Thursday, December 27, 2007

Testing Wyvern



Well, kiddies, it's been a long night of testing Wyvern. I took a few screenshots for you people as I know some of you live on this sort of thing (Note: I can change my image at will). Anyway, some things that were taken care of during the night were as follows:


- Monsters and players couldn't wield or ready weapons.
- Map load objects (those things that we use to move items from different maps in quests and the like) weren't loading.
- Spike traps, firespouts, and the like didn't give damage messages
- Makeshift additions to the game that the elder wizards made in the past are now directly in the maps where said changes were made. This means no more boulders over Minath Prison. It's now just gone.
- Misc errors with the website (there are probably still more issues, such as dead links, that went unnoticed, so keep an eye out) were corrected.


Other changes that I can remember off the top of my head only affected wizards so there's no need to list them. Plus I am multi-managing at the moment which means I keep switching between writing a few words here and the game so I do not have a lot of time to go into great detail at the moment. Hopefully this will be a sufficient update to hold you over for the time being.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Evolution of the Undead Unicorn

Very briefly, (or so I thought when I began writing this) I thought it would be interesting to show the evolution of the Undead Unicorn graphic within Wyvern. For those who aren't aware, the Undead Unicorn is a creature that I created for the Forgotten Oak chapel. I was a novice that wanted to expand on the limited number of undead monsters the game provided me with and so I came up with something I thought I could make with my limited microsoft paint skills. However, I ended up really liking the idea as it added great significance to the plot in that it allowed me to show just how devastating the effect of losing the magical life giving Oak tree was to the area.

You see, the tree dying had an extreme negative effect. All the magic it had pumped into the area suddenly turned dark in reaction to the Oak dying a painful death as it slowly burned. As such, all plant life died, the blood that soaked into the soil was preserved, (which lead to the strange looking terrain you see now) and the dead were reanimated. In order to show how really awful this was, I felt that it worked perfectly to have dead Unicorns reanimated into an undead fiend as a Unicorn is a symbol of purity and light and to be defiled by becoming an undead thing for anyone is an extremely vile evil. However, Unicorns are normally protected from this kind of perversion and so it is a big deal (in my mind) for Undead Unicorns to exist anywhere.

Anyway, I originally gave the regular Unicorn graphic Zombie skin and added faded wounds. Why exactly the hooves and the tail/mane also turned green I do not know. Looking at it in the first time in ages, I realize that I should've gotten rid of any hair, blackened the hooves, and turned the body green while adding ridges to show that the fur had fallen off and you were just seeing rotted skin. However, I apparently was not thinking back then and so players got stuck with this oddball.

Later on, Legolas suggested that the Undead Unicorn be drawn as a skeleton and I thought it was a great idea. So I created the 3rd graphic you see at the top of this post. Here I basically copy, pasted, and very slightly tweaked the Dracolich ribcage and placed it over the Zombie Unicorn graphic. Then I used the colors on the Arch Dracolich's claws for the hooves and finally, I drew bones over the pre-exiting template. When I was done with that, I just removed the green bits. If you zoom in you can see how poorly put together the leg bones were, but I am not artist so it's amazing to me that I was able to make it at all.

Later still, a quirky little paper bag (aka Abbess) came along and said she would redraw the Undead Unicorn for me after I was having a discussion with players about the quality of the skeleton version I had created. Being an amazingly talented artist, she came up with the final graphic. The tail bone looks better, the legs aren't odd looking, and the bones in general have a smoother feel to them. All in all, it's great and I am quite pleased that someone that knew what they were doing was able to take my mangled junk and perfect it.

Unfortunately, Undead Unicorns stopped being in the game awhile ago as I began cutting away at Forgotten Oak in an attempt to improve upon the quality of the original maps. As such I ended up deciding to make a multi-map version of the large rectangular map that previously existed for the village. However, I only made one of those replacement maps and the Undead Unicorns would've been in a part of the village that I didn't feel like making at the time. Of course, I'll get around to it one day, but until then Abbess' version shall live on here... for all four of you to enjoy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Future of Content in Wyvern

For a number of years now we've been pushing the boundaries of what came before. The graphics have improved, the design of our maps have gotten better, and our overall standards have skyrocketed. There was a time when an area like Florina was considered good (minus the unbalanced updates that came later). Now you couldn't get promoted with something like that if your life depended on it.

Why is that? Well, we've had some very talented people come in who have pushed the boundaries of what once was and made us see that can do better and therefore we have expected more. People like Binyamin, Legolas, Raeden, Teshuvah, and Zifa. Some were great right out of the gate, others took time to build their craft into something amazing. The point is we have a lot of expectations these days and so I thought I'd take some time to share some of the ones that are most important to me with you all. You may have seen hints of some of these things in the game already, others have yet to be released. But, in the end, the game will move more toward these visions of the future and older areas that do not hold up with be phased out.

Cities

Let's start out by discussing cities. There was a time when, to make a city, you would create this really big box of a map and just fill it in with houses. Then you would fill those houses up with monsters because the idea of making houses with NPCs that had interesting things to say was more work, required some originality, and because your main goal was to attract lots of players to your area (the aim  to find bigger and better ways to get your content viewed by people and that meant more experience and more gold). However, they looked and felt nothing like real cities and some of these things would get too big, to the point where the solution was to split it up into two maps, like you see with Coran. It's basically just the same thing, only you cut and pasted the bottom half into a new map. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it was just a quick fix to a crumbling system that kept being repeated by every wizard that came around. Including myself.

The solution and now requirement for all new cities and villages is that you design it with multiple maps to begin with and never limit it to just one or two. Now you should have districts and paths between them that are made up of farmland, woodland, a simple city street, or whatever you think best fits. We see this in areas like Amita, Bura Shaan, and Glacier Point.

While doing that you should create areas around the city where you can place monsters while limiting their exposure within the city. If you're going to put them inside of the city be creative. For example, Alaria is by no means perfect in this department and still needed to be split up into a lot of different maps but, in the final product, one thing will remain and that is the random house near the hospital. Sometimes you will go there and you will meet a nice family, other times it will be infested by Orcs and Ogres who locked the family in the attic.

But don't try to do everything with monsters. Find ways to make these houses interesting. Give all your NPCs detailed conversations that include important plot points, have them get angry at you for breaking in, (again, in a creative way) or add mini quests/special items. Someone could be angry that their neighbor stole their good silver and they want you to investigate. For which they will reward you once you have returned their property. Another alternative is to let players find special things in these houses only, like my hydra food, gizmos, and bags that generate random prizes. Bottom line, wizards should do things to encourage players to go into houses and never forget the importance of these places as they are of extreme value for making you feel like you're exploring this massive fantasy city and not just wandering around looking for things to mindlessly kill.


Dungeons

One of the big mistakes that people continue to make involves creating monster maps. Okay good, we got people to move monsters out of cities. But even though it may make more sense, it's often just as easy to kill monsters, minus the easy access to healing fountains. Generally what you see is a single ruins map, off to the side, that has a half a dozen structures or more and each has only one map to their name (which then has a few of the same monsters lined up for you to kill). We've been getting rid of them, but you still see it in Varak and in the Minath Ruins. Make no bones about, this is a dressed up zoo. It allows people to pick and choose which creatures they want to fight and always gives them easy access to treasure.

Instead, each of those structures should be a dungeon with at least 3-5 maps, but hopefully more. Each dungeon should have puzzles and traps. You should have to work to get keys or find levers to get to the next level. Further, there should be mini bosses throughout and a final boss at the end. Make your monsters challenging and be sure not to forget the plot. You can add some monsters that are good against archers here, some that are good against fighters there, etc. You can even make it look like monsters are fighting for control of a level which, by the way, will allow you to make sense of using a wider range of monsters and give you a plot to build on. Also, one should make sure that the really good treasure is a reward for completing the whole thing.

If one takes the time to create a particularly complex dungeon, they can consider making something totally unique. It doesn't have to be something that's hard to code. It could simply be an item given for bragging rights or you could find a key that unlocks another dungeon. Better yet, there's one key in each of those half dozen dungeons and only when you collect all 6 can you unlock the mega dungeon. You don't want people just doing the first level or two and leaving, you want to encourage them to go all the way through and you want to make it hard for them to do so. Take the Gauntlet in Alaria as an example. There are hidden keys in each room (in more complex ones you can actually make the keys move around) and little tricks that you have to learn to get to them. One might be hidden behind a wall that you can walk through, another might be guarded by a thief that steals your items, another yet might be impossible for you to get without locking yourself in and seemingly needing a partner who will let you out. Creativity is your friend when it comes to designing a good dungeon.

Also, group dungeons are very important. Someone making one should do all the things said above, but they need to find ways to make it unsolvable, nearly unsolvable, or more difficult... if done alone. This can be achieved by adding monsters that target certain players. For example, Black Dragons are hard for mages to beat since they have a chance to block their spells and they are hard for fighters to beat since their acid does a lot of damage in close range combat. But archers can easily clean their clocks. Higher level players have no problem with them, but a version can easily be designed that does the same thing to them as mid-level players currently experience with this version.

Further more, a good wizard should utilize tricks that force you into combat with those types of monsters. You might need to kill all monsters in the map to move on or the monster may be holding a key you need. The latter allows you to make a dungeon that isn't just a straight forward level based dungeon. You can have one that branches off to the side where players then have to defeat various different monsters and collect their keys in order to get to the end. An advantage of having a group would therefore not just be that you need them to defeat these different types of monsters, but that you can split up and collect your keys at the same time and then meet up at the end. This is something players can't do if you just have each monster one floor down from each other and you have to get past each one to reach the next. While that's fine for a standard dungeon, the point is that by being creative, you can create more interesting scenarios for players.

Anyway, another method one can utilize are signs and random paths. For example, if you're a dwarf, you can read a sign that tells you which of 5 paths to take to move on where as if you're not a dwarf and don't have one with you, you have to randomly go through them all and risk extreme danger. This also adds a huge amount of flavor to the game. Finally, the reward at the end should either be something players can split or something that is worth it for players to go back time and time again to help their friends get after they've done it. If done properly these group dungeons could be large events that clans and players in general plan for weeks.

In the end, things like the elf houses and these one map monster areas should be non-existent. If you want to fight elves, you should have to go through a forest dungeon filled with traps, elves waiting to ambush you, and various other dangers before reaching something good at the end or you should have to fight your way through something like an armed elven keep. Right now, people can almost fall asleep while training in certain places. They just click, run right through the monsters that they are willing to handle, and then they run right out. Dungeons that keep people on their toes with hidden dangers and puzzles will make a huge difference in keeping people "awake." Especially once monsters are able to travel between maps. Right now you can run out of a map to heal or make quick use of the apply key and your spell aliases to "fight" monsters from the safety of the previous map. However, once monsters can follow you throughout an entire dungeon, the game will be much more like a war.

Randomization

This is a great concept. It makes it possible to create interesting mini-games and more exciting areas, (as I mentioned a bit in discussing dungeons) but it really does wonders in quests. All quests are now required to be randomized. Secret words will now change, paths that you thought were safe can now be dangerous, key items will move around, objectives will change, traps will appear in places you didn't before see them. It really sucks for cheaters. You may have been told to look in that general store on that exact spot for the Orb of Goxii and then hop on one leg, but suddenly it's not there. Where did it go? It may be in another part of the general store, another building entirely, or you may not even need the orb this time around and need to talk to that NPC all over again to find out what to look for.

It's great, but best of all it makes quests interesting again for people doing them on multiple accounts. With it, you can no longer run around and mindlessly do what you did last time to solve it in a few minutes flat. If you try without taking the time to check, you'll probably end up having to wait a half hour so you can start the quest all over again. As time goes on, we're going to find more ways to use this which, in turn, will make a more challenging and interesting game for the players. If you ever can metaphorically fall asleep at your computer because you're going through simplistic motions over and over again, you should quit because you're no longer playing a game, you're doing a choir... something Wyvern will be anything but in the future.

Good vs Evil

This is a big thing for me. The idea is to make two different games. One you can experience if you make a character that follows the path of good, the other you experience if you follow the path of evil. As a result, whole new worlds open up to you. There would be different quests that can only by solved by either type of character, different advantages when doing dungeons, different monster training areas, unique items, and different risks.

Of course, the game is very limited in the way of that right now, but imagine if certain cities would arrest you just for being so evil that tales of your villainy as reach them or if you're a certain race which they consider to be naturally bad and, in traditional simple thinking, they aren't willing to give you a chance. If you want in, you'd have to sneak in, wear disguises, etc., and always risk being caught. Same with good players. You think those drow are just going to let you, a human paladin, walk through their city without a fight? No chance. What about the cities belonging to a dark empire that threatens the cities of reason and light?

But it's so much more than this. I could go on, but a lot of this involves ideas that I have which aren't things we've started pushing for yet, so I'm just giving you a glimpse. However, one thing that will absolutely be important are good and evil items that you wield/wear depending on your alignment. Unfortunately the code doesn't work right now, but once it does you will have to decide... be evil and wield this new powerful sword you found in a dungeon or continue to be good and miss out. Sure townspeople won't flee from you on sight (another idea that you may one day see) but training will be harder. It's things like this that extend gameplay in a way that is fun for the player. We already have it to a certain extent with players making new characters just to experience new characters, but we can do a lot better.

Originality

You know how everything is basically a take off of the medieval village concept? There's a dragon to fight, an angry dwarf in a tavern, and a keep just up the road? Well this is all well and good, but we also want new things. We have a few in the game right now and Binyamin is a great originator of them. His flying pig area, the blue moon, the under the bed nightmare, toys in the attic, or my dinosaur area. Imagine if you could walk down a New York City style street and be attacked by a tank because the city is under martial law after monsters from the past begin entering the city through a crack in space time or you can use the Well of Time to reach the future of Wyvern which is similar in nature to Shadow Run. Only instead of orcs and elves appearing after humans have established themselves, you find a world where orcs, elves, and humans have developed into a technological world. Although this world has modern cities, it is a very dark, warlike place... with guns.

In short, the sky is the limit. If you can dream it up we want it. A lot of people think of Wyvern in very limited terms, but it has always been the goal of this game to be a little quirky and expand into extremely creative content. The only thing that has been stopping us is that areas like that need entirely new graphics and most map makers cannot make them so they make do with the medieval style ones that already exist. But, we want wizards to wow us and you're going to see a lot more wow as time passes.

Anyway, I really could go on and I would like to expand on each one of the things I mentioned, but I don't feel like it would flow together if I did. Something like that is better for a manual (which it already sounds too much like one as I often seem to be addressing the reader with things they should do and not things that would be done) and so it doesn't work in a friendly attempt to introduce people to semi-new concepts that they will be seeing more of.

Regardless, there are also a lot of things I'd like to see on a personal level which may or may not ever happen. Some examples;

-New races that are unlocked within the game. After doing a very special high level quest you are bitten by a vampire or werewolf and your character wakes up to find it is level one with nothing it had before, but you get to run around as this new race which is a step up from the characters you can pick from when you start the game (inspired by something just like this which Zifa once suggested). In addition to expanding the game in a fun way, it's also a status symbol.

-Quests working like alignment. If you do Shrouded in Darkness you get -20 quest points. If you do Demon Hordes you get +20. Both give you the same bonus where the high scores are concerned so if you have the same exact xp and gold, but you have -122 quest points and the other person has +120, the one who has negative points will be higher. This also serves to punish you for doing every quest even though they may go against the ideals your character holds and will factor into the game in more ways then just the high scores - NPCs will treat you differently, areas will be locked/opened to you, etc. Some quests could even serve to offer two paths so you can do something like steal the item for someone rather than give it to the monk to get negative quest points rather than positive.

-Npcs that talk to you differently based on race and alignment. If you're a drow, you could get screams from simple villagers, but if you're a human they could talk to you about what a fine day it is.

-Holidays within Wyvern. Not real ones, but made up ones that are always automated. For example, right now when you go into Stensele you are told about a holiday that is going on. Instead, once a year you could enter it to find a party has overtaken the streets. Everybody is happy, everybody is drinking, and there are games/prizes that you can take part in during that day only. It gives people something to look forward to without offending anyone in this very international setting Wyvern is apart of and it just adds a great bit of flavor to the game. All the holiday maps would be made in advance and code would be written that takes you to those maps instead of the regular ones during a certain 24 hour period. There's a game called Dark Castle which did something like this. If the clock on your computer was ever set to Friday the 13th, you were in for a special treat. Minus being able to change your clock, it's an amazing thing to look forward to once you hear about it and even more amazing if you stumble on it by accident.

-Overhaul of Dragons. New graphics are drawn for young dragons and ancient ones. All the 2x2 dragons are turned into medium sized dragons which are about the strength of the current Red dragon. 3x3 Dragons are created to be major bosses akin to Riagors and are meant to be standalone monsters. Meanwhile the 2x2 Dragons of today are replaced with new 1x2 young dragons that aren't old enough to pose much of a threat. Most of the maps with dragons in lairs would suddenly make a lot more sense as the dragons we currently have piled together are too old to be living together, but they aren't dangerous enough to make it worth it to players if we split them up.


Well that's enough for now. In a future blog post I'll probably write an equally long post that goes more into this, but I've been writing too long so I'll end it here. Plus I don't want to give away all my blogging material all at once. Anyway, thanks for listening boys, girls, and circus freaks. I hope some of this generated some excitement and if not, I mock your pathetic attempts to cling to the past.

By the way, as you clearly see I changed the template on the blog. I think this one fits better with Wyvern's old look, but feel free to let me know what you think. If enough of you disagree I'll change it back.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A First Glimpse Down The Rabbit Hole


Greetings and salutations Earthling vermin. You have stumbled upon the wizard Arilou's first blog post. Aren't you a lucky fella? I'm sure you're thinking I'm out of my mind for making a blog and you would be right, but I talked it over with the voices in my head and we thought a blog dedicated to some of my work in Wyvern might be of interest to two or three of you out there.

Now, I of course have a policy against sharing details about future projects of mine as I have found that doing so only gets people overly excited and then they are really let down when I don't finish it for three or four years and instead jump to one of a dozen other projects I have going at any given time. So, there won't be much of that here (but from time to time I may post a screenshot or two of something interesting that doesn't give away much of anything..."yay;" is what I'm sure you're all saying right now in not at all sarcastic tones).


What this blog will instead focus on is existing content. Specifically I was thinking that whenever I release a new area I could then hop on here within the next few days and discuss some of my thoughts and ruminations on what I had just completed while also responding to some of your questions and general comments. Of course, given that I'm a generally lazy fellow, I don't release an area that often so if, as a member of the Arilou fan club, you were hoping to read my brilliance on a regular basis I am ever so sorry to disappoint. But please, try not to shed tears over this news. I'd like to say I'm not worth it, but we all know that just isn't true, so actually, yeah, go ahead and cry your little hearts out as I am sure each and every one of you are doing at this very moment.

That said, we'll see where this goes. It might evolve into something entirely different or, more likely, I'll get bored and forget this stupid thing exists. In the meantime, I was thinking that every month I would pick one site from my list ( not yet compiled ) that promotes Wyvern and post it here while asking you to review/vote for Wyvern on that particular site above all else. This way instead of trying to get people to go through every one of a dozen sites, you guys can promote Wyvern on a new one each month and in the process attract different types of people who frequent that particular site. This way Wyvern's name is out there more and the type of people who are coming to the game become more diverse. Especially now, in light of the hit the playerbase took after such a long downtime, I hope you people try and take a few seconds out of your day to support this. Well actually I couldn't care less, I just thought it would be a nice thing to do for you people since none of you would be able to promote this as well as I could and most of you want a thriving community again. But that's neither here nor there, just like it's neither here nor there that I enjoy to eating a nice, plump human for dinner every now and then.




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Wyvern is a massively multiplayer online RPG written in 100% java. It runs on...



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Moving right along... for this month, I thought I'd start out by giving a special mention to Arcadepod since it was what introduced me to Wyvern. I was just browsing through it one day and saw this game called, well you know, that advertised being able to make areas for the game without needing to be a coder and, intrigued, I came right over and long story short, about a week and a half later I was a wizard. So anyway, think about clicking on the link and giving Wyvern a good 5 star review. If enough of you do it, it will shoot up in the ranks and become more visible to the people over there. But also, if you take the time to make a well written review that makes the game sound interesting, people checking the comments will come to the game just based on that where as they may avoid it if it's filled with a bunch of brief aol speech reviews that say absolutely nothing of value. Anyway, as always, do not spam the site in your zeal over wanting Wyvern to do well. One good review per person is quite enough.





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Review Wyvern

Wyvern is a massively multiplayer online RPG written in 100% java. It runs on...



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And with that I bid you all farewell. Later on; "Inside the disturbed mind of Arilou," I think I'll post some old screenshots of the awfulness that were Forgotten Oak's first maps since I will have been a wizard for 5 years as of mid Janurary and I figured what better way to mark the passing time than to berate myself. I just have to dig through my old email archives to determine the exact date that I became a wizard back in Janurary of '03 and then you get to be blessed with another blog post from yours truly. I know, I can barely suppress my joy as well. But, for the sake of the children, we absolutely must try.


Of course, I'd much rather sacrifice the little brats in hopes of getting a decent harvest next year, but the pesky government tells me I can't do that. Something about laws and angry parents. Oh how I miss the days when parents would let you sacrifice their first born in exchange for a pig and some stale bread. Meanwhile, the law could care less so long as the brat wasn't of noble blood. Now those were the days. Unfortunately people today make a big stink for nothing about trying to cut the beating heart out of some peasant child and it's truly a damn sham... what's that? Too far? *walks off grumbling about mortal swine... in a nice sort of way*