Artix Krieger | Friday, October 27, 2023
Greetings and salutations!
Do you have "Trick-or-Treating" where you live? This is where kids dress up in costume and go door to door in search of caaaaandy. It is a pretty big thing here in the States. There are these pop up stores called "Spirit Halloween" which spring up all over the place to sell costumes, spooky house decorations, and other Halloween things. Many of the crew working on our new 2D cross-platform MMORPG, AdventureQuest Worlds: Infinity have young children who go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood this Halloween-- including mine.
I have so many fond memories of Halloween when I was little. Posted some of the fun stories on old DragonFable and AQWorlds design notes. Was actually shocked to learn that most countries did not have this tradition. So we created our own version of the holiday called Mogloween and added trick-or-treating to every game since the original AdventureQuest. Our newest dark and spooky releases have raised the bar. For example, AdventureQuest 3D's team is doing a haunted pizza shop parody called "Five Knights of Frights". All of the games have something interesting going on this Halloween season if you have not dropped in on them yet.
Do you have any favorite Mogloween or Halloween stories to share?
So much for making regular game dev posts. Development on AQWorlds: Infinity has been so intense I am surprised we have had time to breathe. (Spoiler: We are undead and do not need to breathe.)
For this update post, I will break down each major area of development so you will know exactly where things are at.
"Curse you slime!"
In the last post, you learned that we had started building the "Gluttony" map from the 7 Deadly Dragons Saga. This was selected because it was a newer-ish map that featured one of every type of weird thing that they game needs to be able to do. The past 4 weeks have been spent building all of the things needed to make that type of content easily & quickly throughout the rest of the game. This includes... special types of monsters.
Before we get to special monsters.... OMG THAT EVIL SLIME! ... we should talk about normal monsters.
We made a list of every monster in the Gluttony map and started re-creating them. We ran into some surprises. Full confession, I started pulling experts from the other game projects to give us a hand when we ran into trouble. For example.... there is this super cute, original Slime that happens to be in the release. It is one of the oldest and most common monsters in the entire game. Simple to convert, right? What could possibly go wrong? >_> EVERY FRAME of that monster was hand drawn vector art. No movie-clips, no graphic containers... Whomever drew it, literally just drew the entire animation frame by frame. Which is cool. But NOT cool for converting it to a GPU accelerated game like Infinity. This monster began a series of internal talks and debates which I would now like you to be a part of.
Welcome to the Slime Time debate
So here is the situation...
This issue is bigger than the slime. It is actually the biggest and scariest issue in re-creating AdventureQuest Worlds. There is literally NO WAY to simply port the game with one-to-one accuracy. The very things that makes AQWorlds unique & exciting are the very same things working against us in creating Infinity. You have heard me say over and over that if we had decided just to make a new game it would have been easy and we would have been done years ago. But we are committed to this path-- making sure you can at least load all of your items in this new version of the game. But we still need to make some tough calls.
Flash strengths vs Unity strengths
This is a strength check.... rolls a 1D20
So given the slime issue, what is the best solution? The slime is a perfect example of something built in Flash using Flash's strengths. Remaking it Unity is never going to look the same. But, Unity can do things Flash was not strong at-- particle systems, physics, & shaders (and of course, being allowed to run natively on phones XD). So when confronted with a situation like the slime, it seems like the best course of action is to rebuild it as close as possible, and use Unity advantages like particle systems wherever it can improve the final result.
We pulled Yergen to help us with this and he recreated the Slime cleverly using just a few of the hand-drawn frames in Unity. Then he helped us make some particle systems so the slime can spew slimy stuffs at your hero. It is great. But obviously, it is not and never will be the exact same as the one in AQWorlds.
So, do you also feel that this is the right move? Converting things the best we can and then leaning in to Unity's strengths where possible?
As a community this is a VERY important thing to talk about. Because any player of AQWorlds is going to have the exact same strange experience once they are able to log into AQWorlds: Infinity's upcoming Tech Demos. (15th Upholders will get access to the first tech demos. Then we will open future ones to more players.) It will go something like this... "Cool... wow this runs really smooth... woah look at the nice little touches they added all over the places... leaves, sunshine rays...", quickly followed by, "Uh... why does my sword/armor/helm/item not look like it does in the other version of the game!?" Then, I predict there will be some series of side-by-side videos showing the differences between everything in the game alongside claims like "they had X years and the items look like this?", "these devs are lazy!", and "this is a downgrade!" without knowing the challenges of converting the content let alone the sheer amount of things that need to be converted. (Feel free to share these past few sentences with them when it happens.) That is why this topic is so important for you and the rest of the AQWorlds community. No matter how much we write about this topic, it is going to be an issue when you first experience the Tech Demo. It should would be nice to have a someone who actually read this help in the comments when we release.
The good news about monsters...
As of this post, it appears all of the monsters for the Gluttony area are complete. Reens, Yergen, J6, Ghost, and I have all gone through the process of making monsters and while we may not be "Flash fast" at it yet, it is way better than we were all expecting. Yergen also started on a common set of particles designed to work with monsters in our game. Warlic has been making some additional scripts to allow monsters to do a few flash-like things.... like showing/hiding parts depending on quests you have completed.
I have been noticing that a large number of AQWorlds monsters belong to a family of monsters that all use similar animations. We came up with a slightly easier way to rig monsters up this. Spider built a new tool which will let us export just the pieces and their pivots from Flash into Unity. The only downside is that it only works with the newer Adobe Animate (not the older versions of Flash.) One job opening that we will have in the future is for someone to take our older monsters and use this to prep them for the animators to animate animation in Unity.
The best news
Map conversion is now the strongest part of AdventureQuest Worlds: Infinity's development. The entire process got easier & better. J6 is the artist who created most of AQWorld's backgrounds. He made a new template and has been working ahead of the team converting the maps in the 13 Lords of Chaos story. Meanwhile, Warlic has been building "machines" that do things like fire cutscenes, turn in quests, show/hide quest NPCs, change your starting room depending on where you are in the quest line, and most of the other cool stuff that we were able to do in the original version of the game.
I think we talked about this before. If you have a normal sized computer screen or device then most of our maps will feature scrolling. However, if you have a suuuuuper wide monitor or phone, then... what happens? Well, if your device is way wider than the map then the edges will subtly fade to black. It is nice, consistent, and makes sure all of the art is on the screen regardless of what device you are using.
After some feedback from testers, J6 has been widening some of the other frames in town. This is something that we can do as long as there are no perspective shifts. (AQWorlds has a lot of perspective shifts inside maps)
"You cannot have a good UI without You and I"
After some testing we are reworking the quest interface to make it less clunky. This topic is so long that it would be longer than everything written above to explain it. Not even sure how you made it this far O_O. The bottom line is once you get a quest, we want you to be able to access quest NPC from anywhere. This means you will not need to run back to the quest giver (most of the time.) Also, you should be able to get quests and exit things with as few clicks/taps as possible.
Spider fixed most of the basic combat issues and has been working on the thing that will drive all future combat-- the Skill Forge. This tool is used for designing skills for classes and monsters. As of the last check in Diogon was making some new art for the tool. The AQWorlds team asked if Spider could help on their upcoming GrimSkull Dungeon-- to which I gave puppy eyes and said, "please.... please do not take Spider." There were some vague assurances that he would not be gone for long. Which is good, because our goal is to have combat ready for mid-to-late November. The Tech Demos will need to have fun combat to be a success. Ghost has been animating a new class to show off some new things we can do in AQWorlds: Infinity. He has been switching between making cutscenes for the existing game and then switching over to work on Infinity-- which is a little rough. There is still a good amount of work to be done. I have not personally gotten to see the latest version of the class animations yet. So I am as curious as you are.
The system for full blown cutscenes is working. We have only made one test cutscene so far. Once we wrap up monsters we will be focus firing on this. Tunik and Warlic added stuff to let us translate the cutscenes and other dialog in the game to other languages. I know this is something you have been asking for... forever.
So, I wrote a good chunk of this post from the Hospital's ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I have been here all week with a family member who is (thankfully) recovering well from a procedure. There have been a number of team members handling personal things this month. It is not like life ever stops throwing curve balls. If I learned anything from video games, when you encounter tougher and tougher monsters... you are still going the right way.
A retro switch game?
I received a message from the guy who is porting my 8-Bit retro game, Dungeons & DoomKnights, for the Switch. He is getting close to the finish line. He had published one of my other buddies NES games (Doodle World) to the Switch earlier this year. We have never had a game on Switch before-- I am excited for it to happen.
New HeroMart Calendar and armor shirt + moglins restock coming
I saw the concept art for the new 2024 poster from Dioz and I.... well, do you remember AQWorld's Zombies? It was part of the DoomWood Saga. Dioz made a parody mashup of it that combines inspiration from Army of Darkness & Marvel Zombies and features a cast of AdventureQuest characters. It may be my favorite poster of all time. Also, we finally have a restock of the out-of-stock moglins and armor t-shirts coming to HeroMart.com.
Boy, that went from "Do-or-Die" to... "how about a Tech Demo" real quick.
Well, I guess the Tech Demo is "Do-or-Die" now. Our big goal is to have a playable "Tech Demo" version of AdventureQuest Worlds: Infinity up that features chat, combat, quests, loading your existing characters & item data (even if the art is not converted you can at least see that you have it), and a very limited set of areas including town and a sample story area (90% chance of Gluttony). This is scary. But testing like this will reveal what is good and what needs improved pretty quick. During this phase the fixes should be pretty rapid. Alina posted that anyone who got Upholder this year would qualify for the first round of Tech Demo testing. We are aiming to have everything ready for you in 4 to 6 weeks.
Have a hauntingly fun weekend! If you are looking for some spooky things to do, do not forget the Mogloween events happening across our games.