Saturday, December 31, 2016 5:46pm
Greetings everyone! The new year is almost here and an update on Antilia is well overdue. In years past it had become my custom to begin each year by announcing new project goals as well as reflect on progress that had been made over the course of the year. This year I would like to rekindle that tradition, but first I would like to apologize again for the extended periods of developer silence in 2016. Over the course of the year I allowed too many other things to demand my time, limiting progress on Antilia to brainstorming, design, and a bit of engine programming. Even still, it was never my intention for things to become as slow as they did, and so over the past two months I have been working hard to get the project moving forward again.
The State of the Project
Before I announce the goals I have set for this year, I'd like to discuss the project's status and the challenges that the project faces. I would like to approach this in as positive a manner as I can - so please bare with me while I outline a few challenges, even if they seem a bit negative.
1. Antilia has a Large Scope
- Even after changing the overall design of the project from an MMORPG to a sandbox-style RPG, the scope of Antilia is still quite large. I've spent many hours considering the project's current design, and I have identified a few elements that will have to be put aside for now. One proposal that has come up several times before would be to switch to using one of the commercially available game engines. Having spent some time using two of the most popular engines I can now say with experience that changing engines would not save a significant amount of time. While the other engines provide a few of the tools we are currently in need of, they also lack features that are well implemented in Toi (such as intrinsic support for a large open gameworld and customizable characters).
With a game engine change off the table, the next things that expand Antilia's scope are the large gameworld (which directly affects the amount of content we need to create), and our plan for multiple game modes. After discussing things within the development team we have decided to take "Story Mode" out of the planned list of features. While I still hope to one day explore the world of Antilia through the eyes of it's characters, a controlled "Story Mode" does not fit well with the open-ended nature of our simulation engine. We will instead focus exclusively on the single/multi-player sandbox mode.
2. Antilia has a Small Development Team
- Let's face it, the development team behind Antilia is very small. While I am grateful that a good many people have expressed interest in helping the project in any way they can, these offers are from enthusiastic gamers and community members rather than seasoned game developers. Including more people on the project means more communication and coordination, as well as an investment of my time getting people set up and training them in our development tools. Doing this one-on-one has not led to much success.
Moving forward I aim to spend more time making our content tools stable and easy-to-use, and to produce more videos on how to use them. As the Toi tools become more functional I would like to make them public so that anyone interested in contributing to Antilia can download them and start learning how to create content.
Furthermore, after discussing the matter with the other artists that contribute to Antilia I have concluded that we can make better use of procedural generation when creating new content. Antilia will not be a procedurally generated world, but I would like to make better use of procedural techniques to eliminate repetitive editing tasks. Rather than placing each individual tree, world builders will instead be able to paint out entire forest regions, and then hand-edit where needed.
3. Progress in 2016 was very limited.
This is just something that needs to be acknowledged. There wasn't really much in the way of 'secret progress' that I'm not showing. For most of the year my time on Antilia was limited to a few evenings and maybe one day each weekend. After a full week of programming work its difficult to then do more programming work. (There was still some progress on Antilia's simulation engine, AI systems, and general world building, as well as foundation improvements to the Toi engine, but not nearly enough.)
To address this I have reduced my regular work hours back to what they were in years past. I have freed up a full 3-4 days per week to work exclusively on Toi and Antilia this year.
There are without doubt additional changes that will be made to the project as we get back into the swing of development and continue to evaluate what is and isn't the right fit for the project.
Project Goals for 2017
I'm sure the question on everyone's mind is "Will we be playing Antilia again in 2017?" If I can reach the goals outlined below, then yes. I am making the production of a new (alpha) game client the primary goal for the year.
Here are my goals for Antilia in 2017:
- Create a Minimal Set of Content Creation Tools - As a minimum, we need the mesh editor, game object editor, world editor, and a texture editor created or ported over to Toi Studio. We rarely used the tree and particle system editors, so I'm OK using the old tools if we have to for now. A few additional editors are planned, such as a GUI editor, but those can wait until we are making regular updates on Antilia again.
- Build an Optimized DirectX 11 Renderer - I can't put off the move away from DirectX 9 to 11 much longer. I've been doing quite a bit of research and already begun work on the new rendering system. This doesn't have to be done immediately, but I want to complete this and sort out as many performance-limiting systems in the engine while it makes good sense to do so. One thing I learned from the MMO is that "we'll optimize later" is simply not a good development strategy.
- Build the New Antilia Game Systems - There are a few things we can borrow directly from the Antilia MMO, but almost all of those game systems really needed a second pass. When the basic game foundation is ready, we'll begin a new series of alpha tests. I am aiming for a more organized system of testing this time with regular updates.
Right Brain Games has a New Office
To demonstrate my commitment to Antilia in 2017, over the course of the past two months I have been putting together a new location from which I can focus on development with fewer distractions. While the past few years I have enjoyed working primarily from home, a few weeks of crunch time at an office this year reminded me how productive it can be to have a quiet place to focus only on work.
Of course it wouldn't be affordable to use this space exclusively for developing Antilia, so I will also be using the space for my usual contract work in interactive media. However this will be my new office from which I will be developing Toi and Antilia, and if things to go plan, new live streams and videos.
((Almost everything that goes into Antilia starts as an idea on this whiteboard.))
When starting this post I had planned on including a section on this year's plans to make better, more active use of the website and social media, but I think it will have to wait for next time. I appreciate everyone who showed patience in spite of the lack of updates, and I hope it goes without saying that I am very excited to have the opportunity to work on Antilia again!
((Note: A few corrections and clarifications have been made to the original post.))
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