Monthly Development Update - October 2012

Monthly Development Update - October 2012

This month we wanted to give you all a sneak peek at some of the new armors, of both the armor and the vanity variety. The coming content for Secrets of the Dragon's Spine will include a whole host of new armor items, and a great selection of new vanity armors. The art teams working on the game are doing some amazing work bringing together some great new armor-sets and items that will bring to life another set of Hyborian cultures.

These are not the final, final versions of the armors you will see in these images, the art team are still doing the final tweaking and polishing, but we wanted to share some of the process and influences at play as we create more cultural armor and clothing options for the game. So please just bear in mind that some of the final sets may deviate from these work in progress images.

Creating new armors

The story that players will reveal in Dragon's Spine revolves around many mysteries, some of the very ancient, and involves the secrets of civilizations long lost. While situated in the far south of Stygia, the cultural influences at apply here are not purely those of the Stygia that the residents of Hyboria are already familiar with.

There is also the ancient influence, some of it an Acheronian influence, but also with the facets of the deserts previous inhabitants. We don't want to provide any story spoilers here, but suffice to say there are some ancient evils hidden beneath these sands that have an influence on things.
So what goes into the creation of an armor set? Let's take an example like this is the concept for one of the light armor sets.

This is then taken by the 3D and texture artists and converted into base models for review.

The Art Director and the team then make sure they are happy with the shapes and dimensions before the artists then work on further to add the details and textures tat bring our armors to life so well. Then finally we start to work with the tinting technology in order to provide possible colour and texture variations. These are the last things that are iterated on, so those aren't the final versions you see below, but it gives you an idea of the process, and the artists play with different tints and variations until they settle upon those that can be used.


Each style of armor then gets the same treatment with options for the various different armor weights all worked on. Here you can see some of the work in progress details on the medium armor set.

Here you can see the rigging for the male and female versions of the cloth armor sets.

Each piece has to be rigged and converted to work well with both the male and female character models and animations. This process is then done with each of the various armor types until we start to assemble the full list of the new armor sets.

Of course we will also have new vanity armors, and for those we wanted to take a different approach.

The new vanity armors

With the selection of vanity armors that will come out during the course of the Dragon's Spine content we wanted to start to utilise another different cultural theme. The Dragon's Spine is located in the border area between Stygia and Keshan, and while the main game armors are inspired by the ancient influences mentioned above, for the vanity armors we wanted to go more Tribal and start to bring in the some of the more African influences that start to come north from the Black Kingdoms.

This allows us to introduce another entirely different cultural influence on the items available for players. Howard's Hyboria provides such rich inspirations, and it allows our artists to really start to bring in these new tribal elements  into play.

These sets are not designed with specific armor types in mind. Due to their nature as purely vanity armors, it allows the artists to have a bit more freedom in creating something interesting and visually striking.

There will be a number of these sets that will be available in the item store throughout the Dragon's Spine release schedule, and we are looking forward to also seeing the interesting ways in which players will mix and match pieces to create even more unique costumes.

So outside of creating some pretty cool new armors, what are the team working on at the moment?

The Schedule

The good news here is that the team are hard at work, and as we write this letter, all the things we have talked about over the last few letters are still on track. Thus, the only minor downside is there is nothing new and exciting to talk about schedule wise. We are still working towards releasing the first volume of the Dragonspine content at the end of the year, with subsequent installments in the new year. Things aren't quite ready for the test servers yet, but that's the next goal.

Progress is also being made on the crafting revamp. The last parts of the design process are now coming together as the team finally start work on things like the final GUI. The final GUI is always the last part that comes in, as you don't want the GUI designers starting before the designers have finalised their intentions. So now it's great to see these elements start to be worked on internally. It's the stage when all the hard work, theory and data creation start to become something very real and useable in the game. This is the stage when the purely functional testing GUI will become the tool that you will all hopefully enjoy exploring when the new system goes live.

One important note on the crating revamp, off the back of questions that came up after the last developer live-stream is in regards of PVP. We mentioned in the stream that some ingredients would drop from player loot. That is indeed the plan, and we want the next sets of PVP items and armor to be gained in part from actual conquests on the battlefield, so an important component of the new system will be that some ingredients required for some of the new PVP items will only come from killing other players.

Some ingredients will also most likely be bought for existing tokens. This will allow players a choice and you will not be forced to use either mini-game tokens or Bori awards, rather we will make those ingredients available for either or both. This will mean that there will be new PVP items and armors. We are conscious of the fact that as Tier four raid gear has become more widely available it is time to also look at the PVP situation, and the new crafting system will provide us with the opportunity to do so.

This should also provide another compelling reason for more general outdoor PVP on the PVP servers, as there will always a decent reason for engaging with an opponent if they have a chance of dropping some valuable resources for you. On the PVE servers those drops will of course also come from combat with other players in the Border Kingdoms and other PVP situations, but those on the PVP servers will also have the benefit of being to fight in the open world for these drops as well.

Also we are looking at one adaption to the Border Kingdoms that comes from both a bug in the last update and a community idea to adopt it. The player search option temporarily not working had an unintended impact on the Border Kingdoms with some players feeling it was adding a sense of excitement, and danger, as they would not know who was there (and potentially who was hunting them), so the suggestion was made that we could consider keeping it that way purely for the Border Kingdoms. The team agreed and this is thus something we are working on to include in the future updates.

We have yet to make a final call on the team sizes for the mini-game that will come with the later installments of the Dragon's Spine updates. We will let you know, possibly in next month's letter, when we make a final call there. The feedback so far there has been mixed with pros and cons for both (or something new) so it may end up depending on what best fits the style of the new areas once we start more internal play-testing.

Wrapping up

That is it for this month. There are lots of really exciting updates just around the corner and we are really looking forward to the Dragonspine updates, the new crafting system, and the other updates that are in the works for the coming months.

See you on the battlefield!