Day: February 8, 2012

Before And After Screenshots Of AVWW With The Recent Visual Improvements

Since the game has gone through so many graphical improvements in the last few weeks — first GUI, then the skies, and now the HUD — I thought I’d post some before and after screenshots.

Here’s the first pair:

This one I managed to get pretty close between the two versions:  both in grasslands areas, although the top shot is actually grasslands with groves; and both even show the same spell in use and the sun in a similar position, and the same building on the screen.

Note how much more colorful and vibrant the skies are since we moved away from the old style of “dynamic and static” split skies and into one unified animated sky system.  Also note how crazy much better the HUD looks, if I do say so myself.  All in all these screens do a really good job of showing how much more cohesive the art style has become as we move toward 1.0.

Now the next (and last) pair of screens to show you:

These two versions of the main menu obviously aren’t as close as the first screenshots were.  But since we already had a pair of shots of the grasslands above, I didn’t just want to repeat that here. 

So now you see the desert — and again, note how much more vibrant and personal the sky is compared to before.  All the skies before tended to look very similar, just with some color variations between areas.  Here the clouds and everything actually look different, and the animations are really different in each one.

Also of note is the awesome new GUI that Phil did fo the game a while back, and which finally made it into the game a month or so ago.  And then this also really shows off the difference between the older style Unity text and our newer sprite text, as well: we’re able to do colors and borders with ease, and everything looks more polished and easier to read in the new fashion. 

Even the logo has been updated to look more stylized!

Anyway, we’re hitting the home stretch now as we moved toward a version 1.0 hopefully hitting in March, and I wanted to do a post that showed off just how much has changed graphically about the game.

AVWW Beta 0.572 “Enchanted Gills” Released!

This one is absolutely preposterously large in terms of its affect on the overall game experience.  First of all, perhaps least interestingly from a gameplay perspective, the HUD graphics have been completely overhauled.  Man does it look better now!

Enchants At Last!
Finally those little blue enchant containers have a purpose again.  And if you’ve been collecting them during the last few releases, you’ve not been collecting them in vain — expect a flood of enchants as you collect enchant containers in this new version.  All the stored up enchant points will be put to use getting you new and cool stuff to catch up with what you would have gotten before.

Enchants are basically like magical equipment that you can put on your body.  There are three kinds of enchants: arms (of which you can equip two at once — one for left arm, one for right), torso (of which you can equip one at once), and legs (of which you can also equip one at once).  

The enchants for your arms have a lot to do with your abilities, and things like modifiers for outgoing damage, or outgoing damage buffs by element. 

Enchants for your torso have some damage reduction buffs, lighting capabilities (like emit light, which has now been retired, used to do), and other special effects such as stealth (so that enemies don’t see you from as far away) or acid gills (so that you can breathe underwater and not take acid damage). 

The enchants for your legs are more logistical in nature, and have to do with things like increasing jump height or run speed, letting you fall slower and avoid falling damage, or letting you fall faster but avoid getting pushed around by the wind in windstorms.

Enchants always have one core focus (like incoming damage reduction, for instance), but then they typically often have other secondary effects attached to them.  So for your torso you can easily get an enchant that gives off a huge amount of light but does nothing else — that’s kind of a raw deal, though.  Better is something like reduction of incoming damage, plus a smaller amount of light emission.  And there are various other permutations you can also find and use, especially if you don’t mind using something like Ball of Light.

There’s a separate inventory for enchants, accessible with the Z key, so you don’t have to worry about all those enchants cluttering up your main inventory ability bars.  That’s pretty handy on its own!

Acid Gills
As noted above in the enchants section, you can now find various enchants that let you breathe underwater and which protect you from acid damage from the water.   This means that, with one of these equipped, you can go exploring in the oceans and ocean shallows at last!  This is very important so that you can actually go and get things like coral and sea essence, and even so that you can complete some of the unlocks needed to get to certain materials.

Key Balance Work
Also really important in this release is that the rare commodity unlocks and general crafting cost requirements have all been re-analyzed and tons of mistakes and logical missteps in those have been corrected.  So it’s now actually feasible to craft all of the appropriate spell tiers at the appropriate time during the game again, which is certainly really important to being able to play much.

Hand in hand with the crafting-related balance, is actual enemy balance.  Previously, the game got linearly harder as the continent’s tier went up.  Enemies hit you for more damage, and your allied minions did not go up in tier during battlefield missions.  Now your allied minions go up in tier right with the enemies, and your resistance to damage also goes up with the continent tier.

Oh, and the stats on enemies and on player spells have been retooled again — the mana cost versus the spell power of spells was really out of whack in prior versions.  You can read about the details of why, and what the fix was, in the release notes.  But suffice it to say here, it’s way better balanced now.

Enemy Progress (EP) Becomes Civilization Progress (CP)
To really understand the nature of this change, I think it’s important to just go read the section devoted to explaining it in the release notes.  It’s a substantial change, and hard to summarize effectively.

But at the most basic level, it’s reaffirming what we’ve always maintained: that this game is, at core, an adventure game.  The strategic elements are meant to layer on top of it and provide interesting choices, not to rule the game with an iron first.

Put another way, it’s switching things around so that there’s a lot more carrot and a lot less stick.  Players were telling us that the EP mechanic was stressing them out and that it wasn’t any fun, so we’ve taken that feedback and come up with something that should be a lot more fun while still getting at the same basic style of game progression for player power.

Secret Missions Coming Soon, But Not In Yet

We actually didn’t work on secret missions at all since the last release, because some other features in this release turned out to seem a lot more pressing.  But now that these are done, secret missions and then the new warp mechanics are the very next things on our list.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the
in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you
launch the game, you’ll see the notice of the update having been found
if you’re connected to the Internet at the time. If you don’t have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Arcen Games Quoted in Game Developer Magazine

Chris is quoted in the opening of Soren Johnson’s excellent game design article “Design success means knowing what to do with feedback.” Johnson goes in depth on how taking in feedback properly from a development team, testers, and/or player community is critical toward reaching success in a game’s design — specifically touching on how important it is to develop the ability to pick out what feedback will and won’t work for your design.

The piece was originally published in Game Developer Magazine and can be currently viewed online via Gamasutra.