Let's have fun together. I'll create things and you observe me.

This is a blog detailing all the projects I work on. It's a record of where things are at and a pin board of small random bits and pieces of creation.

I share anything useful I've come across during development, so if you're trying to solve a similar problem checking the labels on the right may be of assistance.

Feel free to leave a comment. Also, please take note that 90% of these blogs are compiled at 3 in the morning. The true hour of the day.

Enjoy your stay.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Let the party begin

Okay, yes. Neglected blog. Badly neglected. Come into the warm den of my attention and I shall nurture you back to health.

*GlaDOS voice* It's been a long time...

There's far too much I've been working on to cover in a single blog post (GlaDOS voice is off now btw), so I've decided to have a week of BLOG POSTING EXTRAVAGANZA! Each day I'll make a post focusing on a particular area of activity.

This brings me to the troubling conundrum of where to begin. After some deliberation, it became obvious it didn't really matter, so I just picked whatever I felt like writing about right now. Thrilling, I know.

So let's take a look at Netherworld Odysseys! Though this had a brief limelight of one post in this blog, I did actually dedicate a considerable amount of time to this WarCraft 3 map. I know you don't know or remember what I'm talking about, so a quick refresher:

Netherworld Odysseys (or just Netherworld or even Neth if I'm feeling lazy enough) is a custom WarCraft 3 map that is basically a Diablo clone. I wanted to focus on party interaction, challenge and replayability. These goals eventually expanded out into the following feature list:
- Random loot and enemy placement
- Multiple difficulties that get hard. So hard that you call me a bastard.
- Difficulty also scales with number of players
- Large variety of settings and situations
- Classes with multiple strategies and unique roles among the party
- Saving and loading of characters for each player

So that's the gist of it. Where I left the map after the last post about it was miserable. The map was starting to crash the game after a certain amount of time playing. This hamstrung the majority of goals I set out with the map. The most sucky thing was it always crashed just as it was getting good. The party was establishing its roles and equipment. The levels were getting tough. You were just about to charge into the crazy boss fight tanked up with buffs, potions and an elaborate plan.

Then the game crashed.

Not cool. At that point in development I had no idea how to save or load characters. I was focused so heavily on using the built-in cache feature (which only works for single player) that I just couldn't see any other way.

Then my housemate Fox pointed out this saving system he'd seen in another War3 RPG map he'd played a while ago. It printed out a code that you wrote down and typed in later when you wanted to load the character again. NES style. I leapt at the idea. Perfect! Easy!

So after a little bit of time I had that up and running. The map was back on track!

As a side note, yes I agonisingly hunted for every possible cause of the crashing. I spent at least a week on it (I don't know if that's impressive or not). The crash ultimately was something I could not fix.

Establishing the saving and loading greatly reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the project. I started adding new classes, new areas, items, bosses, abilities. The stages started getting more elaborate. A boss fight could no longer be just a big dude with a lot of health. The battle needed to evolve as you wore him down.

Suddenly the boss would start busting out a brutal new ability (video game cliche #??). You've run out of potions... now you need to focus on the towers to get a healing rune drop, now there's minions pouring in from the sides.

Playing around with these ideas was insanely fun. It began to carry over into the level design. At the same time I was reading this D&D Dungeon Master's Guide that I had bought at this book market a while back (claimed the "find of the day" by Ben XD ). That was really fuelling my ideas for situations and elements in the environment.

Big horde of enemies ambushing you? No worries, just Shockwave that support beam and cause a cave in to crush them; or hit that barrel to set the area on fire; or anger the wildlife then cloak to cause a battle between the two forces!

For this reason, the most recent 2 dungeons, and especially the last one, took much more time to make than the starting areas. Ultimately I started to get burn out. There are 7 levels in the map as it stands, and I have 2 more planned but not implemented beyond basic concepts in my head. It would be very satisfying to return to this project (it has been dormant for... at least 9 months) and finish off those last two levels (including the EPIC final boss battle), and complete all the classes (Barbarian, Paladin, Mage and Druid are fully playable, Assassin and Ranger remain incomplete).

If I do so, I'll dedicate an entire post to its release, talk about all the classes and various strategies my friends and I have tried while play testing.

Oh the play testing. Funny stuff. Ben and David had a LAN at their place and gave a bugged version of the map a play... and were tortured for hours. The bug? Sometimes the 5th level boss would spawn as a regular enemy. They didn't know it was a bug... they just thought I was an evil, satanic being that feeds on suffering.

Then there was the LAN we had before that at my place. There was a particular combination of enemy types that spawned near the end of the most recently implemented stage that was ridiculously hard to counter. Ultimately David rage quit and told me to "fuck that map". Ah, good times.

So yes, blog post about shelfware War3 map. Like I said, I wrote about what I felt like, not necessary the PEAK OF THE EXTRAVAGANZA. More like the tip. Oh clever puns and metaphor interplay.

Return tomorrow for more incredible content.