Once more, Vampires, it’s good to see you.
As the flowers wilt and the leaves fall dead upon the ground all around us, the delightful scent of rot that heralds the dark months ahead brings with it as well… news from the crypts. Here at Stunlock Studios, we’ve been busy piecing together the puzzle work that will be our next major patch, and today, we thought it might be an excellent opportunity to take a little piece from every corner of the studio and show how they contribute to the greater whole.
Settle into the shadows, my kin! Whether by lovely candlelight or the calming glow of your computer screen, it’s time to delve into the topic of this developer update… family.
What does family mean in V Rising? In technical terms, we have something called ‘unit families’ that serve several functions to help define how the people and creatures of our world behave. Each individual ‘unit’ has a ‘family’ they belong to, and these families act as factions that help decide how they interact with other units based on their allegiance.
For instance, one such example is the legions of undead you encounter early and often. Undead are hostile to members of the Church of Luminance and will react violently to their presence. So, when you're out in the world, you might stumble upon a Goreswine and its gang fighting with golems, bandits, and the local militia. This adds life to the world in a way that makes intuitive, logical sense. Some families even have more complicated allegiances, like how militia soldiers are friendly to townspeople and paladins but are unfriendly towards bandits.
What does this mean for us in the upcoming patch? Why are unit families so important? Well, we’re adding a new one! This one is a bit more complicated than the others and is being designed to fit a completely different purpose than the others. While other alliances are meant to be a constant force of skirmishing stability in the world of Vardoran, this new army is quite the opposite; this is a force of instability.Pictured: Concept art for something very unfriendly.
Imagining Instances of Evil
When we create a new group of closely-knit non-player characters, it raises questions from every side of our areas of studio production. We consider what they're supposed to do, how to make them fit that purpose through visuals and audio effects, and how all of this should work together in the game. First, let's talk about their design: the purpose of this faction.
In V Rising, we are the destabilizing force assaulting towns, encampments, and monstrous nests to feed off of their blood and resources so that we may fuel our rise to power… but what happens when we’re facing competitors? What would a different invading force look like, and how would it fulfill that fantasy?
Enter this new, unfamiliar, and unusual breed of foe. An interloping force battles its way into our world and wreaks havoc where it lands, and our current vision for them is to be the primary enemy you face in the coming endgame-focused zone. Vardoran is YOURS to conquer, and what better way to prove your rule than to claim the throne over another worthy predator?Victorious.
To fulfill the fantasy of war, we want these foes to come at you in swarms. This way, you'll feel like you're cutting through a formidable enemy force, which suits the power of a nearly fully realized Vampire. Therefore, their moves should be easy to spot, even when they're part of a massive group so that players can react to their attacks. We understand that it would be frustrating if you couldn't distinguish each attack amidst the crowd in large-scale battles, so we’re mindful of that from the outset of the unit design.
For us, these new threats need to be ideal to work in conjunction with world events. Right now, our primary goal is to make sure they fit perfectly into the endgame zone. However, we also want them to work seamlessly as a strong invading force throughout the entire world of Vardoran if we manage to find a good way to expand these events across the lands. So, how these creatures will interact with the other combatants in the world is also important to consider.
One thing we’re also carefully thinking about with the design of these units as an enemy is their tie to PvP. If you’re encountering these in-world event scenarios on a PvP-enabled server, these are places where you’ll be able to win valuable resources that will be contended by other players as well. So as we craft the way they work as you’re fighting them in a group, we also have to be mindful of how they’ll act as interference in Vampire vs. Vampire interactions.Raise your hand if you’ve had this guy crash your party.
Varied Visions of Vivid Violence
Every aspect of development works in concert to make the overall experience work, and that’s certainly no different for the art department. Our creepy creatives have been toiling away in conjunction with design to ensure that all the new varieties of voracious critters are as close to perfect as possible. Gameplay isn’t just raw interaction; a huge part of what makes it work is the communication of those aspects of the game, which is done through visual art, animations, sounds, and all the ways your senses interact. I don’t think we add any smells, though. If you’re smelling something, you should probably go clean your room.
So how does this apply to an invading force, a swarm of enemies? Well, for one, they need to be visually distinct to identify them as something that does not belong in this place. We explored a few different avenues of trying to communicate this, but leaned in a direction that better broadcasted their war-like, violent nature. When you look at these creatures, you can immediately feel an air of hostility. There is no room for negotiation, which is shown through their jagged and unfriendly design more so than in another potential direction such as making them look more alien and incomprehensible.An unused concept for invaders. Fifteen eyes on a headless torso, not so relatable.Concept art for a new enemy. Much more relatable.
Just as much as we desire to make the faction feel the way we want and communicate their themes, we also need to make them distinct from the rest of Vardoran’s inhabitants. Just as you can instantly spot the difference between a human bandit and a human adherent to the Church of Luminence, you should be able to tell your new foes from every other man and monstrosity. This can be more challenging than it immediately sounds, and there are plenty of traps to step on when determining a visual direction… thankfully, by working together, the different parts of the art team find creative solutions.
Making your unit family too similar comes with the danger of making them difficult to tell apart, which can be a large issue here when you’re intended to fight many at once. You need to be able to track what threats you need to account for instantly. We can help this with animation, for instance, adjusting one massive animal-like monster to move in a uniquely snake-like manner, and smaller impish creatures to have jittery, jerking movements that draw your eyes with their frenetic energy.
There was another issue with the visual design of these units being too similar to the new environment. Making too big an adjustment could be dangerous this far along in the design process, but thankfully multiple parts of the team can all adjust in small ways to fix a major problem. Ground textures are being adjusted by the world team, colors are being subtly shifted, and the animations are being tweaked all at once to combine in a way that majorly boosts readability.
Constructing the Siege Engines We’re not as evil, but that doesn’t stop us from doing some mad science.
Of course, there’s tech.
None of this is possible without our engineers and architects nailing it together where we need it. While our design team are fairly capable programmers, some things need the assistance of our more advanced engineers to implement, especially when it comes to generating entirely unique interactions.Like charming Vampires, turnabout is fair play!
With each new unit family comes unique abilities that must be properly integrated into gameplay. The undead summon up minions from the grave, our friends in Gloomrot suck you in with their gravity shields, and our Church of Luminance holy folk drop down their healing auras. So too, will these new enemies have their own unique new challenges for you to overcome, and that will take some effort and more than a little dark sorcery from the people that weave together all of the inner workings of our lovely little Vampire game.
It may not be the most glamorous work, but it’s essential to summoning our unloveable new horrors into existence.It screams for the horror of being alive.
Pray to the Dark Gods
This is a part of game development that we don’t talk about much but applies just as much to creating a unit family as it does to any other aspect of game development! All of you fellow game developers out there reading this will be nodding along as we recount this often-overlooked aspect of the craft. That is, of course, the terrible rites we perform to ensure the cosmic cogs of video games continue to turn.Modeled after an in studio work space.
Whether it’s a blood sacrifice[www.stunlock.com]
to Callac’mhet, the Night Saint of Technical Shaders, or when we must reach into the black pools gathering in the deep caverns beneath our studio to extract new high-end processors, here at Stunlock Studios, we count on the Nightmare Priests That Live In Our Walls for integral support that allows us to do the work that we do better, and more efficiently.
They also keep the varghouls at bay! Wow!
Let Us Not Forget
This is your last chance to submit an entry!
Tomorrow is the final day to enter the Malevolent Monsters Art Contest! [blog.stunlock.com]
We’ve had some fantastic entries so far, and we have hope that in these last moments, we’ll see even more!
The winter months approach just on the horizon, and as the sun sets earlier and earlier each day, we feel further empowered to move towards our milestones in development. Before the holidays, you can expect at least one more update on V Rising’s journey to 1.0, and as always, we look forward to hearing from you again.
In the meantime, why stop chatting? Clever bunch of Vampires that you are, We’re sure your minds are abuzz with theories as to what this new unit family is. We’re always so fascinated by the speculation!
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Lots of love and a pint of blood,
/The Marketing Team