This is the first installment of a three part series I'd like to share with you guys. It's all about where the project is right now, how far we've come and how far we have to go before we can go Open Beta! I really would appreciate any feedback and I'd love to answer any of your questions in the next part, so feel free to ask anything relating to this topic and I'll try to answer it as honestly as I can! As always, I can't give out dates or estimates, as it is too variable so I apologize for that in advance.
I thought I would start off the series with a topic I'm a little more educated with. I've been on the Design Team for a long time and we've had a pretty great team throughout the project. While the Development Team battles on with new content, fixing bugs and implementing new systems or simply optimizing current ones, the Design Team is responsible for creating design documents, fixing formulas, ensuring mobs and mob camps are correct and adding a degree of manual polish to every facet of the game they can. I hope I can give you a little bit of insight into how the Design Team operates and just how far it has come.
Where Are We?
Design really has come a long way. Infact, before we begun Closed Beta testing we were largely out of work to do! With the oh so extra vigiliant eyes that our testers have, various bugs or inconsistencies get highlighted, making sure we're as true to the Shadowbane we once knew as we possibly can. With that said, here's a brief run down of just how far we've come! To see each tasks description be sure to click the "show" tab!
Creating, Finishing and/or Polishing the following cities as well as adding every NPC manually to each city:
This task involved the Development Team adding as much information from community submitted recordings (thanks dudes and dudettes!) as possible. After we had taken all the information we could... most cities were largely incomplete, irregular and had some polishing up to do! Each city also needed to have every single NPC added by hand (which involves naming the NPC, placing it in its proper place and equipping it with gear in each equipment slot manually) which is no easy task! This task was tested vigorously and has been completed to 99.9% satisfaction (we're working on the other .1%!)Starkholm;
Khan ov Srekel;
Sea Dogs Rest.
Creating, Finishing and/or Polishing Spawn Camps Buildings [Round One]
This task was similar to the building of each city. We had a recording data base (thanks to our dev team and the community) which left some camps complete while others were half finished or not even existent! Design Team members trekked through the world and manually added, rotated, shrunk, deleted and twisted beyond recognition every building until it was satisfactory. This includes Vorringia, Aerynth and Dalgoth.50+ Macrozones
Adding Mobs to Each Camp [Round One]
Creating Design Documents for the Development Team
This task took a lot of time. After we were fairly confident each camp had satisfactory buildings and aesthetics, we were tasked to add mobs to the camps. This was a manual process in which we had to place each mob, dictate where it was going to patrol, how many mobs were to be in each camp and then equip each individual mob type with all the gear they need to defend themselves from pesky players.800+ Microzones
Thousands of Mobs
The Spawn Index Foundations
The Design Team needed to make sure the devs had all the information they required for implementing new systems. Not everyone has a perfect memory like myself! Many people, including community members, were tapped for their knowledge to make this information available and accurate.Bane Mechanics
City Management/Building Mechanics
Discipline and Class rune information for: Races required, Base Classes required, Promotion Classes required, Disciplines prohibited
Soft Cap and Monster Con
SDR and NPC Gear Lists
Tokens for every power/skill
Loadable object masks
Building data for costs and hitpoints
Shrine and R8 cost rules
Implementing, Testing and Refining Formulas
The Spawn Index is a wiki project for SBE that is to contain all of our camp and mob information, straight from the horses mouth so to speak. It'll help players make sure they have all the information they need for leveling, farming, etc. Adding the foundations to this is very important so that when we're ready to enter data into it, it streamlines the process.
This was a huge undertaking and a superbly important one. Making sure the client and the server have the same information or as close to it as possible is hugely important. The team really outperformed themselves as virtually every formula is within an error margin of 1% or better. Gathering data for the HP/MP/SP formulas alone took a couple hundred hours and required the help of roughly 20 community, test and design team members with 5 people working to figure out the formulas.HP
Defense / ATR
AOE Rules + Chant Rules
Skill training point costs
Weapon speed cap
Stats influence on skills
Weapon proc formula
Where are we Today?
Creating, Finishing and/or Polishing Spawn Camps Buildings [Round Two] (largely complete)
The first round went swimmingly, but as always every system can be improved. Our closed beta team (with all their alertness and knowledge) found bugs or mistakes in buildings and highlighted them to our team. We'll be ensuring these are rectified before we can go into beta! The carpets always have to compliment the drapes, everyone knows this. Right?50+ Macrozones
Adding Mobs to Each Camp [Round Two] (Design Teams next "big task")
Two things were important in making this our next task. The first were the bugs reported by our closed beta members and testing team. The second was a small setback that was previously overlooked: mob stats did not scale with level. Initially, the design team artificially raised the level of mobs that were aesthetically correct for each camp (so we took R1 mobs and raised them to R5) which was all fine and dandy until testing of these mobs began. It was found that the mobs HP, ATR/DEF and damage values did not scale with level and these mobs fell over super duper easy. Which I'm sure all you PvP masters that want to sail through PvE and level fast would find perfectly fine, but we here at the Shadowbane Emulator believe in equal opportunities, justice and fairness - we don't discriminate against race, sexual orientation or artificial intelligence and we'll be making sure our mobs have a fighting chance! (go lizardmen!)800+ Microzones
Thousands of Mobs
So to compliment our agreement to be as transparent as we can, I'll include a short plan and call to arms that I wrote recently relating to this task and hopefully it gives you some idea of what the design team is about. Click the "show" tab if interested dudes and dudettes!
Design Mob Kickstart Briefing
Mac, Vervandi, Maethius, Spitster, Kris, Xemise and Myself will go through and fix some design related issues over the next couple weeks.
Requirements - Knowledge of mobs and current camp bugs
Mob Aesthetics (What mobs should look like)
Camp Aesthetics (What camps should look like)
Numbers of Mobs (A general idea of how many mobs should be in each camp)
Knowledge of any camp bugs and experience in compiling these bugs
Levels (What levels each zone, camp and mob should contain)
The Problem and How to rectify the problem
Mob Camps - Buildings
We will go through each camp and add a level of polish, tweak buildings where necessary and add new ones to ensure each camp is similar to live. On top of this, the bugs reported by CB for these camps will be looked at, judged for how accurate they are and kept in mind when fixing each camp.
Mob Camps - Patterned Mob Numbers
I will be finalizing how many mobs will be in each zone in conjunction with a patterned system - we will regulate a certain number of camps in a zone to have X mobs, a certain number to have Y mobs and a certain to have A, B and C mobs. This is to ensure the XP curve is not so incredibly variable. Each individual will designate which camp should be of which size and ensuring the camp conforms to the required number of mobs and does not exceed that number.
Mob Camps - Mob Levels
Mob camps are currently a little messy. Some r5 camps have R2 mobs, etc. This is due to a reset of mob levels which was required because artificially increasing a mob's level did not give it higher stats. We will have people go through mob camps, remove the irregular mobs and add new ones which are aesthetically correct for the camp and have a level similar to what should be in the camp.
Finally, we will go through the master bug reports list located [link to test forum] and also use the forum designated for the macrozones here [link to test forum] and ensure they have been rectified. If they have not, then we will either decide each bug to be defunct or we will then go back and fix them manually if we feel they are of merit to be dealt with. We will be wary of all bug reports that are made on a basis of aesthetics (IE; "these mobs should not look like this, they should look like X", or " this camp should look like Y") and in some cases these will be ignored. In the case of mob and camp aesthetics our design goal is not to reproduce Shadowbane perfectly, but to get it to a similar and acceptable state.
Estimated Dates of Completion
This task will be completed differently than we usually do things in the project. There will be "Estimated Dates of Completion" for each currently assigned task to be finished.
When the task is done we will:
1) Have similar building aesthetics (as compared to live);
2) Have correct mob levels;
3) Have the correct mob type;
4) Have similar mob aesthetics (as compared to live);
5) Conform mob numbers per camp to patterned numbers I've devised.
6) Have run through bug reports, decided which are of merit and may be fixed by design, and fixed them.
Look to the Future!
As always, there is no rest for the wicked. After the above tasks are complete the Design Team will be concentrating on liaising with the development team and ensuring they have all the information they require in adding new systems and ensuring they are of a high quality. We'll be creating design documents and helping out with the implementation of all things Mines, Bane, Resources and Buildings!
That's not the only thing we have left to do! It's important that the design team works fast on smacking down any bugs our competent group of testers finds and making sure all of our current systems are polished, high quality and relate to Shadowbane at shutdown.
Discussion Thread: Here