Author Topic: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event  (Read 16052 times)

Arcana

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Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« on: December 04, 2012, 02:21:26 AM »
I mentioned on the official forums that I would start a thread on Titan talking about The Immortal game, the genesis of both the story and the in-game event held on November 28.  I've decided to do this as a sort of stream of consciousness thing rather than an organized thing.  Mostly, its because I don't want to take the time to write this all up and release it in organized parts, and also because I have no idea if people are actually interested at all or not.  So I'll play it by ear and see how it goes.

For those that haven't read the story, I've reposted it here: http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/topic,6445.0.html

Just to get the thread warmed up, I thought I would repost something I originally posted on the official forums.  This is my game client on event-day:



What you're seeing are custom window menus.  You make a file in data\customwindow called custom.window with the menu structure, similar to POPMENU.  Unlike Popmenus those could not be hidden, but also unlike popmenus you could edit them while the game was running and they would update in real time.

This was the basic script outline we were trying to follow to run that event, and what actually happened.

0.  We wanted to buff the players to full incarnate status, and had set up macros to a) level players in the zone to 50, b) set their VIP flag, and c) grant all incarnate slots and powers.  Unfortunately, the VIP flag was not setting properly during the event, so that did not work as expected.

1.  (Optional) Mothership raid.  If there were just enough players, we'd run an abbreviated mothership raid.  Abbreviated meaning we'd bring down the shield ourselves so no pylon phase.  However, it turned out we had way too many to comfortably run a MSR, so we skipped this phase.

2.  When the ship was defeated, we'd "destroy" the mothership.  Story-wise, we would be simulating a reactor overload destroying the ship and collapsing the Rikti homeworld generators within it.  The way we did this was we a) killed the shield so it was gone, b) set off an explosion on the ship, and c) turned the geometry of the ship invisible, so it seemed to have been destroyed.

The big boom was generated by a special object that generated the blast seen in the "nuclear blast" cut scene from the Magisterium trial.  Interestingly, the blast effect is one of the few visual effects that affects the entire zone.  Even if you are nowhere near the blast and can't even see the detonating object, the blast wave is still visible to everyone in the zone.  I tested that myself before the event and it seemed suitably impressive.

3.  In the next phase we'd spawn NPCs for the players to fight.  For lore-continuity reasons those NPCs were Shivans (which were already noted to be used by the Battalion) and Kheldians (known to be enslaved to the Battalion cf: Twilight's Son).  The way this was done was that I flew above the players while invisible, and spawned them directly over the players, moving around constantly to try to keep spawns landing all around all of the players.  With those custom window menus, I could fly around and with the push of a button spawn groups of Shivans and Kheldians.

One problem: because the zone was so overloaded, I couldn't see everything I spawned.  I could see the Shivans but not the Kheldians.  So after a while I stopped trying to spawn Kheldians and started spawning just Shivans.  As it turns out they were spawning, I just couldn't see them clearly.  Oops.

4.  The fight was always intended to eventually pit the players against really tough Battalion enemies.  The Battalion were piloted by volunteer players: four of them (Codewalker, Snow Globe, Starsman, and TonyV).  I was supposed to pilot a fifth - the slightly more powerful Battalion Herald, but a zone crash caused a problem with him and the lag made it more difficult for me to pilot the Herald and the spawning character simultaneously, so the Herald was scrapped as not essential.

I spent a lot of time researching what I could do with buffing players and attempting to create reasonably balanced enemies.  They were deliberately not equipped with ultra-high damage attacks: the goal was not to assassinate the players.  They *were* designed to be pretty tough: we ultimately went with Tankers (for the health and res caps) buffed with controller pets (which were not used much), ranged blaster attacks (including nukes, but unfortunately not the non-crashing type in I24 which was not possible for technical reasons), some buffs and debuffs, and +2 level shift.  The level shift was also accidentally canceled when the zone crashed initially, but what really made them tough was they possessed both the healing and regeneration auras of green Hamidon mitos.  They also had a pair of purple triangle powers.  So high mez protection, high res, capped health, ultra high regen.  But the players could (eventually) kill them, so I believe they were designed fairly well given the limitations we operated under.

5.  As per the story, when the appropriate time passed, the Battalion died (permanently) and Hamidon and the Avatar appeared.  The players didn't need to be prompted: they dove into that fight.

6.  This would be the end of the formal event, although as those that stayed know we, and some of  the devs who attended, began goofing off and spawning all sorts of things for the players to fight once picture taking was completed.


It doesn't seem like a lot, but it took a month of planning between myself and the players that helped.  And contrary to what some people guessed, we did not work with the devs on this one.  There was some discussion about doing that, but I made the call that since we had gained admin rights on the Beta server through "less than offiicial channels" it was better if we did not involve them, although I believe they would have been happy to help and some later said that to me directly.  I honestly didn't want to get them into trouble, even though they were by then very-ex-Paragon Studios employees.


I'm open to any questions anyone has about this event, or for that matter the story that wraps the event.  Tomorrow, I'll probably talk a little about the technical hurdles we ran into: what we discovered the game could do, and sometimes surprisingly could not do.  For example, it is, or was, technically impossible to teleport a critter from one map or zone to another.  Reason: players existed in a database outside the maps and could be moved from map to map.  Critters were spawned within the map on that mapserver: they had no existence outside that map.

I could blow up the mothership, but I couldn't move the Avatar of the Hamidon from Atlas Park to the Rikti War Zone.  Why did I want to move critters?  Because one possibility the game did not allow us to do was to create an architect mission with custom critters representing Battalion enemies, and then teleport them from that map to the RWZ.

We were looking at every possible angle to push the envelope.

Glass Goblin

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2012, 04:20:11 AM »
Although I wasn't able to attend, I am very interested in what it took to pull this off. Thank you for the write-ups!

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 03:06:43 PM »
I was there, and I was amazed and pleased and astounded at what was happening.  Thank you for creating/coordinating/extemporizing an appropriately epic ending for our City.  And I mean "epic" in the proper form, not "Yo, that was E-P-I-C, man!"  ^_^  You took what was there in the lore, and ran a grandly-scaled finale that had its' fair share of tragedy and sacrifice - that, and the ending of a world, and Epic is the only word that truly fits.

Again, let me say 'Thank You".  Your Immortal Game is the proper send-off that City of Heroes deserved, and that NC$oft refused to even consider.

laufeyjarson

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2012, 05:23:04 PM »
I was stuck at work, so could only keep an eye on what people were saying on the forums, but even from that dim second-hand view, it's clear you did an excellent job.

It was a very cool thing to do.  Thank you for doing it, and for trying to give us all the super-heroic ending that NCSoft forgot about.

The information about how you did it is interesting.  Thank you for posting it.

Arachnion

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2012, 06:32:57 PM »
Thank you, Arcana.

If it's possible, could we get a bigger (read: legible), version of that custom windows screenshot?

I'm intrigued by it, seeing as how I love developer tools for games, debug menus, etc.

Just a small request  :)
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Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2012, 07:17:08 PM »
Again, let me say 'Thank You".  Your Immortal Game is the proper send-off that City of Heroes deserved, and that NC$oft refused to even consider.

You're welcome.  And I have to say, while I'm somewhat upset at the shutdown, particularly the details of the shutdown (which I'm sure someone will spill eventually), I was even more upset when I realized NCsoft had no intention whatsoever of allowing the devs to script us an ending to the game, essentially out of spite.  It would have cost them nothing: the devs by law were being paid for two months past the shutdown announcement.  I'm particularly upset over the fact that in their shutdown announcement they implied they would do something, and in their current goodbye message they implied they *did* something.  What final battle did they host?

Anyway, yesterday I talked about what we tried to do on that day, but that was the culmination of about a month of figuring out what we could do.  Again: this will be a bit of a ramble because I'm writing this up on the fly, before some of the details get squishy in my memory.  We spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what we could do, and we were figuring that out right up to the morning of Wednesday.

My guess is that everyone who has ever gotten admin access to a City of Heroes server, devs included, has figured out how to do three things immediately and then abused the privilege.  One: everyone learns how to jump to any zone.  Two: everyone learns how to make themselves look like any entity in the game.  And of course Three: everyone learns how to spawn critters.

I will admit that I spent a lot of time just spawning things, just for fun, but also to brainstorm.  I spawned Hamidon and the Avatar of the Hamidon and had them fight.  Primal Hamidon wins that fight, by the way - go Primal.  I spawned squadrons of Kronos and Warwalkers and AVs and every kind of critter.  I had them fight each other, fight me, fight anyone else that might accidentally zone into the zone.

That zone, incidentally, was a place called "daveland."  I don't know the complete backstory to why there's a zone called Daveland although it seems obvious at least that someone decided they needed a place to test things.  You can't get to Daveland except with admin teleport (mapmove) capability, so it was a safe place to experiment.

I spent a lot of time deciding how that fight would go.  Would the players have help?  Should I spawn praetorian warwalkers on the players' side.  What should I spawn on the enemy side?  In fact, if not enough players showed up, my backup plan was to have the IDF backup the players against the Battalion, but as it turned out that contingency was completely mooted by the fact that a hundred fifty people showed up for the event.

I really, really, *really* wanted to make custom Battalion enemies.  There's just no way to do it.  You can manipulate players, but not really critters.  You cannot customize the look of a critter - not on a real server (its possible on a development shard I believe).  The only place you can create customized critters is in the AE, and we actually considered holding the event on an AE map for that reason, but ultimately decided against that idea.  You cannot even grant new powers to critters.  The fundamental problem is that a critter is just a critter: its a single thing.  Its an instance of a thing hardcoded into the game.  Players, on the other hand, are dynamic things.  Players level, they slot, they train, they respec.  The game deals with players as database records with database entries for all the aspects of the player.  You can add powers to players.  You can remove powers from players.  You can change the location of a player from this map to that map.  Its all done with the player database.  There is no such thing for critters.  Critters are immutable cardboard cutouts.  Not that I didn't try.  I tried adding powers to critters, changing critters into other critters - a critter is just a critter.  So if we were going to use NPCs, they would have to be the garden variety kind.

I was just not satisfied with that.  We needed to deliver something more, so we decided to incorporate volunteer pilots driving customized Battalion player characters.  We could do all kinds of things to those.  We could customize the look of them, and we had the theoretical ability to customize the powers they had.  We just needed to figure out the right way to do it.

There's a game command called "omnipotent."  Omnipotent is an interesting command: it grants a player character every power that is valid for their archetype.  In other words, all of the primary powers of their archetype, all of the secondary powers of their archetype, all pool powers, all epic powers appropriate to their archetype, and all of the temporary powers.  Omnipotent characters are a lot of fun to play around with.  They also tend to break.  They sometimes crash the maps they are on, they sometimes crash themselves out of the game, and they sometimes get hosed to the point they can't be logged in anymore.  Unfortunately.  The problem seems to be hard coded limits on certain things, one of them being the number of powers you can have.  Its apparently somewhere around a thousand, and omnipotent characters come very close to or pass that limit.  Curiously, I spent a lot of time on an omnipotent character without it breaking, but some other people reported they broke immediately for them.  When it finally did break for me I stopped using the command, and certainly had to disqualify it from being used for the event.

Which meant creating Battalion critters by hand, power by power.  I spent a lot of time in Daveland looking at powers.  I thought I had a great combination when I ran into another problem.  On top of buffing a player with the entire encyclopedia being not so good, buffing players with player powers not in their archetype proved problematic.  It seems the game has error checkers for that, and it often concludes a Tanker with Blaster powers (for example) is corrupted.  So if I was going to make custom player characters, I had to make sure the only player powers they had were those in the archetype the character was created for.

Unfortunately, that eliminated another possibility.  I wanted the player characters to be tougher due to testing them being too weak to stand up to players, so I decided they would be Tankers, with tanker health and res caps.  But that eliminated an option I thought would have been fun: an early design of the Battalion Lts had all the Blaster nukes.  Which you may recall were buffed in I24 to not crash.  But for this error checking annoyance, you guys would have been fighting Battalion that were nuking you every few seconds.  That's not as bad as it sounds: due to another issue I'll explain in a bit, those nukes would not have been slotted.  Flashy, and they'd hit hard, but they would not be lethal.  But I bet it would have been a surprise to see a Battalion Lt nuke you, and then Inferno you, and then atomic blast you.

I found a way to cheat, but not in a way that gave me the non-crashing nukes back.  While I could not grant Blaster or Controller powers to a Tanker without risking breaking the character, I could grant any other non-player power.  *Any*.  Which means I could grant the powers in the custom critter powersets for the Architect.  If I wanted to give the Battalion power blast, I didn't give them Blaster power blast, I gave them Architect power blast.

I could also give them any power that any NPC had.  For example, to beef up their mez protection I could give them the purple triangles of an AV.  True story: I accidentally gave them the purple triangles from the green mitos because it also had a lot of resistance, but it also self-immobilized the Battalion.  So I had to remove that one at the last minute.  And I gave them the healing strength of the green mitos, which is substantial especially on a tanker.  I also made sure to pick powers that would grant significant debuff resistance so they were not melted instantly by strong debuffing players.

One thing I gave them but they didn't use because they lost was level shifts.  I could level shift the Battalion by simply granting temporary powers that offered level shift.  However, while I did that when buffing the Battalion, when the zone crashed and everyone had to log back in I forgot those powers did not persist between logouts.

The bottom line is that for player characters, I could grant any player power that was valid for their archetype, and any other power period.  Which provided a lot of opportunities for customization.  But I did notice something that relates to something else I knew from a while back, which created another interesting glitch.  If you grant all these powers to a level 50, nothing unusual happens.  But if you grant them to a lower level character, a curious thing (if you don't understand how the powers system works) happens.  Suppose you're level 23 and I grant you a ton of these powers.  And suppose I also then bump you to level 50.  Now you go and train.  What happens?  Well at level 24 you're supposed to get a new power.  But what actually happens is nothing: the trainer says he or she is ready to train you to 24, you select train to new power at the trainer, there's a pause, and then you're back to the trainer and now he or she says they are ready to train you to 25.  What happened?

What happened is this: the game doesn't award powers and slots by a schedule.  It actually checks to see if you have less than what you are supposed to have, and if you have less than what you are supposed to have it gives you the opportunity to get more.  So at 23 you are supposed to have I think thirteen powers.  At 24 you're supposed to have fourteen.  Normally, when you train to 24 the game goes "oh, you're allowed 14, but you only have 13.  I'll send you to the power selection screen."  But when I mucked with them, they now have something like 32 non-temp powers.  So when they train to 24, the game says "oh, you're allowed 14 but you have, err, 32.  Well I guess you're done" and never takes you to the screen.

In other words, if I roll a level 1, bump him to 50, and then grant a bunch of custom powers, when that character trains up to 50 they will never get the chance to take any of their primary or secondary powers.  They already have too many.  So, to work around this we had to make sure to bump characters first, train them, and *then* grant them all their special powers.

Incidentally, a variation of this type of processing for slots is what the devs ran into when they tried to grant us more slots.  There's a complex dance of "what should the character have now" validation code that gets unraveled when you change what we're supposed to have.  That's why weird things happened like all your purple enhancements vanished with those extra slots.  The game simply doesn't work the way people would ever guess it worked, ever.  Frankly, in many respects its pretty Rube Goldbergian.

In any case, that meant since the character was trained to 50 first, they could not slot the new powers I granted.  So that's why nukes would have been not very strong.  With more thought, we could have designed these characters in just the right way so the right powers were slotted: train to 26, grant powers, retrain, slot, grant more powers, retrain, etc.  Again: the limit was time.  I finalized the design of the Battalion and wrote the scripts to buff them about thirty minutes before 5:00 Pacific when we started to trickle into the zone and set things up.  We went right to the wire.


In any case, that's the basics of how we figured out how to create the custom Battalion Lts.  Oh, I forgot to mention.  I hope someone noticed that one of the attacks I granted to the Battalion was the ranged attack from the Crystal Titan.  It doesn't actually do that much damage, but its really cool looking so I added it.  Although in the heat of combat its possible the Battalion pilots didn't think to use it much.  I'm kicking myself now that I check and realize I did not record the testing I did where SnowGlobe was dueling the Crystal Titan, each firing that prismatic blast power at the other.

And for the record, this is how my character became Prometheus: benpc Model_Prometheus_NoRing
And on an alternate account, I became RulaCole (aka RulaWade): benpc Rularuu_RulaWade

And what power is RulaCole using to make it look like he's doing something important?  Its the teleport power that Dominatrix uses during the Magisterium trial to teleport away.  Its purple and swirly and looks like something interesting is about to happen, and curiously it has a fairly fast recharge for a power designed to perform a special visual effect mostly.

Those model names, by the way, work in demorecords, which is how I created the illustrated panels that are at the start of each part of the story.  The game gives developers two ways to become something else.  They can "benpc" which will change their *appearance* into the appearance of a non-combat model.  Or they can "becritter" which will not only change their appearance but also grant them the powers of that NPC.  "becritter PraetorianWarworksEndGame_Warworks_Goliath_War_Walker" is all kinds of fun.  I would also not be surprised to find that macro on the power tray of a certain Zity of Heroes community manager.


And that's the basics of creating the Battalion and some other housekeeping for the NPCs.  Next time, I'll probably talk a little about how the story and the event evolved in lock step.  I tried to make things an integrated whole, which was interesting because I was not working alone: I had other players offering (very good) suggestions which I then had to determine if they made sense for the story, or if the story could be altered to make sense for them, or if they were super cool but we just couldn't accommodate them. 

Like, for example, if a giant Rikti mothership swooped in and hovered over the players.

Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2012, 07:31:54 PM »
Thank you, Arcana.

If it's possible, could we get a bigger (read: legible), version of that custom windows screenshot?

I'm intrigued by it, seeing as how I love developer tools for games, debug menus, etc.

Just a small request  :)

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8058/8229786063_bfc20afdcb_h.jpg

But I should point out these are my custom commands - I made those menus.  In effect you are not looking at a specific dev menu all devs had, you're looking at the equivalent of my POPMENU configuration which would be particular to me.

From left to right:

Spawn: this was my menu to spawn certain critters.  You can spawn them one at a time, or in bunches.  ShivanEB5 spawns five Shivan Elite Bosses.  I was using ShivanEB5 and ShivanMinion10 during the event to spawn the Shivan army overhead.

RWZ: menus specific to the event other than spawning.  For example I have macros preconfigured to make the geometry of the mothership become visible and invisible on command.  "Boom51" was my preconfigured button to set off the detonation power to create the Magi nuke explosion.

BeNPC: the four NPCs I had preconfigured buttons to turn a character into.  Those are the three main actors of the story and RulaCole who had a presence in the zone during the event.

Tools: things I thought I might use, but didn't, like changing the time of day.  I did use the KeyesVisualBlast button, which creates the visual appearance of the Obliteration patch and explosion, but doesn't actually affect players.  For giggles.  During the after event someone else was spawning the one that actually affects the players, also for giggles, but that wasn't me.

NPCTarget: some utility commands: I could target any critter and make them invincible, untargetable, or I could kill it.

Global: Some global powers to help with some testing and such.  Note: there's so many of them there's a scroll bar.

RadialBuff: these commands buffed everyone in the zone.  With these I could bump everyone to 50 if they were not already, grant them all the incarnate slots and powers, and I could also grant them all the Warburg nukes.

Spawns: menu for spawning and testing things.  Didn't use this too much during the event or afterward: mostly just for me.

The partially obscured one is ZonePort, where I had buttons to teleport me to a variety of zones.

PlayerTarget: this would let me buff or affect a single player character.  I could rez them, bump them to 50, grant incarnates, teleport them to my location, grant tailor options, level shift them, set them to be untargetable or invincible, etc.

I also had some command scripts which I could execute by doing a /exec scriptfile.txt rather than type a whole bunch of commands into the chat, when a menu button would be unwieldy.

Arachnion

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2012, 07:37:22 PM »
Your posts here are very informative and enlightening.

Regretfully, I could not attend the event, but I've read the story.

Thank you, again, for all you've done.

 ;D
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Starsman

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2012, 08:40:49 PM »
One thing I gave them but they didn't use because they lost was level shifts.  I could level shift the Battalion by simply granting temporary powers that offered level shift.  However, while I did that when buffing the Battalion, when the zone crashed and everyone had to log back in I forgot those powers did not persist between logouts.

I think none of the powers suvived the logout. I didnt have purple triangles or anything when I relogged. Actually, I never saw the pets powers you said I should have. You were extremely bussy so instead of asking I just asumed you meant the Incarnate Lore pets.

Quote
Suppose you're level 23 and I grant you a ton of these powers.  And suppose I also then bump you to level 50.  Now you go and train.  What happens?  Well at level 24 you're supposed to get a new power.  But what actually happens is nothing: the trainer says he or she is ready to train you to 24, you select train to new power at the trainer, there's a pause, and then you're back to the trainer and now he or she says they are ready to train you to 25.  What happened?

I had this happen to me. You first told me you were able to level me up offline but I had to train before you buffed me. I don't know if you did, but once I logged back in ready to level up, the contact keept saying I was ready to level up but it would not even open the power screen... I quickly figured somethign was messed up and just changed my active build then you summoned me into the RWZ.

Quote
Oh, I forgot to mention.  I hope someone noticed that one of the attacks I granted to the Battalion was the ranged attack from the Crystal Titan.  It doesn't actually do that much damage, but its really cool looking so I added it.  Although in the heat of combat its possible the Battalion pilots didn't think to use it much.  I'm kicking myself now that I check and realize I did not record the testing I did where SnowGlobe was dueling the Crystal Titan, each firing that prismatic blast power at the other.

I didnt even realize i had it.. if i did. As noted above, I was not able to find the pet powers you mentioned at startup either. You know... I ponder if somehow they got linked to my main build... I was running my secondary build...

Quote
which was interesting because I was not working alone: I had other players offering (very good) suggestions which I then had to determine if they made sense for the story, or if the story could be altered to make sense for them, or if they were super cool but we just couldn't accommodate them. 

Still think the yellow/purple look was a bit carnival like :P (but got to admit it looked better than I expected under RWZ light conditions.)
For the sake of the community: please stop the cultural "research" in your attempt to put blame on the game's cancelation.

It's sickening to see the community sink that low. It's worse to see the community does not get it.

I'm signing off and taking a break, blindly hope things change.

Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2012, 08:54:52 PM »
Still think the yellow/purple look was a bit carnival like :P (but got to admit it looked better than I expected under RWZ light conditions.)

At the last minute I decided your suggested alternate color scheme looked too much like the Rikti, and I was worried that might be a problem if we had issues wiping them out of the zone.

Glass Goblin

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2012, 08:57:11 PM »
I have to say, while I'm somewhat upset at the shutdown, particularly the details of the shutdown (which I'm sure someone will spill eventually), I was even more upset when I realized NCsoft had no intention whatsoever of allowing the devs to script us an ending to the game, essentially out of spite.

Just when I thought I was coming to terms with my anger...

Starsman

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2012, 09:12:41 PM »
Just when I thought I was coming to terms with my anger...

Yea, 3 months would have likely been enough for the devs to piece together a true all-out battalion assault that would have been a proper closure to the game. Would have been hasted and rushed, but better than what most players got (despite the best intentions only about 130-140 players got to enjoy Arcanaville's events. The last day, all servers were yellow with virtue red.

Lots of players never had any resolution to the game. All due to NCSoft's.. I don't know what. I mean, what did they fear? That the devs would steal the server source code? /sigh.
For the sake of the community: please stop the cultural "research" in your attempt to put blame on the game's cancelation.

It's sickening to see the community sink that low. It's worse to see the community does not get it.

I'm signing off and taking a break, blindly hope things change.

Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2012, 10:13:09 PM »
Yea, 3 months would have likely been enough for the devs to piece together a true all-out battalion assault that would have been a proper closure to the game. Would have been hasted and rushed, but better than what most players got (despite the best intentions only about 130-140 players got to enjoy Arcanaville's events. The last day, all servers were yellow with virtue red.

Lots of players never had any resolution to the game. All due to NCSoft's.. I don't know what. I mean, what did they fear? That the devs would steal the server source code? /sigh.

Well, this much is true.  You can only shut down a studio like NCsoft did Paragon Studios once.  Having done it once, no one who isn't an idiot working at any other studio will ever get caught like PS did ever again.  I have to believe everything NC didn't want to walk out of the door of Paragon on the Friday of the announcement walked out the door the following Monday at every other NCsoft studio.

Megajoule

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2012, 11:07:04 PM »
One tiny nitpick of an event that was excellent in all other respects:
I noticed that the Shivans you spawned were the "old" type, the blue-green blobs with skeletons inside.  Shouldn't these have been the "new" Shivans, with the glowing veins in hot colors?
I didn't get the difference myself, and complained about the inconsistency, until I ran the "Drowning in Blood" trial and learned that the teal jellies have, for lack of a better term, become "part human" as a result of absorbing DNA, memories, etc from the corpses they've assimilated; they are now partly of this Earth, unlike the new arrivals that bombed Galaxy City and are apparently fresh from whatever birthing matrix, enslaved "mother" or whatever the Battalion use.

Arachnion

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2012, 11:10:05 PM »
One tiny nitpick of an event that was excellent in all other respects:
I noticed that the Shivans you spawned were the "old" type, the blue-green blobs with skeletons inside.  Shouldn't these have been the "new" Shivans, with the glowing veins in hot colors?
I didn't get the difference myself, and complained about the inconsistency, until I ran the "Drowning in Blood" trial and learned that the teal jellies have, for lack of a better term, become "part human" as a result of absorbing DNA, memories, etc from the corpses they've assimilated; they are now partly of this Earth, unlike the new arrivals that bombed Galaxy City and are apparently fresh from whatever birthing matrix, enslaved "mother" or whatever the Battalion use.

Hey, for all we know about the Battalion, they might *only* use that kind of Shivan.

*shrug*
I'm all dressed up with nowhere to go
Walkin' with a dead man over my shoulder

Waiting for an invitation to arrive
Goin' to a party where no one's still alive

Glass Goblin

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2012, 11:12:52 PM »
I have to believe everything NC didn't want to walk out of the door of Paragon on the Friday of the announcement walked out the door the following Monday at every other NCsoft studio.

Absolutely. It may be standard corporate protocol to escort as many programmers out of the building as possible when you do a surprise mass shutdown, but you can do it without being dicks.

Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2012, 11:59:16 PM »
One tiny nitpick of an event that was excellent in all other respects:
I noticed that the Shivans you spawned were the "old" type, the blue-green blobs with skeletons inside.  Shouldn't these have been the "new" Shivans, with the glowing veins in hot colors?
I didn't get the difference myself, and complained about the inconsistency, until I ran the "Drowning in Blood" trial and learned that the teal jellies have, for lack of a better term, become "part human" as a result of absorbing DNA, memories, etc from the corpses they've assimilated; they are now partly of this Earth, unlike the new arrivals that bombed Galaxy City and are apparently fresh from whatever birthing matrix, enslaved "mother" or whatever the Battalion use.

You are correct.  However, at least as far as I could see, those "pure" Shivans were locked to a lower level and I could not spawn them at level 50.

Megajoule

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2012, 12:56:29 AM »
Ahhhh.  As someone who had to deal with that in AE, you have my full sympathies.

Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2012, 01:29:03 AM »
Behind the scenes fun fact #1



For some reason, the model of Tyrant in-game is actually rather short.  Silos stands over a foot taller.  What you're actually seeing above is a very carefully positioned shot with the camera in just the right angle and distance to get both the shot I wanted but also the character proportions I wanted.  This is the view from dead on of the exact same scene:



My original thought was an over the shoulder shot between them looking out towards the skyline, but obviously that wasn't going to work.  Cole looks like Samurai Marge's side kick when seen side by side like that.  So I decided to do an along-the-railing shot instead.

Forced perspective: its not just for Hobbits.

Arcana

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Re: Behind the scenes of The Immortal Game: story and event
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2012, 07:51:50 PM »
I've been asked some questions about the "cosmology" of The Immortal Game, and as its related to the backstory of the story I decided to share the answers to the questions here, for those interested.  I actually put a significant amount of thought into the backstory elements, even though much of it doesn't really directly appear in the story, just to make sure everything made sense in the end.

So question one: what's actually going to happen to Earth?

Answer: RulaCole has taken the barrier that the Battalion created to trap incarnate potential and altered it so that instead of being a slowly closing noose, its more like an implosion.  The barrier will rapidly contract (rapidly as in days instead of months) and when it reaches some minimum size it will trigger an event inside the bubble it encloses causing the Incarnate potential energy within it to "detonate."  This release of energy will momentarily destroy Primal Earth, but instantly recreate it in a dimensional bubble in Dreamspace.  This event was intended to coincide with server shutdown, which took place about two days after the Battle of the Coming Storm.

This incarnate energy release will not shift either the Battalion or the Will of the Earth into this new Incarnate Earth.  Instead, a reflection of Primal Earth will be created within the RulaCole-altered Battalion barrier that now contains them.  Its basically going to be Primal Earth without Incarnate potential, without a Well of the Furies, and without humanity.

What happens to Silos is a bit trickier.  He's tied to the Well of the Furies as all of humanity is, so he's not going to be left behind on the Reflection Earth aka Hamidon Earth.  But because he's no longer atuned to the current time a part of him exists outside the Battalion bubble.  It was RulaCole that had to allow him to cross it to reach the far future, because the Battalion bubble would have ordinarily prevented that travel.  In the same way that the Rikti portal would have caused problems by being a kind of "anchor" that held Primal Earth back, Silos is now anchored to a point outside the Battalion bubble.  As the Incarnate Earth is formed, Silos will get yanked out of it by his atunement to a part of space-time outside the bubble.  This would ordinarily simply destroy Silos.  But in an unspoken deal with RulaCole, RulaCole compensated for this by ensuring that the new Incarnate Bubble he created from the Battalion one would split in two as Silos was pulled away from the primary bubble.  Thus: Incarnate Earth splits in two: everyone else goes to Incarnate Earth, and Silos alone goes to Nemesis Earth.

In the end, we have Incarnate Earth living in a bubble within Dreamspace.  Silos is on a separate Earth also in Dreamspace.  And the Battalion and Hamidon are on another Earth, this one technically in the normal cosmos but sealed off from the rest of it by the Battalion aka RulaCole barrier.

Shattering dimensions is something which Rularuu is uniquely qualified to understand.


Question two: what is the Barrier, and what does it really block?

Answer: the barrier was inspired by the early Silver Surfer stories, where Galactus imprisons the Surfer on Earth with a barrier that prevents him from leaving.  Its not a physical barrier, its something directly tuned to his energy, and specifically affects only him.

I conceptualized a similar barrier, but for Incarnate potential.  Anything with incarnate potential would be blocked by the Battalion barrier, so that no amount of Incarnate potential could escape them.  This barrier was a spacial barrier, existing far out in space and slowly shrinking with Earth at the approximate center.  It was also a temporal barrier, centered on the moment of the Coming Storm and existing into the far future and far past, but also shrinking as the timeline approached the Coming Storm.  That one is a more difficult thing to conceptualize I know.  And it was a dimensional barrier, blocking travel to other (physical) dimensions.


Question three: in the Lore of the Immortal Game, who or what are the Battalion?

Answer: the Battalion are a race of beings that long ago achieved their full incarnate potential, then decided that was not enough.  They then sought out other Wells to conquer and consume - which is a cosmic metaphor for being sort of destiny vampires.  They steal the future potential of other beings to increase their own maximum potential.  Those other beings die, or are forever stunted in their ability to develop into greater beings, while the Battalion continue to gain in power. 

Its important to note that the Battalion don't steal *power*.  They don't siphon power from other beings to make themselves more powerful.  They steal *potential* and increase their own: they become more powerful as a side effect of constantly increasing the maximum potential of their species.  Had humanity lost the Battalion War, they might have continued on for quite a while as the Battalion moved on.  But whereas humanity was once on the rise, it would now be on the decline.  No more super powers.  Eventually no more powers.  Eventually even the height of natural potential would decline.  It would be sort of evolution in reverse.  Each year would see the best of humanity be a little bit less.  Eventually, I believe, we'd die out completely.  Not with a bang, but with a whimper.  A failed cosmic experiment.

That's also why the Battalion has yet to be defeated.  They don't kill individuals.  They cripple races and civilizations.  To stop them, you need two things that have never existed before.  You need a race of beings with the power to challenge them, and so many are cut down while they are still evolving to their full incarnate potential.  And you need a race of beings with powerful individuals willing to sacrifice themselves for their species' destiny, a rather abstract thing that doesn't directly affect them in the here and now.

The Defenders of Primal Earth did not just defend humanity in the sense of defending every living person on Earth.  They acted to defend all of humanity for all time, to protect its destiny so that all future generations could continue to aspire to greater things.  The immense power required and the will to use it to protect the whole over the individual is rare.  Primal Earth had it because it had faced so many threats before, the unity required in the end came naturally.  And it was fortunate to have guardians like Prometheus and fairly unique individuals like the Dream Doctor and Mender Silos be a part of it.


Question four: what is the Well of the Furies really?

Answer: I took a cue from Tim Sweeney's (Black Scorpion) perspective and added it to my own thoughts on the matter to come up with this.  All life evolves.  Biological evolution is undirected, random, and designed to react to the environment.  But in the City of Heroes universe, when life reaches sentience a new force begins to be felt.  Biological evolution continues, but sentient evolution follows a different path.  Sentient life aspires.  It seeks to transcend its limits.  It does this by creating potential for itself: the potential to be better than it is now.  And as it creates that potential, "normal" evolution slowly marches that life towards that potential.  In effect, sentience begins to tug at evolution, carving a path of least resistance for evolution to follow.  That evolution eventually turns to things cosmic.  Life begins to run into the basic fundamental power of the cosmos: the source of magic, the source of scientific forces of power, the source of natural intrinsic power.  The potential of the species reaches a critical threshold, like matter forming a star.  When a proto-star becomes massive enough, its own gravity triggers nuclear fusion and the star becomes a self-sustaining power source.  When species' potential reaches a critical strength it crosses the threshold from being a passive actor to being an active one.  It becomes a source of power, and it takes on the combined consciousness of the billions of entities that feed it.  It becomes the personification of the force that the species generates to push its destiny forward.

When a thundercloud builds up a strong negative charge, that negative charge tends to repel other negative charges and attract a positive one.  So down on the ground, the negatively charged cloud creates a patch of positively charged earth where one did not exist before.  As the negative charges try to find their way to the ground from the cloud, the positive charges try to find their way up to the cloud from the ground.  When a stream of positive charges from the ground touch a stream of negative charges from the cloud, you get an electrical connection in the air, and all the charges try to neutralize themselves by racing between the cloud and the ground.  You get lightning.

That is the closest metaphor I have for the Well of the Furies.  Its a source of power, but its actually fairly inert on its own.  However the proximity of very powerful people can create a reaction in it which makes it seem like the Well is conscious and alive.  For all intents and purposes it behaves as such.  But its a trick of consciousness: the Well only reflects others.  At the Battle of the Coming Storm, for the first time the Defenders of Primal Earth were united in their use of Incarnate power, and the Well responded to that by becoming a reflection of that singular purpose.

By the way, what Prometheus was afraid of in allowing Cole to become the Defender of the Well was that Cole was such a focused human he had created a reaction in the Well where the Well made him its Defender in the first place.  That's one mind having a huge impact on the Well.  If Cole was defeated by the Battalion, that very defeat could have stifled the Well to the point where all of the remaining Incarnates would not be able to redirect the Well into continuing the fight against the Battalion.  That was the "all eggs in one basket" problem.  Prometheus wanted to make sure no single person had so much control over the "personality" of the Well, so that no one defeat could demoralize the Well.  And remember, the Well isn't an entity unto itself: demoralizing the Well is a cosmic metaphor for demoralizing humanity itself.


Question five: so is the Well of the Furies the only Well in the Primal Dimension?  Did Praetoria have a Well?

Answer: Wells are the combined potential of a race or species.  When Primal Earth and Praetorian Earth were completely separate, they both had their own Wells.  The moment each became aware of the other, and their fates began to intertwine, the two Wells merged into one Well.

Out in space, its possible other races have their own Wells.  And in fact in my version of them the Battalion are not interdimensional travelers per se: they exist within the Primal dimension and are harvesting the Wells that are created by alien races within our galaxy.  They *could* travel to other dimensions if they wished, and in fact they simply don't care: they are taking the path of least resistance in that regard, attacking Wells they become aware of as they become aware of them.


Question six: what about other dimensions like Pocket D, or the Midnighter Mansion?  Are they cut off of Incarnate Earth?

Answer: All "very large" other dimensions are cut off.  The Shadow Shard is cut off.  The Rikti dimension is cut off.  However, there are a few exceptions.  By literary and cosmic dispensation Pocket D is not cut off.  It can reach into Dreamspace and can thus reach Incarnate Earth.  But it is not a path to invasion or escape: DJ Zero can exempt Pocket D but not other dimensions.  So a human from Incarnate Earth that entered Pocket D and then tried to exit to another dimension would find their way barred by the Incarnate Earth barrier.

Because they were linked by the same Well, Primal Earth and Praetorian Earth are now both parallel dimensions within the Incarnate Earth bubble.  Someone attempting to travel to another dimension from Incarnate Earth could reach Praetoria, but not disconnected dimensions.

I don't have a specific answer for small "pocket" dimension like the Midnighter's Mansion.  I believe pocket dimensions traveled with Incarnate Earth as a general rule.  But I haven't thought through that idea completely.

And time travel is still possible, but only from the moment of the dimensional splitting into the future.  You can't travel earlier into the past because those dimensions have no past before that moment.


Question seven: if only humanity went into the Incarnate Earth, what about cats/dogs/Rikti/Kheldians/etc?

Answer: A little bit of narrativium is required here.  Humanity went into Incarnate Earth.  They didn't go there naked in the middle of a vast parking lot.  Basically all of the reality they were accustomed to went with them.  Cats, dogs, buildings, forests, zoos, all that stuff went with them.  Hamidon Earth gained a copy of the biosphere except all the sentient life.  That was its "reality."  The Battalion was trapped with them because they were explicitly excluded from passing into the Incarnate Earth.  Mender Silos exists on a world very much like Hamidon Earth except with no real biosphere.  It doesn't have the sentient life of Incarnate Earth nor does it have the non-sentient life of Hamidon Earth.

Aliens on Primal Earth went with the Incarnates, including the Rikti.  Cosmic dispensation afforded by RulaCole.

What happened to the other Menders and Ouroboros is something I treat as a mystery for now.  I believe most went to Earth itself to fight the Battalion, and thus were swept into Incarnate Earth.  They are all still "carbon tethered" and thus were attuned to the correct timeline at that moment.  Silos had to break the carbon tether *and* leave the barrier to reach the distant future; he was technical outside the barrier from that moment on, even though he was still apparently standing on Primal Earth at the end of the story.


And that's the background cosmology of The Immortal Game.  If anyone has questions, let me know.  I'm sure I haven't covered everything here, but "everything" would be too long.