Alternate Reality X – The Future Direction

Release 0.2 – With temporary character shadow!

I spent this weekend planning and experimenting with various ideas for Alternate Reality X. I’d been away for a week and was keen to get stuck back into development of ARX but felt a bit unclear about what direction to take the project in given the opportunities now available to me since the move to Unity 3D. Here are a few of the things I worked on and thought about. Overall I’m pleased to say that after a couple of days experimentation and lots of note taking and thought I now feel a lot clearer about the approach I’m going to take and what I will be focusing on over the next few weeks of development – and keep it achievable.

I had considered at one point removing all references to Alternate Reality from the game so as to totally free me of any development restrictions or copyright issues but I don’t think this is necessary. I will keep the names and properties of places, items and encounters giving the game its identity in the Alternate Reality world but not restricting the project in terms of visuals or interface or gameplay enhancements I want to add.

I’ve updated the wall and ground textures over the weekend as well as the lighting effects which I think has made the game look a lot better. I tried out some building models but they felt out of place and were not a good fit for the original map. The map will for the most part now retain the same physical structure and grid based nature as the original but I will be adding other features to make this feel much more like a real place. Proper doorways and windows, roofs on some buildings, features on walls to distinguish different types of shop or locations as well as a variety of wall and floor textures to make the scenarios more varied and signify different areas such as the prosperous areas where merchants and nobles can be found as well as the “bad part of town” as the song says.

Exploring a street

The Palace and Arena will have the same footprint on the map but will be visible from across the map and have multiple levels like the Dungeon (but visible). The Arena will resemble a high walled temple with pillars whilst the Palace will be a more traditional castle building with upper levels as well as a lower level within the Dungeon (where the Palace Dungeon is located). Lots of visual ideas and options here.

The Dungeon maps have been converted ready for adding into the game but I want to flesh out the City more before adding these. I also need to decide if obtaining access to the other scenarios is dependent on quests and encounters…

I have experimented with creating Unity terrains for the Wilderness but also to provide a more interesting landscape for the interior of the City. Expect this to be added in a future release. The Unity terrain options are potentially very powerful but take time to produce something good. I’ve lots of great props and textures to “dress” the scenarios in and I think this is going to transform the game. Props will be interactive so barrels and crates will be searchable (with the risk of the City Watch catching you) and shop signs / palace banners will swing in the wind.

“Shops” will be menu based for the time being in a similar way to the original game though the presentation of the menus and their content will not be identical. This is partly to allow new features (e.g. Selling items at the City Smithies, Attempt to raid a City Bank etc) but also to make the menus more consistent and easer to use. Encounters for now will be entirely menu based but I have a number of ideas for how to expand the encounters and add much more variety and interest to their nature. Expect to see some new types of encounter as well which may have made their way into the City from the Wilderness, Arena or Palace.

I worked a lot on encounters over the last few days including turning the player into a real game object with its stats and properties such as thirst, hunger and fatigue. Encounters are created from the same object class as the player. My idea here is to be able to treat the player (and any companions) and creatures you encounter as identical in nature so that I can reuse encounter code across individual and group encounters very easily. I also want encounters to have a much wider range of behaviour. Watch out for slavers!

You can expect new Windows and Mac OS X releases in the next couple of weeks. For this release I will be focusing on the encounters, combat and treasure. I’ll also be building up the player character more and adding the additional information screens such as wealth and weapons & armor.

If you like what I’m doing then you can support the game’s future development through Paypal or Patreon. This support really makes a difference in allowing me to continue development and devote more time to the game. You can also spread the word through Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Paypal: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=JX2RALG8ELAGS
Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/crpgdev
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/crpgdev
Google+: https://www.google.com/+crpgdev1

Alternate Reality X – Release 0.1 for Mac OS X

Choosing your display options in the Mac OS X 0.1 release of ARX 

You can now download the Mac OS X 0.1 release of Alternate Reality X over on the Patreon site. Alternatively if you’ve supported CRPG Dev through Paypal then you should have received a download link via email. 
It’s identical to the Windows release. I’ve tested it myself and it seems to work really well. In future I’ll release the Mac OS X version at the same time as the Windows version. Unity 3D makes the Mac build really easy.

Thanks for your support for CRPG Dev and Alternate Reality X.

ARX – Release 0.1 on Mac OS X

Alternate Reality X – Release 0.1 for Unity 3D!

You can now download release 0.1 of Alternate Reality X over on the Patreon site. Alternatively if you’ve supported CRPG Dev through Paypal then you should receive a download link shortly via email. I plan to release 0.1 publicly on the CRPG Dev website a few days later. If you’ve supported CRPG Dev through Paypal or Patreon then I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks – it really makes a difference to me personally and helps me to continue to devote further time to development.

In this first release since development switched over to Unity 3D you can walk around the basic City, take a look at some text inventory items and see how smoothly Unity 3D handles multiple screen and display options. There are a few issues that I know about and encounters and treasure didn’t make it into this release unfortunately but I didn’t want to keep people waiting any longer. Whilst this release is relatively light on features it hopefully provides a good indication of the new direction of the project and the potential that Unity 3D can bring to Alternate Reality X. I’m excited by a lot of the plans I have for future releases. There are a lot of features and new ideas I’m keen to get into the game as quickly as possible. Unity 3D has performed really well for me so far and I’m genuinely surprised at how quickly ideas can come together and be implemented in game. Watch this space as I think things are going to get really interesting in terms of Alternate reality X development and gameplay.

Thanks for your amazing support for CRPG Dev and Alternate Reality X, your emails, comments on Facebook and Twitter and your enthusiasm and interest in the project.

CRPG Dev on Twitter, Facebook and Patreon

Don’t forget that you can now follow CRPG Dev and the latest developments on Alternate Reality X, my other projects and gaming / computing interests over on Twitter, Facebook and Patreon. My Twitter page is: 

www.twitter.com/crpgdev

I’ve just got a new address for the CRPG Dev Facebook page too. You can now access it over at:
If that’s not enough and you want to hear more about CRPG Dev and progress on my projects you can support me over on Patreon at:
Please note you can still sign up as a Patron on Patreon and support CRPG Dev without pledging any money on a monthly basis. If you do decide to pledge something on Patreon then that’s really great and incredibly appreciated. If not then I would still really value your comments and feedback.

Alternate Reality X – Modifying the City

There are a number of challenges in the changes I’m working on for Alternate Reality X. Nothing too serious but I want to make it look right so I’m taking a bit of time to experiment with Unity and read up on the commonly used techniques that I think will be the best fit for bringing the game into full 3D. 
Overlooking the City now with 3D walls
The paper thin walls of the original maps have been replaced with walls that have some depth as can be seen in the picture below. The notches in the corners are due to the AR map walls having two sides and I’ve a number of methods for fixing this. 
Doors will likely be replaced with ones that you can open and close or that swing open as you approach them (unless they are barred obviously). I’ve experimented with these and the coding seems to work fine. I want to refine my door and wall models though so that they look more professional and are properly scaled. This will allow all the key object parts such as standard walls, doors and archways to fit together seamlessly making up the majority of the map and the basis for the expanded map I’d like to develop.
Not really sure how I am going to handle secret doors because of the two sided nature of many of these in the original game. The nature of secret doors may change slightly as a result of this.
As mentioned previously I would like to add a lot of variety to different parts of the City in terms of buildings and architecture with different wall heights and textures. The City walls will tower above the City keeping it well contained from the threats from the Wilderness outside. I’m also planning to add the three City gates as well as more striking versions of the Arena and Palace.
I’ve tried adding burning torches, tavern signs which swing in the wind and flags to hang from the Palace walls with the King’s Coat of Arms on them. Again it’s worth taking a bit of time to get these looking right and not just throwing them in at this stage because Unity makes it easy to implement them. I want to get the basics right first.
I’m also keen to get started on an example shop and some of the new interface elements.
If you’d like to help support CRPG Dev in the creation of this new chapter of ARX and other games then please consider a Paypal donation or support on Patreon. CRPG Dev is also on Twitter now at @crpgdev. I’d love to hear you thoughts or ideas.

Alternate Reality X – A New Dawn

Here are a handful of new screenshots showing The City of Xebec’s Demise rendered in full 3D using the Unity game development system. I’m surprised how cool it is to move around with total 360 degree freedom. I think that using Unity has really opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the game. Hope you enjoy these shots and will support this new direction for the game.

CRPG Dev Updates – May 2014

I feel I’m long overdue on a blog update for CRPG Dev, Alternate Reality X and Stone of the Citadel as there have been a few important changes and decisions.

The biggest change is that I have now switched to Unity 3D for developing both Alternate Reality X and Stone of the Citadel. For those unfamiliar with Unity it is a game development system which allows you to create 3D (and more recently 2D) games across multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac OS X and mobile devices. It’s very popular, powerful but relatively easy to use, has a big online community offering help and advice and has a handy asset store where you can access for free or buy models and code for use in your games. The version I’m using is free, though there is a commercial version and add ons for higher end users or teams.

I feel I’ve gone as far as I can with my current C++ and SFML based code. There are a lot of bugs to fix and some serious architectural problems behind the scenes relating to how objects are represented. A lot of my code will be relatively straightforward to move over to Unity though. SFML’s use of OpenGL has been a constant difficulty for some players as they have struggled to get compliant OpenGL drivers on their systems – Windows & Mac OS X. Unity builds in my experience just seem to work. On reflection the work to port my current ARX to Mac OS X last month was a lot more painful and time consuming that I believe it should have been. Unity allows you to build for Mac with a few extra mouse clicks in the “Build Settings” 🙂

Configuration screen for the new Alternate Reality X

I’ve started work on the introductory sequence for Alternate Reality using the free version of Unity and you can check out my work so far using the link below and the Unity Web Player:

www.crpgdev.com/unity/ARXWeb.html

I’ve converted the old custom map format to a well known, common format and Patrick has kindly provided me with some Unity code / framework that converts the map data into a usable Unity scene. There are some omissions in the scene just now but these should be fairly straightforward to sort out. Lots of work to do with the map(s) from here but this is a really big help in getting started. Thanks again to Patrick for this.

My work in progress for the intro using the Web Player

I’ve also posted several pieces of my design for my Stone of the Citadel party based CRPG. These are available on the Patreon site but I’m going to start putting more of them onto this blog as well. So far I’ve published a number of the character background descriptions. In the real game these will be partially random and you’ll be able to generate a new background (or write your own) if you don’t like the initial ones your characters receive. In addition I’ve published some of the lore and locations of interest to set the scene. SOTC will use a different map model to ARX but it will be able to use all the nice features of Unity to make an attractive game world. It will begin with a small map initially to give people a taster of game play.

Lots of people have suggested I should do a Kickstarter for my games but I don’t think it would be the right sort of platform for me given my personal circumstances. I feel Patreon provides a very good alternative where you can build up an active, interactive community around multiple projects and interests (games in my case) and provide support and feedback in a more manageable way to suit people’s budget. You don’t have to pledge any money to support CRPG Dev on Patreon if you don’t want to or aren’t able to so it would still be great to hear from you there. The CRPG Dev Patreon site is here:

Hopefully you’ll check out the page and might consider becoming a Patron. You can also provide support through one off Paypal payments if you prefer (linked from https://crpgdev.com/). It really is greatly appreciated and makes a big difference. If you’ve already supported CRPG Dev in the past then a big thank you.

I’ve also signed up for Twitter so I’ll probably be making use of that shortly as an alternative way to post updates and other news. The ARX forums have been updated recently and look a lot nicer to use but I haven’t had a chance to dig into these yet and customise them.

I’d welcome your thoughts about the direction above and changes I’ve mentioned so feel free to email me or post via Patreon or Facebook. As always thanks for your support and interest in what I’m doing.

Alternate Reality X – Release 0.72 Update & Quests

If only I had a suitable key?

Work continues on Alternate Reality X – now moving towards release 0.72. So far this release contains several bug fixes, new Dragon and Skeleton artwork and a number of improvements to encounters to really make encounters and combat in the game feel a lot more authentic to the original Alternate Reality. I still have a lengthy list of additional changes which I plan to add to the encounters for this release.

A mysterious tomb

There is a significant change in 0.72 relating to encounters. JPST made a great point on the ARX forums here about not been able to make use of “Charm” and “Trick” against evil lifeforms, therefore compromising your alignment as you were only able to use these on good lifeforms. In turn this meant you couldn’t obtain the Intelligence and Charisma bonuses that are possibly (after many, many successful Charm / Trick actions). This is one of those issues due to me creating a “hybrid” AR encounter system with features from both the City and the Dungeon encounter systems. I really wanted to have “Charm” and “Trick” in ARX. In release 0.72 you can now gain access to the “Transact” menu to attempt a Trick or Charm against Neutral and Evil characters. This makes sense as I want to be able to add more “Offer” options for some encounters as an alternative to combat as in the the original Dungeon.

Run the Devourer!

I’m also modifying a lot of code under the hood to make the source code a lot more readable and maintainable and as I complete this work it makes adding new features much simpler and quicker. The use of OpenGL for ARX has reared it’s head as a frustration though as I recently switched to Windows 8.1 and now my graphics card doesn’t support OpenGL properly (a Radeon HD 4350 I think). Plays Dragon Age Origins and Fallout 3 just fine and I’m fine with Windows 8.1 itself so not changing back. I have the same issue with the Mac port of ARX – it also suffers due to OpenGL driver issues. It makes ARX testing slow though…

Danger in the City at night

I’ve also been working on adding some more of the Dungeon quests as you can see from the screenshots here. Whilst I quite like to jump around during ARX development and work on different things to keep things fresh and interesting, I’m now reaching the point where I’ll be homing in on specific features and areas to fill in the remaining blanks, whether it’s adding the remaining features to the City, adding all the special locations to level 1 of the Dungeon map or finishing off work on treasure types. I’ll then be able to draw a clear line as to which sections of the game are 100% complete.

I really want release 0.72 to add a lot so it will be a bit longer before it’s released. Thanks for your support.