still have add tabs, radio buttons, tables, listboxes and comboboxes. The scalability is not complete at the time (only window and buttons works with it). More interesting – I guess – the UI is already fully skinnable. I use an external XML to describe the graphical elements.
In case you were wondering, the weapon icons and UI skins are tests. I won’t keep them as they are now.