Monday, August 29, 2011

Behind the 8-Bit Area

About a week or so ago, I wrote about the 8 Bit Area, a place I thought was abandoned and was very pleasantly surprised to see that it had not. I went back and tracked down a pair of the main creators of the "new" area over in Electrobit City, Jei Desoto and Kris Spade.

Xymbers Slade: I really thought it was just going to be abandoned. It's nice to see that this was made. (smile) I see a lot of ideas for Mario-themed areas, but they almost never take off.

Jei SCR-16: Hello. (smile)

Kris Spade: Nah, we have high hopes. No worries about this being abandoned anytime. (laugh)

Xymbers Slade: I'll say, all this work for nothing would REALLY be a low point.

Jei SCR-16: Well, there've been 8-Bit Mario builds even before me. I'm just the first "Living and Breathing" 8-Bit game build.

Kris Spade: Oh yes we know, been fiddling with all this stuff for a long while now

Xymbers Slade: A long, LONG time. 2007 or so, right?

Kris Spade: Well it started with The 8-Bit Area, Jei can be more accurate on the timeline with that

Jei SCR-16: Yes. we were public opened in 2007. And it's been a roller coaster ride.

Xymbers Slade: What was your intent then and how did it change to what it is now?

Jei SCR-16: Our updates were so far and few in all that time while we worked (you could probably count them on your paw), so most thought it was abandoned. It was originally a game test. To see what LSL could do in a game engine term. But we thought it'd be nicer to have a more original flavor.

Xymbers Slade: Were you disappointed? I don't normally equate LSL with being efficient. Or functional.

Jei SCR-16: In the textures you see here, 90% of it is original and from scratch.

Kris Spade: As you might notice, being a visitor of the original 8-Bit area. This new rendition uses a lot more custom custom sprites and ideas?

Xymbers Slade: I noticed, especially the Goombas. Though I have yet to see any Bowser related quotes. What happened to make everything take so long? Just real life stuff?

Jei SCR-16: Real life stuff, and fighting with Linden updates that could sometimes cause rewrites in code.

Xymbers Slade: How long did it take to build all this in total? This must have taken months of careful planning, though to me it looks like it just sprung up overnight.

Kris Spade: Jei manifested The 8-Bit area well before we did what is seen here today. I only recently started working with him last year. This is now, a full sim playground, to exhibit all of the awesome 8-bit art/skills/talent.

Xymbers Slade: I'll say it's awesome. I was especially pleased with the working pipes; I hadn't seen those in any sim before. What is one thing you want to do, but find you can't?

Jei SCR-16: Holes and pits that can warp you to another world much like the 'secrets' in Super Mario 64. That would take a real force-teleport command. Many things beside that that are along those lines.

Kris Spade: I don't think we have reached and "roofs" yet. Just a lot of work to be done. What is slated next, is to make all of the "raw" areas more "engaging" in terms of play, and fun, any actually being a game in Second Life.

Jei SCR-16: But yeah as he said. other then that no real roofs. There's alternate things that can emerge in place of what 'can't' be done.

Xymbers Slade: Back when this place was in "preview mode" (in another sim), I tried flying in and found myself pushed down all the way to the ground. How did you do that? I was in my giant Seawolf dragon and came in from the sky and was forced to the ground. So I went "Hey, gravity!"

Kris Spade: The lack of teleport functions that SL offers is the biggest obstacle, but there are crude work arounds.

Jei SCR-16: That was the magic of Mortland. (big grin) Flight is wrought through magic powerups. Second Life flight is something of another world. (grin)

Xymbers Slade: It was a definite surprise for me, and something like that would probably be useful in other sims (if it's not already common knowledge).

Kris Spade: I am not sure if Xymbers is familiar with Mortland, but it's now an area here to look at.

Xymbers Slade: I did. I like that one pipe that has the changing perspectives as you're pushed along. Will there be an ongoing story line, and RP opportunities, in either here or Mortland?

Jei SCR-16: Yes. the gravity is not in effect, as I plan on a more accurate method that has less overhead.

Kris Spade: Actually, the answer to that is YES, for Mortland. Jei can elaborate.

Jei SCR-16Jei SCR-16 nods: What we'll do is expand the environments, and add a simple engine for RPG elements. While that's not uncommon in Second Life, we'll be doing it very differently.

Xymbers Slade: It will be nice to be able to use my Bowser av in perhaps an RP setting. I noticed that some [?] blocks had mushrooms, that there were coins in various areas, and that there were Thwomps at the ready and Goombas wandering around. Are they for show or do they have a function besides being stomped on?

Jei SCR-16: Well, while it's not a "Mario Sim" it still has an inspiration that makes the fanship shine. So that'd not be a bad thing . (grin)

Jei SCR-16: Coins and mushrooms currently work.

Kris Spade: Yes if you don't have a mushroom here, you can't bash the bricks. (grin)

Xymbers Slade: I was thinking a hud and coins could be collected to show up on the hud where you could buy video game related stuff with them.

Jei SCR-16: Though there are no immediate displays for the tokens, they are tracked. Mushrooms will allow you to break breakable blocks.

Xymbers Slade: What of the coins then? They're all over the place. (grin)

Jei SCR-16: We've planned a HUD for 3 years now... haha !We want to also make alternate ways of knowing so that HUD isn't -required- but just an advanced experience.

Xymbers Slade: I am just waiting for the invulnerability stars to be released... heh. With the advent of mesh, will this change the way the place works in any major ways?

Jei SCR-16: Well, as Spade says, without the mushrooms the bricks don't do much. The coins will be much the same. They will act as a game currency. It will be a more proficient version of what's here with more detail. Other things... will go unmentioned.

Xymbers Slade: Heh. Can't spoil everything, I know. I can envision fire-shooting gloves, hammers, or various other things though... maybe the mushrooms deform you to giant size. That'd be neat to see. What's the next big thing you have planned for here? More worlds/sims planned? A sim can only hold so much.

Jei SCR-16: It can. But I have two worlds with a few regions and barely shoot over 1k in prim count. And the function is all but sparse, but runs like a dream compared to many places (especially the mainland).

Kris Spade: The idea, is to create an interactive game, in SL... and offer a big "nostalgia" sense. You can collect objects such as mushrooms, objects, and THEN SOME when it's all manifested. Mortland, the other more "realistic" project will be more classic RPG based. Fun times ahead. You would be surprised what you can actually get out of a sim, when you think in X,Y,Z terms. Many people think in flat space.

Jei SCR-16: Yup. If we hit a roof, we might open an add-on region. It's just not necessary right now.

Xymbers Slade: Second Life has been around a long time, almost to the point where what can be made HAS been made. Do you see SL as getting "progressively worse" (as a lot of people do) to the point where things collapse and people look for new social platforms? That would mean all your work was for naught, not lasting very long at all if Second Life were suddenly on its last legs. Some seem to think it's on its way out.

Kris Spade: No I don't think that, I think mesh is a "big jump" for SL. People really need to think "outside of the prim" and use the resources offered in a unique way. We are not thinking conventionally. We hope to present a very engaging environment that is unlike the SL cliche. Lots of great times ahead ?

Jei SCR-16: I don't think any of the work here is for naught, because Second Life though not the FIRST of it's kind was the most innovative in idea, and will definately go down in history. If i were to make a world like this in another platform, this one will be not only remembered, but continued. The labs work to stay cutting edge to an extent. It looks bleak in some areas, but don't count the eggs before they rot.

Xymbers Slade: If people have ideas for things, like items or a storyline or whatever that they want integrated, are you accepting "outside submissions"? I know a few people (me included) that would have a lot of ideas.

Jei SCR-16: Not at this time. But once it has more momentum, yes. The reason, is that a lot more (A LOT) is planned than what you see here. It has to be realised in a basic form before adding on newer ideas.

Kris Spade: Ideas and community are very important to us yes. While we have a fixed momentum on what we wish to do next, the feedback, and support from everybody who loves it is taken into massive consideration. Still on the "full steam ahead" mode, but we've had a lot of interesting people visit and we hope they will be part of the unique community here.

Jei SCR-16: Yeah. there will be a shelf for ideas... And we dust regularly. (grin) We just need to over come some hitches and things, so people can get a better vision of our direction.

Xymbers Slade: Well, I for one will definitely be interested in seeing what else ends up showing up here besides the Thwomps and the goombas. (grin)

Jei SCR-16: Trompers and Chesters... the razzers of World One. ;)

Xymbers Slade: In either case, that pretty much wraps up the questions I had in mind, so I'll do another story with the interview and my editor should have it up in a few days. (grin)

Kris Spade: If you can imagine it, we're only using a tiny fraction of the sim's resources here. Lots of expansion on the way, and we love all of our visitors/enthusiasts and their feedback.

Jei SCR-16: Well, good talkin' to ya' This was pretty sudden for me, so be gentle y'know? Haha! (big grin)

Xymbers Slade: I will, (grin), giving this place 5 Dragon Hoards out of five for sure (I did in the last article I wrote a couple days ago). Cheers. (grin)

Then I leapt into the nearby pit, being sent back to the beginning of the sim.
8-Bit Area II: You've died, and have been thrown from this reality!

Five dragon hoards out of five. Without a doubt. Go visit!

Electrobit City (64, 33, 3228)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Aria Clash

For the past few months, a team of builders have been working on a new combat sim, one that’s been described as a “feudal Japan/sci-fi crossover” - Aria Clash. The setting: an advanced world develops the ability to travel to other worlds and comes across a world lower in tech, but the locals are very good at melee and magical combat.

To start playing, head to the Aria mall at Aerynth (44, 216, 2157). and pick up the free Combat Heads Up Display. Before playing, decide if you want to play as a warrior engaging in melee combat or a ranger whom fires at a distance. After opening the box and the warrior and ranger packages, wear the “AC Headset” HUD plus either the warrior or ranger HUDs. Then choose one of the weapons provided, the HUD package containing one from each class of weapon. You’re ready for action. Press “Q” after disabling chat to draw the weapon (press it again to put it away). Don’t rez the HUDs themselves on the ground as they will disappear.

Combat falls into two categories: Player vs Player - combat between residents playing the game, or Player vs Enemy - players fighting the computer controlled opponents. Attacks offer the chance to gain a skill point, and defeating PvE monsters may result in a gold drop that players can pick up. Players have both an energy bar and a health bar, moves costing an amount of energy, and successful attacks dealing an amount of damage. Once a health meter reaches “0,” the player is knocked out. Defeating player’s isn’t usually necessary, and after a player is bested he/she recovers 10 seconds later to full health. Sheathing a weapon allows one to recover lost health faster. For every 5 skill points made, the character levels with a blue flash, and becomes a little more powerful, with higher hitpoints, stamina, and a bonus skill point.

Skill points help with specific abilities. Warriors have Strength, Speed, Defense, Spirit, and Valor. Rangers have Aurora, Soldier, Tools, Officer, and Machine. Both also can put skill points into weapon class abilities.

Aria Clash is not just “hack and slash.” There are a couple unarmed attacks. Pressing “R” allows the player to kick the enemy, possibly knocking them back and be stunned for a few seconds. “X” is the sweep move, briefly knocking everyone else to the ground. Warriors can air-jump (jump while already airborne with their weapon drawn), backstep (spacebar), and wall-stab (“R” while airborne with weapon drawn and next to the wall). Rangers armed with pistols can also backstep. Warriors can also press “C” to block, reducing the damage of blows by half.

Weapons also have different abilities. All bladed weapons have a 25% chance to cause a bleed for 10 seconds after a successful attack. Longswords are average in attack and damage. Sword and shield are short in range and damage, but can block damage by 75%. Dual-Wield, are also short in range and damage, but have a faster attack speed. The Heavy-Blade, “the huge swords that many anime fans gush over,” is slow but has a long range and hits hard. Blunt weapons, the huge clubs and warhammers, are also slow but long range and heavy-hitting, but instead of bleeding have a 25% chance to knock the opponent down.

For rangers, weapons are also a bit different. Assault rifles have an average damage per shot, and inaccurate but a high rate of fire. Sniper rifles have a low rate of fire, but are accurate and heavy damage. Pistols are low accuracy with average rate of fire and damage, and allow the wielder to backstep. Siege-class weapons “are intensely varied ... excel in very specific situations ... while failing in normal situations.” These include lasers, flamethrowers, and Gatling guns. The Cannon is a long range weapon, with high damage and accuracy, with a strong recoil that can “throw the ranger around (for better or worse).”

The team member I met first was Aasha “Geecku” Kohime. I first met Aasha a couple years ago while looking over a martial arts combat sim, a cheerful and spunky lizardgirl whom was happy to help out new players such as myself. As it turned out, sparring wasn’t the only thing she was good at. She showed me a combat arena she was working on, one that the owner could chose of one a few scenes for players to fight on, each requiring a different strategy. Today, she brings her experience as a combateer and builder to Aria Clash.

Heading the team is Kamiko Fazuku, also known as “Sylu the Scientist.” Aasha introduced me to her, telling me she was a genius scripter. Kamiko called her comments flattery, but admitted, “I made a pretty brilliant AI. I wanted to develop an AI which could in fact play as well as players, or give players a good fight.” A nearby player commented, “So far, you are doing a damn good job. (grin)” Kamiko gave one creature as an example, the wisp, “So far, the wisp, despite having INFERIOR abilities to players, has a pretty good kill rate against them. He only has 300 hit points, and his attacks do only 100 damage and are fairly easy to dodge. Yet due to his sophistication, he's got a good kill record.”

Kamiko offered to show me how the wisp worked in the area. In the sim, the Arena is the place for player vs player combat. The staff doesn’t mind friendly sparring in the mall too much, especially when showing new players the ropes or showing off something, but ask that scraps be kept away from shoppers. The area I normally saw as a high-tech maze, dark with orange walls. It had the appearance of a reflective floor, but was told that was an illusion, the images not a true reflection. But there was also an ice room mode, with slippery floors and easy to fall off ledges and a bridge. And in this moment of testing, it had a high-tech look with the white walls, but with the uneven floors was no ordinary lab.

In the arena, Kamiko rezzed the wisp, a Level 25 monster, launched a blade attack at it, and missed, “notice how he dodges.” The wisp proved a bit tricky for her, moving around, and for some reason getting close to me. But eventually she got it, “To explain what happened, the wisp has a natural slight dodge tendency. This is to dodge bullets, but he also tries to stay out of reach, which is why I had a pain trying to catch him with my sword.”

Kamiko went on, “Additionally, you noticed he started hanging around you while still shooting at me. This is an additional feature. Let’s say you and I were on a team, and you had a gun. The wisp is following you, or dodging you and staying near you, and it shooting at you. Let’s say I try to ambush it. Well, the wisp will start following me instead, but still shoot at you, his first victim. That way he can dodge multiple players, he dodges whoever gets close to him. But still aims for that first victim ‘till the victim is defeated, then he swaps targets.”

Kamiko asked Aasha to help demonstrate. Aasha drew a gun. Kamiko rezzed the wisp again, and another fight started. But once again, the battle plan did not survive contact with the enemy. The wisp kept near me and one other visitor. After it was beaten, Kamiko decided it needed a script reset, “I had rezzed it before so it has me as it's prime target. (grin)” starting the battle again, it behaved more as expected, and this time dropped some coins, “It drops gold, we're still working on implementing that as an ingame currency of sorts. ... I'm making this alot like an MMO.”

Kamiko then stated, “Before you came, I was working on an NPC boss monster. The Queen Bee.” She showed a smaller worker first to demonstrate, which at Level 10 was easily beaten. She then rezzed the big one, which was Level 40. Made for team fights, it bested Kamiko in a scrap, “If the victim tries to run away, the Queen Bee will spawn assistance. You either fight it or you die.”

Kamiko went on, “I've been working on many ways to make AI alot more sophisticated than your simple "follows the player till they die" type AI you get alot in games. I want AI that give the player a challenge, or make the player feel like they are fighting another player. I know alot of players fight my beta Wisp AI to get better at PVP, they are that good. Bees are stupider than wisps, the bees just ... heh... ‘bee-line’ to their victim. ... NPCs have been my latest project. After them I want to return to adding more Ranger weapons and adding more to our beta Caster hud.” Aasha added, “I made a ton of poses for the weapons, more for melee though. Guns can get by with a stance, aim, and fire.”

They then showed me the PvE area, which started with the “Forest of Death,” where the hornet hive was, “The number of hornets varies on how many players are near it, and the hornets spawn from random directions.” Combating them proved unpredictable as other players would run through, and stir up more of them, “Do you people have to piss them off?” She wondered if she should lower the spawn time. The workers were Level 10, and the soldiers Level 15.

Also in the Forest of Death is a rocky area with spiders, Lvl 20 creatures. A cave leads to another area, where the Lvl 25 wisps are.

“I have tons planned for this system,” Kamika continued, “new weapon types, new classes such as Caster and Brawler, loads of new monsters. A pet system even. I want players to be able to, on rare occasion, earn themselves a pet. The pet would be semi-intelligent so that the player wouldn't really have to boss the pet around unless they needed to - I would want the pet mostly automated. The player could customize it's color, and as it leveled up it would grow in size. there would be a pet stat system as well to allow further diversification. I want pets to possibly serve as mounts, depending on the pet, and when they get large enough.”

Other detail about the HUD is it allows a player to have a name float over them, or change the color of the bleeding blood.

Kamiko and Aasha on different occasion showed me a couple “bosses” involved in the game, much larger than the Queen Bee. These were actually 40-50 ft tall macro avies at the moment, though would be in the game later. Aasha made clobbering one a group event once, offering a prize to the player who landed the final blow.

Besides the free weapons provided, one can also buy weapons at the mall. Comparing them to a few weapon stores I had LMs to, the blades were less expensive than other brands of melee weapons. Also for sale are medkits and other aids for players.

On August 1st, I attended a PvP tournament, attended by a number of players. It was recorded on Youtube, my match being the first (and the shortest). The winner was SeafaringWarlord Resident, also known as Eridian Ampora. As a player, he was always acting “in character” at Aria, talking in boastful tones, “I AM THE HERO!” Others told me he’s not always like this, and he did earlier offer yours truly a few suggestions how to play, saying character height affects the range one can kick, but naturally also affects the ease guns can strike as well.

And oh yes, with the heavy-blades already making the place look a bit like an anime, the background music is often in Japanese, or is playing some theme music of a Japanimation. I recognized the tunes of a few shows while there.

While doing some active research on the game, I ran into another friend of mine. I had never mentioned the game to her, so perhaps this is a sign of the game gaining popularity. We spared for a while, and went into the Forest of Death a little. So far, I've leveled several times.

I have yet to see everything about the game. And of course the team is always looking for things to improve or add. But the place is definitely worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of combat games.

Head over to Aerynth (44, 216, 2157).

Bixyl Shuftan