Darkfall Developer Journal #10: State of Development

After a short delay, for which Tasos includes his apologies, we have this week’s Darkfall Developer Journal as promised. Inside, Tasos goes into the process of getting a game ready for Beta and how it is more complicated than some might think. This update is a lengthy one and include status reports on all kinds of areas.

Darkfall Dev Journal #10: State of Development
Article by Tasos Flambouras (Ass. Producer, Darkfall)

I’d like to apologize for the delay to the journal by one day. Our schedules are even more hectic than usual and priorities are ruthless. I’ve had several interviews on my to-do list for months and I’ve been trying to steal time from this or that to get them done, one question at a time and so far it has proven to be a curiously impossible task. Part of this is the fact that the interview questions are getting increasingly more detailed and I’m not sure how deep you can cut into the magic before it’s too deep.

Anyway, in this journal we’ll talk about what we’re currently working on. Overall we’re working on the beta process as you know. This is infinitely more complicated to set up than just getting the game online and letting people in to play it. Sometimes I wonder if even the hardcore gamers understand what’s involved especially when people keep asking for the specific beta date. Ricki loaned me a book titled “Dreaming in Code” by Scott Rosenberg. I’ve only had time to read a few pages of it so far, but in these the author wonders why software development is so hard and can’t be as precise and timely as bridge or skyscraper construction. The tagline of the book is “Two dozen programmers, three years, 4,732 bugs, and one quest for transcendent software” and he’s just talking about a web site application! The title of chapter one is “DOOMED” setting the tone for the rest of the book I expect.

On with the update:

We’re hiring a QA lead to formalize our QA process, we’re looking for yet another Game Logic programmer, we’ve been outsourcing some secondary art tasks out, and we’ve also re-hired Nick, a very talented artist, who had taken a short break. We’re also in the search for another good world-builder to help with cleaning up quests.

I had written some things on this journal about the many technical activities relating to Darkfall development at the moment and then decided to take it out after speaking with Kjetil, our lead programmer. To quote him ‘if we’re going to talk to people about these things we might as well write a ten thousand page document with all the @#%$#@% little details’. So… basically Darkfall is a zoneless game, meaning servers are zoneless too, something most other MMOs don’t have. Servers are collaborating in a cluster with dynamic responsibilities. That’s what we’re working on right now for the most part, the distribution. There’s also some GUI work having to do with city building, and parties. We’re also integrating with the game, the permission system for clans, the in-game boards, and the player journal, specifically the ‘friends’ and the ‘holdings’ functionalities. We’re also working on the permission system, specifically for the clan vault. Clan boards are being integrated with the game, meaning that various in-game clan specifics work together with the clan boards.

On world-building we’re finishing up the Mirdain areas and working on clan city concerns. The Alfar capital has been completely redesigned, the old one was scrapped, and someone’s spending all of next week to making it just right. This is an excerpt of the Alfar capital description to give you an idea of what it’s like:

” The alfar capital lies along the shores of a large, maelstrom-wracked underground lake called the Throat, which is fed by a waterfall cascading down from the ceiling and by two swift rivers which flow in from neighboring caverns. No water can be seen to escape from the wildly churning lake, which is assumed to be connected to some unexplored lake system deep within the heart of Agon. Though many have been thrown into the Throat over the years, none have ever returned to report on what it feeds into.

Melek himself dwells in the Towers of Silence, which hang dramatically over the waters of the Throat. Made from hollowed-out stalactites which encircle a hole through which a waterfall plummets, the Towers are only connected to the town below by a single, heavily guarded teleportation portal.

Aphelion lies in a damp and verdant cavern system, the walls and ceilings of which are covered by mosses and fungi. A forest of giant mushrooms dominates one of the caverns to which Aphelion is connected by river-carved tunnels, while another is home to a manthe spider-web weavery where clothes and light armor is made.”

World-building also needs to create extras for all of the quests which are being implemented as we speak. Right now we’re working on the human quests by using our quest building tool, using the world-builder to add the extras, and then using a testing tool which allows us to test that the quests work properly before beta.

We’re adding batches of new weapons to the game, some special items, more siege weapons, and defensive cannons and balancing them out so there’s something for everyone. We’re also optimizing the stats for most of the weapons.

All components have been finalized and locked for release. Other resources are also being finalized. Recipes for crafting are also more than coming along. We’ve finalized the monsters for beta. We have more than 100, (not counting the many variations) as originally planned. We’ve prioritized here and more will be added during testing and after launch.

We’re working through some issues with flying monster AI, and moving on to sea monsters. Guard AI in practice presents minor issues: As things stand right now, your AI guard race depends on the territory you build on so if you build a clan city in ork territory, the guards will be orks. The orkish guards will not attack the human clan members, but they currently attack all human visitors to the town based on racial enmity. Mercenaries have always presented such problems throughout history but we’re probably going to make some changes here.

The clan city structures are being upgraded, with a strong focus on racial identity so that the structures are special and unmistakable. Final touch-ups are being made on armors. Some monster armors can be used by the characters after being looted, and these are being brushed up as well. Special effects and particles are all being added. You may have noticed the lack of many of these, or the place-holders in the last video we released. There is some quality control being done on the terrain, fixing various minor bugs and there has been a major update to the terrain textures again and I must say there is a dramatic improvement to it.

The website updates will continue at an irregular pace as time permits. Launching a new website is a major pain that we don’t have time for now, so we’re giving it a facelift and trying to bring it up to date before we move on to having a new one made that can be worthy to represent this game.

I’ll stop here because I need to get back to work, although I could go on and on with the thousands of details we’re working on at the moment – you get the idea.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know your thoughts.

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