Spell Editor

 

A major feature of OverCast is the spell editor. A game with heroes who can cast impressive spells with a multitude of uses and elements that can be combined to create new effects should include a spell editor. At least that is what we believe. During the concept phase we argued that it should be really enjoyable if players have the opportunity to create, customize and name each spell they want to include in their arsenal. Furthermore, players should be able to test a spell to see how it works in action and what kind of outcome they can expect. The valuable information that can be gained, will affect and spice up the play style of players, can create strategies and lead to a very enjoyable and immersive team play. Therefore, we decide to implement a tool –the spell editor- which we believe will be part of the core mechanics of OverCast.  Some of the characteristics of spell editor are – as mentioned above:

  • Creating and naming spells
  • Customizing the effects such as splash damage or DoT
  • Customizing the casting speed and power
  • Adding of removing elasticity in a spell angling during the shooting phase

The last characteristic is fundamental in the spell editor. Players will have the capability to change the angling of a spell in order to be able to hit their opponents, even if they are hiding behind obstacles or heal a hiding wounded ally! The heeling angle a player’s spells will shoot is predetermined by them with the use of the spell editor tool. A number of nodes will define how many times a spell will bend and how steep the curving will be. Additionally, using the middle mouse button, players will be able bend their spells mid-game!

In the process of finalising this concept idea, we were always aware that some of the features can be exploited. Everyone wants to create the ultimate spell. For example, players could add more than one or two characteristics attributes in a spell such as DoT, explosive, splashing, healing etc. unbalancing the whole idea of creating your own spells. As a solution we implemented a cost value for each attribute that is called spell power. Players will have a fixed amount of spell power to spend on each spell. The combinations that can be achieved are numerous so we believe that we did not compromise the original idea. On the contrary, we feel that the delight players will gain by playing around with the spell editor tool will be even richer!

Finally, we are also considering the idea of allowing players to export spells they built in order to brag to their friends. In the end, there is nothing more satisfying than showing off to your friend, who was destroyed by your “Majestic Fireball of Doom”.

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Crosshairs

This week among other things I implemented a simple crosshair for our game. Contrary to expectation, most of the time went into the design process, rather than placing it in the middle of the screen at runtime.

So let me tell you how the process went.

First of all, we googled some crosshair images to create some general rules for ourselves. Needless to say, crosshairs can be extremely variable in shapes and colours, but they all tend to attract the user’s attention to where projectiles will go. Other than that, the actual design varies from very simplistic ones to extremely overly ornamented ones.

Since our game is in a fantasy setting, we decided our crosshair should not look too simplistic and thus modern. However, we thought that circles (or more specifically spheres) were still essential for a fantasy feel. We started the design with a simple circle. Then added a few more circles around it to emulate the way other crosshairs display potential rotation of the camera (or weapon). The end result looked way too “circly” and simple. Making the outline of the main circle wavy and with a varied thickness seemed to do the trick in making the crosshair look more medieval. Here is an image of how it looked at that point:
ImageExcitedly we put it on random images to see how awesome it was just to discover that on black backgrounds it was pretty much invisible. Unreal Tournament 2004’s crosshair designs came to the rescue. As we discovered, all of their crosshairs have a black and a white bit, that make them visible on any background. What we did was to put a nice white outline around the basic shape of our crosshair. This was the result (background added to increase visibility of outline):
ImageAt this point we were already very happy, but then got the idea of colouring the little circles to communicate information to the player: red circles would mean they are aiming at an enemy, while green ones would mean that they are aiming at a teammate:
ImageNow we were getting somewhere, but the circles still looked a bit plain. We tried to make them look a bit more three-dimensional (because as we already established, we think spheres are fantasy-conveying). What we got was this:
ImageThis looked very cool, but the highlights seemed to indicate there was a source of light on the user interface on the top-left. To make the highlight more neutral, we tried to move it to the sides, as if the crosshair was illuminated from all directions:
ImageThis looked good, but seemed to draw the player’s attention away from the centre. The solution was very obvious. Move the highlights to the center of the crosshair. We also changed the colour’s tint a bit:
ImageThis gave us a nice illusion of depth to the coloured circles, while also drawing the player’s attention to the center. Putting the crosshair in game proved to be a bit too overwhelming though. The colour was way too saturated and both obstructed vision and drew way too much attention. The final modification we did was to make the crosshair semi-transparent, to not obstruct vision too much, while still looking awesome:
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Having conquered the challenge of crosshairs, we move onward to other, similarly interesting challenges in our game development process.
ImageCan you design a better crosshair? Show us what you can!

Currency

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While we were discussing possible ways to give players a feeling of accomplishment and progression, we decided that including currency in our game would be a fun and rewarding option for the player. We felt that the material of the currency should be important in a fantasy setting and because we are suckers for details we immediately started researching gemstone lore. There are lots of legends about the mystical properties of gemstones around the world and we were really excited to read them. In the end we decided to go with jet. It is a beautiful black shiny stone with a lot of magical properties attributed to it. Jet has been used in magical rituals to channel arcane energies.  It is also believed to neutralize negative energies and thus has been used for healing and psychic protection.

Overcast game uses two forms of currency. The first and most important form of currency is called Jet and it is a cubical piece of pure jet. The second one is a square flat coin with a round hole in the middle, which in contrast to Jet is made of impure stone with severely weakened magical properties. Both currencies are lore based and a player can obtain/acquire them by playing the game. The cubical Jet coin is the more important of the two. It is what you gain by participating in tournaments and ranked activities. It is the currency a player will use in order to bribe the judges of the arena in order to create a convenient chaos in the battlefield and turn the tides of war to their team advantage. Most importantly, it is the currency that defines the life of a homunculus.

Lore-wise, we thought that it will be nice to combine the basic catalyst of the homunculi creation process into both a tradeable resource and part of the mechanics of the game. Without Jet a homunculus will not be able to bind the magical energies that keep their consciousness together. The swirling arcane energies will rip their mind apart and they will revert to a mindless manikin. This constant need for Jet absorption is the base for our “decay” system: while a player is not playing, their homunculus does not earn Jet and thus loses their skill, resulting in a lowered ranking.

Hope this week’s blog post was an engaging read. Join us next week when the plot will thicken!

Backstory I

Our ideas are usually drawn from our hobbies, favourite movies, sports and of course video games. We really like games that have nice background stories. This is why this week we are discussing the first part of our backstory.

We love good game mechanics but we believe having lore is the best trigger for immersion and as players we really like it when we can identify with our avatar/hero.  In OverCast the player controls a wizard. We came to the logical question: who are they and why do they fight in arenas?

After a careful research into (and inspiration from) other videogames and movies, we decided on our setting: OverCast is set in a world in the aftermath of a great war. The place we imagined consists of city states constantly fighting each other. Anyone able to weave magic can fight their way into nobility and potentially into a city council that controls everyone’s fate at the top of the hierarchy.

 

As competition between the states escalated over time, new ways of killing enemies emerged, culminating with the invention of homunculi: man-made creatures kept alive by the magic imbued in them. These constructs could range in form from humanoid to anything their creator could dream of. Even though the homunculi could be virtually anything, their humanoid versions kept being most efficient as they were already using the proven ancient design of the gods. It was soon discovered human souls could be imbued into these organic machines. This essentially achieved immortality for the dead as their soul could later be transferred into even another homunculus if their current one failed.

Using homunculi in engagements massively changed the face of battle. The occasional skirmishes and clashes between the city states unfolded into a full-out war, a free-for-all where alliances collapsed faster than the walls protecting a city. That was because the homunculi proved to be more than a match for the spellcasting nobles. The only homunculi weakness was the cost to create them, as well as the constant need for magical energy, they absorbed through black cubical gemstones called Jet. If they did not get their Jet supply, the constructs would lose their memories and individuality over time.

Because of its high demand, Jet eventually grew so expensive that it became the most stable currency in the world.

 

Please join us next week, when we will be discussing the currency in our game!