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A Return to the Roots of MMOs - Part 3

By Tim Anderson on October 15, 2015 | Developer Journals | Comments

A Return to the Roots of MMOs - Part 3

And now for the continuation of this Saga of Lucimia developer journal. Don’t forget to read Part One to understand our focus on community first, and Part Two where we talk about the team, the realities of working under the public eye, and our Early Access program.

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All of that moves us on to the upcoming October 24th build. While the first build was primarily to test the servers and their functionality, the next build is focusing on the first stages of combat, as well as a variety of features such as zoning into a different map, our first iteration of an interest management system, the ability hot bar, basic target dummies, and basic attacks with power attacks tied to abilities.

From there, will be adding on other enhancements in the coming monthly builds. Combat will become more complex as we add ability modifiers and specific abilities, play around with armor class, stats, hit points, and damage roles, and eventually will get into adding AI, pathing, and other, more complex, systems, and then eventually crafting and housing.

So what’s next for us, beyond the October 24 build? Well, there’s the November build coming up at the end of that month, and a new build every single month beyond that until we release the finished product in December 2017.

Right now, the art team is working on building some of the first original game assets in Maya, Blender, and ZBrush. While we have purchased around 2,000 USD of Unity Assets that form the foundation layers of our zones and Human cities, and we’ve already budgeted aside for Mixamo as an early 2016 asset purchase, we’re also heavily modifying existing assets for our own unique style; Joey mentioned this in Episode 6 of Building Whitehall, talking about replacing the existing tavern with something he’s going to create from scratch in Unity.

Beyond that, the art team has to create custom assets for the Dwearhe, Elenhi/Eldeni, and original clothing and armor for the various human kingdoms throughout the game. There’s also original assets that have to be created for human outposts and enhancing the existing assets that we’ve purchased, so they’ve got their work cut out for them.

While the bulk of the network code and server architecture is in place, there are always going to be modifications needed as we continue to grow the game. Not only are the programmers working on that side of things, there’s also the whole client-side operation, taking the mechanical concepts of our game and turning those into functional realities within the game world.

Not everything we put down on paper will work as intended within the game, which is why we have the Early Access program in place, so that players who are passionate about helping us build this game can get involved and be a part of the process. Not only to help us work out the kinks in the system, but also provide us with additional sets of eyes so that we can creatively come up with solutions to things that we might not have seen on our own, since we’re just 18 people.

The Camps & Caravans system in particular is probably going to be our biggest challenge in the months ahead, as it is something that hasn’t exactly been done before in the exact way that we are setting out to do it. But as far as pathing, combat, crafting, and AI go, we’re not looking to break the wheel; this is an old-school MMORPG, so you will see some familiar components.

While we have the skill system of UO, which means there are no classes, we have the Vanguard system of combat with sympathetics, skill synergy, casting-while-moving, counterspelling, and defensive targeting, along with EverQuest style zones and mobs where nothing leashes and you either kill it, or be killed. On top of that, were adding in some additional components like our hunters and seekers, which are mobs that will actively hunt down and track players within a zone or dungeon, which means you are never safe any time you are outside of the city or outpost.

Casting an invisibility spell or sneaking/hiding won’t be enough, because some of these mobs can track your progress through your footprints, and others can see infrared, or smell you, or hear you. Different characters will have different abilities that can help you mask your presence in a zone or dungeon, but there is no such thing as one person being able to hide you; a group will need to work together to mask their presence in a zone, and even then, nothing is guaranteed.  

Which means going AFK for long periods of time is absolutely out of the question; you either need to get to a guard post, city, or an outpost, or you need to make sure that your group is ready to cover you if you have to go for more than a few minutes.

This will also make camping a specific area/mob much more difficult, and it also eliminates the ability for players to solo a given zone. The overland content is designed so that players in groups of three to four can wander around and explore and handle small encounters of lions and tigers and bears and the like, and there will be small encampments of monsters and bandit camps and castles in ruins which are meant for groups of six to eight players.

But in the same zones are the hunters and seekers, which are roaming packs of bandits or wyverns or wolves which will hunt you down and seek you out. If you are in a small group, that means running for the guards or running for the zone line if they catch wind of you. If you are in a full group, maybe that means standing your ground and seeing if you can overcome the challenge.

But what happens if you are guarding your caravan of loot on your way back to the city from a two-month dungeon run? Do you make a break for it and leave your loot behind? Or do you stand your ground and fight to the last man and then have a corpse run? What happens if it is a wandering raid mob meant to be taken down by three or four groups?

These are the elements of challenge that we are adding to zones and dungeons. As we stated at our FAQs page, leaving a city or an outpost behind is not a stroll down to the side of the river to pick daffodils for your mum. This is the Fellowship of the Ring heading out from Rivendell with a party of nine who have a variety of skills and abilities and who are capable of defending against the Nazgul, should they be attacked.

While we have made a lot of progress since we started in early 2014, we still have a long way to go. Our first official alpha test in September was a great starting point, and it was everything we hoped it would be in terms of a milestone. From here, we still have a lot of work ahead of us, and we look forward to continuing the journey with our community, and finding like-minded adventurers, such as yourselves, who want to join us on the road.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins

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