Part Four of My Visit to Trion: Embargo Lifted and Final Thoughts

Earlier today the embargo was lifted on the stuff that happened outside of the Round Table.  Most of the stuff that was covered in the embargo had to do with out tour and what we saw while taking the tour and talking to devs in each ‘department’.  We were lucky enough to talk to folks from every department including the Raid design team, the UI team, Art and animation and Localization.

I am going to break this report down by department to make it easier to read.  Even with the embargo lifted, there are some things that I saw that I can not talk about, so please understand this up front.  I will let you know everything that I can talk about.  At the end there will be a lot of screenshots as well as some shots from inside the studio mixed in.

The Art and Animation Folks

The Art/Animation Team

Our first stop was in the art and animation area.  This area is really large and the workstations are very impressive.  Each station has a very large Wacom tablet, as well as two monitors for working.  I was impressed that most of the monitors had a window up with the Official Forums on it.  Matter of fact, I saw that throughout the studio.  Just another example of how much Trion listens!

As far as new information is concerned, there is not a lot to speak of, we did get to see a couple of team members working on character customization.  Things like skin tones, beards and the like were all being worked on, so hopefully we will see some new stuff in that area soon.  We also were shown how the animation team animates each model and it is really some cool stuff!

Rift Event Team

Rift Event Lair

The Rift event team is in a smaller room but their setup is almost identical to the Art teams.  They were working on new Rift events, which they say will be ongoing work.  They are determined to keep the Rift events fresh and not allow them to become the ‘same-old-same-old’ after awhile.  We were shown a Rift raid and, though I can not say a lot about it, I will say that it looks really nice.  The team pointed out that they have not even touched the tip of the iceberg with what they can do with their tool-set and I think we are all going to be surprised with the flexibility and power that this tool-set delivers.  There are going to be some really, really cool stuff coming down the pipeline!

The Raid Design Team

Next up, we headed to the Raid team and what a visit it was!  I am not going to be able to speak much on this front but I will try to get in what I can.  First, we saw Hammerknell!  It was absolutely awesome.  Everything from the look (its beautiful), to the layout (its big!), to the bosses (awesome!) was jaw-dropping.  If you are a raider and looking for a new fix, Rift will more than fill it for you.  The raiding will be incredible in this game.  Incredible.

We also got to hear a bit of their design philosophies and, even better, the team’s high enthusiasm.  These are folks who clearly love what they do and it shows in the care and hard work they put into their jobs.  Lucky bastards!

U.I. Design

We were fortunate to talk to the UI team next and were filled in on what they have planned in the future.  Some I can tell you and some I can not.  What I can say is that add-ons are going to be in the game at some point, though they are still working out what they want to allow them to do.  They are really being careful with this aspect because they want nothing in the game that can ‘play the game for you’ but they do want some stuff to make certain things easier.

They also let us know about a new feature that will be hitting very, very soon.  I can not say but you should be hearing about it any time now.

Engineering

We were fortunate enough to see some very cool things here.  We were shown a real-time map that has the average player FPS in colors all over the map.  They can tell at a glance what areas are getting low FPS and then take a look at optimizing that area.  They can also pull up just about any information they want from the UI.  Gold distribution, PvP hotspots….just about anything.

Yes, Trion knows what you are doing!

Q&A

Q&A Headquarters

Quality control doesn’t sound like a very sexy job but it is absolutely vital to the Trion team.  These are the folks that hammer out the patches and make sure they are not broken before we get them.  With Trion’s track record, I would say they are doing a pretty damn good job!  They are also some of the hardest working folks at Trion.  They regularly stay late to test patches before they go out.  Remember all the late night patches during the beta events?  Yeah, thank them!

This is also the home of Amary, who writes some of the most amusing patch notes in the business.  I imagine translating all the technical stuff into easy to understand language for us normal folk is kind of difficult and Amary pulls it off with flair.

Final Thoughts on the Trip

Well, that about does it for my coverage of Gamer Day 3.  I want to end this by thanking everyone that I had the privilege to meet during my trip.  Everyone, from the other fan-site operators to the Trion team, were unbelievably cool.  I really hope I will get to see them again in the future and I will certainly be talking to them through Twitter, email, phone and every other way I can.

I know that a lot of what I have written in my posts over the last few days may be construed as ‘fanboy’ talk.  But, you know what?  That is fine.  After watching other MMO devs more concerned with hype than truth, moving as slow as an iceberg with every fix and not listening to the players at all, what Trion is doing is very refreshing.  Trion is the model by which all other MMO development teams should be judged. I mean that whole-heartedly.  Trion deserves to succeed and I think they will.

So, thanks to everyone who has read my articles the past two days.  Between the plane flights and all the writing, I am totally exhausted but it was all worth it.  I am going to leave you with a few more pictures and screenshots from my trip.

Thanks!

More of the Art Team

Map of Telara

Demo Time!

Lots of News and Videos Too!

Been pretty busy at work the last couple of days, so I have missed a bit.  Consider this the “catch up post”!   Onward to the Rift: Planes of Telara news!

Let’s start out with the Fride Dev Chat on IRC!  You can find it right here.  Below is a transcript!

  • %Abigale> Welcome Scott and Russ 🙂
  • %Scott_White> Hi everyone.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> hello all
  • %Abigale> I asked the guys to tell you a little about what they do before we start with the questions. 🙂
  • %Scott_White> Hey all. I’ll just talk a little about who I am and what I do here.
  • %Scott_White> I’m Technical Art Director on Rift, pretty much specializing in anything environmental or special effects related.
  • %Scott_White> THe most visible stuff I do is the visual effects, but also setting up a lot of under-the-hood stuff, working on optimization…
  • %Scott_White> Figuring out challenges with the team, stuff like that.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> I am the lead animator on Rift. I work with various groups of people to make sure the animations in our game work well with gameplay
  • %Russ_Cahalan> and of course to make them look as good as possible =P

 

  • Daft asks: Are we going to see weather affects?
  • %Scott_White> Well… yes.

 

  • Oabe asks: Weather effects? Will we have dynamic weather animations?
  • %Scott_White> I can talk about weather a bit. A few of our zones have a particular weather occuring within them now, you may have seen rain or snow.
  • %Scott_White> As far as dynamic weather we can accomplish that and would love to see it in the game actually.

 

  • Ciovala asks: How do you create your animations? Do you use any motion capture or NaturalMotion?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> Early in the project we decided to hand key all of our character animations for several reasons:
  • %Russ_Cahalan> one was that we were certain that the motions would have to be pushed larger and faster than they would be in real life, and that is easier done by hand.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> two was that in my experience it’s more difficult to change motions that have been mocapped. When we hand keyed we have more control over the motion and can do more iterations
  • %Russ_Cahalan> that results in motions that work better with the gameplay
  • %Russ_Cahalan> and finally, we realized it would be hard to put a mocap suit on dragons and other fantasic creatures

 

  • Nalerian asks: can you describe what you think is the coolest looking thing you have helped create/place in Telara so far?
  • %Scott_White> For sure the coolest thing is the rifts themselves.
  • %Scott_White> Was a serious team effort to bring the rifts to life, visual effects, animation, modeling, audio, huge amount of work in those things.
  • %Scott_White> We got to see the life rift on a 3d display early on, and it was pretty awesome.
  • %Scott_White> One more cool thing is I’m really happy how much animation we’re able to accomplish on world objects. We’re able to bring a lot of motion and life to the world itself.

 

  • Oabe asks: Will there be emotes and can they tell us their favorite?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do have quite a few emotes for the player characters, and we have a set of emote-like animations on almost every creature as well (we call them attractors)
  • %Russ_Cahalan> my personal favorites vary depending on the character, but I like the dances, and some of our more humorous emotes like /facepalm and /rude.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> Because we made unique motion sets for each of our race/genders, each has unique emotes and dances

 

  • Anasazi asks: are there going to be weapons that drip acid or have live fire swirling around them etc doing elemental damage?
  • %Scott_White> Quick answer, yes!
  • %Scott_White> We’re currently working on a number of awesome new weapons which all will include visual effects.

 

  • brammator asks: will there be weapons with unusual animation, like flying around swords and bending staves?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We don’t have any animation sets that will have flexible weapons like chain swords, whips, or flails currently
  • %Russ_Cahalan> the player animation sets are currently pushing close to 500 each, and those include 10 different sets per race/gender to cover the weapon categories we have in game
  • %Russ_Cahalan> those cover a pretty wide variety of weapons, and give a good amount of visual variety between players of different races
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do, however, have some weapons that contain motion. But those are generally VERY special weapons, and are highly desirable. You will probably learn more about that as we get closer to release.

 

  • WarpCode asks: what kind of challenges have you faced in getting the static content and dynamic content to mesh together seamlessly?
  • %Scott_White> That has been a real challenge.
  • %Scott_White> The greatest question there was how much lies on the design vs art side of creating the world.
  • %Scott_White> I think we’ve reached a good balance on that, leaving enough dynamic while giving art enough control to make the world look great.
  • %Scott_White> We loved seeing a rift open, but then had to ensure as much as possible that the npc’s for instance, react to it and don’t just go about business as usual.
  • %Scott_White> Artists like to set much of the world to make it beautiful, but design needs to leave a lot which can be changed. Just a balance there.

 

  • Daft asks: For combat animations, are we going to see multiple movements for certain spells or single movements for each spell?
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We have a variety of combat animations per race/gender. Those include separate animations for melee and magic combat moves.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We have taken a lot of effort to let designers (and players) have as much freedom and flexibility as possible, so we made sets of those combat animations in each weapon category as well.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> so for example, for fireball, you will have a different animation depending on whether you are holding a staff or a dagger. Melee moves are similar in this respect
  • %Russ_Cahalan> for melee, we have a variety of moves, light slashes, spins, thrust, uppercut etc, and magic we have ones that throw projectiles, or are more omnidirectional
  • %Russ_Cahalan> The designers have given each class a variety of abilities which can help vary the feel of the animations as well. Cast times, channels, instant etc
  • %Russ_Cahalan> and this is sort of tangential, but it was critical to us that the animations never restrict the player (except when the designers wanted). What I mean by this is that when you do an instant ability, you can do that while running, jumping, swimming etc.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> so we have “upper body only” versions of all of those animations across all of the weapon types as well. So you can see how all of that can add up quickly =P

 

  • Oabe asks: Particle effects… how about lag? We all love lush particle effects, but it sucks when they take our frame rates down to nil.
  • %Scott_White> There are a number of questions about particle effect performance, so I’ll try to address those.
  • %Scott_White> We haven’t yet optimized the particle effects so they will be getting faster. Also theres a system coming to adjust what you see more based on your settings.
  • %Scott_White> Right now everyone pretty much sees all visual effects and it can be pretty processor and graphics intensive.
  • %Scott_White> Pretty sure I’ll be spending a lot of time in the near future improving exactly that.

 

  • Haaken asks: Are we gonna see character mood stances / posture animations similar to EQ II, where you can choose a “mood” and have your character act accordingly in both walk and idle animation? (Sneaky / stealthy, shy, scared, proud etc etc)
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do not have a SWG style “mood” stance change. We had considered trying to do this, but it would have severely limited the number of race/gender combinations we could have made for launch.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> Instead we focused on giving each of our race/genders more animations in general, and making their basic “personalities” significantly different from each other.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> MMO gamers come looking for a wide variety of experiences, of course. Some demand humor, some want serious drama, others want super aerobatic moves and others want realism.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> we tried to balance all of those things (and more), and provide as many diverse options for gamers as possible
  • %Russ_Cahalan> while not breaking the fun for any one group

 

  • Ravel asks: How do you combine effects with sound. Is that a team effort or done by one person per effect?
  • %Scott_White> Adding audio to effects is a team effort.
  • %Scott_White> We have a sequencer tool to combine visual effects and audio, as well as time the different visuals together.
  • %Scott_White> The audio dept has done some pretty amazing stuff with the audio in the game, effects and otherwise. It’s really an underappreciated part of the game but sooo important and powerful.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> since there’s limited time left, I am going to run down a few quick answers to some of the questions I see on the list:
  • %Scott_White> sounds good
  • %Russ_Cahalan> we have lie down (sleep) emotes already in game. We have sit on the ground already as well. We are in the process of discussing sitting in chairs.

 

  • %Scott_White> Someone asked about vfx on flowers, when you see something like that it generally means something can be used. In this case that’s likely a harvestable resource.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> we have limited face animation controls. Due to the amount of characters that we want on screen at any time, we limited these controls severely so it would not hamper performance in game for something that is usually subpixel
  • %Russ_Cahalan> We do not have cloaks, but we do have long robes
  • %Russ_Cahalan> there are currently no attacks that you can do while mounted
  • %Russ_Cahalan> your character will animate during crafting and gathering
  • %Scott_White> Someone asked about colorblind gamers. Yes we have that in mind, and at least a few of our team are colorblind as well. Different shape banners and symbols in addition to different colors, for instance.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> your character can be affected by explosions by getting knocked back, but it is up to the designer’s discretion if the gameplay makes use of that (we have both kinds)
  • %Scott_White> Generally buffs will not have a lengthy or permanent visual effect.
  • %Russ_Cahalan> there are camera shakes in game. Some large monsters and other things make good use of this =)
  • %Scott_White> Yes, there are camera shakes. A number of larger monsters use camera shake in animation or combat, as well as some seriously big visuals such as rifts.
  • %Scott_White> Ditto russ.

 

  • %Abigale> Ok, folks… that’s about all the time we have for today. These guys are pretty busy and have to get back to work 🙂

Next up, we have a great video interview with Adam Gershowitz from Realm: LFM.  This one shows some more footage of the fire Rift and a bit of character creation.  The video really shows off the graphic and environment effects well, probably better than any video I have yet seen.  It also is very obviously from a newer alpha build, as there are more character creation options, seemingly more and varied particle effects and animation and I also noticed “spell pushback” which I had not seen in previous videos.  One other thing of note, there are apparently at least 200 people in alpha right now.  That is two hundred people far luckier than I.  I am jealous.

Last up we have a another new video from G4TV.  This one shows some awesome footage of Scarlet Gorge.  It does an amazing job of showing just how large this zone really is and it looks beautiful as well.  One other great thing about the video is that, for the first time, we get a really good listen at the in-game sound.  It really sounds well done.  I can not wait to play!  You can find the video right here!