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Internal Demo 2

It's done. What's next?

It's done. What's next?

Previously on „Witchfire Development Diaries”…

Right now, some of us work on new features needed for “Demo 2” (e.g. we only had one melee and one spell ability in “Demo 1”), some work on bringing what we already have to final quality, and some work on the AI. It’s clear that “Demo 2” will take us a bit longer than just September, but I hope we can keep the velocity achieved in August.

That “a bit longer” turned out to be two months. But the difference between Internal Demo 1 and Internal Demo 2 is huge.

Here’s exactly what Internal Demo 2 is:

  • Four weapons to choose from (three can be equipped): three types of Hand Cannons, one type of Bolt Action Rifle. We have more (like a shotgun) but not polished enough to put them in the demo.
  • Two Light Spells to choose from, four Heavy Spells to choose from (the Light/Heavy nomenclature will most likely be changed in the future, but that’s what we use for the development).
  • Six enemy types, including a boss.
  • Three arenas (combat zones, basically).
  • New HUD, new Attack Warning system, new Damage Indicator system. This cannot be stressed enough, but the HUD is not the final version and many elements can totally change, including the way your health and stamina are displayed, the font we use, etc. Maybe we will keep the minimap, maybe we won’t. You get the idea.

The demo offered the following gameplay:

You arrive at the shore, and trigger the witch’s alarm system. The witch totem reacts to your presence, and brings the idling, dead Guardians of the Witch back to life:

Then you have to fight waves of enemies, each and all spawned with the witchfire burning inside the totem. After exhausting the totem’s power, the final protection spell is unlocked in a desperate attempt to kill you. Things happen, you win and you can move onto the next area.

This one is different, almost like a puzzle to solve, with musketeers hiding in various spots, accompanied by the knights.

Using your wits and bullets, you cross this “valley of death” and enter the cursed village.

The village is riddled with the witch’s corruption, and the lord of the area is a boss we call Bishop. It’s not the time for lore, so let’s just say it’s one ugly mofo that throws hordes of unholy creatures at you in order to protect the witch.

Depending on your skill and tools used, you can kill the boss here or, severely wounded, it will escape to its lair for the final encounter. This way or another, the demo stops now, and area 4 and 5 are not made yet.

The average completion time for us – remember we know this game inside out – was around 15 minutes. I think that’s perfect, assuming the total will get to around 25 minutes. That should mean hours for anyone attempting this level for the first time and without extra tools of destruction, and 6-10 minutes for speed runs when you become the god of war.

The demo suggests the linear structure of a level, but that’s not going to be exactly the case in the final game. We’re not ready to reveal the details of that yet.

What went right:

  • Almost everything. We’re quite satisfied with the results, including the framerate without any serious optimization work.

  • While making the demo 2, we have came up with a pretty solid idea behind the (unique) structure of the entire game. This is huge for us. We also know the top level function of all of your gear (weapons, spells, talismans, etc.) and stats.

What went wrong:

Nothing except it’s still a game done by nine guys and we can’t bend the time. Anyway, so while nothing was a disaster, let’s talk about a few example areas that need improving/finalizing:

  • The Warning System. We have a system in the game that warns you that an enemy is about to attack you, if that enemy is not visible (e.g. then they are behind you). Not many games have anything remotely similar, so this is a brand new territory. A lot of time has been spent on the system and various iterations (e.g. 2D vs 3D), and we’re still not quite there yet. But that’s the price of innovation, and we’re close enough to say with 90% of certainty that the investment will be worth it. (Update: I just played the latest iteration, now it’s 99%).

    Yes, you will be able to turn it all off for that sweet extra knife in the back.

  • We had more than one Light or Heavy spell …and we kind of forgot to play with them, as the default ones were fun and universal enough to deal with all the the demo’s threats. We need to take a good look at the spells and their role and balance.

  • Gameplay is fun and challenging and different to anything else out there (you won’t see that in the pew-pew demo video, but we can feel it), but there’s still some work to be done with balancing, AI and encounter design.

Wait, what pew-pew video? This one:

I cannot promise regular blog entries, but I’ll do my best to spotlight some development adventures – the evolution of the Warning System, the AI, the UI design, why balancing and tuning take so much time, etc. – in the near future.

For the team, the next step is to focus on production. The final “demo” (in quotes, as it’s more of a vertical slice than a demo) is going to be Internal Demo 3 but it’s rather going to be a byproduct of the production rather than a goal.

First quarter of the next year, we will invite a couple of friends to play the Demo 3. We could do it with Demo 2 as originally planned, to probe the game’s difficulty (for us, the game is of kind of a normal difficulty but that usually translates to “it’s fucking too hard” for anyone who didn’t spend the last few years playing it daily) but the temptation to improve it and add a couple of features first, not to mention making it a full level, is too strong.

Question of the Week

Personally, I did play Darkwatch but that was, well, 14 years ago, and I can’t say I remember any of it. That’s not to say it was bad or anything, I literally just don’t remember it. Maybe something still lingers in the subconscious but the game was not an ispiration for Witchfire. Remember we made a fantasy/horror shooter (Painkiller) a year before Darkwatch…

But questions like that only prove how under-represented the sub-genre is. I think we have sci-fi and modern warfware covered. Now it’s time for demons, witches and undead knights to come back to life again.

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