Overseers

Homunculi were powerful. Too powerful. Not long after their first deployment in war it was decided their usage should be severely restricted. Eventually, homunculi ended up solving conflicts between the nobles and the city-states through isolated skirmishes, rather than full-scale wars. All of these fights, as well as the entire “lives” of the homunculi took place in an artificial magical bubble, separated from the rest of the world. This “dimension” was kept both isolated and under surveillance by the nobles through the most powerful amongst the magical constructs: the Overseers.

These individuals are the most mysterious members of the homunculi. They wear long robes, concealing their entire body and casting a deep shadow over their faces, leaving only their eyes visible with crackling energy pouring out of them. The Overseers both build and keep arenas running for homunculi confrontation. With their immense magical power, they can create anything they desire in their isolated dimension. Not only this, they are responsible for the supervision of fights, keeping score and repairing damaged homunculi for yet another round. Overseers are not incorruptible, however. From time to time it happens that they tip the odds of battle in a team’s favor due to a well-placed bribe or even worse: personal sympathies.

When such a rare occurrence happens, no one dares protest, as even the nobles know Overseers are gods in their own realm. The near-limitless power makes being an Overseer a very attractive perspective for many individuals. While the conventional route to becoming such a homunculus is to just be a noble before your transformation, even homunculi who were low-caste in their previous life can fight their way to an Overseer status if they have enough drive to prove themselves time after time. Another route is to prove they have what it takes to create arenas that are engaging for the bloodthirsty audience: Overseers do need fresh minds to keep the arenas interesting after all.

Screenshots from our first level (that the Overseers created):
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First Arena

In our earlier posts we discussed lore, our ideas regarding the mechanics and the careful integration between the two of them. We tried to do the same with the level design. We had a clear view about the theme and how it should be played out.

The theme is based on lore regarding the creation of the first homuculi. They were created in the mansion of the noble that first conceived the idea of artificial warriors. The vaults of the mansion were both used as an experiment lab as well as a dungeon for the specimens. The aboveground floors were the living quarters of the noble and his servants. With this scenario in mind we proceeded with the creation of beautiful concept art and schematics.

ConceptLevelArt

The reason behind the decision to go with a lore-rich level has to do with a part of the game we have yet to discuss: The Overseers. Overseers are fundamental entities of OverCast. Since our wizard tournaments exist in extra pocket dimensions, (fearing another homunculi incursion the nobles decided to imprison them in another dimension in which the tournaments also take place), someone had to fulfil the role of keeper and warden. The absolute authorities of this place are the Overseers, who both manage competitions, and build and maintain the arenas for the confrontations.

Stay with us as next Friday we will be discussing Overseers and showing the first screenshots of our first arena.

Angle of Attack

The act of creating new spells is very fulfilling and there are a lot creative paths a player can choose to follow when they define a spell. Today we were discussing the various different shapes a projectile spell can take. As a team we agreed that a magic wielder should be able to create their unique signature spells. For example a player can choose to create a projectile spell resembling Piccolo’s Special Beam Cannon (Dragon ball Z)! The resulting spell may not prove that effective (the spiral movement will slow down the projectile because of the greater distance it will have to travel) but it would certainly be most impressive to see. Not to mention by spiralling the projectile will both be more unpredictable and cover a wider area. The usual portrayal of projectile spells is them traveling in either a straight line or a simple curve towards their target. That is not true in OverCast as the player will be able to change the positioning of spell nodes that determine the trajectory of the spell. This allows players with strategic thinking to predetermine their spell’s path to best suit their needs.

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We really wanted to make an interesting and fairly challenging game that players find intriguing and difficult to master. Having the ability to throw spells around corners or above obstacles with a predetermined artillery-like motion can be both satisfying and exhilarating, but we wanted more. Our own personal experiences from games with wizards (either video or pen and paper) suggested that spells are widely treated very strictly in rules: a fireball always travels in a set path, always does a predetermined amount of damage and always has the same splash radius. Lore wise however, the player gets the feeling that wizards use their minds eye to guide the arcane powers to form a spell and their eyes to direct it. In OverCast we tried to merge lore and mechanics as closely as possible, allowing players to see their spell’s path before casting it and even curving the trajectory on the run, their wizard improvising mid-battle. Players will create visual scenarios of where the spell will go keeping in mind the movement of the opponents and will try to achieve that on the spot or if they have strategic minds they will have the advantage of preordained spell paths set beforehand in the spell editor. We think that the whole process of bending the shape and angle of a spell, thinking of the next few steps ahead and visualising the possible outcome actually emulates a wizard in action awesomely. Enabling players to immerse themselves by controlling their wizards effectively in new ways will be very satisfying both to us and to our players. This is why we believe spell creation and curving are one of the most important characteristics of our game.

Animation, Controls and Movement

Hello everyone! This week we are discussing the controls and animation in our game.

Before we get to the point, let me draw your attention to our brand new website and forum!

The basic controlls are as follows:
W, A, S, D: Run.
Spacebar: Jump. This costs a little stamina, so bunny hopping will hopefully be discouraged.
Double tap W, A, S or D: Dodge. This can be done mid-air too! This also costs stamina.
Shift+W: Sprint. This depletes your stamina as you are sprinting.
Shift+W+C: Initiate slide. This also costs a bit of stamina, but is badass. The downside is that while sliding one cannot change their direction of movement.

Also be sure to check out our video of our animations! Please keep in mind what you see is in a very early pre-alpha stage, so models, textures, animations, movement speed and pretty much everything else will most probably change.

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”.

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!