Let's start with a new screenshot, showing some of the 'human/male' graphics I did over the weekend; and the new 'name ribbons' for portraits.
Images aside, I wanted to formally touch upon why I've chosen this new graphical and gameplay style for Revel Immortal.
It can really be boiled down to content being too 'expensive' to create that is, too time consuming for the benefit; as well as several of the systems pertaining to that content being significantly flawed.
In late December we basically did a half-year evaluation of how much progress we made with content creation in the old system.
We found that the majority of our time was going to developing the isometric environments; and very specific systems and technical issues pertaining to that (sorting, occlusion, lighting, portals, interior dissolves, performance, etc.)
The result was, a lot of time spent and not a lot of content created; basically not getting much closer to people playing and enjoying Revel Immortal in its current form.
...and for all that time and effort, play-quality was not really exceptional; a number of systems (npc dialogue, equipment, quests) were quite good, but other things (isometric interactions, control scheme, combat, character size) were not very good at all.
To make matters worse, our progress should have had a significant jump-start, as we re-used practically all the environments from existing Morning's Wrath; in hind-sight this did give us a boost, but once we encountered the challenge of making new locations from scratch (notably the Garranshall marketplace) productivity was horrible, with an estimation of maps/locations taking months to potentially complete graphically and functionally.
In short things were not good; for a very key part of the game, it was too hard to author, and the results weren't very good.
Technical issues, limitations of HTML5 and 2D engines; all the usual suspects, depth sorting, behind wall occlusion, lighting; really limited our ability to solve these problems as well.
Naturally they could be solved; there are plenty of excellent 2D Isometric RPGs, but could we solve them? in reasonable time?
We rightly received harsh criticism for control aspects of Morning's Wrath, (and Malathedra, AND Static) and I saw that becoming a repeat issue, which I felt was not acceptable.
All of this evidence forced me to take a really hard look at what we've been doing, and how we can change things to get things moving a lot faster; and showcase what really matters in Revel; that is, the story, quests, exploration, combat, equipment/item management, character progression.
Building 'vast' isometric maps felt like the right thing to work on at the time; but wasn't getting us there.
Faced with potentially calling it 'quits' on the project (which for those keeping track, has technically been in the works in various forms for about 6 years (8 in the absolute, but i technically did not do game development for about 2 years during this time), that's 1 more year than it took to write Morning's Wrath from concept to ship) I opted instead for drastic measures.
I had identified the major aspects that were giving us trouble; and now I was desperate enough to go ahead and act on those issues in a way that I haven't dared to before.
- Drop all of the isometric areas
- Use single image backgrounds instead
- Have a single large overland map of graph connected locations
- Have pc/npc/enemies use dynamic portraiture
- Have battle play out in a 'planner' type mode (think FTL-ish)
- Keep all the existing content, quests, npcs, etc. all the good stuff that works
- Make the changes fast and get moving.
Its a gamble, but so far; in terms of performance, it is working; the result was overwhelmingly a 'technical shed' removing tons of complexity.
Two months in, and we're essentially back where we left off; which is a great turnaround time, given that previous revamps have taken roughly a year.
It is clear that while I was able to recognize the need to revamp and cut, I simply did not cut deep enough.
It has been clear to me since I released Morning's Wrath, that it needed, and was going to get a sequel.
Hopefully I've set things on a path towards real productivity.
Look forward to more regular content in the near future.
All questions are welcome in the comments below.