Do you like pets, powersets, and behind-the-scenes development glances? Then you’ll enjoy the nearly four hours of Valiance Online stream footage now available just below, which features a discussion of the enhancement system, spreadsheet development, the start of a community-developed powerset (Bubble Projection, starts at around the two-hour mark), a look at one of the pet powersets available, and plenty of in-jokes and laughs among the developers. The video is long, but you can safely skip to around 24:00 and not miss any of the important moments.
If you don’t have time to watch all of that or would prefer more direct information, you can check out the game’s latest lore article about the Starborn, a gang of fashion-obsessed custom-tailored psionic troublemakers jockeying for power more due to boredom than anything else. They’re chasing the latest psionic technology and the latest fashion, and they’re willing to make an absolute mess of the world in the process. So that’s going to be fun.
In an epic-length livestream this past weekend, the Valiance Online team showed off its development alpha test and discussed some of the systems and features that are going into this superhero MMO.
One of these topics was superhero origins, which the team said was a daunting task to incorporate as there are tons of backstories behind all of the caped crusaders out there. So the team created three main origin categories — magic, science, and natural — for now that should cover the broader spectrum.
Even better is a lot of footage of actual gameplay, which takes place in a colorful city and shows off combat, movement, and even a day/night cycle.
Settle in for the nearly four-hour livestream with goofy and easily distracted developers after the break. The actual stream begins at the 22-minute mark; it discusses superhero origins at 1:34:00, powersets at 1:42:00, and gameplay at 2:46:00.
Hearing that something is coming “soon” is the bane of every MMO player; it technically qualifies as a time frame, but it’s vague and unclear and could mean any point between “a few weeks” to “next year.” The good news is that the alpha test for Valiance Online will be starting sooner than that; the latest update from the development team explains that while the game’s update cadence has fallen behind briefly, that has more to do with getting everything properly ready for the alpha launch. And it’s almost there, even.
The team made a picture in June of the absolute cut-off point for what could make a July alpha release, and unfortunately subsequent testing revealed that there were still areas which needed some refinement before that alpha test could commence. As a result, the final polishes are being put on the test and the team is working hard to make sure that important systems like enhancement management and crafting are ready to go. Fans can look forward to learning more in the near future; for now, you’ll have to settle for reassurance that it’s not far off.
Recently we had an interesting question come in from reader and Patron Rasmus Praestholm, who asked me to do a little investigating: “What (if anything of substance) exists in the MMO field that’s not only free, but open source? The topic of open source came up briefly in a recent column, where Ryzom was noted to have gone open source at some point. But have any serious efforts actually gotten anywhere starting out as open source?”
As some graphical MMORPGs pass the two-decade mark in video game history and are being either cancelled or retired to maintenance mode, it’s an increasingly important topic when it comes to keeping these games alive. Not only that, the question of open source MMOs involves the community in continued development, with the studio handing over the keys to an aging car to see what can be done by resourceful fans.
But has anything much been done with open source projects in the realm of MMORPGs? Is this something that we should be demanding more of as online gaming starts using more accessible platforms such as SpatialOS? Let’s dig a bit into this topic and see what we turn up.
“As a superhero MMORPG developer, what would you require before officially launching your alpha build?”
This intriguing question was presented to the Valiance Online community a couple of days ago, leaving it open for all manner of interpretation. Are the devs hinting that the alpha test for this superhero title is on its way or are they simply trying to get feedback for what should take priority before such a test is launched?
Speaking of the alpha, the team posted the latest development roadmap, showing that coding and quality assurance are the two areas left until the build is complete. Players were also given a sneak peek at a few character creation screens starring some of the key figures in the game.
Valiance Online has a dev thread up this week asking backers and devs to propose hairstyles for the game’s characters, something that immediately yoinked my attention since I am notoriously picky about hair. As I’ve written before, I’m not against mohawks. Mohawks are cool. But when we open up a character creator and see 50 different types of mohawks and little else? Drives me bonkers. I’m exaggerating a little, but the variety in most MMOs isn’t so hot, and that’s partly down to clipping issues, I realize. Still, hair specifically is super important to me when I’m rolling a character. It’s definitely in my top three, probably right after gender.
How about you? What’s the most important part of MMORPG character customization to you? You can pick three!
What makes for a great superheroic MMO? What are the most important aspects of the game to consider? The developers behind Valiance Online obviously have several answers of their own, but a question on the game’s official forums turns that question back over to the community. What do you think is the most important part of making this game great?
The responses are already varied and in-depth; the argument is being made, for example, that a big part of it is understanding the fantasy of being a superhero and the importance of letting individual heroes tackle strong villains alone. There’s also a lot of discussion of how challenging content should be and the amount of content in the game, along with discussion of which MMOs succeed at providing all of the right elements (a list that doesn’t start and stop with City of Heroes, incidentally) and which ones do not. If you’re curious about what has been said or just want to add your own thoughts, the thread is right here.
Fans that might look at Valiance Online’s development chart and wonder when, oh when alpha will ever arrive are being treated to a pep talk from the team today. A reality check was posted on the official forums for those finding that patience with this project is in short supply.
“Game development is not a science, especially for a small indie team,” the Valiance Online devs wrote. “The unexpected happens, like Unity suddenly deciding to make major changes to the engine with no warning, or members of the team being unavailable due to their ‘day job’ or family/medical issues and when you have a small team, just one member being ‘AFK’ affects progress a lot. This is why we have decided to not post dates for when things will be done because ‘stuff’ happens and we don’t have the resources like a larger studio might have to deal with it as quickly. That’s just how it is.”
The good news? Progress is being made, and the team is just as excited about getting to alpha status as its fans. “Regardless of whatever challenges or setbacks we face, we keep moving forward,” promised the team.
Back in April, Silverhelm Studios told players it was instituting “big changes” in the way it was rolling out information for City of Heroes-inspired indie MMORPG Valiance Online, with a renewed emphasis on transparency. So far it’s delivered on that promise, as over the course of just the last few weeks, it’s begun posting development roadmap snapshots, mulled over sidekicking, previewed in-game buildings, and posted a map of the game world.
This week, it’s posted another look at the city hall of Skyeline, a tiered building with more lore than you can shake a cape at.
“The final structure that stands today is as glorious in appearance as it is in capability. Made from an amalgam of composite and newly generated Haelan brand synthetic metals, City Hall is a bastion of gleaming silver, mirrored glass and alabaster stone. It has multiple floors that begin on the lower second tier of Skyeline’s layers and proceeds twenty stories tall to end above the third tier. The building’s bowed hexagonal arch shape allows visitors to the city to walk under city hall to the Prisma Celeste and Memorial grounds beyond. A series of white marble and bronze accented stairs leads up either side of the main entrance to the many offices of the various departments contained within.”
The team behind Valiance Online wants to show you everything there is to be seen within the game. Of course, you can’t see it yourself at the moment, but that’s all right; the development team is more than happy to highlight some screenshots for you, showing off the City Hall platform and two shots of the Landvik Memorial Hospital for future players from the current internal tests.
Once players are actually in the test, the plan is to continue publishing screenshots from both players and developers on a regular basis, so everyone can see what’s going on in the world. For now, though, it’s just internal test shots. You’ll have to mentally add the swarms of players and particle effects.
Sidekicking and mentoring were among the best and most-used features in City of Heroes, but will one of its spiritual successors take a cue from these systems? On Valiance Online’s forums, the team is asking for fan feedback about a hypothetical system that would allow players of different levels to enjoy the game together. Maybe it’s nothing, but there’s a chance this could be a hint that the Valiance team is working on its own system behind the scenes.
Speaking of the project’s progress, the team posted its weekly development roadmap, now with a new column specifically for the task of tracking the game’s movement toward a private alpha. According to the chart, both systems and content for the alpha are complete, while coding, art, and QA are still in the works.
“The latest Unity update has made major changes to the handling of the user interface,” the team reported. “Instead of waiting on Unity to release an update to support old setups, we’re recording the affected parts in game.”
How much transparency do you want or demand from your upcoming MMOs? Valiance Online’s team assumes that you’re on the “quite a bit” end of the spectrum, as the team is making a point of posting a snapshot of its development roadmap every week leading up to alpha.
From glancing over the roadmap, it seems like there’s a lot to go before the title is ready for a proper alpha test. There are a few areas, such as the creation of the game’s timeline and player alignment system, that are complete, but most everything else is still being built.
Valiance Online has also expanded its edition offerings, giving current backers more bang for their support — but also increasing the price of these tiers for any future purchasers. Some of the new rewards include laser skates, a cyber dog pet, rocketboards, and being able to design a weapon for use to all players in-game.
Expect “big changes” in the way Silverhelm Studios handles superhero MMORPG Valiance Online’s development going forward, the indie group tells future players and testers in a new dev post today. Silverhelm says that about five months ago, it “shifted from a feature implementation and prototyping development stage to an aggressive content development and content testing phase,” with a renewed focus on transparency, the map, content coding, tools, mob scripting, and the character generator (shown down below), all in the service of preparing for an alpha release and then, eventually, release on Steam.
“Our marketing team is also gearing up for Alpha release, and building their launch campaign for the project. Alongside them, our business team is preparing for the Steam launch and resuming talks with interested investment parties as they start planning to strengthen our infrastructure’s integrity. Our plan is to have the Alpha run for at least 1-2 months. The first phase of testing will be reserved for those that have donor status with the project. As people donate money they will, of course, be given immediate access to the game. They will also receive all of their accumulated donor rewards that are available in the game at that time. Over time we will also add additional testers drawn from people registered on our forums and later, open testing to the public at large. The Steam launch is pivotal for us and is anchored loosely on how financial negotiations mature with interested parties, and how well the Alpha is received by our players. We’re in no rush to Steam, and it has always been our goal to have a well-established and highly refined product before heading to that market.