Posted: Thu May 10, 2018 1:26 pm
Video link: https://youtu.be/lSiSP_zC_X0
Today’s video shows a few more troubles we’ve had while trying to set up a good IK system for the wolf. (“IK” stands for “Inverse Kinematics” and that’s what makes a character animations adjust to the game environment, such as walking on a slope.) We’ve been struggling with this for awhile (see the “A Very Limber Wolf” post), and in fact have tried three different IK systems since January. These systems are designed for bipeds rather than quadrupeds, which often makes them hard to configure for accurate wolf movements. We do think we’ve finally got this figured out, using a plugin called “Final IK” and some clever work by Tommi and our wolf artist Steve— but not without a few more very amusing hiccups along the way, as you can see.
This week we’re answering some questions from our players. I’m sorry we can’t answer all of them — partly due to time constraints, but also because we’re still in mid-development and don’t have a final answer to some questions.
Do you have a release date yet? I can’t wait!
Sorry, no. We’re still in the thick of development. It’s been 15 months now since we announced Tower Fall, and nine months since we announced WQ3. Back then, we certainly expected to have released *something* by now. But we originally had a pretty narrow scope for WQ3 (basically a rebuild of 2.7) and we felt pretty confident that we could get that done by the end of 2017....but as we worked on it, we kept thinking of ways to make the game substantially better -- truly the next generation of WolfQuest. We are improving many things, both large (like the maps) and small (like the IK system, which turned out to be not-so-small after all). And we’re redesigning every aspect of the game (Tommi spent a week in March just creating the new AI for cougars at carcasses) and that has ripple effects throughout the whole development process.
In short, both the game scope and the release date have been moving targets, which is frustrating for everybody -- including us, who have all the reasons in the world (including financial) to finish and release WQ3 and then Tower Fall as soon as possible. But we don’t expect to release anything before the fall, alas. If we could go back in time, we might have announced WQ3 as a remake with no mention of a deadline. We really appreciate everyone's patience. We'll get there. And we do think it will be worth it.
Will WQ3 still be "mission-based" like it is now, or are you working on a way to make the transitions between goals more natural? Will the gameplay be faster or slower overall, including the rate of growth for the pups?
We’ve given this some thought and decided to keep the linear structure. That’s mainly because it generally fits the sequence of challenges facing real wolves at this point in their lives (finding a mate, choosing a den, etc.) It also is valuable for usability, as it helps players learn what to do, and what they’re supposed to be doing at any given time, which we feel is even more important with the larger maps and more naturalistic (and less obvious) animal behaviors.
We’re making each quest more complex and (hopefully) interesting, which should make them last longer. As part of that, we do want to make pup-raising more holistic and less a linear series of quests. As part of that, we definitely want to ensure that players can (and have to) spend substantial time hunting and maintaining their territory while raising pups.
How big are the new maps compared to the old ones? Is it about twice the size?
The old maps are 2km x 2km. The new maps are 7km by 7km. So that’s a bit more than three times larger on each axis, but thanks to the magic of geometry, that means they’re actually 12 times bigger (4 sq km vs 49 sq km). See more in the Mapmaking blog post.
Will there be turn-based social arenas to communicate with other wolves, or will we have to draw from the emote panel in real time?
The turn-based social arena is a thing of the past. We’ll give you a peek at the new Courtship gameplay in a future blog post.
Will we be able to manually rotate our wolves in the customization menu? Will we be able to alter the pitch of wolf howls in the customization menu? Will be be able to layer individual scars/markings over each other. so, say i want a scar on my wolf's nose and left foreleg; i'd select those two separately and they’d both work. The same thing with the ears and the gimpy leg.
The new Wolf Customizer will let you rotate your wolf. We’ve experimented with pitch adjustments, but it quickly sounds like the scary-guy-on-a-phone in a horror movie or a misguided pop singer, so we’re not still evaluating that option. You’ll be able to select multiple body customizations (such as a torn ear and the radio collar). Multiple scars and markings are much trickier due to the way the textures and fur shader work, so we don’t have plans to support that.
Will our current wolves still be listed? Like their current exp/the wolf itself/etc? What about achievements?
You’ll be able to import your 2.7 wolf into WQ3 (but not import it back to 2.7). We are designing something new to replace XP, but you will be rewarded if you’ve earned a lot of XP in 2.7. We plan to archive all 2.7 achievements and have a new, larger set of achievements for WQ3.
Will the prey HITBOX be fixed? Will there be a way to quickly bite prey then dash away unharmed?
We’ve designed and built all-new attack mechanics. We're using colliders to determine who gets hit by an attack, and we make that determination at the moment the damage is dealt (instead of at the moment the animation starts, as we did in 2.7). We aim to do this with similar precision to other RPGs and action games. So if you get out of the way of those hooves in time, you'll be safe.
Will the wolf pups that you raise in the new update stick around for the next year's litter? The end-game message explains that the pups will stay with their parents to help raise a litter before leaving at age 2 to raise their own pups. This would be awesome to have in the game.
The timeframe of the current game is pretty short, compared to the full life of a wolf: From age 2-1/2, when you leave their family pack to find a mate, to age 3-1/4, when you’ve taken your pups to their first summer rendezvous site. Tower Fall will extend this another six months, so then the game will cover a full 1-1/2 years of a wolf’s life. Still pretty short. We have ideas for another episode that would carry the story through the winter and spring. At that point, the pups would be yearlings, staying with the family for another year. And that’s where we’d be at the point where we can recycle the core gameplay for ongoing years. I guess that would be Episode 5. Hopefully we’ll get there!
Since mates now have personalities, will pups develop personalities too?
Definitely. You’ll want to keep one eye on your bold pup.
Will there be new pup coat colors?
Will there be mechanics for illness in game?
Yes, very simple mechanics—mostly, but not entirely, for pups.
Will the Eagle, Cougar, Fox, and Moose also receive new models?
We are creating new models for all the animals in the original game. Eventually we want to replace the animals added in 2.7.x, but as those are newer and better models, that’s lower priority. However, they will all benefit from the improved AI programming so they will be more interesting.
Will we be able to see other predators hunting?
We definitely want to make that happen, and the new AI will allow it….but it’ll take time to make it look good. We want to get WQ3 released before we all turn gray, so that may not be in the initial release.
Will the game have a higher quality sound design? I would love to hear a more realistic sound-scape for wolf quest, in particular, the footsteps so that they change with the terrain.
Will cattle ranch still be in WQ3? If it is, will it be its own level like before or are you going to make it walkable? IE: You travel to the ranch by walking there, rather than teleporting.
We would like to make the cattle ranch contiguous with the game map, for naturalism and also so it’s available in multiplayer. But it turns out that there are no livestock ranches just north of the Slough Creek area of Yellowstone — it’s pretty rugged mountains and national forest up there. So even if we collapsed the distance between the SC map and the park border, there aren’t any ranches to visit. But we do have some ideas but nothing to announce yet.
Will you be redoing the splash screen or will that be a surprise?
We will be redoing it, and it’ll be a surprise (even to us, as we haven’t created it yet).
I have always loved the music in WQ. In one of your blog posts/videos, you were working with Tim Buzza on a new WolfQuest soundtrack. Will this soundtrack completely replace the current one in WolfQuest, or will you be re-using some themes from the old soundtrack (main menu, map exploration themes, etc)? If you will be re-using some tracks, how do you plan to integrate the old tracks in with the new without them sounding out-of-place?
Tim is composing new tracks for WQ3 to fit stylistically into the existing soundtrack. He’s also going to revisit the original tracks and create new layers for them, so they’ll have more variety in our new layer-based soundtrack system.
Will there be people on wolfquest 3? If so, can the wolves touch them? Like bite, scare or kill?
North American wolves avoid humans (there’s some speculation that this is a fairly new behavior — an evolutionary adaptation to the mass slaughter of wolves in the 19th and 20th centuries). Also, Yellowstone “manages” any wolf that gets too acclimated to park visitors. (There have been no wolf attacks in the park since reintroduction). So we’ve kept humans out of WolfQuest to reflect these facts. But since humans *do* venture into wolf territories in Yellowstone, WQ3 and Tower Fall will include more signs of humans.
Are there any plans to make any changes to Lost River and maybe add a few new things?
We do plan to expand and improve the Lost River map, but the Yellowstone maps are higher priority, so LR improvements may come after initial release of WQ3.
What has been your favorite or most rewarding part of developing WQ 3 so far?
Speaking on behalf of our team, there are all sorts of rewarding aspects, but for myself, the big ongoing thing is that we’ve somehow lucked into a self-sustaining game. People buy the game, which funds more game development, which (hopefully) improves the game, which leads to more game sales, and so on. I’d mainly worked on grant-funded projects for nearly 20 years, and with those you get a fixed budget and try (usually unsuccessfully) to stay within that budget, because there’s no more money coming — ever — no matter how the game turns out. So it’s a revelation with WolfQuest, to have an ongoing source of funding for game development. For two and a half years now, I’ve been pinching myself to make sure it’s real.