Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 6, 2011
I figured I’d provide a li’l ol’ update on the development of Frayed Knights, that piece of RPG vaporware that’s getting way too serious & deep for something that’s supposed to be all tongue-in-cheek & stuff. It was also supposed to be released by now, if I recall way back when as I was designing it to be a “quick & dirty” project. Heh.
Are you guys tired of hearing about it yet? I always feel a little weird discussing the game here every week or two, after such a long time. I feel like some annoying kid who won’t quit saying, “Hey, I’m gonna write this game one day, and it’s gonna be so awesome! Better than Halo!” Release your freakin’ game, and then we’ll talk, kid.
Well, Frayed Knights is not ready for release. Yet. Though the light at the end of the tunnel is getting a little brighter. It occurred to me the other day that that Frayed Knights is literally the most complex, detailed game I’ve ever worked on in my entire career. There’s one indie MMO I worked on that came close, but I only worked on pieces of that. But Twisted Metal? Jet Moto? Warhawk? Those were simple arcade-ish games designed to run inside of 2 megs of RAM (not including texture memory and level changes). Plus, they had a team of several developers, and a budget about 400x more than mine.
Making things worse, I’d developed some of the systems back in the early days of FK development to be WAY too complex and flexible. I’m not using half the capabilities I designed for it, and it has made things harder to develop (complexity = more work). Silly me. As much as I rail against “kitchen sink design” (throwing in everything but the kitchen sink), I have fallen into that trap myself. And now I have to figure out how to balance all that crap. Brilliant work, Jay.
(Have I mentioned that besides having 75 76 77 unique “feats” characters can take in the game, that the spell list is GIGANTIC – probably something like around 500 spells if you include the “upgraded” versions? Yeah. I’m an idiot. Nobody’s gonna use all those. They are gonna stick with a tiny subset…)
I suppose my rambling right now is probably indicative of my thoughts on the game. I’m jumping around from system to system, fixing things here, replacing things there, and tweaking things somewhere else. The game has been “playable,” start-to-finish, for a few weeks now. So now my efforts have been focused on making it complete, making it polished, and most importantly making it fun. Here’s kind of a breakdown of what I mean:
Making It Complete
- Many sound effects & music are missing.
- Most areas still don’t have in-game mini-maps.
- New spells topped out at only 5th level or so – I’ve been relying on upgraded lower-level spells for testing.
- The equipment list was also woefully inadequate for higher-level play.
- Monsters were missing their special abilities.
- Feats were barely present.
- Several dungeons were missing anything but their primary quest line – side paths were merely some lame combat encounters and low-level stand-in treasure.
- We’re still using stand-in graphics in many spots.
- The player’s party goes from being loquacious to taciturn in a lot of areas. Much more dialog is still needed, especially to help clue the player in to what’s going on. Right now players still need to read my mind too much to know what to do next.
- Many quests still don’t have journal entries yet.
- Many rooms / buildings are bereft of any but plot-critical details. Need more interior-decorating passes.
- There have been some small (or medium-sized) features people have requested (or I requested of myself) that sounded like they’d be REALLY COOL and a great addition to the game, and so I had to stick them in. Because I’m a sucker for feature creep.
- And so forth…
Many of these have been remedied over the last couple of months, maybe more than half, but there’s still a lot left to do. I don’t feel comfortable going to “beta” until that is all done. At least many of these are among the more “fun” things to work on.
Making it Polished
This is mostly bug-fixing. We’re still working on high-priority bugs (or a few small “must have” features). The game is never going to be Blizzard-level of polish. But for me, polishing is basically going through and fixing the things that suck most. As those get refined, things that used to be acceptable now suck by contrast, so you fix them. The game still holds too much suck for me feel super-comfortable with releasing it to many external alpha testers yet, so it’s mainly been a team-based alpha testing thing so far (or “friends and family” testing, but they are loathe to criticize…)
Making it Fun
This basically comes down to three things:
- Providing more feedback for the player, so they can better tell what’s going on, and understand how their actions are impacting the world.
- Providing more interactivity – making sure there’s always plenty to do and explore. As always, provide “interesting decisions.”
- Making sure the activities (especially combat) are balanced, challenging, and interesting.
A lot of this is going to be addressed in Beta, but I need to make sure we’re at least in the ballpark now. We’re not, yet.
But somehow this crazy thing is actually getting close. I know I have done a lot of things “wrong” and could have done a lot of things better, but hey… that’s what sequels are for, right?
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