Today we announced the Jin, our 12th and final player race in Starmourn.
You can read all about them on the Jin page. I think you’re going to enjoy them!
I thought I’d share the initial concept art sketches that our artist did for the Jin too. In this case I ended up liking #3 on the female one well enough that I used that all bit itself, whereas the male is basically #1 with the pose of #3.
I was stuck on a plane for awhile yesterday, so watched the new Independence Day. It’s the kind of movie I’d probably only choose to watch when I’m a prisoner in a metal tube. I mean, it wasn’t just bad, like the first one – it was terrible. I’m not sure there was a single original idea in the entire movie. I mean, throw me a bone, Roland. Give me something that is at least vaguely new.
Warning: Spoilers below!
Instead we got a rehash of the first movie, except this time, the invading ship is a lot bigger than last time and, they get help from a deus ex mach….sorry, another alien race that has ‘gone fully virtual’ and whose only purpose appeared to be to lure the alien invader queen to it so the humans could kill said queen. Nevermind that this new alien informs us that nobody has ever killed one of these queens. Jeff Goldblum can do it!
Oh wait, no he can’t. Despite detonating a bunch of “cold fusion bombs” on it, it survives, exactly like how the ship in the first movie survived being nuked. Although, why they’d use a cold fusion bomb, I don’t know. The entire point of cold fusion is that it produces a sustained nuclear reaction without exploding, which is literally the thing people trying to solve cold fusion are trying to solve for.
No, the cold fusion bombs don’t kill it, but do kill the ship it’s in. It then turns into a monster pic with this huge queen running about smacking things until Bill Pullman’s (the President from the first one) daughter shoots it a few times with her fighter craft and penetrates the shield that these supposedly mega-powerful “cold fusion” bombs couldn’t.
I should have just continued watching Coming to America, which you can never go wrong with, despite its total lack of science fiction. Their buns have no seeds.
Are you guys watching Westworld on HBO? If not, go do it. Find a way to watch it! It’s fantastic, and one of my favorite things about it is how unbelievably similar to designing and running a MUD or MMO the show is.
For those unfamiliar, the tl;dr is that customers come to this fake world populated by entities indistinguishable (mostly) from real people. They’re some kind of organic-digital combo that exist in this fairly vast area based on a fictionalized and dramatic version of the American Old West. Cowboys, prostitutes, gun fights, treasure hunts, etc.
Many of these NPCs (non-player characters) are the exact equivalent of well-done quest-givers in a MUD or MMO. Of course, they don’t have big exclamation points over their heads (and neither do NPCs in Iron Realms games) but many of them are explicitly designed to involve the customers in storylines.
I don’t want to talk specifics and spoil anything for you, but there’s a moment in the first episode where a customer basically ruins a storyline by just deciding to start killing. It was by no means intentionally funny, but I was almost rolling on the floor. We had this big story-based event in Achaea once based on contact with an alien race. We had some fun diplomacy going, with players and NPCs trying to suss each other out….when, predictably, someone came along and just started killing the aliens.
Anyway, go watch it!
We revealed the Krona player race today – a somewhat strange-looking race of belligerent show-offs.
A little behind-the-scenes fun fact about them: This isn’t what they originally looked like, at all, and we redid them to be more interesting.
Here’s how the player race process typically works, though this process gets broken or things get done in different orders occasionally:
- I come up with a concept for a race, inspired by whatever happens to inspire me at that time.
- I, and with a couple of the races our head builder Laura, then design the the specifics about the race’s personality, culture, and so on. All that info you see on the race pages.
- Now it’s time to get our concept artist involved, who lives in Bergamo, Italy. Completely by coincidence I found him a couple years ago for another project only a few months after I happened to have been in Bergamo for the first (and only) time. Beautiful city! Anyway, I’ll send him instructions for the race including a high-level physical description, anything special about them, what clothes I’d like them to be wearing, any weapons I want them holding, and so on. I’ll often include examples of existing concept art that I might find inspiring. For instance, I might say, “I like the hair on this image, but I like the body armor on this other image, and the stance on this third image.” It’ll usually take me a couple hours to put that together, but it just depends on how quickly I find inspiration.
- The concept artist then comes back to me with 4-6 sketches that are variations on the instructions I sent. I’ll decide which one I like, or combine parts of them (face on this one, weapon from this one, etc), and get back to him.
- He then comes back to me with a more finished line sketch. If changes are needed, I have him make them.
- Once that line sketch is approved, it goes back to the artist for coloring. He finishes that, and sends it to me, we make any final small alterations that need making, and boom, new concept art!
With the Krona though, we got to step 6, and it sat for awhile (finished the Krona months ago originally), but I decided that I was a little unhappy with how all of our player races lean pretty heavily towards human
proportions. Now, there are good reasons for this to be generally the case, with the main one being that most people have a hard time identifying with a being that is too far away from human. It’s ok to have these kinds of creatures in a sci-fi universe, and indeed I’d argue you should have quite a few of them, but very few people get into the idea of playing, say, a Rathtar – basically a huge nasty land squid from Star Wars – as a main character in a roleplaying game. From a practical point of view, there are also things about having players playing creatures that don’t have the same basic ‘parts’ as a human somewhat tough when implementing things like combat.
In any case, it was bugging me a little and it also bugged me how human the original Krona looked. So, I went back to the artist and we came up with with what you see as the final Krona, after going through the above process a second time.
We know the Krona won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I feel like there’s going to be a contingent that’s going to revel in playing these guys, and personally, I find them just weird enough to scratch a little bit of that itch for me.
Hope you enjoy learning about them!
Today, I had a chance to sit down with myself and find out a little more about what I’m working on. I’m both the one asking the questions and giving the answers. I’m a one-man interview machine!
Q: CEO and Creative Director, huh? You think you’re better than me?
A: Uhhh…This is an interview about Starmourn right?
Q: I’m the one asking the questions here, not you.
Q: As you should be. Here’s a question: Are you a complete narcissist? I mean, what kind of dick interviews himself?
A: I’m starting to regret doing this with you already, if that helps.
Q: You should feel honored that I’m taking the time here. Ok, so you love text Muds, I get it. Why make a new one though?
A: A good question. Excelle…
Q: Get to the point please. You’re very wordy.
A: I’ll try to be briefer. So, what you may not know is that…
Q: I need to stop you right there. I definitely already know it, but for the sake of the audience Imma let you finish anyway.
A: Thanks, you’re very generous.
Q: I know.
A: Right… I looked around and took account of our MUDs, and realized we had five (now four) fairly high-fantasy MUDs. I love sci-fi, and we’ve had a lot of requests over the years for a sci-fi MUD, so we decided to make it happen!
Q: Didn’t you have a sci-fi MUD in development previously – Tears of Polaris? Sounds like you really screwed the pooch on that one.
A: Yes, we did, though I had virtually nothing to do with it, personally. None of our senior team did, which was a big mistake, and one we’re not repeating with Starmourn.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Well, I’m personally handling creative direction and a bunch of high-level game and world/lore design, and I brought over Justin Walsh, the long-time producer of Achaea, to produce Starmourn. We also hired an experienced building lead, and together with some great volunteers, we’re kicking some ass.
Q: What’re your favorite sci-fi properties?
A: Star Wars is my favor…
Q: BOOORRRIINNNG. Star Wars is ok, but it’s too mainstream. I, myself, am into 1950s-era sci fi out of Latvia. Go on though, and tell us more about your bourgey tastes.
A: Well, as I was saying, Star Wars is my favorite, but close behind would be the Foundation series by Asimov, Dune, the Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard K. Morgan, the Mass Effect games, the Commonwealth Saga by Peter H. Hamilton, and lots more.
Q: Man, why do you have time to read all those books? Is that why Starmourn isn’t already out? Because you’re lazy and sit around all day reading and stuffing your face with chocolate bonbons?
A: Not exactly, no, though I wouldn’t turn down a nice bonbon if it was offered to me.
Q: Well, your now-confirmed laziness aside, when you DO actually do something useful on Starmourn, what’s your favorite thing to work on?
A: My focus tends to be on building out the world design (vs the actual in-game building) along with working with Justin on high-level game design. So, for instance, I recently put together the requirements for our bodyarmor system along with a medium level of detail around how it should work, then handed that to Justin who produced a technical design based on it, and then one of our coders implemented it. I’d say my favorite thing to do is either work on designs like that or worldbuilding and lore. I’m also the one that created and works on the Starmourn website, though that’s not as much fun for me as game design work.
Q: Besides this interview, which I’m still not sure you feel suitably privileged to be part of, what are you working on today, for instance?
A: So far today I’ve worked on getting this new blog set up, done this interview, and worked with our concept artist on the concept for a new player race – we’re adding a 12th!
Q: Oh, now that’s actually interesting. I thought there was only one player race left to release. What can you tell us about this race, and how can I help you make it suck less?
A: We’re not ready to announce it yet, and it’ll be the last player race we announce, but I can tell you it’s a race that’s culturally pretty focused on death.
Q: Death eh? We talking vampires or what? No, no, don’t tell me. I want it to be a surprise. I’ll shoot you a private email with my ideas, which are probably better than yours by a mile anyway.
A: Yes, I’m sure you’re right. I’m on pins and needles waiting to see what you suggest. Also, no, they’re not vampires.
Q: That’s too bad. Vampires are awesome. What else are you guys working on right now?
A: This is going to sound potentially boring but is actually kind of great – we’re building a generic permissions system that will let us attach sets of permissions to everything from books to areas to achievements to abilities etc etc and will also allow players to do the same with things like their ships, doors, and so on. If you’re familiar with, for instance, setting permissions on your door in Achaea….this is much more versatile and powerful.
Q: You’re right, that does sound boring. Anything less yawn-inducing?
A: Haha, well, like I said, I think it’s something players are really going to appreciate, and it helps us enormously with all sorts of other systems where we might want to gate access to content or functionality behind anything from level requirements to membership in particular orgs to anything else. As for other things, we’re working on the avatar-based (vs ship-based) combat system, and the first class in Starmourn….but I’m not going to tell you anything but that about it right now!
Q: You’re just now working on the first class? What the hell have you guys been doing over there??
A: Well, Starmourn started from scratch code-wise, barring the small library of shared IRE code, so there’s a ton of foundational work that had to be done before we could get to this point. Everything from movement to in-game building to any kind of communication etc etc all had to be built before we could even think about working on combat, and then we had to work on combat before we could start on the first class.
Q: So…give us a hint about the class?
A: Sure. I will give you four letters that you can then speculate wildly on. “Mech.”
Q: Mechs? Yes! Can I be a giant panther mech that transforms into a space yacht on weekends and for parties?
A: If I tell you yes, can this interview be over with?
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