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Dev Blog, December 22

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It's gift-giving time in Alharth! If you've reached at least Friends favor-level with NPCs, they'll have a present for you. No rush if your holiday is busy, though: they'll be giving gifts through at least the first week of January. We'll also have some other small celebrations starting in a couple of days.


Holidays in a Fantasy World

You know, presenting holiday events in this MMO is a bit tricky. The reason has to do with the game's atmosphere. WoW has things a bit easier: in WoW, nobody bats an eye at mecha-santa-claus killing robo-Rudolph because the game has always been full of fourth-wall-breaking stuff, mostly in the form of cultural reference jokes. That's not really the vibe Project: Gorgon goes for. It’s a fine vibe -- it’s just not our vibe.

This is probably a surprise to many people, but there are very few outside references in Project: Gorgon. (Most of the ones people think are references are just accidental. For instance, I've heard people say that exploding sheep are a reference to Worms... nope, I never played it. Just a coincidence.) Don't get me wrong, Alharth is a silly place, but I try hard to give it its own internal logic.

Every player is different, and for some, outside references are much less distracting than really weird NPCs or unlikely item names. But since it's a game I want to personally enjoy, I use myself as the yardstick here. I find cultural references to be really jarring to my immersion, so I don't make them very often. As a gamer, I can handle bad graphics, unlikely NPCs, improbable classes, and complicated GUIs... but I don't like having the fourth wall broken unless it's for a good reason. Making a joke in a quest title isn't a good enough reason for me.

But pop culture references are one thing, and holiday events are another! I don't want to close the door on holiday events. I mean, do I want to let players have candy cane sword fights and kill giant snowmen? Of course I do, at least for a few weeks each year. (Eventually... not this year!) And would that stuff have solid grounding in the game lore? Not really. There's a few in-world holidays that are similar, but none involving Christmas trees, for instance...

So I expect that holidays will be the exceptions to the "no outside references" rule of thumb. I still want to try to minimize the immersion-breaking elements: the NPCs are giving gifts because it's their custom at end of the year, not because of Christmas. But I'm also going to turn on a couple of Christmas trees in a few days -- since it'll only be a short while, and small in scope, it's no big deal. The NPCs probably won't even notice.


Upcoming Content

We've been pushing on lots of different pieces of content recently, slowly bringing them closer to being launched. But because of our slow art acquisition process, it's hard to predict exactly when things will be ready. Up until recently I expected the fairy race and the fae realm to be the next big content addition, but now it looks like that honor goes to the Gazluk Plateau. In addition to being a level 70 area for all races, Gazluk will also be the starting zone for player-character orcs. But we'll be rolling out the playable orc race separately from Gazluk itself, because Gazluk is a very large place and it will need its own time in the spotlight gathering feedback.

Gazluk is a big, big place. It's the largest map we've done so far, a bit more than twice as big as Serbule. It's hard to convey the size of the place, but here's a screenshot of a small area in front of the orcish city, taken from within the Unity editor.




If you click to enlarge, there's three cows in this screenshot for scale, but the third one is only like three pixels in size. You can kind of see the huge walls of the orcish city near the center of the picture, and the third cow is in the snow a bit below that. It's a desolate, cold place, but there are also lots of secrets to find, orc camps to raid, and monster lairs to delve in.

This map is important because it will push our technical abilities forward. This place is so large that even if a hundred players were in Gazluk, they could all be out of sight of each other. In other maps, monsters spawn and go about their lives without any concern about how many players are in the area. In Eltibule alone, there's about 400 monsters wandering around at any given moment. Gazluk will need several times more monsters. The number of monsters isn't actually the major cause of strain on the server, though. The big strain comes when a thousand monsters all want to wander around at once! Navigating that many creatures in that big of a space causes our physics sub-servers to get overloaded. (This is a problem we sometimes see in other areas, too, like Kur Mountains, where monsters will just pause for a while, unable to path.) We need to get smarter with which monsters are allowed agency. Monsters that are literally miles away from any player don't need to move around: nobody cares! So we'll be adding basic optimizations in that vein, and back-porting them to other areas when they seem stable.

We also have new skills (most prominently, the bard), new dungeons (large and small), revisions of the loot mods for animal forms, Battle Chemistry changes, and more NPCs in the works. So I expect the next few months will see a lot of new content! Buggy, imbalanced, content, mind you -- but with your help and feedback, we'll iron out the kinks and make each of these things a fun addition to the game.

A major rewrite of the GUI is also in the works. We've recently locked down most of the theming and style elements, and things are progressing pretty well. I estimate another 2-3 months of work before it can go live. Rewriting the GUI is a pretty stressful proposition, and despite a whole lot of in-house testing, I'm sure we'll end up with a HUGE number of bugs at first, but we'll come out the other side with a great modern user interface with a decent number of customizations and frills.

I'll talk to you again soon, hopefully with some more screenshots!

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