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.
Graphics and UI Integration and fixes
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).
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.
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 Â new abilities.
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.