Well its been a while since our last post. It's really tough holding down a job and family with kids while trying to develop a game on the side The last couple of months hasn't been easy, personally I've been a little low on energy and not having much time to getting down to any real Ilkor development.
However I'm now back in the thick of things again and I feel we are making traction again.
Chris on the other hand has been working furiously on the character creation process and it is now basically finished, bar the saving of the actual character and artwork from Simon. The artwork doesn't prevent the game from functioning, but cosmetically it would be awesome to have all the portraits and avatar facial parts that would complete a wonderful player experience. However, understandably the artwork is a very time consuming task and if it means we have a wait a little longer than so be it, it will certainly be worth it.
Having said that, we might well release an alpha version of the character creation page in the next week or two. As soon as we do, you'll be hear about it here.
Next we'll be tackling the mapping engine and character homepage.
The core of the mapping engine has already been designed and developed. It was however put on hold late last year to focus on the character creation process amongst other higher priority tasks. We are really hoping you'll like the approach we've taken with the maps. You've most likely seen the amazing (illustrated) maps that Jon Roberts created for us which we'll be using to drill into. The mapping engine will use tilesets created by Jon to hopefully recreate these illustrated maps in a 2D tiled structure, zooming in to a much more detailed scale. Each tileset will roughly represent 1km or 2km. That is the type of scale we feel will work nicely.
The character homepage is really the area of the site that you'll arrive at each time you log-in. Here you'll be presented with a summary of your character (character sheet) along with summaries of the state of play, turn & phase numbers, deadline date, weather, season, etc.
As for our growing team of GMs. They have been working hard at populating the Gazetteer of Arcadia which is the game's wiki. Although the game isn't live yet, the wiki is up and running and growing in size almost daily.
Will thats it for the moment.
Well its been a couple of weeks since my last update. There has been so much progress in the last few weeks on all fronts. However we haven't really completed a single piece of development that has a visual aspect to show off here. Much of the progress has been rather technical aswell.
At the moment the entire team are working towards the 1st July which we hope will be our launch date for ilkor.com. Now don't get too excited, the game won't be ready, but we think it is important to get a web presence as soon as possible, so we can supply information to potential players and give them the option to sign-up for the beta playtest which will start early into the New Year (we are aiming for the 7th Jan 2012).
Here's the current development progress:
Illustration Map: Jon Roberts really has done an amazing job. The world map is close to completion now. Our previous blog entry went into some detail around the outstanding work that has gone into making this what it is. Between myself and Jon we've gone through a handful of correction iterations and I believe within a week or so Jon will have completed the job. Finally we'll be adding a border, title, compass, etc to the map and then it will be complete. Jon has recently blogged about Ilkor amongst his various other projects.
Map Engine: This is also close to completion, at least the core functionality. Very soon Chris will be working on the engine once more using an actual tileset drawn by Jon Roberts to ensure the game map style matches the illustrated world map. You might not be aware, but when we launch Ilkor we will only be opening up 1 of the 5 regions. Each region will have roughly 170,000 locations for the players to explore. While this is great for the players it means ALOT of work for the GameMasters. We are going to have to not only create and render the region based on the illustrated map but also populate it with various information, items, creatures, etc. So there is alot of work coming up very soon and I am going to be the main one running with this!!
Well thats the update this time around. Hopefully a little more can be revealed soon.
Well another week has gone by in the blink of an eye. I can't believe we are almost 1 third of the way through the year!!
The Cape Town based development team (wow all 3 of us! - myself, Chris and Mark) had a very productive design session last Wednesday evening. You guys might not know our setup, but all three of us are developing Ilkor in our spare-time, trying to find the odd hour here and therefore during the day and spending what time our families allow during the evenings and weekends on Ilkor development. It is tough going but extremely rewarding.
Mark and myself work together in the same office for our 'day job' while Chris is about 10kms down the road. Mark and I therefore manage to talk 'Ilkor' on and off throughout the day, at lunchtime and at any spare moment we find in the day when out 'day job' is a little slow. We tend to work long hours at the office so we are able to do both.
I mentioned last week we have our own VPN which all of us can access from anywhere so it doesn't matter, day or night, we can all get access to documentation, source code, etc.
We run Ilkor using a development methodology called Scrum. I'm not going to get into the details of this as it'll most likely bore you to death. However we have been working like this for many years. It basically involves splitting sizeable chunks of work up into small pieces that can be completed in a short period of time. We work on a 2 week cycle. Each cycle is called a sprint.
Our sprints start every 2nd Wednesday. Infact we start a new sprint this coming Wednesday. Part of Scrum involves having a short meeting every day to track process etc. We do this at 7am over Skype. It works very well indeed and sets us all up for the rest of the day.
Anyway...as for the design session. The agenda was to really go over a number of topics. We reviewed the database model, which as I mentioned the other week, and is really taking shape. It's not complete but a large section (specifically the metadata) is now fully designed.
We also reviewed the map engine and editor. Chris demo'ed what he has achieved to date and it is going to be completely amazing. I really want to share this with you guys but not until we have the finished tilesets, world and regional illustrated maps from Jon. To show this off before then will not do the engine justice. Anyway we thrashed out some of Chris' concerns, mostly technical around terrain transitions and the approach to both roads and rivers. We settled on a great solution which Chris is well into implementing already.
Finally I gave a presentation around the player interfaces, the pages that will be served up to the player while he plays the game. Between Simon and myself we have come up with a great navigational structure that we feel will be very intuitive, something I believe more than 90% of the text-based browser games fail to achieve. The session went well and I was happy to see that both Chris and Mark managed to understand the structure. With some feedback I'm now revising some areas before Simon will then take the brief to work on the design drafts further until we are happy. This includes the 'look and feel' or the theme of the site, which in many ways is equally as important.
All in all we've had a hugely productive week. The artists are making alot of progress, especially Jon who has taken our comments regarding the initial map snippet that was given to us. The final finished world map is expected to arrive sometime this week, we are all very excited, maybe next week we can share a small snippet of the map to you! :-)
We've now got just over 2 months to go before we intend on launching the ilkor.com website that will really just be a holding page with some info on the game and the ability to join the playtest. However this is going to be a huge milestone for us. If we can make it, it'll mean we are finally live, will have a real web presence and then have only 6 months to complete what is needed to launch the playtest at the end of 2011.
I'm really hoping that early into May we'll start to have some nice illustrations, maps and screenshots that we'll be able to give you a sneak preview of.
Sorry, its been a while since our last update on Ilkor, however you'll be pleased to hear work is going full-steam ahead. Development is going very well indeed and we've made quite a bit of progress. We've still a mountain of work to climb, but the roadmap has been drawn and the journey has certainly begun.
This article is going to be reasonable technical and therefore it won't really reveal too much about the game features (sorry guys, you'll have to wait a while longer for that).
Right now the development team is 5 strong; 3 programmers and 2 artists.
Logo & Motif: Simon has completed numerous concept designs and we've settled on a style that we really like and believe it sets a great tone and theme for the game.
We've a number of different variations (mono, colour, light on dark, dark on light and so on). Simon has also put together a nice motif that will be used throughout the game. He is now busy working on a large collection of character portraits (race and class combinations).
We'll report more on these as and when they become available. For the moment however, check out the logo and motif below:
World Map: I (Sean) spent the better part of Jan & Feb actually coming up with the design for the world map. This proved to be an interesting task which took far longer than I expected. The world map is going to be huge, massive!!!!
It consists of five regions (continents). Each continent is plenty large and interesting enough to keep any fearless adventurer content for many years. I designed each continent down to low level detail, setting out the various terrain types, places of interest, roads, rivers, settlements and then labelling everything. When I say labelling everything I mean everything!!!
Anyway, now with the draft map completed, this has been handed over to Jon who is busy re-drawing the maps to an extremely high quality. The maps will be drawn in a typical 'Tolkien' style. Jon has indicated that the map (maps) will be ready around the end of March. I really can't wait.
The finished maps will be used by the mapping engine. The world map will just be used for reference purposes only. The game will start with just one of the continents 'open' for play. The detailed illustrated map of the continent will be fully available for the player to study and explore. The map size will be somewhere in the region of A3 to A2. Remember that is just one continent, there will be another 4 to explore eventually!
Players will move their characters around the map using a grid map. The scale will be even greater on the grid map. The grid map will reveal much more detail about the continent and will only display the areas that you have previously explored. The rest will be 'clouded out'.
What is really exciting about this approach is that we hope to have the grid map 'look and feel' much like the detailed illustrated map. The tilesets will be created by Jon and we're using some rather smart ways to handle the transitions between terrain types thus it will not look like a grid map, each terrain type will seamlessly blend into one another.
One of the reasons for choosing a 'Tolkien' style map is the lack of colour and it's simplicity in terrain types. Not only does it look cool (well we think so), but it won't detract from the various tokens and symbols we plan on programmatically displaying on locations.
Chris is now starting work on the Editor itself. The editor is a GameMaster toolkit that will enable use to build the grid map up from the illustrated map. We'll have tools available to change terrain types, to create roads, rivers, settlements etc. Anyway, more on the map editor at a later date. I'll try and get Chris to write up an article.
Metadata: This article is proving to be lengthy already so I won't talk too much about metadata. Basically metadata refers to all the 'playing pieces' of the game. I've gone through an exercise of putting together very rough screenshots of all the various metadata pages where the GM will use to pre-populate the game at the beginning with data. The type of data is:
- Classes (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Priest, etc)
- Races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, etc)
- Maagic Items
- and so on
It isn't simply a list but a whole host of properties for each specific metadata type. For example, each class will require to have a ClassId, a Name, Brief Description, Detailed Description, Icon, Image, and other game related stat values. These are all configurable so that the start of the game the GM can customise the game to his liking.
We've gone with this 'generic' approach so that the game engine could one day be re-used for another type of game. Also it makes it alot easier to manage the game and correct and tweet it here and there. As I mentioned, Ilkor will start with just one continent open. The other 4 will open when they are required. The majority of a continent's data and 'playing pieces' can be configured through these screens prior to opening it up to players.
Hope you find this type of article interesting, I'll try and write more often.
We've been itching to start developing Ilkor: Dark Rising all throughout 2010 and it has finally begun!!
That doesn't mean we've been dragging our heels, far from it. The design phase has taken a little longer than we had expected. It had to be right before we could start cutting code. The design still isn't 100% bedded down, however the core mechanics 'feel right' which gives us enough to start getting our hands dirty.
The development team currently consists of 4 brave people ; two programmers and two artists. Without a doubt this team will grow a little over the year. All team members are 'part-time' so it's going to be a real challenge.
- Programmers: Myself (Sean Cleworth) and Chris Kriel. We're friends and we work together as computer programmers at our day job. Together we've decided to take on this project and make it a great success. We've access to a number of other friends at work that could assist on Ilkor should we need it.
- Artists: Both have been commissioned to produce artwork. We think their work is out of this world. Simon Lee Tranter is responsible for coming up with the game's overall style and theme and the various pieces of artwork that we'll require. Check his portfolio, amazing stuff. Johnathan Roberts has been commissioned to produce the world map. His cartography skills will be a huge asset, the map needs to be stunning...and it will be. Please go and look at his work.
This is very exciting times (especially for me - it's been many years since I was involved in game development and it's great to be back) but the sheer volume of work that lies ahead means we're going to be very busy.
I'll post more information as and when I have it, though there will be aspects of the development that we'll be keeping close to our chests...we want to hold back some surprises for the Beta Testing phase which will be towards the end of this year.