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!

 

All the little things to do…

The graphics project is going along smoothly, but that’s pretty much out of my hands. Except for the integration of completed pieces into the game, which quite frankly isn’t difficult, what am I doing?

 

I can muster 2-4 hours of effective work time a day. I’m putting on weight for lack of exercise and a less than rigorous diet but that’s the way it is when you want something done yesterday, and have limited time ressources to do it. I want Underworld to be great… And done. I’ve been talking about the sequel way too long to be comfortable about it.

 

What Ive got planned while the graphics are under development breaks down as follows… A long list of little things.

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Graphics and UI Integration and fixes

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Integrating monsters is simple but the walls still require minor fixes. Also the new UI’s text boxes aren’t exactly positionned as the previous version’s was. So there’s a lot of text to reposition. Besides that, the 3D engine requires that many parts of the game be adapted as it causes little… mishaps.

 

Transparency effects for monsters. There are quite a few and frankly I’m liking the result! Semi-transparent apparitions and the like really help the atmosphere.

 

There are a few dozen signs throughout the game – in towns and below. The previous sign images have all been replaced and the new ones must be plotted into the game (not just a replacement, a rewrite is required).

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Game balance

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A few issues and suggestions about game balance have been reported. In short, the game gets too easy in the end. This is due in part to levelling that becomes increasingly easy beyond lvl 9. There’s also the rogue’s Bleed ability that kind of makes him overly godly. Then there’s the immobilization spells that work almost systematically – but that is linked to the levelling that is too quick (monsters do resist, but not if they are way surpassed by your party’s strength). All these aspects and a couple more are taken into consideration again to maintain a tactical challenge all the way to the final encounter. The difficulty is to not turn the game into a grindfest. That will be thoroughly avoided through careful playtesting.

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Encounter enrichment

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Buying stock art for the early versions did three things. It gave me easy access to images that I thought were a nice addition to an otherwise graphicless endeavor. It got a lot of people upset as the styles varied immensely… Especially with my own (art)work, namely the wall and ground tiles as well as the UI and… On a more positive note, it gave me ideas. You run into an image and it makes you think of a monster, a quest, a setting, loot it could be carrying…

 

The same thing happens to some extent when I get a new batch of completed work from the newly appointed artist (I gave him considerable leeway for creativity). So some monsters are going to have  new abilities.

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Sequel preparation

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I’ve started work on a map building utility (about 50% done). Right now I use… A text file! Plotting codes needed to be painstakingly written with a few hundred lines per map. With this new tool the process will become much more visual, way faster and much less torturous. That means much faster level design for the sequel which, having an overworld, will need quite a few maps.

 

Along the same lines and for the same reasons, I’ll be building item and monster creation utilities.

 

I hope to release Underworld Gold by the end of the year, but also be much better armed to make the sequel release more than likely in 2012.

 

 

Caverns and fauna

Wall thickness being an important issue for immersion in a game where there are a lot of walls, there needed to be a better solution for a cavernous environment than six sided blocks. After all, cavern walls aren’t square.

 

Swords and Sorcery - Underworld Cavernous environment
Swords and Sorcery - Underworld Cavernous environment

 

Underworld now has a basic 3D engine but the goal to keep things simple was to make do without 3D objects. Just basic shapes and textures. That is how it worked out for the caverns.

 

A few people have asked how monsters appear in the new environments. Well, they do so much like they did before – a very oldschool way. Only now those that have feet actually have those on the ground. Here’s a peak at the upcoming monster art as well.

 

Swords and Sorcery - Underworld Abyssal horror encounter
Abyssal horror encounter

 

Swords and Sorcery - Underworld Swarming Plague encounter
Swarming Plague encounter

 

Swords and Sorcery - Underworld Rockhide Scorpion encounter
Rockhide Scorpion encounter

New graphical standard… And other things.

Underworld has greatly suffered from my lack of artistic ability (or time to learn… or even try). There’s a simple solution to that problem: outsourcing. I have finally been able to do that.

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Swords and Sorcery - Underworld GUI for v107 (Click to enlarge)

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The entire game is being redrawn. At this point I have enough material to show this screen (walls,tiles, interface). But the enhancement goes beyond the general aspect. The worldview now works with a basic 3D engine, which greatly facilitates the inclusion of more varied environments, as well perks like actual wall thickness. I also have a list of smaller fixes I’ll talk about in a later post.

This sets the new graphical standard for the Swords and Sorcery series. The sequel is making slow progress because Underworld still takes much of my focus. But with these enhancements to the engine, a large , varied and attractive overworld becomes a much more feasible short term goal.

Things have gone a long way since:

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Very outdated Underworld

Games for old geezers.