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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Master0: How long does it normally take you to create one zone?

War Witch: Zones in general take several weeks, from start to finish. If you have already read my exceptionally long reply to the previous question, you'll see why. So while Art is building any new art objects or cobbling library pieces together, I'm usually building the spawns and working with the mission writer to make sure everything is in place. It's kind of a piggy-back system, so Art will finish one neighborhood to a point where I can go in and 'populate' it (i.e. lay down spawns, beacons, mission door beacons, etc.) and we continue along until it's complete.

However, a zone like the Shadow Shard took a lot longer to build because it had issues like:

"Well what if I fall off?"
"What if I don't have flight?"
"How can we make it look 'otherworldly'?"

City zones are simpler because they follow a simple structure of lines - roads, buildings, parks, etc. When you deviate from that, you're building new assets from scratch and it's not quite so easy to pop it together like Duplo blocks.

When we decided to redo Faultline, we assumed it would be quick and easy because we weren't starting from scratch, we were just 'moving a few things around'. Yeah, we were wrong. We eliminated 1/3 of the zone and added access to the 'hazard' area. We raised it up and flattened it out. Yes, many elements stayed the same, but it was so much work to incorporate the new geometry that it was far from simple because every single neighborhood had a fundamental layout change to it. Live and learn!

Rikti War Zone was easier because the changes were more subtle. Well, except for a few places where I chose massive changes (i.e. the path leading to the Rikti ship and the Vanguard Base), but even the Base was a piece that I could do "underneath" the world so it didn't affect the zone 'topside' too much (except for the compound), even that was added on to the existing zone by adding a cubby hole.

Master0: Also will you ever introduce weather to create a more realistic environment?

War Witch: Ah weather. Yes, that's been brought up a few times.

So the short answer is 'no'. At the end of the day, we try to implement a system that has a lot of impact in terms of content and playability. Weather, for all intents and purposes, is an aesthetic that doesn't (ultimately) give the player anything to 'do'. (Well, except maybe slip and slide and not see well when it's snowing or hailing. I'm not knocking slipping and sliding. I love our chalet!!)

So this is my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary.

So while it gives a type of 'realism' to a game, sometimes 'realism' just plain sucks. I'm not naming names, but I was playing a game a few years back and I was in this zone and it started to rain. The sky grew dark and it really started to come down. When I first experienced this, I was like, "Wow! That's so cool! It's raining!" So I sat there and enjoyed the rain. Then it went away, the sun came out, and I went about my business. A few hours later, it rained again. I was trying to find a particular NPC and all I could see was dark skies and there was little visibility. Since I had no overhead map, I wandered around aimlessly, unable to find a thing.

So then it felt real, all right. I basically had to stop playing and wait for it to end, the visibility was so low. Yes, it was immersive. Yes, it was realistic. I didn't like it at all. After that, any time it would rain, I'd go rummage through the fridge or surf the web because I knew that it was pretty much a waste of my time to try and find anything until I could 'see' again. Even weather modifiers would drive me nuts (like, it's raining - therefore your accuracy goes down; earthquake - you're stuck! etc.) Unless I build a game called Weather Pattern, it's not really going to be high on my list to fight for in terms of implementation.

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