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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Once I've done the first-pass of spawns, we go and spend many hours inside text files again writing dialogue. Spawns have two kinds of dialogue: what they say BEFORE they see you and what they say AFTER they see you. This is for every spawn of every villain group. It is always fun writing for villain groups, since they speak so different from group to group.

Obviously Circle of Thorns does not say, "Yo, man, you want some of this??? Let's go, punk! I'll waste you five ways till Sunday!" And Freakshow doesn't yell, "Oh I say, chap, that was bad form. You'll soon regret this transgression, I assure you!" So I get to play a bit. I try to do a few things when writing dialogue, make it generic enough that anyone can appreciate it, add some hints of story to it so players get an idea of what the back-story of the zone is about, and - finally - I hope - add a bit of humour, given the appropriateness of the situation.

I usually start off strong and by the end of the day, I'm creatively bankrupt. I tend to have to walk away, do something mindless (like placing spawns, moving actors around, etc.) and come back to it. As the assets from Mission Writing comes online, we work to figure out where the mission doors will go, how they will be tagged, and where contacts need to be placed. Plus all the other stuff like plaques, tourism badges, etc. This all comes about on an 'as finished' basis because Mission Writing is far trickier. If one piece is missing, the mission doesn't work right. For zones, if one piece is missing, we can usually work around it. Once the majority of my work is done, the zone is hooked up, and most of the incidentals are placed, I can switch my focus to helping with mission writing.

This means things like populating maps, hooking them up, adding special doors in the zone, and building any special or unique spawns the writer needs for his mission. There's a lot of back-and-forth going on here because nothing is ever really done. (I think I said that before.) Things are coming 'online' at different times and so I'll have to drop one thing to implement another then come back to it. Having great communication skills and a helpful attitude goes a long way here.

Around this point, we've done some internal playtests, raked each other over the coals with our feedback, and now we're fixing stuff internally, mostly the big glaring problems. I'm still doing the core zone work, assisting with mission writing, and fixing any bugs that are cropping up (and there are always bugs cropping up). At the same time, I'm trying to squeeze in fixes for older bugs or stuff that has come to my attention. By this time, we're coming up on deadline and things get a bit tight as we try and fit everything in before we have to submit our candidate to the publisher. At this point, we're already thinking about the next Issue.

If I have had time (and approval) I have documented the easter eggs I want to put in the game and now is the time to put them in. Rarely is there time, but I MAKE time. Once everything is pretty much nailed down, documentation has to be updated. What we wanted when we started has invariably changed a great deal since the final implementation pass and so the publisher needs updated info so that they can appropriately test our content. If not, we're getting wacky bugs that were 'so three weeks ago'.

Once all is done, we submit for approval. After that, time is spent on bug fixing and tweaks based on feedback from the Test Server.

And then we do the whole thing over again!

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