game development

The Repopulation details the changes for art assets and how they help players

The odds are high that when you walk through an MMO’s landscape, you are not thinking about art assets beyond “this looks pretty” or “this looks awful.” But the latest information from The Repopulation team covers why you should care a little bit more about art assets for forests and how they’re set up. After all, the way the game is currently set up, every tree is a different asset, but upgraded systems will make the calls for forests as a single group… thus reducing load times and improving performance as the game draws a single asset instead of many.

The developers are also improving and rescaling existing models (resulting in better collision detection and reduced loading times) and categorizing items more efficiently in the game’s databases. In short, the result should be a title that plays better while looking better at the same time. Check out the full rundown for an idea about how all of this will come together.

Comment

EVE Evolved: Solving EVE Online’s botting problem

Practically every MMO on the market today has had to contend with botting and the range of issues that come with it, and EVE Online has always been a favoured target for bots. EVE‘s slow pace of gameplay and predictable PvE activities make it ideal for automation, and the nature of a persistent sandbox is that more time spent farming resources and currency will always be better. The issue seems to have escalated in recent months since the free-to-play upgrades expanded the range of ships and modules available to free users, and the community has been pushing CCP heavily for progress.

A team of bot-hunting players made the news last month when they took down eight ridiculously expensive supercarriers being controlled by bots, exposing just how big the scale of the problem is. The EVE security team responded with a ban wave hitting over 1,800 bot accounts in January and promises that they are “coming for the bots,” but one expert admitted in a recent interview that the war on bots may never be won. So just how difficult is it to tackle botting in EVE Online, and what could CCP do to improve things?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at the difficulties in detecting and shutting down botters, how extensive botting may be in nullsec, and some things developers might have to do in order to solve the problem.

Read more

EVE Evolved: A matter of balance in EVE Online

Throughout its almost 15-year lifetime, EVE Online has walked a fine line between developing new features and iterating on existing gameplay. Development has to push forward on new features to keep the game fresh and attract new players, but balance issues can emerge in existing gameplay that equally make the game stale or less enjoyable. CCP Games hasn’t always responded to these issues in a timely manner, at times leaving known balance issues in the game for months or even years because development resources weren’t available to tackle those specific issues.

This strategy has been challenged recently by Council of Stellar Management member Jin’taan in his article “Balance is not optional,” in which he argues that CCP shouldn’t even be making balance changes compete for development time with other features. Player Capri Sun KraftFoods followed up with a look at EVE‘s modular item attribute system, arguing that almost any balance change can be implemented quickly and easily just by tweaking the right attributes. Could it be that easy to iterate on EVE‘s frequent balance issues, or does the nature of the game necessitate caution?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I break down the case for quicker iterative updates on balance issues, look at some of the challenges with balancing a game like EVE, and look at CCP’s new balance team.

Read more

Ascent: Infinite Realm’s 2019 launch is the future of Kakao’s international ambitions

Good news, Ascent: Infinite Realm! The future of Kakao’s international plans and possible acquisition of western development studios hinges upon your success! Not that the publisher behind Black Desert is hurting for cash or anything; no, it’s a simple matter of seeing whether or not lightning can strike twice. The international success of the latter title was considered a surprise, but if A:IR exceeds expectations, a recent interview with CEO Min Kim suggests that the publisher may look into more western development studios to purchase.

Of course, this is not something that the company expects to know for some time, as A:IR is not expected to have a full release until 2019, but the suggestion of the future is still there. The current belief is that quality sells internationally, compared to the prevailing Korean notion that breaking into other markets is difficult at best. If you’d like to see more products bankrolled by Kakao, then, you may want to keep a close eye on A:IR’s performance as it moves into beta testing.

Comment

Digital Extremes to open a new studio in Toronto

The studio behind Warframe is riding the success of that game until it runs out of rail, because why would they not? A new Digital Extremes studio is opening up in Toronto next month, just two hours away from its existing headquarters in London, Ontario. That might seem like it’d almost be easier to just make the London studio larger, but considering that there’s a great deal of development talent already in Toronto and it’s easier not to commute two hours on a daily basis, this way might work better.

We know for a fact that the new studio will be focused on game development, although it remains to be seen if the focus will be on further Warframe content or the recently announced The Amazing Eternals. Keep your eyes peeled for more developments and further news as events warrant.

Comment

Perfect Ten: How MMORPGs become so darn complicated

MMOs are complicated. This seems like a fairly non-controversial statement; there are more or less complicated games, but they all tend to be complex as heck. I frequently cite Star Trek Online as an example of complexity run amok, where the game is significantly more complicated than it even appears to the point where the game has reworked its skill system some three separate times and it’s still difficult to understand, but even World of Warcraft has plenty of bits of complexity that aren’t really explained to new players.

Of course, it’s also been significantly simplified from its early days; who remembers Crushing Blows and 102.4% defense? Most tanks, I’d imagine.

But even seemingly straightforward systems like dungeon rewards tend to increasing complexity over time. Heck, I’ve been dealing with Guild Wars 2’s boost system with Path of Fire and found that hosting some complexity and weird exceptions when it comes to hero points and unlocking Elite Specializations. So why do MMOs tend to be so complicated, even when dealing with simple stuff? I think that’s a fun topic that I can explain in, oh, let’s say ten bullet points.

Read more

EVE Evolved: Does EVE Online need more conflict-drivers?

Of all the terminology associated with EVE Online, the one thing that’s always made me a bit uncomfortable is to hear players describe PvP as “generating content.” It’s an oddly sterile euphemism that seemed to surface years ago during the era of the blue donut when large alliances organised faux wars for the entertainment of their restless troops, and it doesn’t sit right with me. PvP in EVE is supposed to be about real conflict for solid reasons, not generating content for its own sake. It’s about smashing a gang of battleships into a pirate blockade to get revenge, suicide ganking an idiot for transporting PLEX in a frigate, or forcibly dismantling another alliance’s station because you just hate them so much.

EVE PvP can be visceral and highly personal, not just something fun to do or a game of strategy but a way to settle old grudges and punish people for whatever the hell you want. World War Bee was a brutal mix of Machiavellian politics and massive fleets of highly motivated players coming together, not just for some fun gameplay but to try and completely annihilate the goons. So what the hell happened? Why are so many people sitting in nullsec fortresses and farming ISK, building huge capital fleets and complaining about the “lack of content” in PvP today? Does EVE‘s conflict engine need a tune-up?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at some of the factors limiting real conflict in EVE today and suggest three possibly controversial changes that would drive further conflict in New Eden.

Read more

Conan Exiles walks through the process of adding texture-rendering middleware late in development

The developers of Conan Exiles had a problem. The game was full of high-resolution textures to paint across the world, thus ensuring that rocks looked like rocks, trees looked like trees, and skin looked like slightly softer rocks. But the amount of required textures were also causing issues with video cards with only 2 GB of VRAM, and even 4 GB of VRAM could result in problems. So how could the team avoid turning the game into a blobby mess? That’s exactly what the latest development post is all about.

If you were hoping to read about some major new gameplay system coming to the game, we’re sorry to disappoint you, but this post does not end with the revelation that players can kill and harvest textures. But it is an interesting peek behind the scenes at a development element we rarely consider that has a large impact on the game as a whole. Check out the whole thing to learn how the game handles textures, and then hug a textured and non-blobby tree in the game. Then chop it down for lumber.

Comment

Chronicles of Elyria discusses moving to production and its next stretch goal

Good news for the Chronicles of Elyria fans in the audience, as the game is officially moving on from pre-production to production very soon. What’s the difference? As the most recent dispatch from the development team explains, pre-production means that documentation is written on everything from shared digital documents to cocktail napkins and unused “Leave a Suggestion” cards from restaurants, while production means that everyone is in place, documentation is cleaned up, and people are all working away on a coherent vision. So that’s a good thing.

The dispatch also includes details on the next stretch goal: Gaming. Yes, obviously, there’s going to be gaming going on because the game is a game, but the developers also want to add gaming and gambling to taverns to give players more reason to crowd inside the building instead of outside by the nearest auction block while checking out other people’s cool equipment. So there’s plenty of reason to push for that last $100,000 toward the stretch goal (or push against it if you’re really fond of auction houses).

Source: Kickstarter

Comment

MMO Mechanics: Enhancing MMORPGs with experiential learning mechanics

Ever since I considered the responses to a Massively Overthinking article in which a developer asked if a prestige system to encourage replaying an MMO from level 1 would be a viable design approach, I’ve been mulling over the sorts of mechanics that developers can use to reward players for experiential learning in a game’s world. I love to consider ways in which playing in and learning about a game world can be rewarded without necessarily stacking on more levels or unlocking more skill points, so this question prompted a good deal of thought.

In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’ll explore some well-established mechanics that reward in-game learning and will also suggest some that could perhaps be employed that come from other game genres. Also up for consideration will be the importance of learning-based development in MMOs and why I find it so interesting in the first place.

Read more

Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan on team size and development time

There are around 100 developers working on Overwatch right now. That number comes from director Jeff Kaplan directly in a thread on the game’s official forum, where he answers two big questions about the game’s development and how the process of developing and refining the game works. The developers on the team are further supported by other “shared” teams across Blizzard, such as the merchandising department and the animation department, both of which help create the various associated pieces of merchandise and animated shorts (respectively).

Kaplan also talks about the development pipeline when it comes to implementing new features, which is more complex than it might seem at a glance. There are some features that seem simple but have technical barriers, but there are also features that are easy to implement (what Kaplan refers to as “low-hanging fruit”) that can overwhelm developers if you try to get too many of them implemented at once.

Read more

EVE Evolved: The single-shard sandbox economy

The debate about what makes a good sandbox game is as old as the term itself, and everyone seems to have a different view on where the gameplay priorities should lie. Some insist that a proper sandbox must have open-world PvP everywhere and even that a brutal scheme of item loss on death is essential. Others point to games that prioritise world-building and environment-shaping tools that put the focus on collaboration over conflict, or that focus on exploration of environmental content. I would argue that the specific gameplay is less important than how actively a game encourages emergent gameplay, and in that regard I believe the most important feature is a complex player-run economic system.

EVE Online‘s core design philosophy is to put lots of players in a box with limited resources and see what happens, the result being resource-driven conflict, complex economics, and sociopolitical shenanigans that often mirror the real world in shocking detail. Much has been made of EVE‘s economy over the years in both the online and print media, and it’s even been the target of research papers and studies in sociology and economics. EVE isn’t the only sandbox game out there, and it certainly isn’t the only one with an interesting economy, but its single-shard server structure makes it an intriguing case and has led to some interesting gameplay over the years.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at how EVE Online‘s single-shard server structure has affected the game’s complex economics, politics, and professions.

Read more

Chronicles of Elyria developers discuss rope bridge development

There’s no question at this point about whether or not Chronicles of Elyria will be funded. There is, however, some question of whether or not it will fork, launch, and be positively received. Why is this ambitious game going to succeed when other ambitious games have failed? According to an update on the game’s official Kickstarter page, the answer comes down to rope bridges. Not in the sense that the game features more of them, but in terms of developmental philosophy.

The idea is that a rope bridge is the minimum necessary structure to get from one side of a gorge to another; while it’s not permanent, it’s enough to be flexible and to cross a gap. Development on CoE has been moving with that same philosophy, building the minimum necessary, testing it, and then iterating on that basic development. The actual description is a fair bit more involved, but the hope is that the philosophy will allow the development team to be more flexible and more open to changing needs.

Source: Kickstarter

Comment

1 2