On Monday, September 18th, 2017, Linden Lab announced the launch of their latest Experience Key based game for Second Life users to enjoy. Entitled Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches, it is something of a departure from previous games such as Linden Realms, PaleoQuest and the Horizons adventure. Not only is it grid-wide in nature (the first time Second Life experiences have been used on a grid-wide basis), it will in time also allow parcel holders to host the game on their land if they so wish – possibly attracting traffic to their locations.
I was able to see and try the game ahead of its launch, and thought I’d offer an overview and some feedback, as well as take the opportunity to ask a few questions of Dee and Patch Linden about the game and the reasoning behind it.
Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches is a combination hunt, capture game and first-person shooter. It builds on elements seen in previous games from the Lab, but is far broader in scope. There are two basic aims of the game:
Capture mischievous Glytches as they wander SL and perhaps gain gems from them, and / or an immediate prize of a Glytch – which might be a shoulder / head pet, held pet, or follower (all of which can be traded between users) or even complete avatars.
Collect coloured gems – which can be redeemed for weapons upgrades, and/ or access into the game’s bonus regions and / or prizes
A video outlines the game’s back story. I’m not going to say much on this other than, “alas, poor Magellan, I knew him, Horatio. A fellow of infinite drinking ability and most assured desire for food…” – or something (with apologies to W. Shakespeare, Esq).
There are several aspects to playing the game, which are covered in another video; but for those who prefer to read things, I’ve outlined them below.
Hartyshire is the heart of the game. Reached via the Portal Park, it is the place where people can learn more through the aforementioned videos, and where players obtain their Glytch Starter Kit, can upgrade their weapons, claim prizes or – gem and weapons upgrades allowing – access the special bonus regions. There is also a range of free gifts for visitors, whether or not they join the game. There are three important areas in Hartyshire:
The Gem Apothecary is where players can:
Obtain a game Starter Kit: with everything needed to start playing: a note card of instructions, the game HUD (see below) and a jar – your first Glytch catching weapon. The kit is delivered as a folder to your Inventory.
Upgrade their Glytch catching weapon: use gems given by Glytches to upgrade from jar through swatter and net to gun. Each weapon improves the chances of catching Glytches. Replacement weapons can also be obtained here.
Claim Gem Lottery Prizes: contains prizes from the Lab’s previous games, split into three groups – Common, Rare and Epic, corresponding to the three gem colours – Green, Pink and Blue. Prizes in each category can be obtained by redeeming the required gems of each colour.
The Gift Shop is where visitors to Hartyshire can collect game-related free gifts and hatch their SL14B gift egg to gain their first Glytch.
The Bonus Region teleport portals – of which, more below.
To play the game, players must wear the game HUD. Removing this at any time stops all game-play, saving the player’s current status (e.g. gems taken, current weapon upgrade, etc). Players can re-join the game at any time simply by wearing the HUD once more; there is no need to return to Hartyshire in order to do so. The Glytch catching weapon can also be worn, although the game will also function without it.
With the HUD worn, players click the Next Loc(ation) button to teleport to a location where they can hunt Glytches. On arrival, the Map can be opened to see where the Glytches are. A maximum of five Glytches can be caught per location, after which players should use Next Loc to move to another location to continue the hunt.
At the moment, Glytches can only be found on assorted Linden / LDPW regions and parcels. In the future, residents will be able to apply for their land to be added to the game – of which more anon.
Glytches can be hunted in either first- or third-person view, but must be captured in first-person (Mouselook) view by clicking on them with the left mouse button. Note the range at which a Glytch can be caught varies with the weapon being used, and not all captures will be successful.
A failure to catch a Glytch can result in it casting a spell on the hunter. They’ll also use spells if startled or to protect one another. Spells vary from silly dances to anvils dropping on heads, but they will allow the Glytch to escape by de-rezzing (another will rez nearby).
A successful capture will result in a cage appearing around the Glytch and a message displayed on the game HUD. The Glytch may also offer you a reward. This might be gems or it might be a Glytch prize – or both.
Note that when a glitch prize is given, players must switch to third-person view (ESC) and Accept the Glytch via the notification displayed in the top right of the viewer window. Failure to do so may result in the prize being lost. If the notification collapses before it is clicked on, it can be re-opened via the Notifications tray.
To help keep the game fresh, new Glytches will be added over time A wiki-based Glytchopedia will also be published in due course, listing all the Glytches.
Update, November 19th: some users on TPVs may find the gun used gun in Quest 3 of Horizons Experience doesn’t work with their viewer. The Lab is aware of the issues, and is investigating options for a fix. For the moment, those affected will need to swap to the official viewer, but only for Quest 3. Full details can be found in llTakeControl issue and the Horizons Experience.
On Tuesday, November 15th, Linden Lab announced a new Mainland community initiative called Horizons. First hinted at during the Meet the Lindens talks at SL13B in June 2016, it became the subject of widespread speculation when two testing environments related to it appeared on the Second Life world map in October, with Patch Linden further stirring up interest by posting some teaser images to his Profile feed.
Picking up on the SL13B hints, I contacted the Lab with the idea of covering Horizons. Patch and his team were very receptive to the idea, and as result, I had the opportunity to tour the regions ahead of the opening, and learn more about Horizons from Patch Linden and Naughty Mole of the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).
In short, Horizons is a new themed Mainland residential community built around a central, 6-region gaming environment called Horizons Experience. As I’ve covered the community aspects at length in New Horizons in Second Life, this article focuses solely on the new six-region gaming experience.
Horizons Experience essentially builds on the Lab’s work with PaleoQuest, the dinosaur themed adventure which opened in July 2015 (see Experiencing PaleoQuest, the Lab’s latest adventure in Second Life). As with PaleoQuest, players are tasked with completing a number of quests and multiple tasks in order to come to the rescue of Magellan Linden’s assistant, Tyrah, who is in deadly peril at the paws of the nefarious Doctor Talpa. Note that the game is on Adult rated regions, but this is not reflective of the games content.
“PaleoQuest was our most recent gaming project that we had put out at scale,” Patch said as we discussed the game ahead of our tour. “We took from that a lot of the game mechanics which people really enjoyed and liked, and we’re including them and a lot of new elements within the Horizons Experience.
“For example, one of the big new features is the ability to participate either as a player in the game or as an ‘explorer’ – someone who is not active in the game, but who can travel through the regions and observe as a bystander. With our other gaming experiences, you’re either in the regions with the intent to play, or you wouldn’t go. As Horizons is part of the Mainland, we felt it was important that people be able to drop in without disrupting the game-play.”
“We’re using different coloured indicator above people’s heads in the game regions to indicate whether they are a player or an explorer,” Naughty Mole added. “If they have a blue ball floating above them, they are an explorer. If they have an orange ball, they are a player. That way, the people in the game know who is who. Obviously, you can’t complete any of the quests as an explorer, nor can you receive any prizes; but you can walk or fly around and watch players (who can’t fly). Oh, and you can still be killed by any of the quest hazards!”
Given that Horizons Experience is sitting in the middle of a residential area where flying vehicles are permitted, I wondered if there was a risk of aircraft interfering with the game. “Flying vehicles can pass over the gaming regions,” Naughty Mole answered, “but they must keep above a certain height. If they are too low, they will get a warning, and if they don’t increase their height, they will be auto-returned and those on board will be transferred to a resurrection hub inside the gaming areas as explorers.”
“The six regions of the experience are all uniquely themed,” Patch resumed, “The first region you go into is the starting region, where residents are introduced to the quest and receive their game HUD. While there they can watch an in-depth tutorial video and background story video, see the payout stations or follow links to the Horizons Experience wiki page for more information. Beyond all this are the five gaming regions, which are linear, like PaleoQuest. Each must be completed before you progress to the next one.”
Horizons Experience can be accessed in a number of ways. Anyone in the Horizons regions can fly to the central gaming regions, or they can use the teleport portals located at the Horizons info hubs and community centres, and which are scattered across the residential regions. Direct teleport via the map is possible, and there is also a Horizons Experience gateway at the Portal Parks.
Naughty added, “When people first arrive, they are given the choice of being a player or an explorer. If they selected ‘player’ they are registered for the game and receive a HUD. If they remove their HUD, they become an explorer. If players leave the game regions, their HUDs are automatically removed. However, all progress up to the point where they removed their HUD is saved.
“Returning players arriving at the start area can use the Portal Room to jump directly to any quest they have previously completed, or go to the Quest they were on when they left the game. So, if someone left while trying the third quest, they can use the Portal Room to get to quests one, two or three, but they will not be able to jump to quests 4 or 5.
“Also, there are HUD kiosks throughout the quest regions, so any player who removed their HUD can get a replacement, and they will be asked if they would like to teleport to their last point of progress. Explorers who have never played the game can also use these kiosks to obtain a HUD, and they will be asked if they would like to teleport to the start of the first quest.”
In 2012, Loki Eliot created The Well, a horror themed mystery adventure about attempts to rescue a little boy who had fallen down an old well and into the labyrinth of tunnels and caverns which lay beneath it. In 2013, he followed this with The Well:Sollicitus. Set a year later, it set players the challenge of discovering what had happened to a science team that vanished while exploring the labyrinth.
Now, in 2015, comes the third instalment of this unfolding story: The Well Infirmos. Set some time after the events of 2013, it places the player in a mental hospital. how they got there, they have no idea – but perhaps it was a result of their experiences beneath the well. But there is something strange out this hospital: the staff and other patients have vanished, and while the wisest move would be to simply get out of there, the only way to do so is by investigating what has happened; something which means an eventual return to the well and its caverns.
The Well is an Experience based game, requiring the payment of a one-time fee of L$100 to the vendor at the landing point, which registers you to play the game as often as you like. Once paid, press the Start button on the vendor to receive the game HUD, which will auto attach to the bottom of your screen, and will self-destruct on leaving the game area. Should you return another time to play again, simply click the Start button on the vendor to receive a new HUD.
Once you have the HUD attached, approach the Well to view a brief introduction to the game before you arrive in the day care room of the hospital. Here you must explore the various rooms and offices – door will open as you reach them, and your camera will auto-focus on items of interest. You will need local sounds enabled, and make sure you have the volume turned up.
I don’t want to give too much away, other than to say the child’s drawing you find around the hospital are of import. However, you’ll know you’re on the right track when you emerge from the Security Office after seeing / hearing everything you need, to find the hospital strangely altered and the day care room is now dominated by a huge hole which offers you the only way forward.
And so you return to the tunnels beneath the well, and you must find your way through them using the teleporters, which may either carry you forward or backwards, and avoid the child-like Shadows. A direct encounter with this will affect your sanity, as shown on your HUD, and if this drops to zero, you will be returned to the landing point and have to start over. You’ll also be returned to the mouth of the well when you have successfully reached the end of the game – and receive a little prize as a memento.
Those who have played previous iterations of The Well will find this latest version familiar – which doesn’t make it any the less interesting. The major change is to the start of the game when your are in the hospital, but “down below” in the caverns has also been given a few new wrinkles. If I’m honest, moving around some of the hospital rooms can leave your camera on the wrong side of a wall and it can also be a little tricky getting close enough to some of the drawing to auto-focus on them, but not to the extent that the game is spoiled.
Overall, The Well: Infirmos is an engrossing third instalment to the story, which I enjoyed as a returning player, and Jodi and Andi, who took to the caverns as first timers, reported they had a great time playing. And if you have an Oculus Rift, make sure you use it when playing – The Well is fully suited to complete VR immersion.
Loki Eliot is renowned for his scripting and building abilities in Second Life – and rightly so. His ideas, designs and builds stand at the forefront of what can be achieved in-world in terms of games and immersive activities, and he is always quick to embrace new platform capabilities and opportunities.
In The Well: Sollicitius, he brings all of these talents and abilities together to present an immersive and engaging experience, complete with a special guest star.
Given the time of year, The Well is a little bit of a horror story mixed into a mystery you must solve. It actually expands on an experience Loki created last year, which he has now enhanced to include more twists in the story and which makes use of recent SL innovations such as materials processing.
This does mean that the game is best experienced with Advanced Lighting Model active, and preferably with Sun/Moon + Projectors enabled. Loki has placed the entire experience as high up in the sky over his region as he can in order to minimise lag and the performance hit running with shadows enabled can create, so if you have a moderately good graphics cards, it’s worth giving Sun/Moon + Projectors a go if you can. If you still find yourself struggling, try disabling that option, but leaving ALM active. Also, do make sure you have sounds on, they are very much a part of the experience.
The backstory to The Well is that a young boy fell down a well, and he and the rescue team which descended to recover him vanished without a trace. Now, a year later, you have arrived at the scene to join a scientific team sent down to the cavern and caves beneath the well in an attempt to understand what they are and discover what happened to the ill-fated young boy and the rescue team.
Except that, by the time you arrive, the science team has also vanished…
The Well is a HUD-driven experience, and as such makes for very immersive game play in that there is no need to click on anything in-world once you’ve started; as you move around, the HUD responds to your position and offer-up choices and information – and a few other things as well :). All you have to do is click when a choice is required, or click to clear any message. The HUD cots L$100, and can be purchased from the vendor at the start of the experience.
Note that once started, removal of the HUD means you’ll have to return to the start and begin again. So if you want to enjoy The Well to the fullest, set aside about an hour of your time.
Once worn, the HUD unlocks access to the experience and presents the opening credits before setting the scene for you. This is very imaginatively done through a BBC News 24-style bulletin. Once the titles have rolled and you’ve cleared the instructions, you’ll be teleported down into the cavern beneath the well, where your adventure begins.
I don’t want to give too much away in terms of what to expect – that would spoil the fun! Suffice it to say, the main rules are, walk around the opening scenes carefully. There are clues and aides to be found which will help you along the way. The Well make use of SL’s experience permissions, so teleports are prompted as a part of the game’s progression, again making the moves between scenes as seamless as they might be, allowing for the necessary permissions being granted.
As the instructions note, you have a Sanity Meter. This starts off in the green, but will drop down and eventually arrive in the red if you let the Shadows get to you too much. If the meter reaches zero, you’ll be teleported back to the start. I’m not going to say too much about the shadows, other than they tend to travel in pairs, so if you see one, keep an eye out for the other when dodging! Oh – and you really should have the sound on ready for when they do grab you :D.
The name of the game in The Well is choices. As you progress through the tunnels, you’ll come across additional caverns where you’ll be given choices. Some may lead you onwards, some may set you back to an earlier part of the game, some might simply put you back where you started just before reaching them. Hence why you need to set aside a reasonable amount of time to complete your explorations.
Those that do find their way to the end face one final choice. To go left or to go right. It sounds simple, but given the nature of the one offering the choice, don’t expect things to perhaps be as straightforward as you might think. Once you have completed the experience, you will be returned to the starting point and offered your reward.
To call The Well a game isn’t really doing it justice, per se. It really is an experience, and an enjoyable one at that. It combines some of the genuine strengths of the platform with some of its latest features to present an entertaining and engaging means of spending a portion of your time in-world. Sure, it can be subject to the vagaries of the platform at times, but there is nothing that really impacts the experience to the point of distraction, and it is clear from the way the various “levels” have been spread around Loki’s region, coupled with the height at which he has placed them, that Loki has worked hard to minimise as many causes of lag which may otherwise occur as possible.
This is the kind of experience which would be ideal for the Oculus Rift. As everything is proximity-based in terms of the in-world interactions, and HUD- based in terms of actual interactions via the mouse, The Well would seem to naturally lend itself to a fully immersive first-person experience. Loki and I briefly discussed this idea after my “rite of passage” through The Well. Sadly, he’s a little hampered in terms of Rifting the experience, as a “Rift-ready” version of the viewer with basic UI support has yet to appear for the Mac. However, the potential is there, and while I’m unlikely to opt for a Rift headset myself in the foreseeable future, The Well has left me intrigued as to exactly how Loki will be working with the headset in the future.
In the meantime, I highly recommend The Well if you’ve not already tried it. It is more than worth the time taken to visit, explore and experience.
Dranopia, the breedable dragons system developed by Timmi Allen, Leni Galli and Ciaran Maktoum, has added a new chapter to the ongoing saga of Dranopia: The Quest.
In Revolt of the Forgotten, the story is picked-up shortly after the groms have been defeated and the lost souls of the Dranopia ancestors rescued. But a new cataclysm has engulfed the resting-place of the ancestors’ souls: a great flood has occurred, sweeping away everything before it, leaving only a vortex of swirling water, and the openings to long-forgotten tunnels leading deep into the walls of the gorge, tunnels revealed as earth and stone collapsed under the force of the swirling water below…
Revolt takes the mechanics of the original Quest and moves them into a labyrinth of underground tunnels which must be explored while once again flying upon a dragon (either your own or one obtained from the start-point for the quest), and attempting to obtain a range of items along the way.
The essential game system remains the same, but presents significantly more to do. From the start point / rezzing area, you take your dragon (and a game HUD available from the free vendors) and fly through the arch and out over the water. Your goal is to collect as many coins and keys as you can in the game time. Along the way, you can also obtain additional game-play time and restore the health and vitality of your dragon – and you must also avoid various threats and obstacles.
Moving the game into a tunnel systems adds a new dimension in flying your dragon; the confines of the tunnels mean that camera angles and views are much tighter. Those familiar with operating in the first person (Mouselook) in SL might be at something of an advantage here; as the tunnels twist and turn, rise and fall, seeing what lies ahead is not always easy in third person; adjusting your camera offsets might also help.
Speed is also something to watch, as it is easy to find yourself hitting walls and floors, costing you time and possibly points, or missing branches and turns where the tunnels split and twist.
The labyrinth comprises a number of distinct forms, each separated from the other via a door. Each contains a key to be found as well as coins, green health hearts and red hearts for bonus time. Both of the latter are of equal importance: the green hearts help restore your dragon’s vitality and handling – if the dragon’s strength drops to zero, then your game is over; you’ll be dropped to the ground and your dragon will vanish. Red hearts help extend you game time, allowing you to collect more coins and keys; you can gain up to 600 seconds at any one time.
Points are awarded for coins, etc., obtained – but are also deducted should you have an encounter with whatever lurks in the passages and tunnels – of which I cannot say more here, you’ll have to discover things for yourself 🙂 – but that fact the points can be lost is another reason for watching your speed. Coins start at 5 points for the blue glass coins, rising to 100 points for the gold coins. Treasure chests can be opened by obtaining the required keys (each of which will gain you 50 additional points).
Given all these elements – coins, keys, treasure, bonus time, health – the game HUD is somewhat more complex that the original, but well-presented and easy to understand. By default it attaches to the top centre of your screen – and that’s probably the best place for it, as it is easy to reference it without blocking your in-world view.
High scores are recorded on scoreboards located at the start area – but you’ll need to have media-on-a-prim (MOAP) running in order to see the scoreboard displays.
I would advise playing the game without running anything else that might be processor-intensive on your computer; I had my anti-virus software start a scan during my time in the tunnels and my ability to fly my dragon in the confines of the passageways completely fell through the floor…
All-in-all, Revolt of the Forgotten builds nicely on the game-play from the original Quest, adding additional elements that should help attract those who played the original game, while providing a nice gaming experience for those who haven’t yet tried the system. There are seven dragons available at the start-point for those that don’t have a Dranopia dragon of their own to rez, and each again has its own characteristics.
Why not hop over to Dranopia and give things a try for yourself?
It’s fair to say that, since their arrival on the grid, I’ve not been a great fan of breedable animals in SL. There’s no particular logic to my position, it’s simply that the idea hasn’t appealed to me.
At least until now. You see, my viewpoint might just be changing, because there’s a new game in town when it comes to breedables – and I use that word both figuratively and literally.
BattleBeast Breedables have been hitting the news of late with announcements appearing on several blogs earlier in the month. They are an interesting concept that combines three popular elements in SL – the aforementioned breedable creatures, combat and role-play.
The breedables in question are dragons – which is why I was initially drawn to the project; I’m a dragon junkie, and have been ever since my father first introduced me to Smaug by way of bedtime stories when I was about seven, through to my discovery of Anne McCaffrey’s wonderful books and beyond..
The BattleBeast website gives a wealth of information on the concept, as well as a well-written backstory. The dragons themselves follow a path that will be familiar to those who have owned breedables before: they are hatched, grow, eat, mate, and so on. They also look pretty cool as well.
But it is the added dimensions of combat and role-play that set BattleBeast Breedables apart from other systems. Not only can dragon owners breed and nurture their own dragons, they can challenge one another to duels and engage in tournaments that feature much that is familiar to the world of the dedicated combat gamer: experience points, stamina, health – and their dragons will gain experience and additional capabilities along the way. Just like real combatants, dragons will also need time to recover from their physical activities – and as an extension of the breedable element, dragons can be mated or paired to produce offspring that may demonstrate enhanced fighting characteristics.
Both combat and breeding also lead to further elements in the concept: those of role-play and affiliated activities. A lot of thought has gone into this, and it’s clear that the creative team behind the project very much hope that as it grows in popularity, the system will give rise to new and interesting communities, with people focusing on different aspects, be they breeding and selling dragons, developing affiliated products, or providing tournament venues, as well as seeing people own dragons themselves expressly for the purposes of combat.
With the public beta for the system now under way, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to meet with the team behind the project – Andi Canare, Wynter Sommer and BattleBeast Resident to talk a little more about the concept, the beta and dragons in general. I kicked things off by asking after progress with the beta itself.
Beta Battlers and Breeders
“It’s going great!” Andi said in reply to my question, “The response has been fun and enthusiastic [and] our group has experienced steady growth – so they are telling their friends! It’s been smooth sailing so far; we’ve been real happy with it.”
“Anyone in the main group can beta – which is about 200 people, I think,” BattleBeast – Battle to his friends – agreed. “People are setting up breeding areas and mating them, doing battles – we get a record of all the matings and battles on our server, so we can track how it’s coming along. Like any new project, there is a core group of the ‘hardcore’ beta testers, and we talk to them every day, and get suggestions, hear about bugs, etc. So far, I’d say we’re very pleased with beta, and very encouraged by the community response we’ve gotten.
“There are many aspects to the dragons,” he continued, “So beta is about confirming stability and adding features in all of them: the HUD, the animations, the flying controls, the mating and birthing, traits…” I asked if there had been any major problems arising from testing to date. “None that I’ve seen, no,” Battle replied, “We’re cautious but very optimistic. We’re in a very good place, in terms of lag, prim-count and manageability of them as breedables.”
When it comes to an end-date, the team are working to a schedule, and are eager to launch – but they’re also aware that it’s important to make sure capabilities and usability as they stand are nailed-down, and that users aren’t going to encounter anything that might upset their experience. As such, while they have earmarked an end-date for the beta, they’re taking the cautious route and not announcing it publicly for the time being – which is a wise path to tread.
Combat sits very much at the heart of the system, and is something the team plan to evolve. Currently, combat is controlled from the sidelines, so to speak – there is no requirement for people to be mounted on their dragons, although they can if they wish. However, there are plans to add a riding element to the combat in the future should there be a demand to do so. Fights are very strategic in nature, with each player selecting an attack or defence move, and the dragons acting and reacting to these, with scores being kept over a series of rounds – what some gamers might call the “rock-paper-scissors” model. The approach has some advantages in SL – such as reducing lag. It also allows the team to code the dragons with optional attack animations that combatants may choose to use.
However, more direct interaction, together with more tactical elements are already being considered by the team. “This is a foundation,” Battle explained, “And we’re listening carefully, and we’ll evolve it. We don’t pretend to know all about how people will use the dragons, but we want to be able to help them have choices to do so.”
A key aspect with tournaments is that they can be held anywhere where there is room and where basic rezzing permissions have been set – there is no need for any additional equipment or purchases, although the team are looking at producing a scoreboard, and one of the attractions with the dragons is the ability for others to produce additional equipment and other items through the system’s Affiliate Programme.
This freedom of venues means that users can establish themselves where they please – at home, on friends’ sims, and so on. It also helps open more of the role-play aspects of the system: rather than owning dragons themselves or running the more traditional breedable “farm/stores”, people can provide venues and facilities for owners to meet and trade, where auctions might be held and additional equipment and food purchased or dragons trained – and where tournaments can be held and/or challenges met. “We’re adding a tab on the HUD to let people find other combatants who are on-line to challenge,” Battle added as we talked, “[And] we have a capability in the dragons for a “team” association; so at some point we’ll publicise that, and help people organise teams, guilds, clans, and so on.”
As with other combat systems, levelling-up in BattleBeasts means unlocking new capabilities and traits in a dragon, enhancing its abilities. This also links back to the breedable aspect of the dragons – mating between dragons with enhanced fighting abilities will in turn produce offspring that have greater abilities. Thus, the breeding / combat elements can be seen as a cycle of nature and nurture, with an element of genetics mixed in as well – as the BattleBeast byline puts it: Better Breeding means Better Battle. Better Battle means Better Breeding.
Riding into Role-play
Role-play is seen as an equally important part of the system’s development as both combat and breeding and, as with those elements of the system, the team to receive feedback from their testers when it comes to role-play, as Battle explained, “Role-play is interesting, and an area where we expect our customers to nudge us into where they want the dragons to be. As we grow and our beasts evolve, our dragon owners will play a role in helping us.”
“’What do you need from us?’ will be heard within our group,” Andi added. “It’s all about the BattleBeast Experience.” As such, the team see the role-play opportunities not only linked directly with the combat and breeding elements, as with the examples mentioned above, but also something that might attract role-play groups quite unconnected, initially, with combat or breedable animals in the usual sense. “We’ve had some good pirate and Gorean inquiries already,” Battle informed me, underlining the point.
“We have lots of suggestions about interacting with the dragons, and most of those come from a role-play perspective,” Wynter adds, bringing quick agreement from Battle. “They will follow their owners in flight now… that seemed pretty common, across all RP visions, and we’ve determined that giving a dragon owner the ability to order a dragon to ‘go fly and perch at X’ is a good thing to have, or ‘walk this path’. These are very doable, and we’ll be building on them.” In fact, the team are already involved in LL’s pathfinding project, which may well offer significant additional capabilities for their dragons – or any other animals that may be added to the range in the future; as Battle hinted at as we chatted, “That’s why we’re BattleBeasts, not Battle Dragons!”
In talking to the team, one cannot escape the fact that they view BattleBeasts as very much a collaborative effort with their growing community as much as they view it as a personal project: they’ll take practical suggestions from the community and see what can be done to facilitate them.
“Very much so!” Battle agrees. “We are open to taking this where they [the users / dragon owners] want it to be.”
“We are having a lot of fun getting input and suggestions from our Beta group! Everything is logged and prioritised,” Wynter adds. “Nothing is just thrown out as silly or crazy!”
“And we have a principle of doing this, to enable people to participate in secondary market items,” Battle continues, elaborating on something we’d so far only touched upon. “So if someone wants to make an accessory and it makes sense, we’ll work with them to have the dragon interaction work with their items. We’ve had a great response to our Affiliate Program. From a functionality perspective, it’s hard to see what those things might be. This one here, the Purple Fancy,” he indicates the dragon standing next to us, “We let it out into beta, and people were so excited to see it! We’re eager to see all of the other things already done as hidden traits!”
Purple Fancy brings us to back to the dragons themselves. Currently developed using sculpts, an adult weighs-in with a Land Impact of 21 – which is not at all bad, considering the complexity of the models; plans are under way to introduce mesh into the equation as well. In terms of growth, it takes six days for a dragon to develop from a hatchling to adolescent, at which point it can start fighting, and it will reach its full adult size in around 15 days of hatching. Adults can fight for 250 days, and can breed for 180 days. Another additional element in the system that’s not available as a part of beta testing is an “auto-combat” mode, which essentially places a dragon under automated control, allowing it to be used to help train other dragons for combat and tournaments, enabling them to level-up and gain enhanced capabilities prior to entering the arena.
Dragons can be managed through a variety of means: they are fully scripted, so menus can be used to control them and enable various capabilities, etc; when being ridden, they respond to the normal WASD / keyboard movement/flight controls. Then there is the BattleBeast HUD. This has two primary modes – MANAGE and BATTLE, with buttons to switch between the two – and is, if I’m honest, somewhat on the large size when opened-out. However, clicking on the BattleBeast shield will tuck it neatly away into the top left corner of the screen.
One of the things I personally like in the HUD is the FOLLOW option – by which a dragon will follow you in flight – which can make for some dramatic looking-shots!
The care and attention paid to the project isn’t restricted to the in-world elements: the BattleBeast Breedables website is packed with information and very professionally presented. Like the rest of the project, it is also in a state of evolution; plans are currently in-hand to add a forum for users, as well as to provide front-desk support software and information updates on tournament results, trait discoveries and so on – all under Andi’s guiding hands.
Overall, BattleBeasts is a fascinating project; between them, Andi, Wynter and Battle have considerable exposure to, and experience in, the SL breedable markets, and it is clear this experience has been used to its fullest in developing BattleBeasts. Even so, bringing together breedable animals, combat and role-play in this way is a daring endeavour, the team’s clear and infectious enthusiasm notwithstanding. However, they’re not alone in such enthusiasm – it’s clear from the Group chats that all those involved in the current beta are similarly enthusiastic – dare I say enthralled – by the dragons, and I’ve little doubt that the system will have very wide appeal once officially launched. Plans for this are already in-hand, with a two-day celebration in the works that will feature battles, hunts, live music and festivities.
For my part, I have to say that after spending time flying around with my beta dragons and generally having fun with them, I’m close to being pretty hooked. I’ve wanted to be a Dragonrider since I was about 12 or 13. With BattleBeasts I may yet get the opportunity to be one – all I need to do is find a sim called “Pern” – after all, have dragon, will travel, as they say!