Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #48 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

Hello folks, 

Happy Halloween! It’s the end of October, and the end of another month of development on Camelot Unchained®. It’s been a productive one, with lots of progress on some key fronts, which you can read about below, as well as in our News posts. It’s also been a month full of Beta tests, which we’ve continued to provide to our wonderful Backers. Thank you all for helping us test! 
Here at the East Coast office of City State Entertainment®, the fall colors are appearing on the trees, and one of the loveliest times of year is getting into full swing. It’s an inspiration for some of the lovely colors and constructions we’re putting into our game, as you can see in a builder feature below from Community Manager Brian! As we celebrate the magic of Halloween (I’m in a wizard costume) we’ve also made mages an important focus, and you can read a detailed discussion of that work from Game Designer Ben, also below! 

We are far more focused on testing than on streaming for now, but we consider it our responsibility to continue to be open and honest with our Backers. Therefore, we continue to put up raw, unedited, and unrehearsed streams, showing you everything from impressive creative work by our artists and programmers to our latest updates and news. The streams are fun for us, but they are also very important, as we always want to be as informative as possible for our Backers and fans, especially as Beta ramps up! If you want to catch up on any missed streams, they can always be found on our Twitch and YouTube channels. For a good read of our news, as well as our weekly Top Tenish updates, check out the News section of our website. 

It’s always a good feeling to look back at the month and put together this newsletter for you folks! Read on for articles, updates, and art. Also, remember to click on the “view this email in your browser” link on the top right to see the whole thing! Thanks for your interest and your support, and please enjoy this, the forty-eighth issue of Unveiled
Hot Topics

We're looking for feedback! If you're a Backer, join the discussion on our Forums via our website and chime in. 

Hot topics on the forums right now include discussion on body parts, our latest tech, and our incoming 64-bit conversion!

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick

Making Mages

For quite some time now, we here at CSE have been excited about mage classes. It was a hard decision to start off with archers instead of mages as the first DPS archetype we put into testing, but mages come with a special set of challenges that make them a lot more difficult to implement. So, we decided they should come in later on, when our systems became more mature. Now that we’ve had quite a bit of testing on our initial classes, and on our combat system in general, we are starting to look toward what comes next. In doing so, we’ve started to work on solutions to the challenges that need to be overcome so that we can add mages, as the next playable archetype available in the Camelot Unchained Beta.

Unlike swinging a sword or shooting an arrow, casting a spell relies very heavily on visual effects. Although we need animations for spellcasting as well, the main challenge on the visual side of creating mages, much more so than even healers, is making all the wide range of particle effects that will play for each and every one of their abilities. 

As many of you know, Camelot Unchained provides players with an ability builder they can use to combine components in a multitude of different ways in order to craft their own abilities. When it comes to melee attacks, this is fairly straightforward to visualize. We provide a set of animations, weapon-attached particles, and impact particle effects and sounds, then automatically pick the most appropriate ones for the attack being performed by the combination of components selected by the player in a relatively straightforward way. When it comes to magic, however, there is such a big difference between throwing a fire-based projectile and summoning a wall of fire that we need to come up with a whole new solution to how we create and select the right particles to display.

On the visual effects creation side, we’ve been working to categorize what goes into magic abilities so that we can effectively isolate what work needs to be done in a combinational way, and what work can be done in an additive way. For example, magic abilities have component slots for added Infusions. These do things like reduce a spell’s cooldown time, or increase its damage. These Infusions can be visualized by adding subtle particles to spells that don’t transform or alter the base particle system, but simply add on something extra, like additional sparks, or a puff of smoke, to show that an additive Infusion was used. When it comes to the combinational Rune and Shape component combinations however, we have to approach each potential pairing as unique. Since there are a lot of combinations, we’re working on building more effective tools for creating the visuals for what each combination will look like, without having to spend a vast amount of time on each set.

As far as selecting the right particles, animations, and sounds, ability components use a set of tags that describe their properties. For each audiovisual asset we create, we then assign a set of tags to it. When a player creates an ability, its component tags get added together, and a lookup is performed to find the right particles, sounds, and animations with the matching tags, which will then be played when the appropriate ability effects take place. This may sound like a fairly straightforward concept. However, when you try and think of all the possible abilities, from debuffs to projectiles to summons, and all the possible events (such as when a spell is first initiated, to when it creates an entity in the world, or when its effects get applied to a target), there is actually a lot that needs to be accounted for.

On top of all that, magic in Camelot Unchained is intended to be highly interactive, using something we call the Ability Interaction Reaction system (AIR). What this means is that when one magic effect, say a fireball, encounters another magic effect in the game world, such as a wall of water, a combinational effect is created--in this case, a cloud of steam. In order to facilitate this, we’re creating a lookup table, including every type of magic, with rules for what should happen when it interacts with every other type of magic in the game. This means even more audiovisual work to create all the interaction effects, as well as some design work in the editor to define all the actual gameplay results of each interaction.

Speaking of gameplay, magic also adds a whole new list of features that haven’t existed in any of the current Beta classes. This means more work on adding functionality to the ability system, in order to support the new abilities that will be created for each of the mage classes. Whether it's the Flame Warden channeling to throw a volley of flaming projectiles, the Druid ripping a tear in reality that harms any enemy it touches, or the Wave Weaver laying a magic trap for unsuspecting enemies to trigger when they happen to step on it, there is a lot for us to add, in order to give mages powerful and enjoyable sets of skills to start testing with.

As we look forward to delivering the first iteration of the mage classes for beta testing, it is important to keep in mind that what we initially deliver is just a first pass. Much like our existing beta classes, mages are going to start off with a relatively small set of fairly basic ability components compared to what they will have when the game launches. While each mage uses a different set of Runes for their magic types, most of the Shapes we will start mages off with will be common components, such as “beam” and “explosion”. Many of these will be replaced or supplemented later with more unique advanced components for each class. This helps to get mages into testing with some basics early on for the initial feedback that will help determine what the right course for each of them will be as we continue to fill out the rest of their ability sets down the road.

With all this talk about mages, we wouldn’t want anyone to think we’re ignoring our existing Beta classes. Along with working on mages, we will also be re-building and re-enabling the ability builder UI for all classes. We are also going to be adding a fair number of new ability components to all of the existing Beta classes from each archetype. This means that by the time mages are ready, everyone, no matter their favorite class of those we’ve built so far, will have some new and exciting abilities to try out. 

We hope you’re all excited and looking forward to exploring more of what the classes of your favorite Realm have to offer. We still have a bit more work to do on systems and editors before all this will be ready, but we look forward to sharing more with you as we keep forging on. Let us know what classes you’re most looking forward to! If you’re already a Beta tester, thank you as always for continuing to show up to help us with ongoing testing. All of this testing helps to make the game better, and it wouldn’t be possible without you!

Developer Quote

  “Will Camelot Unchained be a successful game? That’s up to the players to decide. OTOH, we are taking the time to build the tech that can allow us to be successful at launch rather than rushing it in order to start making money as soon as possible.” -- Mark Jacobs

Community Spotlight

 -by Brian Ward

Builder's Brigade Showcase

Earlier this year, as we closed in on our Beta 1 launch, we began putting together art assets for the three Realm Home Islands. We created a base template for the Islands that would be used as a starting point for each Realm. It was always part of our plan to enlist the help of the Builders’ Brigade to help us create the structures for each Realm, built with the in-game tools. Only trouble was, when we started, there wasn’t really a Brigade yet! 

First, we had to pick some amazing builders who would make good candidates. Then we needed to overcome some technical challenges with the game build at that point (including a data format change for buildings!), which were blocking us from providing members of the Brigade with a build to use. With the deadline fast approaching after that, the amount of construction time was somewhat limited for our awesome Builders’ Brigade. It was a race against the clock!

We’d always internally viewed the Brigade as (and I’m paraphrasing here) an elite squadron of known members of the CU Community who have demonstrated considerable proficiency with the building tools. With that in mind, we chose a small group of people who were available to work quickly! These folks would help us complete the centerpiece builds on each of the Home Islands. This was done not just for logistical reasons, but to showcase the Community-driven aspects of building in Camelot Unchained. Who doesn’t want that special kind of leetness that comes from having your build on display for all to see when they first sign in?

After we’d picked folks who had been prolific in sharing their builds on the old Forums over the years -- and we had a game build that was acceptable for our purposes -- we needed to get them tasked. Tyler gave the Brigade some basic parameters as a starting point. For example, all builds needed to fit within certain physical bounds, represent the architectural style of its Realm, and there needed to be specific types of buildings present on each Island. But beyond that, the look of these builds was driven by its individual designers. Take a gander at the planned building layout that Tyler initially assigned to the Brigade:
Within hours of being given their overall assignment on the Builders’ Brigade Forums, Heartfyre leapt into action with a Forum thread breaking down all the required tasks into an easy-to-follow worksheet, showing who on the team had which assignment (based on discussions that had occurred in that thread and on the Discord channel), tracking build progress in a percentage for each. It was super helpful! With that in place, things came together quickly, and we began seeing WIP structures from everyone very shortly thereafter.

Bosk and Heartfyre took on many of the Arthurian builds, Swazi the TDD builds, and Arrobee focused on the Vikings. During this time, the Builders had access to a special WIP version of the Arthurian Home Island through Offline Building Mode, where they could create and stage their builds in the approximate physical location of the actual placed buildings.

Members of the Brigade then worked primarily with Matt and Caleb to get their structures onto the Home Islands. Matt spent a lot of time chasing down various UI bugs, diving into feedback in real time to make Building Mode a better experience. Meanwhile, Caleb did infrastructure work to make sure that the buildings submitted from the Brigade for the Home Islands could actually be placed in-world, and also handled the actual placement of builds, in consultation with the creators. 

I took a number of shots from various locations on the picturesque faction Home Islands. Join me as I take you on a short visual tour of the Home Islands, as created by the Builders’ Brigade. This is what you see when you log into the Beta build!
Arthurian Realm: 
Arthurian Bank and Wall by Bosk. 
Bosk created this Arthurian Healers' Hall.
Arthurian Tower by Bosk. 
Smith House by Heartfyre.
Tuatha Dé Danann Realm: 
TDD House by Swazi.
TDD Tower by Swazi.
TDD Bank and Wall by Swazi.
Viking Bank by Arrobee.
Atop the Viking Wall by Arrobee.
Exterior of Viking Mead Hall by Heartfyre.
Interior of Viking Mead Hall by Heartfyre.
Arrobee created this Standalone Tower for the Vikings.

Thanks for all the wonderful builds on the Home Islands! We love our Builders’ Brigade! 

Final Note

-by Max Porter

Thanks for reading Unveiled! Before we close out this issue, perhaps you’ll indulge me in a bit of showing off. My brand-new daughter Rose came by the studio the other day (carried by proud mom Kate) and we jumped on the chance for a photo op in front of the CSE logo!

It was great fun as usual to put this newsletter together for you folks, and I wish you happy testing. Until next time! -- Max
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