Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold Released

 

So here it is at last. After a ridiculous amount of Alpha releases, Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold is available… Here… Now. In short…

 

IT. IS. LOOSE.

 

I’m a bit sad. Like Junior going off to college. But happy because I’ll get more sleep at night and… Oh stop it.

 

I’ll spare you the long, boring bullet list. It’s awsum and you’ve gotta try the demo!  And possibly even buy the full game and help fund the sequel I’ll be officially announcing in a couple weeks, on this very Dev Blog 😉 But just in case you need to know a bit more, here’s the trailer again.

Download a demo! Buy Underworld Gold!

Happy adventuring!

 

Release date announcement for S&S Underworld GOLD

I can finally say with confidence what day Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold, my kickback to the late 80s 1st person party role-playing game, will not be postponed again.

 

Gypsie - Swords and Sorcery - Underworld
Reliably predicting the final, postpone-free release of Swords and Sorcery – Underworld Gold for…

Thursday September 20th.

 

It is ready. This final week is to allow me to focus on promoting it a bit and other related activities. I am still unsure how much interest remains for this kind of game other than my own and that of a few hundred motivated enough to disregard the previous version’s visuals. If you are one of those, many thanks for your support. If, on the other hand, you are one of those that would not put up with it and bashed and dared me into creating a real game, many thanks for your support. Both groups were paramount in finally achieving completion (for real this time). I needed both the carrot and the stick. Talk about high maintenance.

 

If you aren’t part of one of these groups, many thanks for your interest! I’ll try to bring you up to speed with the following list of features. Underworld Gold aims at being much more than a graphics update so some of these will be new to past players as well.

 

1 minute trailer

 

Feature List

 

– An actual introduction. Five slides depicting the setting and context at the start of the game. I hope you like it.

– A pre-built party (you can still build your own).

– Mouse support.

– Enhanced combat: Distance and timing management in a set of tactical options. Enemies have and use them as well.

– 8 new maps (20 total). 5 previously existing maps were redrawn and 3 entirely new areas.

– Hundreds of new items, including new item types.

– New item attributes (charged, enchantments, some specifically scripted).

– Many new NPCs.

– Interactive and dynamic “World Map”.

– Puzzles. Some span entire maps and others are of lesser scope.

– 115 monsters, each illustrated. Some scantily but tastefully clad of the female gender (be forewarned).

– Monster specials: many have one to better pounce on your characters. Some have two.

– New environments.

– New skills (active and passive).

 

Thanks again to everyone and please do drop by again next Thursday 😉

Bombed deadline and new URL

I noticed a sharp decrease in RSS readership just recently. Of course I am entirely to blame for this, and the title of this post probably explains it for the most part. Add to that a less than prolific dev blog and there you have it. Changing the URL from www.classicgamesremade.com to www.olderbytes.com, therefore breaking previous feed links, probably didn’t help either.

My initial estimate for releasing Underworld Gold was March 2012. That was a while ago. I think all this deserves a little explanation.

Content and features.

Underworld Gold now has loads more content than its preceding version (v1.06). New NPCs, 150 new items, some of which stackable and charged and with a wide array of useability, five existing maps redrawn and three new ones, a couple dozen more monsters (needed to maintain balance with the new levels), some of which with brand new abilities, and others of which with two different abilities that contribute to making combat less than predictable. Content-wise I’m just a few short hours away from beta.

I’ll post a more exhaustive feature list in a later entry and you’ll find there’s quite a bit. There are also a couple I’m looking into but am not sure I’ll be able to provide yet (animated transitions for movement as an option being the toughest request I’ve had recently).

Technical difficulties.

All the new content brought forth new challenges. In the game’s current state it triggers Window’s security, forcing the player to Run as Administrator. I have a good idea how to fix it but it isn’t a small task. Also the new content and higher resolution graphics have kept me struggling to optimize performance. I believe I’ve reached a satisfactory level now, but the game not being quite finished yet, I’ll reserve further comments at this point.

Naturally, all the fixes and additions have brought forth slews of bugs that have required lots of squashing.

The sequel.

Work on the sequel has taken great strides as well. The foremost reason I am doing this alongside finishing Underworld is that I prefer to keep the artists working. This is necessary to not risk losing them, which in turn could harm the quality and cohesiveness of the final game. At this stage I have all planned outdoor environments, including roads, forests, desert, mountains… New monsters (mostly outdoor mobs to populate the gestating world), several cutscenes, new stores and art for two new classes. About half of the GUI is done as well, which will allow me to post a video announcement shortly after releasing Underworld.

And of course real life. Things tend to get in the way like they always do but I do find time each day to at least inch closer to a final release.

Wasteland 2 concept art

Inxile released a first piece of concept art.

 

 

It seems the lengthy debate on color style in the forums has been decided if this is any indication in that matter (concept art usually is). Very brownish and nextgen. While it isn’t really what I was hoping for, graphics don’t make a game and I’m not dellusional enough to think all my personal choices will be theirs, or the community of fans.

 

The Wasteland 2 kickstarter is still up for 9 days. They have a neat little countdown image but it doesn’t seem to agree with WordPress so it is unlikely you’ll see it here.

 

 

Combat – new tactical options.

The knight leads the party, alone but closely followed by the paladin, ready to reinforce the front line. The two are ready to take the bulk of the wrath of incoming oponents ahead. But sometimes they can be overrrun. Sometimes, a third party member needs to step up to divert some of the enemy’s blows and give the priest time to intervene. Other times, things get so bad that they will need to step away from melee altogether.

 

The rogue is patient, but his time has come. Lost to the enemy’s eye, in the shadows, he steps in, bluesteel dagger drawn for a lethal assassination. It is so much more effective than his blowpipe that it is worth the risk of exposure. That blow to the vigilante’s jugular will turn the tide of battle. Then he can choose to fall out of sight again, then strike once more with vicious effectiveness. If the battle has truly turned to his party’s advantage, he may also choose to remain in sight and fight… fair.

 

Hordes of enemies are massed behind the melee, dealing damage with crudely fabricated but nonetheless efficient arrows. The party leader orders his companions to press forward, overtaking a few of the shooters, forcing them to drop their bows. Now the rogue is within distance and eagerly takes part in the hacking…

 

Swords and Sorcery - Underworld tactical options
Swords and Sorcery - Underworld tactical options

 

Underworld Gold has new combat rules that involve distance management, adding both realism and tactical depth. In previous versions only monsters were marked in or out of melee (a + indicated that they were in). Now the same goes for characters. This opened the door to a few extra tactical options.

– Any character can rush to the front.

– Characters in melee can choose to step back.

– Those behind the lines can choose to step in.

– Characters in melee can attempt to shove enemies out of melee.

– Party leader can order the party to press forward. This only uses up the leader’s turn and causes both monsters and characters to enter melee.

– Party leader can order the party to fall back. This only uses up the leader’s turn and causes both monsters and characters to leave melee.

 

They each have their advantages and drawbacks. A character that leaves melee avoids exposure from blades, but increases it for those left in. He can no longer use his melee weapon but can now use his ranged weapon (only available out of melee, except for archers). That can be a downside however because bows, crossbows and slings are typically less effective than swords and hammers. Previously, all characters were considered in melee, exposed to the monsters that were as well. Also, these actions use up a battle round for the character.

 

The first three can affect the order. If there are four characters in melee and the second leaves the pack, he finds himself leaving that second slot and taking the fourth. The third and fourth move up a notch and there are only three left in melee. If a character rushes to the front, all the others fall back a notch, but none leave the melee even if that character comes from behind the lines.

 

Enemies also have the option to join (this isn’t new) or leave (but this is) melee. Shooters and casters using the leave melee option, as well as melee fighters being able to join the meatgrinder, will make some battles more difficult and engaging. This affects their order as well. One consequence is that they are almost never left with no other choice but to wait. Previously monsters could only enter melee if the monster just ahead of them was already in. Now any of them can, anytime.

 

Diagrams

 

Note: These aren’t in the game, just here for illustrative purposes.

 

Basic tactical diagram
Basic tactical diagram

 

The above illustrates a combat situation similar to the one in the screenshot, only with a few more bandits.

The Knight, Paladin, Archer and Rogue are in melee . If the party formation was a little less neat one could imagine the rogue being just out of the melee but in this situation all four are marked with a +. The Grounded buccaneer and the first bandit are also in melee. The following four are not.

Now let’s see the options again in this context:

 

– Any character can rush to the front. Anyone but the knight will have this option. If the Rogue chose to do this the diagram would become something like:

 

 

New layout after Rogue moves to the front.
New layout after Rogue moves to the front.

 

Some shuffling occurs for the sake of keeping the three rows but it isn’t entirely necessary. I could also have kept the paladin close to the bandit and messed up the three rows but those are convenient for picturing and it doesn’t hurt.

– Characters in melee can choose to step back. If the knight steps out of melee at this stage there are only three left:

Knight then leaves melee
Knight then leaves melee

 

– Those behind the lines can choose to step in. Three may not be enough so the Sorcerer decides to step in front of the Knight (bad idea in most cases, unless looking for the Paladin’s (P)rotection perhaps):

Sorcerer jumps into melee.
Sorcerer jumps into melee.

– Characters in melee can attempt to shove enemies out of melee.  A good way to isolate someone, or take some pressure off the front line. There are still 4 characters in melee (and 1 mob)..

Bandit gets shoved out of melee.
Bandit gets shoved out of melee.

– Party leader can order the party to press forward. This only uses up the leader’s turn and causes both monsters and characters to enter melee.

Now there are 6 characters and 3 mobs in melee (some random applied in this case)
Now there are 6 characters and 3 mobs in melee (some random applied in this case)

– Party leader can order the party to fall back. This only uses up the leader’s turn and causes both monsters and characters to leave melee.

Right back to previous step :)
Right back to previous step 🙂

 

This makes combat a little less orderly. Monsters and characters alike can get all mixed up. It also opens the door to new spells and special attacks… 😉  Ultimately it makes combat more difficult, as monsters will have more opportunities to inflict damage. But the increased difficulty is compensated by new skills for the knight, rogue and archer, as well as a more favorable loot system. I may actually need to increase difficulty a bit more. More on those on the next post!

 

Also a lot of testing is in order to make sure the monster AI uses the new options coherently, and that I haven’t broken anything.

 

Any thoughts on this? Is the tradeoff between simplicity and tactical depth good or bad in your opinion? Discuss!

 

 

 

Early 2012 Progress report

First things first: A great and happy new year to everyone! Ignore the harbingers of doom and believe in 2012 being the best year ever, premisce to many more great years to come!

 

It’s been nearly 2 months since my video update, so this post is quite overdue.

 

Sadly there aren’t any great breakthroughs to announce. Image assets are being completed slowly due to events in the Philippines (location of the art studio I’m working with on this project). Washi, a ruptured dam in the Manila area and the end-of-year festivities have slowed them down. On my end the family situation I mentionned about a year ago came to a tragic end in November. I moved back home and am slowly settling in again, and will be working pretty much full time on Underworld and the sequel over the next few months.  Then, decisions will have to be made.

 

Nevertherless, the prolonged development time has given me the opportunity to nicely enhance Underworld. Three new maps, 10 new monsters, many moar lewts, a double special attack for some mobs (greatly adding to the technical challenge of many encounters), new special attacks for others, much better end of game balance, new features enhancing gameplay (like setting game speed, (P)rotect replaces (B)lock…).

 

The images that have been done look pretty sweet! Phantoms, wraiths (both new mobs) and a few others have transparency effects that I personally can’t stop gawking over and some of the still cutscenes are absolutely awesome 🙂

 

 

Rising from grave
Rising from grave

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Apparition Encounter
Apparition Encounter

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Militiaman Encounter
Militiaman Encounter

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Also you might have noticed that the first monster in line is illustrated as before, but in a reproduction of the encounter’s environment.

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To summarize I must confess that my early 2012 release goal will not be met. I’d rather not set a date that may not be met either at this point, but it shouldn’t be long. The bright side of things is that Underworld Gold will be all the better for it.

 

Underworld Gold WIP HD

Underworld Gold is still work in progress, but the last remaining images, mostly the full screen storyline illustrations, are coming in at a good pace. The following video shows a couple, and hints at a few more changes. There are still a few glitches that need fixing, but nothing of much consequence.

 

 

I’m looking at an early 2012 release at the moment, which should allow for some more polish, new levels and “puzzles” (a term I use loosely to define any kind of obstacle that requires some thought to get accross).

 

All Monsters and Characters Done!

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Typhoon season has passed in the Philippines! The good news is that work has resumed and new assets are pouring in daily. A line artist and several colorists have teamed up so the project is moving along quickly, while maintaining good visual consistency. The bad news is that one of the artists was injured during a storm. I know little of the details but it looks like things were really bad there for a while.

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All monsters and characters are done. It’s been really exciting to discover the new faces (well, for those that actually have faces). There are a total of 97 monster images!

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Prankster Encounter

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Hunting Corpse Encounter

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Giant Rat Encounter
Giant Rat Encounter - Not original, but how can there be an underworld with no rats? 🙂

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Character illustrations are a new addition to Underworld. Each combination of class, race and gender have a little icon that adds a little spice to the status and character creation screens. Those are all done as well!

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Priest Status Screen
Priest Status Screen

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And that’s not all! Underworld will have a wider variety of environments and decorum. A new higher rez sky, animated torches, doors that look old…

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Access to the Catacombs
Access to the Catacombs

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Cavern Door
Cavern Door

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There is still quite a bit to do with the still full screen illustrations. Also work has started for the sequel and significant progress has been made (GUI, some outdoor environment tiles, castle walls…). This delays the Underworld Gold release somewhat but I’m hoping to reassure those that have been waiting for something really new for a while that Underworld will NOT be a one-time thing. But that is still a story for later 🙂

Contingencies

 

Everyone knows a project is bound to face contingencies, setbacks, delays…

 

From the indie one-man studio (now with outside help) to the large construction company, something(s) are bound to get in the way of anyone’s objectives.

 

Underworld and sequel are currently affected by… Typhoons! Not one, but several have hit the people I’m working with in Manilla (Philippines), the worst of which is happening right now. So I’m glad I didn’t set a release date, but remain confident the remaining assets will be delivered as soon as can possibly be, given the circumstances. The most important being that they stay safe until good work conditions return.

 

 

Weather Contingencies
Weather Contingencies

Welcome, Traveller!

 

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Welcome, traveller!
Welcome, traveller!

 

You aren’t a troll, are you?  They tend to leave their rooms more untidy than the average mountaineer. And that is saying a LOT.

 

Then you are most welcome. Sign for a room, the RSS feed, and enjoy your stay in our frugal yet hospitable gladiator’s inn.

 

The arena re-opens soon, careened and refitted, and filled with shiny new monsters. And stores will greet you with a homely image. Things are moving along at a good pace!

 

Games for old geezers.