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

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