Hollow Earth

Development: Bimevi

Bimevi is another Age, like Sholek’s Temple, that was created as part of a contest. In this case, the Rapid Age Development contest. The Age was my first stab at making an Age grounded in D’ni lore and my first Age that really had a core story. Since release, Bimevi’s concept has evolved so that its story is now tied to a much larger one.

Bimevi started as a top-down drawing of a small pit. The concept had all the elements seen in the final version with a few key exceptions. For one thing, the plants and flowers were much more prevalent. This was changed both in acknowledgement of Bimevi’s history, but also because it would have been a pain to try and get such a lush area to look visually appealing (Uru’s transparency issues being the way they are). Another change was in the memorial area. In initial concepts, the area was a simple pair of feathers attached to a rod extended out of the wall. When I began modeling this, however, it became obvious to me that this kind of memorial was too “tribal” for a D’ni, even one as progressive as Neereth.

Filed under: Ages, Development, , , ,

Development: Fens

Fens was my second Age, coming about the same time as the new version of PyPRP was developed. Fens was the first Age I made with a specific purpose in mind and a theme in which to display that purpose. The purpose was to make a swamp Age. The theme would be “as natural as possible.” The Age, like my others, served as a testbed for new concepts as well as an environment in which I could experiment.

I was inspired by a piece of Cyan concept art I had seen titled “Glades.” I knew I wanted people to wade around in the Age and feel like they were slogging through a bog (I planned to perhaps have some areas where the land dropped off and your avatar momentarily went into the goop before swimming back up, but that wasn’t in my skillset at the time). Another thing I wanted was an island. All of the Myst Ages had at least one island and I wanted to have a single island and let the player explore out into the rest of the marsh (where things might happen over time, obscured by the fog). I also wanted the Age to be dynamic, changing frequently. While I haven’t done much recently, I do want to keep it somewhat up-to-date. Finally, I knew I wanted to have the Age be “fan-run” in that I wouldn’t provide any of the information about what the plants/animals were, I’d encourage explorers to write up what they thought and include it in an in-Age journal. The possibility of inclusion in an Age was something I saw as necessary for Uru to live (after all, if the only real avenue for involvement is in making Ages, how will people who can’t/won’t make Ages get involved?).

Fens in many ways embodies many of the challenges most designers face in creating beleivable areas in games. One such challenge was getting an acceptable amount of detail into a model without overwhelming the computer rendering it. Most of my models were very low-poly, like the semi-circle plants. The one exception to this was the model for the trees, which used many faces in the lower half of the tree. This was because I built the trees by taking a single cylinder and connecting it to a series of twisted “roots” cylinders.

Another challenge was in limiting the space in a believable way. My first concept of the Age was an unending series of small islands the player could start exploring, but eventually end at some variation of an invisible wall.Once the first island was designed, however, I decided that even a small series of islands would get repetitive and the invisible wall would inevitably seem arbitrary.I decided instead to place the island inside a basin in the fog. The basin realistically limited the area the player could explore while providing an area where the player’s imagination could go wild. Originally, the basin top was going to be lined with the same style of trees as the tall mangrove-like “fengroves” in the swamp. This was scrapped when testing showed players weren’t sure how those aquatic trees could grow above the basin without compromising the basin’s integrity. Instead, the basin was lined with more traditional deciduous trees similar to Eder Tsogahl to show that the upper level of the basin was drier. “What’s over that edge?” or “what’s in the fog?” were questions I wanted to always put in the player’s mind.

Creating a diverse set of flora while preventing repetition was another key challenge. In early designs there were many more “fengroves”. Because the “fengrove” trees are all duplicates of the one on the initial island, this led to the swamp seeming repetitive and it was easy for players to get lost in the forest. Later on I added bulbous flowers that were essentially trunkless “fengroves.” Even though they used different models, different textures, and had a distinctive sillouhette, their elevated roots were still too similar to those of the “fengroves” and the flowers seemed too fake. Similarly, earlier releases featured fully-modeled grass similar to the grass seen in the Cleft. These 3D blades were removed because they were all unlit and were not visually-attractive. There were also more small mushrooms in previous versions of the Age. These were placed to create an appearance like the beta shots of Teledahn’s shroom forest. Unfortunately the mushrooms seemed too repetitive and testers got lost in them so I reduced their numbers and replaced many of them with the semi-circle plants. One organism that has stayed throughout all iterations isthe blue parasite blobs. These were designed to be relatively-high-poly sacks that would flop naturally from whatever surface they were placed on and would connect to the surface via very low-poly “roots”. The design of this organism made it so that it was easy for me to naturally distribute them without a lot of work. The “roots” were simple to stretch to a surface and the high-poly blob was easy to shape to look naturally affected by gravity. I positioned them i nthe world so that players would naturally attribute them with decay. The dead tree has many of them on it while the listing tree has a few more than a regular tree does, giving the impression that they both come along with decay and also cause it.

The listing tree was the second tree actually put into the Age and was the first major landmark outside of the link-in island. It was designed to be at least partially climbable and future ideas for this tree was to have it act as a natural foundation for a treehouse. These ideas were incorporated into the home on the side of the rock statue.

The dead tree came later as I began emphasizing natural landmarks players could use to navigate the Age. The tree was made to be a kind of natural observation post while also showing the Age in decay. In initial designs, the tree was going to be a natural bridge up to the basin top, but this was discarded when I decided opening the basin lip would push the release date back too far.

The house was a last-minute idea to serve as a location for the Age journal and credits booklet.The original design was going to incorporate geothernal energy tapped by the large connection tubes. While the house turned out smaller than that, the tubes remained. Overall, the house may one day be scrapped for a larger “forest lodge” style house.

In the future, I’d like to add animals to the Age beyond the distant birds. Numerous concepts for other creatures have come and gone, however. Regionally-triggered animal appearances similar to “shroomie” in Teledahn are an ultimate goal, however this seems a long way off. The next major update will be releasing a beach area and the tunnel to it from the main basin. The beach area would incorporate new techniques for limiting player movement and reveal the Age’s ocean and nearby locations.

As always, I hope you have fun exploring and I encourage you to send in your contributions for the Age journal and try your hand at classifying the flora and fauna. I would like to get a wiki set up (perhaps using the DZS) where people could submit their ideas for the plants and animals. Regardless, I hope you have as much fun exploring this Age as I had creating it.

Filed under: Ages, Development, , , , ,

Development: Maw

Greetings. It’s been a while. I’ve had a bunch of posts in storage from my Development series discussing how I made my various Ages. They’re out of date, but I’m still posting them. Here’s the one for Maw:


Recently I released a new version of my Age, Maw. Unlike many of my Ages, Maw has no real story behind it. Essentially, it was an Age written quickly. This deviation reflects how Maw serves a different purpose than my other Ages and reflects my own belief that stories about modern explorers are generally uninteresting. While I hope to include some form of story later, the Age should (ideally) work on its own.

Maw is set in a deep pit with large (hopefully) solid rock tubes jutting from the wall. The space is meant to convey a sense of claustrophobia mixed with daredevil fascination. In its early design stages, Maw was a crack-shaped chasm similar to the Cleft with rectangular rocks jutting out of the walls towards the chasm center. Players would traverse the Age along a “layer” of rocks and then climb to the next layer by way of ladders. The idea was to allow for a multi-level chasm riddled with small caverns. This concept was abandoned when it became obvious that the square rocks would seem un-natural in an otherwise natural space and when I felt the more complex environment would confuse players and cause them to lose their direction.

The final design incorporated four rooms, each meant to look different to the player: a somewhat-dark link-in room, a well-lit-but-empty room, a well-lit-full room, and a hidden room that was somewhat dilapidated. The goal of the Age had also changed. Rather than multiple layers, the Age is designed more naturally. Clusters of rock “fingers” form natural jumping-off points for the player to use to explore the Age while a bottomless pit provides a handy incentive to get your jumps right. Something important about Maw is that there’s no huge reward for doing lots of exploration, but you do get interesting views.

This was the first Age of mine to use camera regions. One of the challenges in making camera regions is to keep the player from being able to get in a spot where their avatar is too close to the camera for third person to be a usable guide for jumps or exploration in general. To do this, I set up a couple camera regions that essentially looked at each other. When the player is close to the link-in room, for example, the camera is shooting from the long finger bridge. When the player is on the bridge, the camera is shooting from the link-in room area. The transition between these two areas and back to a standard third person view was made possible through alcscript code which attempted to make transitions logical and clean. Another challenge is to keep cameras from flying through walls or doing other things that break immersion. Of course, nothing is perfect. Ideally, the cameras in Maw should instantly clip to their positions to keep cameras in line. In practice, though, the cameras sometimes forgot what they were told and zoomed around.

While it’s a small area, I tried to pack a lot into Maw and plan on further expanding/developing the Age into a larger space. In particular, I think that lightmaps would greatly increase the visual appeal of the Age and would be simple to implement given that the crevasse is a single texture. Furthermore, the textures in the Age show their age and should probably be updated while still attempting to preserve the general feel of the Age. This recent update is the Age’s first and certainly welcome to get rid of the “bouncy rocks” bug that frequently bounced people into the pit. Future updates I’dl ike to implement are lightmaps, an improved sky texture, and additional pits. Until then, please explore the Age and tell me what you think. I hope you enjoy it.

Filed under: Ages, Development, ,

Prominence: A Word on the Fan Age Proposals

Hello again. It’s been a long time. How have you been?

I’ve seen all the proposals tossed about and had some thoughts. People will debate this and Cyan will be the final arbiter. I have little faith these days in the latter, so I talk to you; the former. This is not just a debate about python coding or storyline. This is also a debate of prominence. The prominence of fan Ages in the world. I believe foremost that fan Ages deserve high prominence in the game for they are the examples with which we draw people in. But let’s back up and examine the other concepts debated: coding and storyline.
In the realm of coding, I feel it is obvious that an addition to the existing Nexus or placing books around the Ages makes the most sense. Duplicating the Nexus is a tricky proposition and creating all that coding busywork when there are other viable paths is folly. This community and potential content creators do not need additional hurdles to jump. They need simple code, they need stable worlds, they need a firm hand, not a shaky “Fan Nexus.”

People will defend this Fan Nexus by citing storyline consistency. As my grandfather once said, that’s a load a whooey. Uru has the least consistent storyline of any game I have played so far. Minecraft has a more consistent storyline and you make that story up as you go along! If the old Mysteriacs are right, Cyan was willing to sacrifice story integrity for a cushy retirement just a few months ago. Have they really rediscovered their philosophy so quickly?

No, what this really comes down to is fan Age prominence. Cyan insists on pandering to the old guard who want to keep fan Ages away from Cyan’s Ages. Fan Ages must have prominence in the game world or we will never see the benefit. No one other than a liar or a hermit cares these days about how a fan Age meshes with Cyan’s storyline. People want content and this should be made as easy as possible. Storyline should be considered, but not in this draconian fashion.

This brings me to the point of all this. Ages should be placed where they make the most sense. An Age’s placement should be dictated by its lore. If the “Age” is a City location, it should be placed in the Nexus. If the Age is D’ni written, it should be placed in a public book room. If the Age is like my Toroolbah or Fens, it should be place in a location fit for it (either a fan hub Age or a private spot).

Those are my thoughts. Now tell me yours. Leave a comment below and vote in the poll for which of the options you would choose for future fan Ages.

Filed under: Uru Community, , , , , ,

Future Development

With Open Source now a (semi) reality, I feel it’s time I got back to age development. The problem I’ve always had is deciding what I want to work on. As a result, I have a few ideas which never really go far. Right now I’m torn between expanding Ages like Fens or Toroolbah and developing brand new Ages like Fasek or Tharel. So help me out here. Vote in the poll below and/or leave a comment on what I should tackle next. I promise I’ll release something <valvetime> soon. </valvetime>

Filed under: Ages, , , ,

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All posts are my opinion only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others.