City of Heroes: Ask a Dev
City of Heroes "Ask a Dev": Melissa Bianco Answers Your Questions

Dana Massey | 5 Oct 2007 17:55
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The 'blurb' is anything from a paragraph to a page that outlines the basic idea for the zone, plus anything new or signature we want to do. The document is then reviewed by key players and adjustments are made (usually something like time, tech, or scheduling has created a hiccup and the design needs to be revised).

Now the document is seriously fleshed out. This would be the place where we decide what level range it will be, what type of zone, which zones it connects to, what kind of Villains will flesh it out, what the back story is, and how it is going to be laid out. This is needs to be clear enough that Art, Programming, and the rest of Design knows exactly what's going on so they're not signing up for something they can't do. Once the documentation is updated it is presented 'officially' to the team for a 'Kick Off'. Each point is gone over and - once again - team-members provide feedback. If their suggestions is good, it's noted and the design changes. These meetings usually go for a while because everyone has to think about how this new zone is going to affect them.

With respect to the Rikti War Zone for Issue 10, I had to make a hard decision. Do I nitpick on the zone and we lose out on a new tray set (i.e. new Rikti mission set) or do I give up some of my wish list so that - in the greater picture - players get more? So I had to give up going insane on the zone and simply making it more functional with some nice signature pieces rather than a complete overhaul that Faultline received. The massive crevices were removed, parts of the zone were made more unique, I got the Vanguard Base, and enough flavour that I felt satisfied that it was enough of an upgrade to call it a 'makeover'. It wasn't as much as I wanted, but the mission set was worth it. It just seemed silly to see Rikti running around in Offices, especially since this is an INVASION.

Once everyone has signed off on the design of the new zone, we break it down into individual pieces that people need to work on. New gameplay? Code needs to write it. New Villain Group? Design needs to design it, then Art and Powers needs to build it. New geometry in the zone? Art needs to build them. So we break it all down and start scheduling. Everyone on the team has a schedule that is broken down into blocks, which is then weaved with other members' schedules so that people are never waiting on someone else. Ultimately, because Design is the last cog in the wheel, things get a bit tight because if ever there's slippage, we're the ones who have to make up the time somewhere.

After that, we send people out into the world with their new schedules and let them...create!

I immediately begin building the 'core' of the zone which is essentially a glorified way of playing with text files to hook it up. From there I spend oodles of time building spawns, testing them, and building more. (Because it never really ends.) You have your more 'core' spawns that are good for 'filling up a zone' but then, if there's time, it's always nice to spend that extra time creating the 'cool' ones. Those take longer because they're very specific. Since they're specific, you can't blanket a map with them. You have to use them where they fit. We learned this with purse snatchings that were on every single street corner. How can that many women have their purses stolen simultaneously? It just seemed like overkill, which is why now you see guys actually getting the purse.

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