AF 10 Victory XP: An Introduction to EP Game Development

I will be posting this story on RoyalRoadl.com, or at least an edited version of it after I’ve rewritten the story into this new idea of mine.

Dull, neon shades of yellow and gold filled an infinite expanse in every direction, their geometries demarcated by solid, black lines. Hexagons, triangles, squares, pixels seemingly devoid of context and texture broke and reformed into fractals of themselves as rendering data remained stagnant and waiting for commands. And yet, the ground felt solid and real as he walked. The constant kaleidoscope failed to disorient him as it turned and twirled and refracted. Vic was more than used to environment, it was his creation to begin with.

[DevLog Alpha 408c, AF 10] I’ve just completed contextual procedural generation, which basically means the world creates itself as within a 30 mile range of the player character. Beyond that, explored areas are compressed into discrete data points and unpack upon return. To streamline rendering, however, I’ve decided to keep player and economic hubs unpacked, as well as the most used wilderness routes. This should keep the player from seeing undefined space and break immersion.

[Cont.] On this test, I’ll be checking how well it works and behaves from varied points of entry and spawning. I’ve set the difficulty scale for solo and will begin this play-through from a dungeon. Difficulty scale is set at solo, usual character generation parameters, and I’ll just let the RNG tell me what I get.

Summoning a development console to his field of vision, he browsed through the shortcuts for the character generator and activated it. In moments, his real world body transposed from his VR pod was wrapped and changed in a wave of rippling pixels.

Nameless, he was now an Elf of above average intelligence and cunning, hands lithe and possessed of supernatural acumen. He knew he could build the tiniest ship in the tiniest bottle with only a toothpick for materials, but that was an exaggeration. He felt it nimble and graceful as he clenched and flexed, but no more so than the most talented.

He turned to his console, punched in a set of commands, and watched the simple text-window transform into a roll of yellowed parchment. Skimming through the information, he learned that he was a Thief of undefined origin. At Level 1, he had no XP to his name. His weapons: a bow and 20 arrows, as well as a short sword strapped to his lower back. Food, rope, and some basic equipment; he had nearly everything he would need on a simple dungeoncrawl. Satisfied, he banished the parchment and replaced it with a mini-map, a flat texture of blue gridded with lighter hues.

[Subcomm] Zen Zero, tag along. I’m going to subcomm my command lines from now on so manage my IDE while I run the simulation. Have a debugger online as well, monitor my progress an take careful note of any inconsistencies or anomalies. You have the devlog from last time right?

[Zen Zero] Yeah, I do. You want me to check off features from the request board too?

[Subcomm] Yeah, do that. Wouldn’t want to disappoint my fans.

From the empty aether, a red little deamon visible only to himself popped into existence. Tiny screens appeared about the daemon, orbitting him, streaming information in an array of numbers and wireframe charts. The daemon hovered just a little above Vic’s shoulder, giving him the go sign.

[Subcomm] Generate the dungeon and starting hex.

[Zen Zero] Copy that.

The kaleidoscope congealed, warped and gained mass as pixels became wireframes, then solid shapes of basic colors, and finally finally the fractals collapsed into themselves and took on texture. The world came to be and it was green. The lush thicket drowned in the ambient noise of woodland critters. It smelled of rain just past and leaves mixing with soil. Vic stood at a a shallow outcropping that led down a steep cliff and into a ravine that once ran with raging waters. Moss crumbled in his fingers as he passed his hands over boulders and aged bark. He turned his back on the edge and faced a bare, craggy wall of earth. He waited, as the empty feature crumpled and dug itself into a new dungeon.

A gaping maw of rock and ferns now waited. Within, sharp-toothed accretions sparkled. The tell-tale drip of condensation echoed deep down the abyssal throat, hinting at some underground lake. Vic followed the invitation.

Taking steps beyond the stalagmites, careful not to rip to rip any of his clothes on the edges, he takes special notice of the ease of his descent. Elven senses still useful at the edge the cave, he found shaped stones lodged onto the caked earth like steps down a flight of stairs. Lighting a torch where the light could no longer reach, he finds more clues of inhabitation. The signs often contradicted each other, but they were there nonetheless.

Some footprints, polished stone paths, bones of small animals, he followed the signs deeper and deeper into the belly of the mountain. At one niche, just out of sight behind some tall crags hunched over like old men, he found a fast for torches. He turned to his mini-map and reviewed the trail he’d left so far. Rather straightforward, he thought. He left symbols where he found signs, and took some notes to explain the symbols. He’d study them later.

Fire, it’s soft glow throbbed in the distance. Dousing his torch in a puddle, he approached slowly and softly on the balls of his feet. Finding an outcrop of limestone not far from the fire, he left his pack behind it and unslung his bow. An arrow nocked, he searched on for first blood.

Stalking from shadow to shadow, behind pillars of glittering minerals, he found the the underground pool he’d heard at the cave’s mouth. Sitting at its edge was a guard post. Really, it was just a bare camp stocked with basic essentials. Vic assumed it was for a makeshift guard for what could be some lair, but on closer inspection, he assumed otherwise.

The camp was set at the feet of a symbol, a large, rough-hewn statue of what appeared to be a god. It was too dark to recognize; it’s carving hard to look at. What icon or representation it might have been, the idea itself was too alien for Vic to make heads and tails of. Checking his character’s memories, he found nothing that came close to it. The skin and bone added to the piece didn’t help either. Licking his lips, his procedural culture generation engine colored him impressed.

Noise, heaving voices on approach. Vic hurried back into the safety of the dark and set his arrow point on the general direction of the newcomers. And there they were, unaware of him, the Lizardfolk.

Three lackeys carried game in the wake of a hunt leader come back to camp. They were lightly armed, but looked strong and weathered. Vic wasn’t much for asking questions and taking a closer look at this world’s fluff. He came here to test his newest update and combat was part and parcel of any dungeoncrawl. He waited for the forked-tongue hunting party to come closer to the light of the fire. By the time they tasted the scent he left in the air of the camp, it was too late.

Two arrows, in quick succession, found perch in skulls. Nocking another, Vic let this one loose on the hunt leader’s throat.

Fuck,” the shaft whizzed past and broke against the oversized idol behind. Emboldened by the sudden death of their comrades, they dropped their haunches and brought weapons to bear. They slithered for cover, inching their way closer. One flanked left, the hunt leader right. A javelin shot out from behind a mossy outcrop, but went wide and clattered among the stones behind Vic.

The last lackey burst out from behind cover, a sword glinting in his hands. A shaft stuck out of his heart at the peak of his leap, dropping with a heavy thud. Catching the hunt leader’s scales glint against the campfire, Vic let loose and heard the creature cry out in pain.

He approached the dying thing, writhing on the wet floor with an arrow sticking out of its kidney. He drew his short sword and ended it there, blood swirling into the puddles.

First room done. Ten more to go.

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