Below is a general project status update.
At the start of the summer we really wanted to attend PAX and present a solid vertical spike of Oort Online. The aim of PAX was to to transition the project from being “a really sophisticated engine” into “a narrow but complete playable game”.
With this in mind we had to adjust our release strategy to allow us to build up a solid chunk of content.
A note on development pipelining
We often get asked why we’re working on feature B when feature A is still missing. This is normally because we’re working on A and B, but B just happened to be demonstrable sooner. For example, “why are we working on a storm when there are still no player characters in the game?” Well we’ve been working on everything required to deliver player characters for months. By comparison the storm took a few days.
All the features we’re developing are pipelined. This means that we have quite a few things in development in parallel. Simply because different devs have different skills and domain expertise.
Content of Plan A
So what’s in the PAX version? Well pretty much everything you’ve seen in the devlog:
- initial player race,
- masculine and feminine player characters,
- some new creatures, concepts, consistent styling and rendering,
- new hammer tool,
- 1st and 3rd person equipment assets,
- new ranged weapon and damage system,
- animation system,
- initial flora concepts and prototypes,
- a new HUD and GUI,
- a storms, and finally
- realtime previews in game from the World Builder,
- probably other stuff I can’t remember.
Oh, and quite a few other things that we’ve not shared. Like what? Well as a few examples:
- the sling-bow comes with standard and exploding arrows,
- basic drop shadows for entities,
- control + input system customisation,
- support for DX10 hardware when running under DX11,
- lots of new sound effects,
- lots of stuff to enable characters, animations, creatures, and interesting combat AI,
- probably other stuff I can’t remember.
Oh, and some other things that we’ve not shared.
A few weeks back, we concluded that even with all the new stuff we were getting into the development version we still didn’t have enough to merit waving a big flag at PAX. We don’t want to oversell the current status of the game. It’s still pre-alpha. And whilst everything we have coming is cool, we concluded it still wasn’t enough. We would have to wait for another event before shouting about the game. Queue Plan B.
We had always intended to release the PAX version to everyone - so that players who saw the game at PAX, would have been able to go home and play the same version. Plan B is to release the majority of the development version publicly. We’re working on this right now.
More than a week. But hopefully not much more.
We’ll likely split the releases up into a few chunks - mainly to help accelerate the releases. (Beacons and the new GUI are the main candidates to be released later.)
Why only the majority of features?
Whilst we want to share the development process with our early access players, we also want to keep some surprises back. There are a few special features that we think will be best revealed at a show. Mainly as it will help the promotion of the game and help us generate interest with new players - and ultimately help the game be successful.
Whilst we were working on Plan A (PAX) we mindlessly postponed the planned Q&A. (We really should have just said so - bad Elves.) But the Q&A will now happen when we release the next update. Likely as a Twitch event. We’ll make sure we give everyone sufficient warning to pre-prepare excuses to bunk off school, work, college, whatever.
The initial release of animated player characters and creatures is close. There will only be a few creatures at first. After this we plan to gradually add more creatures.
There is lots of stuff still a long way off: player progression is something we’re not rushing as it’s critical to the longterm strength of the game.
The main aim is to make the game more actively playable now.
We need to work on this. The good thing about a roadmap is people know what’s coming, the bad thing is that we’ll need to constantly change it during development as we learn more about the game. (The worst thing about the roadmap would be to stick to something when we know it’s no longer what we want.) I’m not a big fan of publishing a roadmap. But I’m sure we can come up with something to help capture progress.
We plan to re-communicate our expectations for the game being ready. Originally this was planned for PAX, but it’ll now happen after the coming release. I don’t want to preempt that here. But it’ll definitely be 2016 when the official 1.0 release happens.
The team is gradually changing. But we’re mainly trying to structure the team for a steady focus on improvements and expansion up to and most importantly beyond 1.0.
Progression touches everything in the game. We’re directly and indirectly working on it every day. We’re not ready to share any real details at the moment - as it’s still a work in progress. But we absolutely understand that progression is a fundamental part of giving the game longevity for players.
Varies. Different disciples are pure prototyping and iteration. Nothing is truly scrapped, rather iterated and improved upon. Very few ideas are scrapped, they mainly get moved from the pre-1.0 pile into the post-1.0 todo list.
This is a non-trivial question to answer. We have different opinions in the dev team, and likely different players have different expectations.
My personal preference is to try stuff, release it, see how players respond to it and then iterate. But there are good reasons why this isn’t the best approach. (Players consider stuff done when it’s a work in progress.) So it’s really about expectation setting, and it’s really hard to communicate this to all our current and potential players. Whilst I would prefer us to iterate faster, we’re already releasing stuff way more rapidly than many professional game developers would be comfortable with. (There is often a concern that work is progress is assumed to be complete.)
Two main reasons:
- To help us promote and grow the game when we have a new and significant feature coming. If everything is already in the game it’s hard to create interest or news about progress.
- I’m not sure everyone wants to know exactly what is coming. (Is it fun to know the ending of a film before seeing it? Know the content of any present before unwrapping it?)
The flora stuff we shared was some initial experimentations. As discussed above our main art focus is currently the main player character (1st and 3rd person animations) and adding more creatures (concepted + modelled + textured + animated + interesting AI design.)
Only in concept. We want to polish and release race 1 before moving on.
No - not all. We have a good high level design for many of the creatures, but we only really explore detailed interaction when our animator, designer + coder, and artist are collaborating on the individual creature. The creature will often evolve in (hopefully) interesting and unique ways.
We don’t plan to limit taming / breading to a subset of creatures.
Already discussed quite a bit.
Thanks for everyone supporting us and the game development, and thanks also to everyone asking questions and keeping us and the project honest.
Disagree / Questions
Let me know below.