Monday, February 4, 2013

10 Year Anniversary Retrospective - Part II

By now I'm sure you all know that to people who work on games, "soon" really means; "when we feel like it." So, is it really any surprise that when I told you guys to "check back soon," for the follow up to the last part of the anniversary retrospective, you wouldn't be able to read it until a year later?

I would have had it for you "sooner," but it's difficult to reminisce about how you spent all this time working on building things to help push the game forward, only to have the game go down for such a long stretch of time, a month later. Especially when the response, at the time, was that it would be back up "soon." So what was supposed to be a one week break from blogging instead became a month, which became until Rhialto got the game back, which became on the next anniversary since it looks like the game will be down quite awhile longer (aka, it will be back "soon").

Although, actually, kudos to me as I finally got around to writing this, not 12 months later, but 10 months later and I am just scheduling it to be published on February 4th. So, really, I should get an award or something for completing this early. Maybe a nice plump halfling wrapped in elf skin or a... what's that? I'm rambling? Well, duh, I don't refer to this blog as my "mad ramblings" for nothing. But, fine, I'll move on to the retrospective, if you insist. *mumbles incoherently*

fae Wyston Graveyard

The fae Wyston Graveyard is an important piece of Wyvern's history as it's one of the game's earliest dungeons. Sadly, it was also one of the most unbalanced. In addition to having way too much loot for its difficulty, it also handed out way too much experience - Like most early maps, there were spawns for random scrolls, spellbooks, rings, armor, and rods just sitting near mid-level monsters. Originally, you could even get an artifact spawn without having to fight the boss. But eventually, Rhialto took some of that treasure out and put the random artifact spawn in the inventory of a beefed up version of the arch dracolich.

That wasn't its only problem, though. Sadly, it, at one point, also earned the honor of having the map that gave out the highest amount of experience since experience goes up for every spell a monster has and the graveyard had a bunch of floating eyes and skulls grouped together (fun fact: I know this because Rhialto told me after informing me that the map with the second highest amount of experience belonged to me - whoops).

Rhialto eventually made some tweaks to how much experience these monsters got, but it was still too much and progression was far too simple. There were just four very small maps that were loaded with monsters. Thus, high level players would run through it in a couple of minutes and come away with easy experience... and an easy to obtain artifact. Due to this, we ended up blocking it off with boulders and then having it removed entirely.

You can see the original four levels and the above ground graveyard map below. Most of you who have been around long enough to have been able to go there probably went after we updated many of the game's graphics in 2003. But I decided to use the old ones instead to show you how it looked people first started going there. The game didn't even have different color staircases back then, so even dark and spooky dungeons had to make use of those white ones.

Anyway, after closing it off, I immediately started working on redoing it and got as far as the first couple of maps. My initial idea was to make this huge group dungeon that started off with the same easy bunch of undead monsters from the original map, but quickly became challenging and ended with Morgos as the boss. However, plans for an even harder Morgos dungeon came up and, although I never got very far with that one either, planning it out diverted my attention. Before I could get back to the graveyard, an old wizard showed up and signed up to redo fae Wyston entirely. So rather than make them work around my graveyard, I shelved the project, thinking that maybe one day I'd get back to it and put it in Minath Elion or Alaria.

Unsurprisingly, the wizard in question left again and nothing much ever came of it. So I'd occasionally think about going ahead and redoing it as fae Wyston needed to have monster maps again, but other things always took precedence. Then our 10th year anniversary was fast approaching and I wanted to not only provide new content for people, but provide content that celebrated the game's history... and what better way to do that than to give fresh life to old maps? Well, I had a bunch of things I wanted to complete, but the Minath Monster Arena ended up preventing me from getting to everything as it was a huge time sink. Fortunately, though, the graveyard made it in under the wire and it came out quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

It's now a large, 50 or so map dungeon (to be fair, some of those are duplicate puzzle maps) with three mini bosses, two bosses, several puzzles, a couple of tricks, new monsters created for the anniversary, a non-streamlined form of progression, (meaning you don't just go down one square map after another until you reach the end) and some nice rewards (artifact armor ftw!). As you probably know, there's no Morgos in there as I shifted the idea since then to instead build on the original dungeon. There wasn't much to work with, but I tried to keep the general look. Thus the simple dirt + cave wall combo, my use of only the original gravestones, and many of the same monsters appearing throughout the dungeon. An interesting little tidbit you might not know is that the Arch Dracolich at the end of the original dungeon was called "Shog," which is why he is surrounded by shoggoths. Well, for anyone who has gone through my redone version, you'll probably recall the points where I expanded on that.

Here's another interestingly little tidbit: I was in the process of expanding the graveyard when the game went down. I've long wanted to make a dungeon that can only be accessed by completing several other dungeons. It's something I've mentioned in-game, on the forum, and probably in this very blog. I briefly had the idea of redoing the Minath Elion ruins with something like that, (I even thought that I'd include this graveyard as one of the dungeons) but as I would have taken forever to do that, Teshuvah redid it instead. Then I briefly had the thought that maybe one day I'll make a west Minath Elion ruins. But, that wasn't going to happen either.

Well, skip ahead a bit and this idea popped into my head again while working on the anniversary, but obviously I wasn't going to have time to make multiple dungeons. So, I made some notes and shelved the idea until after the anniversary, whereupon I made eight additional above ground graveyard maps. I don't reveal unreleased content much, but here's the original map that you guys got to see, plus an additional eight that I intended to link to it.

My plan was to put up the whole graveyard and, every now and then release another dungeon, equal in difficulty to the first one. I have the basic idea of where I wanted to go with each dungeon written out and some are harder to make than others since, as to avoid being repetitive, some require things that don't exist. Therefore the likelihood of me ever finishing this was pretty low as it's rather difficult to get others to make specific things for your areas. Hence, why that other Morgos dungeon was placed on the back burner (our selection of high level undead and demon monsters was too limited for me to feel like I could do it justice). But I could've done a few over a period of time and maybe another wizard would've liked to contribute a dungeon or two. In the end, even if it took forever to get around to completing all of them and the boss the dungeon, at least there would be more dungeons to train in. Well, that was the plan before the game went down.

By the way, since I mentioned Morgos so much, here's a little factoid about him: The system by which I used to get him to drop other versions of himself was an idea I originally conceived for a vampire, of all things. I thought it would be really neat if I could have one that shifted into different forms (wolf, bat, and snake) before returning to its vampire form and when you defeated that form, I wanted him to turn into an unbeatable mist that would flee from you. I never really had a place for him so I didn't go anywhere with it, but the idea came back to me when I was making Morgos into a monster and I actually figured out how to accomplish it without needing any special code. It therefore seemed fitting that I'd finally make that original vampire as a mini boss for a dungeon that I initially wanted to make for him and I think it turned out to be a rather neat encounter. Needless to say, I love non-traditional stuff like that (hence the encounter with the Forgotten Oak catacomb's boss).

Oh and one more thing - In my last blog post I talk a bit about Amita and during the course of discussing its multi-map maze, I made reference to some really hard mazes that I was developing. Yeah, well, this is what they were for and, like I said then, maybe I'll share some details about them down the road.

Uncompleted Plans for the Anniversary

So, as I said, I had planned to redo more than just the fae Wyston graveyard for the anniversary, but I didn't quite complete everything in time. What exactly am I referring to ask? Well, there were little bits and pieces, but the main things [that I care to talk about] involved the Ziggurat, Moon Quest, and world map. At a later date I may share some images from these projects and other projects that I did not complete in time for the anniversary (and some may work their way into the game when it returns as they were close enough to done that I was able to complete them before the game went down). However, since I already posted that huge graveyard image, I'll only give you one small sneak peak when I'm done chatting about these things.

Okay, so, the Ziggurat has long needed to be redone and it was therefore one of things that I had been planning to get around to for awhile, but didn't have much motivation to do until the anniversary came up. For the dungeon, I decided to shift the entrance to the top of the structure and have players descend multiple levels that are compromised of different rooms complete with hidden passages, traps, and a few surprises. When they get to the bottom, they would have to navigate these rooms to find the boss room which is hidden somewhere in the middle.

With the Moon Quest, I didn't really do any work for it in the lead up to the anniversary. I planned the whole thing out and made sections of it ages ago, including the redone Alaria Inn and some other things that you haven't seen. Ultimately, I got bogged down with obtaining special code for it, but I had always really wanted to save it for the 10th year anniversary as it would have been fitting for the game's first quest to return on that day. However, I could have either bugged Contrare to work on/fix code for it or bother him for bonus XP hours, costumes, and the MMA. So, I didn't bother with it, but I am kind of bummed about it as I think it would be really fun for people who like challenging quests.

Moving on; the world maps haven't been updated in ages. The one on the website is still cluttered with places that had been removed and it is missing some of our recent additions. Meanwhile, the in-game one could do with a new coat of paint. As a result, I got Legolas to send me an easy to edit version of the website world map and I had set my sights on sprucing up the in-game world map to boot. However, at the last minute, Rhialto came through with those old New Verden maps that I used to show everyone how it once looked and changing everything to use the old graphics was so tedious that it ate into my world map work. It's not really all that exciting, but you may be interested to see that I wanted to expand the map eastward to accommodation a desert expansion.

This isn't an actual shot of the world map. Rather, it's from a smaller test map that I made to see how it would look before deciding whether it should be copied over or not. However, it's pretty much on par with the "final" version. As you can see, I filled the new expanse with some buildings that wizards could either make dungeons for or replace with something of their own (they're pretty much just place markers so it doesn't look empty). I also made a small oasis in the middle that I hoped could be replaced with a proper oasis graphic and would, at some point, have an area to go along with it.

You might be asking yourself why this matters if it was going to be updated without any new maps and, well, the point was to give wizards more room for desert areas that they might like to make in the future. If a wizard wanted to make one as is, there just wasn't any place for it and so it either would've had to have been attached to Bandar Gaah and Jbel or they would've have had to ask if something new could be made for their area. As a result, wizards might have been discouraged from pursuing a desert area. Plus, I think it works better for stories if we can refer to a large desert expanse.

Initially, I wanted to make it even bigger, extending further southeast, but I didn't want to expand the world map too much and it wasn't necessary at the time. I figured I could always add on to it later if wizards filled that place up, but it probably would've been awhile before that happened and so this small expansion would have sufficed.

Player Screenshots

Along with the amazing MMA video that I featured in Part I of my retrospective, Vesrayech was nice enough to provide the following screenshots. All but the last are from the party.

Unfortunately, Vesrayech was not using the Webstart client, so he didn't have the updated orb graphics in that final shot. However, I provided an entire view of the map in my previous anniversary post, so you can go back and see how it is supposed to look if you want.

Anyway, if you have any screen shots of your own from the big day that you would like to see featured in the next part of this blog series, let me know.

To be Continued

Check back "soon" for Part III of Arilou's anniversary retrospective. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, "soon" most likely refers to whichever comes first; the game's 13th anniversary or when Rhialto brings the game back up. In the meantime, be sure to check out Part I if you haven't already and if you have a question about the anniversary that you don't want to wait to see if I answer on my own, leave a comment.