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.

Stone of the Citadel – Planned for Release 0.1

Stone of the Citadel – Back in 2012!

I originally started working on Stone of the Citadel back in 2012, originally using the Simple and Fast Multimedia Library (SFML) which I had used (and still use) for Alternate Reality X. I wanted to create a party based CRPG which brought together what I considered the best features and experience from the classic CRPGs of the 1980s and 1990s. For me that’s the Ultima series, Might and Magic, The Bard’s Tale, the SSI games including Eye of the Beholder and of course Alternate Reality. In addition there are many other games which I’ve played or been intrigued about over the years where I thought good ideas didn’t achieve their potential.

Even today as a player and aspiring game developer I still love a lot of features about these games and the style of gameplay that they contain – controlling a party rather than a single character, grid based maps, turn based combat, atmospheric use of text and in a number of cases memorable music and sound effects. They have a unique feel and interest for me which isn’t really catered for or captured in most modern games.

I can’t really hope to compete graphically with the big games of today and if I’m honest I don’t really wish to – we’re well catered for in the first person, single player Elder Scrolls type category. That’s not to say that presentation and graphics aren’t important to me. I will be putting a lot of effort into the appearance of the game to make the 3D view as attractive as possible and have all the relevant information easily accessible.

So what can you expect from Stone of the Citadel?

Firstly it will be made using Unity 3D. The reasons for this are many but the main ones include its powerful features, excellent cross platform support (including iOS and Android) and a rich community with lots of tutorials, videos and helpful information. It’s fairly easy to use and has a big asset store of code, 3D models and other add-ons which you can add to your project. It’s also been used by for many games including high profile kickstarters like Wasteland 2 and Shroud of the Avatar so we can see how capable it is. I’ve spent enough time using it now to be comfortable that it can do everything I would want for my projects (and lots more than I won’t use) and it will allow me to easily create the type of 3D and 2D views that I need for my games. It will do away with the problems I’ve had with OpenGL and video drivers as it seems to work fine on every machine and device I’ve tried.

The game itself will allow you to create a party of 1 to 8 adventurers to explo. A back story will be generated for each character you create or you can create your own to provide extra customisation for your characters. Whilst there will be a notional class or profession, most characters would be able to attempt most actions, wield most weapons etc but would require focussed effort and training in order to be effective in that area.

Map wise I will be using a grid based system similar to that used in games such as Eye of the Beholder and Might & Magic 3 and to some degree Ultima IV. This is different to the format used in say Alternate Reality where each position on the map has 4 outward facing walls, sometimes resulting in paper thin looking walls. This map format also allows me more flexibility in regards to the automap and making use of an Ultima style tile view should there be a requirement for that in some stages or areas. I think it will be the best fit for the type of levels I’m looking to make with SOTC and within Unity 3D. This doesn’t however mean that the 3D view will just be walls made from square blocks 🙂  Whilst the map structure and layout are unlikely to change during the game, expect the map to be always active with events, encounters and items. Some of these will be heavily randomised so that it always feels like there is a lot going on in each area rather than a map area that can be “cleaned out” and then feels barren and empty.

Example of the EOB map style (from www.gamewinners.com)

The game will begin in a City with further areas outside the City becoming accessible as you progress through the game and develop your characters. Some characters and monsters in the game will move around the environments independently of your actions so you will sometimes encounter the same characters or opponents at different points of the game, creating the feeling of a real living and breathing world. Characters will respond to your party as individual characters (based on their unique characteristics) rather than using a single, stock response. Characters will have a lot of detail for you to develop (if you want to).

I’m now working on the first demo and framework code within Unity 3D. My first task is to complete my initial building blocks (some simple textured walls and doors) and build up a sample City map for exploration. More details and screenshots coming soon.

Alternate Reality X – Donations & Support

Apart from my belief that the Alternate Reality games are some of the greatest (if not the greatest) computer games ever made, I also rely heavily on the support and feedback I get from the AR community to keep me going on this remake project. I know I’ve been working on this project for a very long time and these timescales aren’t what anyone wants but I think people sometimes forget how much work goes into a game and I am just one guy. You have to remember as well that this is Alternate Reality not just any old game so I picked a pretty challenging game to remake!

I’m not a professional programmer, have a full time job and a family to look after so I need to feel that I’m using my time wisely. I have had a few doubts along the way about how many people are really interested and whether I’m wasting my effort and should do something else with my limited time. Then I get an email of support or someone posts a link and spreads the word elsewhere and it gives me a real boost.

I am now accepting donations through Paypal from both the link on the right hand side of this blog for both my Alternate Reality X and Stone of the Citadel projects. You can also make a donation from the link over at www.crpgdev.com. This is a great way to show support for the projects and will also help to cover the web site costs and my time. I think my time on Alternate Reality alone must be running into several hundred hours over the years.

I really value any support you can give to the projects whether it’s a donation through Paypal, an offer of assistance or just your feedback or suggestions – but please let me know you’re out there and have an interest in the project one way or another.

Over the last few days I’ve probably spent about 15 hours just working on the City and Dungeon guilds. It takes a long time to work out how the original games worked, research all the fine detail, decide how to recreate that experience and then turn it into a real part of the game that you can download and play. I feel it’s really coming together now but I still need your support to see this through.

Let me know you’re still behind the project whether it’s through a donation, personal email to acrin1 @ googlemail.com , by signing up as a follower for this blog, posting on the AR mailing list or posting on the forums. And to those of you who’ve supported this project from the early days or earlier incarnations my sincere thanks. Hopefully you will soon feel your patience has been well rewarded!