Summer has hit Holland. While I am writing this letter, the beach outside my window is flooded with people enjoying the thirty plus degrees. Around me a large group of very dedicated people is hard at work at finalizing what must be one of the most amazing projects I have ever been part of. When we set out to create The Chronicles of Spellborn many years ago, none of us ever expected that we would actually end up creating a game that will potentially cause quite a revolution within the MMO genre. While my pc is hard at work at creating a new internal build of the game, it seems like the perfect time to share my excitement with you all by giving you a big update on where the whole project stands and what you can expect the coming weeks.
To Beta or not to Beta?
After the initial Beta phase that started November last year and ended in April this year, we had to put the Beta on the back-burner. The invaluable feedback we had received until that point was instrumental in pinpointing some issues that needed to be addressed. We weren't happy with the way some ideas had turned out which prompted the redesign and further detailing of parts of the concept. While none of these issues were breaking the game on a basic level, it didn't seem wise to continue Beta until all wrinkles had been ironed out. Meanwhile the Marketing department has been hard at work in finalizing a partnership that will enable us to roll out the new Beta phase that will slowly evolve into a full blown open beta before release. Announcements regarding this partnership and our exact plans can be expected in the near future!
So what has changed?
Before even one line of game-specific code was written for The Chronicles of Spellborn, the Game Designers had a very clear idea of what kind of game they wanted to create. While the art department was doing initial art test to define the look of the world, all gameplay concepts were finalized for initial implementation. During the last two years in which the game was built and tested in the initial Beta phase, we quickly realized that the gameplay concept as a whole offers a unique game experience that truly takes the MMORPG genre in a new direction. We are especially proud of the bold steps we took to create the combat system
So, what has changed? Well, strangely enough maybe: not much. The ideas we had when we started are all still in there. Some have been slightly altered, and most have actually been expanded upon; The crafting system, for example, has been slightly redesigned to offer exciting crafting possibilities for those that enjoy the more intricate side of crafting; While weapons and armour are still designed to create a unique preferred look, we added a whole layer of sigil slotting that enables players to define a statistic build to specialize their play style; We have designed over 1400 quests that together bring the world and its history alive in a way never before experienced in any MMORPG. The many quest arcs take players to unique locations of the currently known Shards and even take players back into the past before the sundering of the world.
When we started this project we sat down with Epic to discuss what would be their best engine to suit our needs. We ended up licensing their Unreal 2.5 engine because it offered a stable environment next to many graphical features that would allow The Chronicles of Spellborn to compete on a graphical level with the MMOs that are released now and in the future without forcing the player base to upgrade to expensive high end systems. During the game's development we made many changes and additions to the engine to further improve and define the looks of our world; Improved lightning and shadows; Extensive character render systems; A new growth system that allows for realistic flora and a color changing interface that allows for optimal contrast during the different stages of the Deadspell Storm's complex day-night cycles. Seeing this game on screenshots just doesn't do justice to the graphical marvels this game contains.
It is amazing to see how everybody within the art department was able to adapt to the graphical setting of the Spellborn world. This has resulted in a coherent style, which significantly adds to the solid feel of the world. With still a few months to go before release, many of the game's graphics are 'play tested' and further improved if needed. Some of the older creatures are being (or have been already) entirely retextured to reflect the growth in artistry this team has gone through over the last two years. We have some fresh new screens to send out real soon to prove the point.
Are you Kydding?
Being an avid sound and music enthusiast myself, I always keep my ears open for the latest findings of our sound department. We recently integrated Jesper Kyd's original score into the game world, and the results are breathtaking. Jesper created a unique non cliché fantasy score that really transports players to the many locations within our world. Our sound designer and our code team have worked together on a system that allows our sound department to create ambient streams that further bring the world alive. So far over 10 hours of ambience have been recorded to create the immersive soundscape for The Chronicles of Spellborn. Together with countless hours of voice recordings using over 36 actors, I'm more than confident that we will deliver an audio experience that like much of the game, is truly out of this world.
The Silent Force
The last few months we have been busy to gear up for a large scale marketing effort that will be unleashed upon gaming nations world wide. Together with European rock formation Within Temptation we are working on The Chronicles of Spellborn inspired tracks that will support our upcoming Beta activities. One of the songs will be released as a single including a video clip. Keep your eyes fixed on our website for future announcements. There is lots of cool stuff on it's way and I for one can't wait to share it with you all!
Enjoy the summer! The next one you will probably be glued to your pcfor the Oracle!
Erik 'Nann-E' 't Sas