Summer has slid by all too quickly. Let's catch up.
Our biggest recent undertaking has been bringing on a pro writer for the summer months. We feel that story and its consistency with gameplay are high priorities, and getting a writer involved early is how we're ensuring quality in these areas.
Here's some good news! This game will have a story: one with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. There are main characters and minor characters, and what you experience in-game is going to be consistent with the overall plot.
Once the game launches, we will be exploring and experimenting with narrative delivery. At least some of it will be missions and special events. I think it's a priority that the introductory missions explain what's going on, as often lane-pushing games put all their focus on mechanics and don't set the scene or explain why a battle is being fought. That suits some players, but alienates others. We think we can do better!
Specifics of the narrative and introductory missions won't be part of the alpha for some months, as our immediate focus remains on technical issues and gameplay (which still need plenty of work). However, it is reassuring to know that the foundations are in place for our world and worldbuilding.
We also spent some time with our writer working through character designs. While we haven't done concept art yet, I finally know (roughly) what some of my characters are going to look like! Given that I've known and considered some of them for years, this is very exciting (at least for me!).
I am pleased that we are doing a good job of drawing inspiration from and representing many cultures. The ideas behind each character are universal human attributes, and reflecting that through aesthetics and narrative has a very satisfying feel to it.
Concept art followed by 3D sculpting and animations are the next stages. More on those soon.
Right now, we're trudging through Lumberyard updates. I really didn't want to do them: for a small team like us with a complex game, small changes can have a big impact so updating requires a disproportionate amount of care (and time).
The last time we updated was May 2018, and I would have put them off forever... but as it stands we're stuck with older Lumberyard systems and that limits us. We can't even adjust attack rate on our units! So we're charging ahead with it and hopefully wrap them up sooner rather than later. Similarly, some of our backend web infrastructure needed an update - which has now been sorted.
My recent work on the game has been with stylesheets and improving audiovisual feedback, which are closely linked. We've had stylesheets in for a while: they're a description of what assets the player hears and sees: be those particles or textures or ability sounds. We load stylesheets following certain conditions, allowing us to implement cosmetics, team-colours, colour-blind mode, and so on.
In our previous implementation, stylesheets were attached only to actions and resources. This meant that when a buff was applying a heal, we didn't have styling information for the buff, and couldn't show appropriately styled healing numbers. There were also inconsistencies in the styling that we did use, leading to the wrong styles showing from time to time. Not so good for players!
With recent changes, stylesheets now apply to almost everything, and encompass text and tooltips that the player sees as well. It was an odd thing to remove the ->getName() method from our actions and objects; that's one of the first things we added. Now names are style information, and are correctly located elsewhere. Hopefully localisation will be a bit easier down the line as well.
For any of you in Ireland, we'll be at European Games Week in September. Feel free to stop by and try the game!
Until next time,