New ship models

So I’m working on the ships again. We decided to completely restart from scratch. First off we didn’t like the designs of the previous ship prototypes we made. They didn’t feel authentic enough. So we went back to the drawing board to itterate some more. But one other reason was that gameplay flow could be improved upon quite a bit as well. One big decision that came out of this is that we will be placing all the broadside cannons on the main deck of each ship. We tried placing cannons on a lower deck of a bigger ship, but this created a pretty claustrophobic feeling. Our game is viewed from a 3rd person perspective which adds a certain level of dificulty to designing ships and quite a few limitations. But there are still more than enough options. For example we decided to design each layer of a ship with a specific height in mind. We want every ceiling to be roughly the same height, a comfortable height thats give enough breathing space when a player is under it. We don’t want to give the feeling that the camera is constantly bumping against the ceiling. One other thing is that we made a few prototypes but never really kept general size in mind. Meaning that each ship was designed without actually comparing it with other ships, which created an unbalanced size difference that didn’t look good. So from now on we are designing each ship next to our other ships. We made a test environment to build our ships right next to the each other. This way we can constantly compare and walk around on them to see how everything feels and looks. This will greatly help make every ship unique and awesome but also give them great gameplay flow.

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To start off we decided to design our first two ships alongside each other. The big ship is a war galleon which hosts 6 guns on each broadside and 2 stern chasing cannons in the back. 14 guns in total. The 2 most front guns on the ship are slightly rotated to the front giving them a slightly wider range.

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The second ship is a gunboat. One of the smallest vessels in the game except for an even smaller ship that will have only 1 gun per side and no back cannons. The gunboat however is equiped with 2 guns on each side and 1 stern chaser. Unlike the Galleon which is heavily armored, the gunboat is built for speed and has much less hit points and fire power but has superior turning and sailing speed.

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Both ships are still very much work in progress and only still in blockout phase but their layout and designs are already vastly better than any other prototype we ship we had up to now. Now that the design phase is almost complete I will start decorating the gunboat first.

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Some other ship types we have planned:

  • Schooner (long hull, 4+ cannons/ broadside, no stern or front chasers, very fast)
  • Frigate (flat hull, 6+ cannons/broadside, no stern or front chasers, heavy armor)
  • Treasure Galleon (square design, 6+ cannons/side, front + back chasers, heavy armor)
  • Sloop (medium size, fast, 3+ guns per side, stern chasers)
  • Junk ship (oriental design, special weapon, 3+ broadsides, …)
  • Ship of the line (very large, cannon towers on each end, heavy armor, ..)

We will have a total of around 10 ship and probably more will follow as we update the game beyond release. There will also be special editions of every ship that you will be able to get from random boss ship spawns or rare vendors.

More updates on their progress will follow…

Game mechanics 101

So I’ve been working on some cool core gameplay features..

Skulls and Timber is a game where combat and the controlling of outposts is core.
There is also exploring and adventure, but this comes second to the combat and the rivalry between crews. We want players to spend as much time fighting each other as possible and more importantly we want to give players reasons to fight each other and to sail around rather than to stay on an island for much too long. Which is why it’s important to make the combat and the things that generally come with that interesting and exciting.

To keep people busy fighting over who controls what and to give them enough reasons to chase and destroy one another we have implemented some mechanics that should add some heat to the fire.

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First we have our crew system which is based on the classic MMO guild systems. You create a crew by providing a name and designing your flag. Once created, you invite your friends and voila, you’re good to go. Your crew is represented above your name in the game world and on the scoreboard. Everything you control and capture is a crew effort and will generate gold income for every member of your crew. Your crew will also be ranked on the scoreboard depending on the amount of outposts it controls. The more outposts your crew controls the higher your crew will rank on the server. Possible rewards for the highest ranking crews are something we are looking into. Ideas are special abilities like a curse that turns the most powerful crew into skeletons and makes them able to breath underwater for example… Yeah it’s still a vague concept but it will be something along those lines.

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Anyway, how does the gold income work… Well, in several different ways actually. First there’s the control flags. Every island will have at least 1 flag, the bigger the island, the more control flags it will have. Capturing a flag is simple, just stand next to it and make sure that your crew is the only crew around it. If there are members of other crews around it you will have to kill them first before you can start capturing the control flag. Once the opposition is destroyed, the capture progress will begin, if the flag is currently controlled by another crew the progress bar will go down first to neutralize the flag after which it will then fill up again until it is captured by your crew. Once the control flag is captured, your crew’s flag will be dsiplayed on it and every member of your crew will receive gold income every 5 minutes for as long as the flag stays under the control of your crew. Every flag you control increases the amount of gold you get per 5 minutes.

cargo

Then there is cargo retrieving. Every island will be littered with cargo crates, barrels, bags and chests that you will be able to bring aboard your ship and deliver to an outpost. An outpost is a town which is always neutral and can’t be controlled by any crew. In these outposts you will find a warehouse, which is where you can deliver the cargo. Upon delivery a gold reward will be split among the online members of your crew. Members that are offline when a reward is dispensed will not receive any gold.

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When placing cargo on your ship it becomes part of the ship, so it will seamlessly move anywhere your ship goes. This makes it very easy to transport large amounts of cargo with your ship. Remember that you can also access every single part of your ship, including the lowest deck. So the bigger your ship the more cargo you will be able to transport. You can of course also place the cargo on your upper deck (anywhere you want really) but this will disrupt flow on your deck and people will bump into it so it’s advised to keep your main deck clear of cargo so that everyone can easily run around to load cannons and fix damage in a battle situation.

Outposts are not the only place you can deliver cargo. You can also deliver it at forts which are controlled by your crew. This can be land forts which are heavily fortified structures that are very hard to penetrate from the outside but are completely stationary and mostly not at ideal spots for quick farming of cargo. However they will be located in places where there are no outposts around and are therefor handy to scavange the surrounding islands for cargo.

Then there are floating forts which are the most ideal. Floating forts are big wooden floating structures which can also be captured and controlled. Once controlled cargo can also be delivered inside of them. Floating forts can also be towed to new positions by a ship. However when a ship is in towing mode it will move significantly slower. Floating forts are also much weaker than land forts and their walls can be pretty easily destroyed by enemy cannon fire.

There are two ways to retreive cargo from an enemy ship. The first method is to destroy the ship. Which will then allow the attackers to swim down to the wreck and steal the cargo. The second way is to board a ship and kill everyone on board, when you die on a ship you will have to wait 5 minutes to respawn on it. Which will give the attackers enough time to steal your cargo. They can then choose to sink your ship or leave it be depending on the mood they are in.

These are the main gameplay mechanics that are almost finished. Other gameplay elements will be more focused toward the exploring end of the game, which includes treasure hunting, dungeon / temples with traps and resource gathering on islands. Later on we will probably also add simple but strong A.I. such as zombies, skeletons, wild animals and sea creatures.

Oh, and here is the melee blocking system in action. When blocking, you will deflect incoming attacks that come from 80 degrees to the left and right of your character. Melee combat is fast paced and arcady, not like Mount & Blade for example. But it’s very snappy and responsive which does make it easy to learn and fun.

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Yarrr… that be all.