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Rush of Faith

Rush of Faith IconHi folks,

As those of you who have been following along know, we're currently in alpha testing for the game. Admittedly, it's been slow work.

Among the reasons for that are us being a small team, and the need to take care of other business (legal, taxes, events, etc.). But maybe the worst offender is me as a hero designer.

Having worked on hero designs for over 15 years, I've already played with most of the low-hanging fruit as far as mechanics go. New heroes tend to push limits to bring out exactly the kind of gameplay I want... and that usually means pushing our technical limits as well.

A Little Paradox

I will share an example from some hero design work that I was doing earlier this week. I was examining an ability that was overloaded, so I added more stuff and it became simpler(!).

Here's how. One of Rasputin's abilities was as follows:

Rush of Faith

Rush of Faith

Rasputin pauses for 2 seconds, before running to the target ally at max speed, healing them on arrival. A second activation will swap the heal for a temporary offensive buff.

Even though this ability is simple to describe, I felt it was overloaded.

  • The player must weigh mobility against healing against damage, which is a difficult three-way calculation.
  • Giving the offensive buff to an ally adds complications. Can they make use of the buff? Are they a competent player?
    • To enjoy any mobility, Rasputin has to target an ally: which means he doesn't get to be a play-maker with the offensive buff himself.

Here's a better version of this ability:

Rush of Faith

Rush of Faith

Rasputin pauses for 2 seconds, before running to the target ally at max speed, healing them on arrival. Extra activations will cost influence, and add +60% healing, a cleanse, and an AoE cleanse.

This ability has three extra activations, which is definitely 'more stuff'. However, without an offensive component our player can weigh mobility against healing: a much cleaner comparison that demands less cognitive load. Having multiple tiers of healing makes this a gradient ability, which is exactly what we want to enable player expression.

All this sounds great, but it means we have to add support for having more-than-one extra activations. This involves new code and bugs, and delays progress on other stuff.

That's kind of how the story has been going. We do cut corners when we need to, but it is a big advantage if players are alpha-testing heroes 'as intended'.

Descent of Winterchill

Earlier I mentioned 'other business', and on that topic we will soon be retiring the name Rise of Winterchill!

Whenever I introduce someone to the project, questions about that name are a given. It served well for a Warcraft III map, but is less accessible to a general audience, and routinely gets confused with a certain location in Game of Thrones.

The new name is not yet announced, but we will be very excited to share it with you all when we rebrand.

Thanks for your continued interest in the game; we are still working hard to make it happen!

Until next time,

Alpha Begins

Grandmaster CaptureHi all,

The alpha has officially begun, which marks a new era for the game and a new phase of development.

For those who haven't been invited yet: we will be tricking more people in over the coming weeks as the game stabilises.

We already have more than enough bugs on our list to keep busy, and appreciate your patience! This is very much about getting the engine functional; the fun parts will come later.

Please note and respect that we are operating under NDA for the time being, and information about testing, including who is testing, isn't public.

If you are not in the alpha yet:

  • You can sign up for it, and then
  • Wait until we need more testers

We hope to be in a position to have more of you playing soon!


The Starting Line

Icon for Counsel LimberFriends,

We've been asked a lot about when alpha testing will start over the last year, and our answer has consistently been "this year". Sadly, a few days ago it became apparent that this not might be the case, for the unglamorous reason that I caught a cold.

Instead, we'll be starting on 16th January 2019.

The focus of this testing will be to:

  • Resolve any basic issues with the installer, patcher, and client.
  • Gather feedback on "game feel" and how the netcode performs.
  • Make sure we're able to deploy servers and new updates efficiently.
  • Test the new laning mechanics, as we're moving away from last-hits and trying some new ideas.

The initial invites will be a small group, and we will expand that group and the focus of our testing as we go.

It feels strange to be going "back to square one" again, because last time I did that (in 2007 when transitioning from Dota Outland), I remember it being a hard slog before we had enough heroes and balance tuning for the game to be enjoyable again. Since then, standards have skyrocketed and we've become responsible for a lot more of our own infrastructure, so I don't anticipate this time being any easier.

But hey, that's what we signed up for. Thanks in advance to the testers who will be sharing this journey with us! RoW wouldn't be anywhere near where it is today without the feedback of its players, and that will hold true in 2019 and beyond as well.


Dublin Games Festival

Dublin Games Festival Stylised LogoHey everyone,

Last Saturday, we brought Rise of Winterchill to Dublin Games Festival for its first ever public showcase. This is the first time I've exhibited at an event, and it turned out to be a lot of fun!



Kybolt's stand at DGF

Most of my day was spent talking about the game and its mechanics. It is nice to see that (at least on the surface) there is plenty of appetite for solving toxicity, and some of the solutions we're proposing held up to scrutiny – from people who were asking good questions.

Having a zoomed-out view of the map on a big screen was super helpful for explaining how the game worked in a very visual way. I would definitely do this again!

Kybolt's stand at DGF

I was surprised to see younger kids rush over to engage with the game. Some of them hadn't previous experience with the genre, so their way of interacting with it was interesting to observe. In its alpha state there isn't much "violence", but I think we'd want to be more conscious of alerting parents to the game's rating in future.

One of the best things about having an event deadline like this was it really helped us focus on playability, and we made huge progress in that area. It makes December alpha feel that much more realistic (though I emphasise: it is going to be small batches at a time getting in).

Kybolt's stand at DGF

There are some things I would do differently next time: such as spawning heroes next to a lane, being generous with resources/cooldowns, and simplifying the abilities. We tried having a hero with some more nuanced abilities to show off the engine, but the UI to support those inputs wasn't polished so people got confused. Letting players get straight to the lanes and experience success hitting things deserved higher priority.

For those of you who have been following along, yes the map on display is Merrilane, and the second lane was added to provide more depth in 3v3. It will continue to evolve over the coming weeks.

It was great to meet and see many other Irish indie devs there as well; hopefully there'll be more encounters at future shows both here and abroad!


Merrilane and Rosarian

Icon for Shared GlimpseHi all,

The journey of getting Rise of Winterchill into alpha continues! Yes, we're still on track to let people play this year, though it'll be small batches getting in at a time.

We're currently working on a 3v3 map as a tech demo, which I'm merrily calling Merrilane. Being a tech demo, the goal is to demonstrate that the "game feel" is good, multiplayer is smooth, and our scripting works. Once we have that, we'll experiment with heroes and kits, before expanding into 5v5.

Making a 5v5 map was my original plan, but a few things got in the way:

  • Firstly 5v5 maps are large and take a lot of time to populate with trees and terrain.
  • Secondly, I care a lot about aesthetics, so I want to make everything look good even when that's not a high priority right now >_<. (In fact, we've switched to sci-fi assets on a temporary basis, which has helped stop me trying to tweak things!)
  • A third point would be that larger maps means more running to and fro when trying to test, which slows things down.

Merrilane is nothing fancy: a single lane cuts its way through some trees, with creep camps surrounding and a single map objective. There's space for a "boss pit", though intuitively I don't think we're doing bosses. I won't rule it out though: we're doing alpha to discover "what kind of boss would work best in RoW?", and then decide whether that "best boss" is worth including somewhere. Remember: RoW has a different combat rhythm so we can't make assumptions about what will or won't work in practice.

Much of the daily work has been hero scripting and map objectives. Pretty much every hero I design has some complicated thing that needs special scripting, so I've kept DarnYak busy! Also, if you haven't seen some of the live-game-design work, three of the heroes we introduced there are Emperor, Rasputin, and Rosarian. I'll do a video at some point about how Rosarian came about, she was something of a surprise even to me...

Finally, we'll be at the Dublin Games Festival in November; feel free to drop by for a chat and poke around with the alpha with us!


Time Flies like a Yak

DarnYak's avatar, in paddy modeJune was the busiest month I've had in recent memory.

It kicked off with Kybolt co-founder DarnYak hopping on a plane from San Francisco to come visit Ireland! Long-term we want to set up an office here and transfer him over on a more permanent basis (right now we work remotely), so this was a nice trip for scoping out a few cities (yes, he got the tour) and generally hanging out. A well-deserved break given that we've been at this for over four years now...

Chattin' mobas at Sandymount Strand, Dublin.

That weekend, I headed to Estonia/Finland to catching up with some friends, before getting home and diving straight into character design. As the art guidelines might suggest, a lot of thinking has gone into visuals and we really want our characters to be memorable. The process didn't go as smoothly as I'd like; we have a great artist on board but it's taking a lot more research than expected to get satisfactory results.

The following two weeks were filled with character design explorations, and welcoming a variety of friends as they visited Dublin (including long-time RoW player Gahn!). I managed to squeeze in some networking as well, including speaking at the Irish Game-based Learning Conference.

Days later, I learned to condense this entire project into a 10-minute business pitch, and delivered that to a panel from Enterprise Ireland's New Frontiers programme. (This comes after many long nights of preparing and passing a written application.)  We didn't manage to snag the funding+supports this time, but it was a valuable learning experience and sets the groundwork for approaching publishers and other sources of funding in the future.

Yesterday we started a new community-involvement initiative called live game development, where we'll figure out actual design issues in a public channel on our discord. Walk right into the conversation (our current topic is character design), or grab some popcorn and watch us go from the sidelines!

In short: we're working hard: sorting out residual issues with Lumberyard so we can finally put all our tech to use, getting better at the business side of things, and hopefully doing an okay job of keeping people in the loop. If you got questions, comments, or other stuff in your pocket: reach out anytime.