Melissa Meyer is the Producer on Hero's Journey, the exciting MMORPG in development over at Simutronics. Today we have our usual bi-weekly Q&A with the team there as Melissa goes the extra mile to provide us with in-depth answers, as well as our customary weekly screenshots.
I really like all of the concepts I read about for this game, and the screen shots are pretty nice looking. I do have one concern about the screenshots though: Lack of Bump-mapping. Are there plans to include BM in the engine?
Virtually every surface has bump mapping. Bump mapping doesn’t show up well in screenshots because what makes it jump out (vs. just a bump being painted in a texture) is how the bump interacts with the lighting as the view changes, the character animates, and so on.
The only way to see it without things moving is to examine two identical scenes with it on and off. The following two screenshots show the same character with bump mapping turned on and off. The difference is readily apparent in how the light catches the bumps and indentations.
Without Bump Mapping
With Bump Mapping
We also can do an image-based displacement mapping (parallax mapping) which goes way beyond bump mapping in that it gives a dramatic 3D relief to what is otherwise a flat plane. The following close up of a stone wall demonstrates the difference between a flat texture and the parallax displacement mapping. Notice how with the displacement, the stones seem to physically dimensional even though it is really a flat plane. If you move around the and look at the wall from the other side, it will appear that you are seeing the other sides of those individual rocks.
Without Bump Mapping
With Bump Mapping
Will there be a lot of unique monsters in the game, or will we see the same monsters with a different name and slight change in their skin hue? In most other MMORPGs you see a Goblin Welp, then a Goblin Basher and then a Goblin Cracker then a Goblin Brute etc, but they all look exactly the same. Will HJ move to remedy this with a large amount of different creatures to fight and interact with, or are you focusing on having a smaller number of creatures that are more fleshed out?
We have elected, in almost every point of the game design, to focus on smaller quantity, but greater quality. In the case of creatures, we will have fewer creature “groups” than other games may (at least initially). However, our intention is to make each of those groups far more detailed and interesting than has been seen before. This allows us to create much more detailed and interesting creature AI, and also allows us to focus more on quality art and animation.
The cool thing is that even within the same creature, there is a lot of interesting variety. Many of our creatures utilize the same system that allows our player characters to be so unique. They can all be dressed in a wide variety of feature and clothing combinations. Furthermore, as we progress, we can add more pieces and parts to their wardrobes with ease – in addition to adding more creature groups, of course.
Are you doing anything to attempt to bring in first time MMO players, or are you concentrating primarily on the pre-existing fan base?
: Our focus has not been on whether we would bring first-timers or experienced players in. Rather, we did a lot of research to determine what players wanted in terms of game features, and how well their needs have been matched in existing MMOs. From there we determined the features that are unavailable in the market today, and made those our focus.
As it turns out, the data shows that players feel that many of the features they put on the top of the list are not well supported by existing MMOs. By providing a product with these features, we believe we will attract both experienced MMO players, who have been making due in other games, as well as players who haven’t come online yet because what they wanted wasn’t available.
What, if anything, are you doing to please the hardcore crafters out there?
Early on, we made a great effort to redesign a traditional crafting system, but we continued to feel that it was lacking. We had already decided that we would remove tedium from the game. The way crafting is traditionally represented in MMOs bears little resemblance to anything that you would call crafting in the real world; actually it is much more like manufacturing than anything else! It is tedious, repetitive and mostly lacking in any sort of personalized touches that would the player actually feel like a craftsman.
So, instead, we began to look at what appealed to people about crafting. Crafting should be an opportunity to create and to add something interesting into the game world. It should be an opportunity to make a name for yourself, earning not only fortune but also fame for what you have created! We took these ideas and created a new idea, that isn’t really a traditional crafting system. We’ve already explained our approach at length in other interviews with MMORPG.com, I believe.
So, I guess the answer is that we hope that this new idea (this non traditional crafting system) WILL appeal to hardcore crafters … because it gives them what they have really always wanted but never gotten from other MMOs.
Your FAQ mentioned that you would have a tutorial. Tutorials in MMOs tend to vary in style. What can you tell us about your tutorial process?
New player assistance comes in multiple stages.
At the most fundamental, players need to know the basic functionality of the interface, and that comes from the tutorial. We have not yet begun working on our tutorial, but we are currently leaning toward a solo adventure supplemented with voice-overs that give instructions and that direct the user’s attention to call-outs indicating important areas of the user interface. The tutorial should be short (to get the player in the game) but action packed, and of course, entirely optional.
Once the player enters the game, they will continue to be supported with ongoing “advice” that can be turn off at any time. The instructions will be hints and tips to help understand some of the fundamentals of gameplay.
Finally, many new users desire assistance with game strategy. In order to provide this support we employ a small army of organized, in-game player volunteers called the Mentor Society. The Mentors will have headquarters in every major town-center, and can be easily located or summoned at low levels.
While Mentors are often called upon to help answer questions about getting started in the game, they have a secret agenda. The Mentors are very dedicated players who are interested in inducting players into the unique culture of Simutronics games: worlds with strong community and social depth.
A special thanks to Melissa for making these happen!