Project News - FAQ revisited

Another month, another DevLog post. Let's get to it!

First of all, I'll give you a little peek into what I've been doing lately. I use the term “peek” in a figurative sense here, since I don't have any pictures for you to look at this time. This is to say, I've been onto the less glitzy efforts of writing the foundations for the core server processes, getting them to talk to each other, accept player connections, etc. It's the kind of stuff one doesn't think about until one actually has to build a game. In some ways, it's kind of boring to talk about, but then there's that small little thrill when they're fired up and link up just like they're supposed to. Good times.

I'm transitioning into some database foundations at the moment, though there'll be plenty of back-and-forth, adding features to the server cores, extending the database, repeating as needed. It's an interesting contrast between NWN and our next-generation platform. Whereas our persistence database is something of an add-on to NWN, extending it in ways it was never meant to be extended, database and persistence is pretty central to everything in the new platform. As such, it's got to be there right away.

Anyway, besides this, I thought to talk a little about the FAQ, not only to draw attention to it again but also to revisit some of the information therein. In preparing to write this, I looked over the FAQ, and I saw that it's in need of revision. Most of the information is accurate and correct, with clear updates needed for the change in platform. I'll cherry-pick a few things in the current FAQ to talk about this time, and maybe next time I'll add some new information or further expand on what we have.

Skill-based game
For all the changes made necessary by changing team dynamics and many things I've described in prior log entries, one thing that's definitely not changing is the style of game. It will still be a classless, skill-based RPG. These mechanics are actually well-defined and implemented to a fashion, albeit for a different platform. While I can't re-use that code directly, porting it to the new platform is far better than designing all new mechanics.

I could probably write an entire entry on the merits of a skill-based system (which is not to say a class-based system doesn't have merits), but one thing I find really interesting about it is that one can create characters that are very class-like in their construction. While the system can allow complete flexibility in how a character advances, it's also possible to set up a character to advance in very specific ways that somewhat mimics a class. One thing I worked on back when the project was being developed on TGE was a means of configuring characters and NPCs with a predetermined profile. For example, giving a character a “warrior” profile would bias the character toward melee and defensive skills, while a “mage” profile would bias a character toward Spellweaving/Darkweaving. Yet even with such biases, a player can tweak and fine-tune the character's skills at any time, letting them break the mold of the traditional role that the profile would suggest.

Skill trees
We have a fairly wide breadth of skills planned for the next generation, but calling their organization a “tree” is probably not accurate. In truth, the vast majority of skills are simply improved with use. For the most basic skills, all of them are available to characters at any point (training may be required). This includes all the spell-casting skills. There are very few cases where one skill depends on the one (or ones) before it. There are a couple notable exceptions/variations to this. The first is that there are some “advanced” skills which will require a certain skill level in a lesser skill. Such dependencies are not deep, however, unlike some games where one must progress through a long line of skills along a narrow track, most progression is through the particular skills themselves. The other variant to what I mentioned involves the spell-casting skills and particularly the spells themselves. As may be anticipated, some spells require a certain level of mastery in the corresponding skill itself before it can be cast. However, spells themselves are not skills, so progression is still within the spellcasting skill and not a particular spell.

Zoned world
The next generation will, at least initially, be a zoned world, meaning there will be transitions between geographic areas, as we have with NWN currently. That said, some interior areas will be seamless. Underground areas can, in many cases, be reached seamlessly as well. Walking from an open field into a cave, mine or even an underground cellar are all quite possible. The exterior geographic areas are generally going to be significantly larger than those in NWN, so transitions will be minimized. At some point, we may opt to go for a seamless world, but that will likely hinge on server technology we can't yet reasonably afford.

We will make every effort to release this game for Windows, MacOS and Linux platforms. We can also target the game to a Web-based player (read: minimal install) on Windows and MacOS platforms. It is unlikely we will target the game itself to mobile platforms (smartphones and tablets), however we may plan some supplemental apps that take advantage of these platforms. Myself, I have a few ideas.

Yes, of course... the disclaimer. Everything I said above is subject to change and without warning... at least in the details. The major points are likely not changing much.

That's all for now!