Rituals of the old
Rituals of the old has been in development for 256 days today. I wanted to celebrate this by writing a bit more than usual and going through what's been going on with the project during this time.
How did it all start
I had been modding a popular block building sandbox game for years. My efforts had pretty much reached their limit during the 4 years and some ~10 000 development hours I put into modding the game. The bugs and limitations of the platform were beginning to restrict my creativity. It got me thinking one day that it was crazy to put so much development time into a game made by someone else since with the same amount of effort - and then some - it would be possible to build your own game which was designed from the ground up to work like I wanted to and hopefully with less bugs and other restrictions!
We put together a core team that same day and started planning the style, technical solutions and game play content and so the Star and serpent team and Rituals of the old was born.
"Rituals of the old" was not my first choice for a name, but it turns out that other people have lived before me and done some pretty interesting stuff. Most of the names I wanted to use were already taken or recognized brands in other fields of industries - or the web addresses were simply reserved or contained words which were too common to be even consider in any sensible project which doesn't want to be on the last page in all search results.
I made a long list of names and meticulously compared and ranked them according to how cool I thought they were, how well they reflected the game we wanted to make and how the names would fare in search results, etc.
"Once you eliminate the impossible, what ever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."
-- Arthur Conan Doyle
In our case what ever remained was to be our game's name. Like our game house's name (Star and serpent) the phrase "Rituals of the old" comes from the second chapter of a certain holy book. While the name does not completely reflect the whole variety of the game it reflect some aspects of it and I thought it would be fitting enough. Also it sounds intriguing and will stop you for a while.
First and foremost we wanted to continue what I had already been doing for the past 4 years. We wanted to expand upon the worlds and lore that I had created in a surrounding where we could realize all the ideas and interesting details which were not possible before due to the constraints of the old platform.
Originally the world of the Rituals of the old was a saga in three parts, each of which told a story of a different era in an alternate history of human kind.
In the distant past there was the Galactic Imperium which took place on several planets and in the vast regions of space, space stations and asteroid belts. It was a time of highly advanced technology and space travel. The human kind had spread all over the galaxy and was living in decadence and corruption.
In between there was the End of the World in a post apocalyptic setting after the fall of the Galactic Imperium. Radioactive wastelands, acid rains and all nature ruined, great cities in ruins and space junk raining down from the orbit devastating everything.
The last part of the saga, Kingdom of the Sun, took place in the distant future after the two other eras had ended and it was a time of enlightenment and time of peace. Mankind had returned to it's roots and took joy not in the technologies and war but in the simple ways of life and manual labor. All the kingdoms were united under the rule of one Sun emperor in a feudal setting with remains of the ancient technologies - force fields, sub space communicators, black powder guns, wind mills, etc. still existing here and there but people paid no attention to such things.
Without understanding the above the world of Rituals of the old can be confusing - is this the Earth? Is this the medieval times? Why are there old technologies like the black powder guns in this era? Why are there highly advanced things like force fields and cloning vats? What is this?!
Rituals of the old depicts the alternate and True history of mankind. It is not the history that we, the inhabitants of the Earth, know and in this alternate history the origin of the mankind is certainly not the planet Earth (as we ignorantly like to think).
Above you can see a crude sketch of the timelines. The timeline above is missing some thing like, for example, the histories of the other numerous colonies and the fall of the first ancestors of Koto in an atomic war. After the fall the descendants of the original survivors lead primitive lives as tribals and begun rebuilding their culture slowly. The same thing happened on Earth around 65 million BCE and leading up to our modern times.
The setting of Rituals of the old takes place on the planet Koto some generations after the happenings of the year 100 093 BCE. Some of the ancient pre-fall technologies of the original ancestors lie hidden beneath Koto - or so it is rumored. And some of technologies were left behind by the Great Galactic Imperium after their exodus from the planet to fight in the galactic wars.
And so we end up with the present times of the game in a setting on an alternate timeline where the people are living mostly happy and content simple lives in a surrounding which is a melting pot of rare surviving lore of the ancient times, broken down technologies from relatively recent invaders from the Great Galactic Imperium (which are already beginning to turn into a stuff of legends and myth in some minds). And the remains of the tribal lives are meeting the lives of farmers and villagers and the bit more modern city people.
Then we put forbidden magic, old forbidden gods and shadowy creatures of myth into the mix, add a sprinkle of social change, unrest and upheaval under the surface and hide in some secret wars.
...And what you end up with is the world of Rituals of the old.
Rituals of the old is a Sandbox RPG
Rituals of the old is a sandbox RPG. But what is a sandbox RPG?
A RPG or a Role Playing Game is generally considered a game type where you run around doing quests following a pre-written story line.
A sandbox on the other hand is a game type where you are thrown into a world without explanations and you are free to do what ever you want without a predefined set of goals.
Finally, we have the sandbox RPG which is a game type where you are thrown into a world with rich lore, stories and interesting surroundings - but no clear goal or defining quest lines.
In Rituals of the old you are free to make your own stories with other players, but you are given a surrounding of rich lore, histories and backgrounds. And the inhabitants of the world react to your presence and actions by their own sense of morality.
Our goal is to build a living vivid world where NPCs (non player characters) go about their business and lives in a simulated mini society working, meetings friends and spending leisure time by following simple pre-scripted behavior patterns determined by the AI (artificial intelligence).
Our goal is to achieve a low poly art style which aims for a level of "minimum immersion" required to make the players stop thinking about the graphics and instead start thinking about what's happening in the game world. Relatively simple and pretty in it's own right for those who like the low poly style.
The benefits for the game development include that the models are easy to make, fast to texture and low poly means that we will have more memory to spend on other more interesting things. Instead of doing one model for weeks on end we can spend more of the development time on things like having more animations.
It is extremely difficult to make a game which looks realistic. There are many games that try and fail and end up looking disappointingly crappy where as a more simple style would have benefited the development by saving time and effort and benefited the players by being clearly a work of fiction.
It is my opinion that the content always trumps graphics.
Where are we now and what have we been doing
We've been hard at work for the past 256 days (and the 4 years before that!) and have had some ups and downs along the way.
In just 256 days we have achieved:
- Working game client.
- Working game server.
- Simple world generation.
- Basic UI
- Verification server.
- And other smaller things.
It perhaps doesn't sound like much, but first of all you have to take into consideration the amount of planning required for such a project to succeed and that takes time too, several months in fact - and we have only one person working on the project full time, me. Others are doing everything on their free time after their regular jobs or studies.
And nobody is getting paid.
We don't have any kind of financing backing for the project. Our expenses are currently somewhere between 100-200 $ per month and they come right off the pockets of yours truly (and no, they are not very deep pockets).
So in many ways we are in a similar situation as many other indie projects who are just starting up.
Group funding might become an option later on but it's spooky scary stuff and a difficult wagon to jump on. It would mean effectively turning a currently hobby project straight into a commercial venture. That would mean a lot more pressure to achieve things on time, ie. we would have to achieve our goals before the money runs out. And there would be a lot more expenses to consider.
It is not the best option at this time. And we definitely need a more of a product to exhibit before getting serious about things. But it's in the back of my mind.
We are also very lucky to have a small group of dedicated fans (thank you all!) who have been a tremendous help and support along the way.
We lost some 2-3 months worth of character modeling and animations due to irredeemable errors in the models which prevented them from being imported to JmonkeyEngine. On the other hand this gave us a chance to take a step back and rethink our character design. In retrospect we should have tested that all the pipelines work before getting too far with the models. A lesson learned.
We might be going from this:
We've also had the great misfortune of encountering some serious issues due to incompatible licensing between Autodesk products and open source projects which make importing and exporting models between different software really difficult and in some situations impossible. They are being worked around as we speak. But it is development time wasted which could have been used for actual progress.
Interesting fact: We've had fourteen (!) 3D modelers and artist so far. Artists... Oh the fickleness of thy temper!
“You are no surer, no, than is the coal of fire upon the ice or hailstone in the sun. He that depends upon your favors swims with fins of lead.”
-- William Shakespeare
But we keep on swimming nonetheless. The core team has been very solid and dedicated.
Every once in a while when I have time from other more pressing things I've been developing a language called Root for Rituals of the old - and sometimes streaming the process (https://www.twitch.tv/pilvinen2). It's very interesting, action filled and exciting to watch! /sarcasm :-)
Above you can see a work in progress translation I've been doing. I usually write some kind of story down and then begin translating it. When I encounter words that the language does not have yet I research how those words are formed and write them down in the dictionary.
Root language has a very simple grammar and should be relatively easy to learn. I won't publish the whole dictionary, instead I will leave it up to the players who are interested in languages to work out what everything means. Learning the language will be completely optional. It is designed to add to the atmosphere of the game rather than being an essential part of the game.
Above you can see the whole runic alphabet. All the runes have a name and a meaning and also numeric value. The runes of creation "äin, ain, enna, inni, oru, öry, unni and ynni" have a special significance in the Root language. Consonants are considered just breaks and form and the vowels are the strength and durability
Exchanging the back vowels of the word to front vowels (and vice versa) reverses the meaning of the word. For example "Zain" thaumaturgy becomes "Zäin" mundane. The word "Tef" gate turns into "Tif" obstacle (in Root 'i' is considered a front vowel of 'e').
If the word contains other vocals besides "i,e" all the "i"'s and "e"'s will remain unaffected by the reversal like for example in the word "Unni" air which turns into "Ynni" earth.
The back vowels "a,e,u,o" in words generally have a positive connotation and are considered feminine.
The front vowels "ä,i,ö,y" in words generally have a negative connotation and are considered masculine.
"Z" ending in a word usually denotes supernatural and out of the ordinary things, for example: "ako+z" turns the meaning of "food" (ako) into especially good food (akoz). "Jum+z" turns meaning of "large" (jum) into abnormally large (jumz).
Most of the words in Root language are constructed through combining runes and words. For example: "Wel, greater, feminine" becomes through the reversal of the vowels "Wil, lesser, masculine" and since "Mem" is "a human" therefore "Memwel" is a human female and "Memwil" is a human male or the lesser human who cannot give birth to life.
Sometimes when the meaning of the words is not obvious the connection can come from their numeric value and their nature can be deduced by simple mathematics. For example "Eb" or "love" from the runes "Enna+Bir" - Enna has the meaning "unity" and the rune Bir has the numeric value 2, ie. love is "two uniting". And when you calculate their numeric value Enna (5) + Bir (2) you get 7 or the rune Fu which has the meaning "dream". And while we're on the subject when we combine "Eb" or "love" and "wel" or "greater" what do we get? Great love? No, instead we get the meaning "fool" because great love invites foolishness "a fool in love".
This is very interesting to me and I could go on and on about it. Unfortunately I don't have as much time to develop the Root language from my other duties as I'd like to.
We've been running a poll for some months on our web page and while I was hoping for a larger focus group here are the results:
What surprises me here is the amount of voter who have wanted role playing features and the low amount of votes for building and PvE combat. I have a hunch that these statistics would greatly change if more people would have voted.
But nonetheless we will try to put more focus on RPG features, magic and survival against the elements in the future.
As you can see here most of the votes come from Europe, especially Finland, which is understandable because Star and serpent is based in Finland and people here know us previously from the modding scene. As we progress further along with Rituals of the old this geographic distribution will most likely shift.
We are looking for a 3D artist
Do you have 3D modeling skills and you are looking for an interesting project to participate in? Check out our jobs section here at the Indiedb:
We always love to hear your ideas and feedback. If you wish to participate please join our forums and let us know what you think - or catch us at our international Discord channel.