Today’s update features the return of our Lead Game Developer Rick to the writing stage!
Without further ado;
I know I’ve been very busy over the last few weeks and haven’t had direct input to some of the announcements, but I’m pleased to say that I’m able to leverage some time and be more involved in this one and what we’ve been up to.
Starting this Monday we had our regular team meeting with our core developers. Something I’ve been excited to see is the sheer quantity of animations smashed by Connor, they’ve been great!
I had a writing/lore review with our writer Steve, where we went over a significant amount of the updated and improved-upon descriptions of the cards.
These will be part and parcel of the game — for instance, when you go to my collection it won’t just be the cards, there will be an associated description of the lore of the card — i.e where the characters come from, who they are, background information, perhaps even some easter eggs if they’re part of a pack/family (how they’ll interact with them) and so forth.
Lore/writing while easily overlooked is the foundational glue that ties everything together from story/content and function of the entire Shiryo experience. To do this though requires an unreasonable quantity of information to be written, because of so many individual pieces that have to be glued together (and make sense).
It can’t be a single layer deep so the first time a gamer comes along they can be scrutinising why a character behaves, we can’t give them a reason that makes no logical sense or it breaks the underlying logic of the game.
An undervalued strength of a game is how well the smallest pieces of lore bind everything together, making a cohesive and logically sound universe.
Think of something like Pokemon, the details and descriptions of the Pokemon, the lore of how they were (like the Pokédex). Anyone who’s played any game or is passionate about media will understand world-building, that all the best stories/games that have the longest effect on people’s experiences — are the ones with the most believable and sound lore. Even Lord of the Rings had its languages included.
We’re trying to implement that same level of completeness to the world of Shiryo, we want the world to be believable.
Once the dev team meetings were dealt with, I moved into preparing one of the higher level Shiryo meetings that would confirm and establish some of the larger standing questions and thoughts of how we’re going to manage/schedule/run further development of Shiryo, including game seasons, releases of new content and so forth in the future.
Some of the things that we covered include observing case studies of non-crypto games that are competitors to the product we’re looking to bring out, including how they work on player retention and how the player base is broken into categories (hunters, competitive players, achievers etc ). What we will provide, and how we will renew that attractive experience to each demographic in our player base.
Establishing goals and content for each of the player demographics requires us to evaluate the current trends in the gaming industry that we can leverage within Shiryo.
A lot of this content may not be clear just to play the game, but people don’t just play games at face value, games are designed for certain mindsets. As a gameplay engineer specifically, one of the data points I bring to design meetings is to ensure competitive fairness to keep the integrity of the competition — so that the spectrum from highest to lowest level players can be accounted for in a fair manner.
This however does not address let’s say – the non-competitive players who want to collect everything, they need to be looked at too and have just as an exciting and attractive experience as well.
So part of this meeting is to ensure that every segment of our player base will have just as much depth and quality content to keep them coming back and ensuring we have a high player retention.
On top of this, if you zoom out, eventually it doesn’t matter how much content you have, eventually your player base will stagnate. It has to keep changing up for both the celebration and dismay of the average player base — everyone understands we don’t like change but it keeps things fresh.
In the gaming industry for one they have seasons or chapters, this is when after a cycling period of time (1–3 months for example), new content is released, game modes are changed up, new tournaments are made, and enough changes that it refreshes the experience for the whole player base.
This is a delicate process because you’ve got to make enough change to disrupt the status quo but not enough to scare anyone away. One of my personal favourites is Apex Legends, there is always new controversy and criticism with every release, but since the game has been out there is an up-trend of the game becoming better over time.
They try new things and keep their player base entertained, that’s what we want to strive for in Shiryo and this meeting covered those plans for the future.
Tuesday — Was our meeting about the aforementioned above.
Wed/Thurs/Fri: I’ve been hard focusing on the systems and subsystems that all accumulate together to drive the UI and animations of the game. Not just within a match or on a board or in the main menu system, but across everything, from clicking a button to a loading screen, you name it, and there are hundreds and hundreds of animations for this. Unexpected places you may not think of, something to establish and continue the immersion for the player.
With our lead animators smashing through a lot of the individual elements we needed, we’re reaching a point now where we can optimize our workflow, enabling us to have a working visual system that we can pull out samples of to provide to other team members (allowing them to move from placeholder assets to the real deal).
I.e our audio designer with the hundreds and hundreds of sound samples that will be used concurrently with animation and visual assets, there’s only so much he can do inspiration-wise when he’s not interacting with the visuals allocated to the sound.
There’s still a huge quantity of converged upon sounds and audio experiences that a player would expect to hear (i.e a button click, we already know how that should sound), so with our team now working towards bringing in a lot of the animations as a whole and not just certain pieces of the pie, this will upgrade our current build to have a visual build associated with it that we can leverage, share and show all the different visuals coming together as a whole.
I’m personally very excited as it takes a lot of weight from me — as someone who works with a lot of systems that are very hard to convey visually, it gives me an output I can leverage to display to the community. It’ll take a load off my shoulders!
For a bit of extra detail, the visual systems are grouped into 3 components.
Component 1: Main Menu System
The first one is the main menu system, the way you interact with sign-ins, open the lobby, and invite friends, this is all a dynamic visual system, but each element you interact with, each button/slider has many overlapping individuals and immersion adding components.
This is an entirely separate system that is leveraging Unreal’s UMG (unreal motion graphics) widget system. We use this heavily along with secondary animations to help garnish the whole experience and give it a bit of extra polish.
Component 2: The Environment Animation System
Once you enter a match, the first thing you’ll come across is the environment animation system. This is everything responsible for the board itself, updating ui, profile pictures, in-game subsystems and all the overlaying stacking of that system. This is just shared by both players even though they are kept separate with the dedicated multiplayer system (to help imagine that, when playing the game — your cards are closest to you but your opponents are on the other side, this is flipped for the other player, the environment is the same itself for both players, but it’s duplicated equally both sides). Almost all this information is not individual to each player.
Component 3: The Ability & Attack system
Then we have the larger system (ability and attack system) used to run and manage the cards themselves. This is the most complex system leveraging both 3d skeletal animations (allowing us to flip/rotate/transform the cards), as well as this — this is stacked with the UMG widget system to display your health/attack values/element values and rendered at the highest quality we can get.
All of the crazy special effects, status effects, buffs, abilities, buffs, nerfs, everything while you’re attacking and defending accumulates to the final layer stack which is a 2d animation side. Anyone familiar with Photoshop will know this is layers and layers of individual assets to create the high-fidelity experience of creating the cards attacking each other.
Throughout development, these 3 systems have been created separately, whilst they’ve been designed as a cohesive experience. The timing between all these interactions has to be accurate so that the experience runs smoothly. Through development, creating them separately was the best way to delegate tasks, but we’ve reached a point now where enough of these systems are complete enough that they can be brought together into a single build of Shiryo.
This process of bringing them all together, as we add these individual components to the visual build of Shiryo, will not be an ‘all or nothing’ process, it’s linear, so we will be able to share the things with the community that we add in as we go.
This also fills a second dependency (requirement) in providing our sound engineer with the right visuals and animations so he can be inspired to create the correct sounds.
It’s something the community will be able to check out in the near future, we’ll have the board interacting with all our new animations, we’ll be able to properly showcase how the new board will look in ‘real life’.
We’ll be able to actively go through all the UI, the deck builder, interact with it and showcase the community! Seeing it as it is in-game, not as a promotional or stand-alone image.