Spellcraft

Project Spellcraft is a multiplayer "role playing" game whose purpose in addition to entertainment is to train high school/college level students in vocabulary. This project was a senior group project beginning in the Summer of 2007 and continued until May 2008.

Spellcraft changed significantly from the original creation of this portfolio entry (scaled down considerably). Because I found that this version was more interesting from a design perspective, I did not update this to reflect the final versions of Spellcraft. So while this project concluded last year, this portfolio entry was written as if it was still occurring...

We are examining various methods of infusing players with advanced vocabulary that will not overwhelm them with tedium, or make it feel like homework. We want to preserve good game play with an undercurrent of learning.

Currently we plan to do this several ways: through quests which progress a narrative, contain advanced vocabulary and carry our theme: “knowledge is power.” We have skill descriptions which will hopefully incorporate the vocabulary in a comfortable manner. And while these methods will serve to passively teach through example and copious use, players will be quizzed on vocabulary in order to propel the story.

Additionally, we are working in depth on the entire process of creating a unique, engaging game world.

The entire project allows myself and other participants to get a feel for all the different aspects of game design: designing and implementing an intuitive and complete interface, modeling realistic human forms and linking them to the code to respond to our users, writing quest dialog and code, designing character classes that fit both into our story and into classical paradigms of MMO classes, designing skills that employ the vocabulary which are balanced and fit within the class system, working with the game engine to create the desired look and feel of the game, and creating everything from chairs to towers, to wands to mountains in the world.

My Contributions & Experiences

The content team develops art and does much of the current design of the game-play and world.  We work in the Torque Game Engine as well as Torque Constructor and Blender to create our game world and all it contains.

 As leader of the content creation team, I have already learned how to use new software and helped to train others to use it. I am working on story, environment, effects, skills, and coordinate several people in creating content that is original.

I work as a link between artists and programmers, making sure their models can be exported into a format for the engine, their quest designs can be added into the game, and all their ideas are focused into the game.

I make sure that the non-computer-science members of my team can work with the rest of team. I work with my team to fine-tune their ideas and stream-line them into concepts that can be used by the "programmer" team.

I do a lot of preliminary work learning new technology and studying the scripts so that I can teach my team to use it. I've learned Blender and taught it to my group and also learned quite a bit about TorqueScript.

I am currently working with the programming team to design scripts which will allow us to easily add skills into the game. By working on this, I get to consider the requirements of skills that the content group has formulated and how players will use them. I also have to determine what changes need to be made to the game engine itself for the programmers. My goal is to design a system simple enough that our non-programmers will be comfortable writing scripts for new skills they devise.

This project is especially important to me because I get to deal with many other people and I get to take the creativity of and others and transform it into something computerized and interactive.

My personal goals on this project are to gather a feel for working with different technologies, to understand the complexities of game play design, to work with a team of artists and programmers to create a single entity. Additionally, I am personally fascinated with vocabulary and would like to see if we can produce a game that is educational but remains fun and desirable to play.

Sample Skills

Empathic Bond: Curse Skill. You cause your target to empathize with their next target. The next X attacks will cause them to suffer the same amount of damage back to themselves.

Aura of Impregnability: Buff. Your target is unaffected by attacks for X seconds.

Multifarious Blow: Skill. Your target takes X damage from all different damage types.

Enervation: Curse. Your target is weakened. Their next skill costs double mana.

Professions

The professions in Spellcraft are meant primarily to model class distinctions in many common MMO's. We have kept these basic classes but added to them out own touches. Our classes have a background and a reason for their development into separate professions that fits into our story. We've also added some more modern touches to them. Like classic MMO professions, each class has their own niche to fill in the game.

Each profession will have its own set of skills and its own limitation on stat points it can spend. Similar to the game Guild Wars, players can have up to two professions at a time. The first profession is the primary and cannot be changed once selected. The second can be changed. Changing your secondary gives you access a whole new set of skills

The following are excerpts from the project wiki detailing each profession's role and background.

Tank

A “tanking” class focused on defensive holding aggro and melee damage.

Students of militaristic traditions and blessed with the ability to conjure enhanced armor and weapons, tanks are melee attackers and damage-absorbing meat shields. Known more for brute strength and endurance than intelligence, tanks are nevertheless a vital part of any team.

To become a tank is to become a member of a society evolved from the military cultures of the time before the apocalyptic event. This society worships brute force, honor, and the glory of physical combat as well as marksmanship. They named themselves for the mythical beast of the before time, an armored terror who overwhelmed its foes.

Medic

A “healing” class focused on buffs healing debuffs and AoE.

The organization of the medics arose from the chaos of the intellectual community in the aftermath of the apocalyptic event. They were those who studies focused on the anatomy of the human body and regeneration. They were those whose lives were driven by understanding and improving the lives of the living. They became a religion who worshiped understanding and controlling aliments in all forms. The dark side of this potentially noble group is their willingness to learn by tearing apart.

Nuker

The mage class. Mana based AOE and ranged attacks.

Nobody messes with a nuker. Aggressive, fiercely intelligent and often considering mentally unstable, nukers are capable of dealing more damage than any other class.

In the aftermath of the chaos that raged over the planet spawned the nukers. Nukers thrive in the destructive forces of nuclear technology. They seem to only be enhanced by the effects of radioactivity, and channel it through their very bodies. Nukers are brilliant technicians wielding technology built to enhance their own potent nuclear power. To call the nukers unstable would be an understatement. You can trust a Nuker as far as you can throw one. And you better hope you can throw them far or equip yourself for the fallout.

Terra

A nature-based class focused on self and group buffs, “minions”, nature damage, ranged attacks, transformations, healing.

If you called a terra a hippy you would quickly find yourself facing the wrath of Thera itself. Terra’s worship the planet and the force of nature itself. They seek to prevent the continued of the apocalypse and undo the damage it caused, as well as gain a higher understanding of the delicate balance of the world and its creature. They shun most technology tapping in to the hidden energy of the planet itself as well as the beasts who dwell upon it.

Agent

A Stealth/mind manipulation class Focused on DPS, Debuffs, and minions.

No one knows where the agents came from, or who first created this group of cold efficient killers. To be an agent is to dedicate oneself to the shadows. Agents are extremely efficient at manipulating their enemies and gaining otherwise hidden intelligence. The true loyalty of the agents cannot be determined, but agents, once contracted, are notorious for their commitment to their tasks.

Little is known about this highly secretive order. Any attempts to garner knowledge about their cloak and dagger ways are met with threats of death. They deal in shadows, operating by stealth and weaving confusion among their foes.

Sample Quests

The following are excerpts from the project wiki detailing a few of my favorite quests.

Tome Reader

Given by: Old Missus Wilkins

Opening Dialog: Awfully cold morning sir, is it not? Why back in the day I used to curl up near my parents’ igloo fire and they would read me stories of right vs. wrong, love vs. hate or even the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. Times have changed and conditions continue to get worse by the day. Young man, I am very old and I do not expect the others of the town to care for me or my belongings much longer. While those usurpers plot to destroy this town I grew up in, all I can wish for is a book of tales in which my parents used to read to me. If you may be so kind as to help an old woman accomplish one of her final wishes, I will forever be in your gratitude.

Task: Travel to an old igloo outside of town and find a old book.

Reward Dialog: Bless your heart young man. Thank you for your kind help but I have of one more favor to ask. My age seems to have affected my memory for I cannot remember what certain words on this page mean. Would you be so kind as to explain them to me?

Old Missus Wilkins list of words: allegory, lexicon, plagiarize, soliloquy, usurp

Winners Never Cheat and Cheaters Never Live

Given By: Tobias Stark

Turned in at: Tobias Stark

Needed Items:  The Head of Samuel Rogers

Quest Text: Find the man who has committed treason against the town. Kill him and return his head to Tommy Stark for your reward.

Tommy Stark Task Dialogue: Ay, you got ‘eh problem with my face? And just who do you think you are, huh? Better than me or something? Enough questions, I got a challenge for you tough guy. I was gonna track this man myself, but I got important things to do. You don’t look like a busy guy, why don’t you find ‘em for me. You see, we was gonna have ourselves an election for mayor of the town. ‘Cept this gerrymandering scum had been cheating and now he’s on the run from the people who caught ‘em. But you probably wanna know what’s in or for you. Well, how’s about I increase your magic points, a bargain in which you should not refuse.

Samuel Rogers Task Dialogue: Who the heck are you? You're probably with them though. Do you even know what you are fighting for? Those drunks know NOTHING about order. I tried to filibuster their ruling for equality in our town. But it's because of those town drunks that the weak shall hold us down from becoming the strongest race in the world. So what if I plan on excelling over the rest of our society? I want the power and therefore I DESERVE the knowledge. They said I belonged with the beasts in the wild and I guess since you're standing here before me, you think the same thing two. Well you're never returning to town, not on my watch that is.

Samuel Rogers' List of Words: Gerrymander, Nonsectarian, Laissez Faire, Oligarchy, Totalitarian

Tobias Stark Completed Task Dialogue: Did you get the job done pal? So you killed the man? Ha ha, that little cheater got what he deserved. Now let’s see what he had on ‘em. What are these, words? I don’t know no reading, ain’t serve no purpose. But you, you look like a smart fellow, what do these words mean?

Ivan Who?

Given by: Sven the Vague

Opening Dialog: Hi fellow. Look here, I have this important thing I need you to bring this to Ivan. He's somewhere over there. He makes things. Bring this to him. Make sure you give it to the right fellow; its top secret stuff.

Task: Find Ivan. Do not give it to the wrong person. (This quest will also give enough XP to level a player up to level 2. Allowing an easy transition into the first review quest "Baron's Review"

Details: Player will speak to various NPCs and learn their way around town trying to find Ivan. Too bad there is more than one Ivan in town. Ivan the Smith, Ivan the Healer, Ivan the Village Idiot and even Baron Ivan Von Nohitahl. Players will have to speak to each one and learn about the town and the services it offers.

Ivan the Healer: Hello, stranger. Welcome to my hospice. I am Ivan the Healer. I make people well. If you have been injured in battle, just make your way to me and I will heal you straight away no matter how grievous your injury. Should you find yourself enervated by the knowledge-hungry beings on this isle, return to me and I will revitalize you.

Ivan the Smith: Yo ho! I am Ivan the Smith and I make armor. For a minor pecuniary contribution, I will craft you a new set of armor to protect you from the various enemies you will encounter.

Ivan the Bartender: Come on in and have a seat. I am Ivan the Bartender. I run the tavern in this here town. I have a gift: I make pain go away. People come to me to talk about their problems and I listen to them and serve a fine drink. I can concoct all sorts of the finest ales in the cellar. Come to me for a drink, to hear about current events and to just chat.

Ivan the Village Idiot: Me Ivan! Me make purple!!

Baron Ivan Von Nohitahl: I am a humble servant of the Order of the Sapphire Knights and leader of this fine town. You can come to me whenever you are ready to be tested on you accumulated knowledge and I will give you a reward if you are able to pass my test... Ah, but when I am not testing people like yourself, you could say that I run this town. I am the only one with the conviction, the fortitude, the sheer force of will to really make things happen around here.

Closing Dialog (Baron Von Nohitahl): What's this? A letter from Sven? Ah, thank you very much, my lad/dear.

Follow up: Quest: Baron's Review.

Model Video Download

This video shows off one of the character models we are working with. It was heavily modified from a model that was freely obtained. I redid her mesh so she was wearing appropriate clothing and did the animations. The main things I learned working on this are that animation is hard, I'm not skilled at it, and all the work that goes into getting a mesh moving around in an engine.

World Flyover Video Download

This video shows off aspects of the world in development.

Post Mortem

As I mentioned above, this whole portfolio entry was left as it was when the project was occurring. However, here I can take some time to speak about my experiences in hindsight.

After this phase we eventually scaled the project back significantly because even a demo of our plans would be out of reach. We settled on using the assets and some of the ideas we created to make a single competition game that would have been one of many in the full game.

On this project I worked as a designer, a writer, an artist, a scripter, a team leader, and “pipeline facilitator”. As a designer I worked on the level layout, quests, skills, story, etc. I did a lot of writing for those things as well. As an artist, I worked on miscellaneous models and character art. I scripted some of the skills and abilities which were designed although they were cut out of the final game. Lastly, I was the primary person responsible for making sure the art got from the artists into the engine.

I learned a lot on this project including what I like and don’t like about game development. I learned that, while I don’t mind helping out with some assets, it’s not my passion. However, I appreciate having some background in creating assets because it lets me communicate with artists comfortably to combine their talents with programmers’ and designers’ talents into a cohesive design. I learned that as much as I love the designing and conceptualization, and as much as I am good at it, I do miss implementation if I don’t get to help out there too.

Credits

This project was supervised by Professor Richard McKenna at Stony Brook University. It was lead by myself and Daniel Pincas. Other contributors include Nephtali & Joshua Rodriguez, Heather Miller, Don Baluyot, Matthew Skye, Betson Thomas, Elvin Morales, and Jin Chen.