Conquest HD Concept Art

Long time, no see!

Conquest HD Early Screenshot

 

Apologies for the lack of a developer update last week. We’ve been pretty busy with development and felt there wasn’t much in the way of content to show you. This might happen from time to time. But we figure that code, sound effects and team meetings don’t make the most interesting reads / videos.

But we’re alive and kicking. With a strong focus on getting early combat in place, and pushing towards pre-alpha code.

As promised, here is that music track, again in video form:

Music and Sound

Hello!
Todays developer article is another interview. While we had originally planned to show you more character progress, our lead artist’s computer gave out and he’s now waiting for new parts for his machine. Right now it’s being held together by thermal tape!

So instead, Mariusz suggested we show off another song from the soundtrack. “Men of the Woods” is one of the Celtic themed tracks, which we think sets the theme of battle very well. We’re showing these audio tracks in each video we add to these updates. But we’re hoping to give future alpha/beta purchasers a free download of the entire soundtrack.

Anyway, on to the music:

Now that you’ve heard another of the songs. We’ve got an interview with Mariusz for you to read. It’s another long one (we like to talk!).

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, what are you up to at the moment? What is your experience within the Games Industry, and when did you join the team?

Mariusz wrote: My name is Mariusz Jasionowicz I live and work in Birmingham, UK. I come from Poland and I moved to Britain 5 years ago. I was a performing musician for many years before I started thinking seriously about composition and sound design. I joined Crystal Core a year ago, before the company was formally formed. I’ve met many great guys and hope to continue to work with them for much longer. I am self-taught, I didn’t have any formal musical education, thus once I landed in the UK I decided to go back to University. I got HND Diploma in Music Technology and at present I am on a second year of BSc in Game Audio Design.

3 years ago, before I started to create music and sound for games I had no more experience in the game industry than any other video gamer. However, I was always interested in game music, sound synthesis, audio recording etc. I was always paying special attention to musical and sound details when playing a game. Now it turned out to be my career path.

2. Most of the team members are artists or programmers, do you still get a say in how the game develops in other areas of production?

Mariusz wrote: Well, I cannot help much with technical issues, but there are definitely other opportunities to participate in the development process. As a person not connected with the visual side I can give an honest opinion about the overall look of the game which I often do.

3. There’s no denying that the music for Conquest: Hadrian’s Divide is great, what setup do you have, and what would you suggest to people who have a similar passion to yourself?

Mariusz wrote: I constantly change various elements of my setup. I mostly work at home and at the moment the heart of my studio is 8 core Mac Pro /16GB ram, M-Audio Project-Mix, monitors Tannoy Reveal Active and Cubase 5 as my main DAW, I also work on Logic and ProTools but only occasionally, Cubase has been my favourite software for years. I don’t want to include the full list of my equipment which is long (laugh), but I equally use hardware and software instruments. What would I suggest to others? First of all I would say “There are some strange forces out there that will constantly trying to disturb you in your plans, but you must never give up in what you are doing”
But from more practical side I would suggest getting some musical theory first, before you start spending your hard earned money on the latest gear, it won’t make good music for you. It will only help.

4. Music in games is very important when trying to set the mood of an environment, or moment in a game. Would you say that for a game like Conquest: Hadrian’s Divide, in-game music is just as important?

Mariusz wrote: Music is important regardless of the genre, and definitely every game needs music as much as good graphics, but obviously in certain amounts and suitable to the situation. Music builds an atmosphere and heightens our experiences. I’ve played many games and in some of them music worked perfectly and in others not. But try to play any game with music turned off and you will get the answer.Generally there is no simple recipe for a perfect game score. Everyone perceives music differently, and what for one is great for may not be.

Roman Male Basemesh

5. How much of the music is accurate to the music the Romans or Celts would have listened to, and how do you find your inspiration for the music?

Mariusz wrote: I listened to a lot of music considered to be ancient Roman and Celtic. I think that this kind of music; often full of melancholy slowly flowing harps or flute notes, Latin recitations and tranquil Celtic voices would be rather suitable for meditation and not battlefield situations. However to make rather classically orchestrated pieces more characteristic to the theme, I at least tried to add a taste using some common Roman and Celtic musical instruments. I added vocal phrases in ancient language which although are not the original Latin or Celtic language but may add a more ancient feel, some come from libraries and some I recorded myself.

6. As well as music, you also make all of the sound effects for Conquest: Hadrian’s Divide. Would you say that good sound effects are as important as good graphics in a game?

Mariusz wrote: Of course it is! As the sound guy I couldn’t say anything else.But seriously, there is a saying among sound designers. “The less you notice the existence of sound effects, the better they are.” When you play a game with poor sound effects where a footstep doesn’t sound like a footstep and generally all sounds hurt your ears, you realise how important the sound is.

7. What games are you playing at the moment, and who is your favourite game character?

Mariusz wrote:My hero? B.J. Blaskovich. Those who played Return to Castle Wolfenstein know him very well. But some of my favourite games ever; Super Mario Bros, Contra, Medal of Honor, The Elder Scroll III and IV, LOTR Battle of Middle Earth In the past I used to play 5-8 hours a day. But now I hardly can find time for playing and I am not playing any particular game at the moment. My latest and favourite title was the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion which has perfectly scored music by Jeremy Soule. It is not a new game but I return to it constantly when I have time.

8. Once again, it’s the end of another interview. This time with Mariusz Jasionowicz, the teams Composer and Sound Designer. Would you like to add anything before we finish here Mariusz?

Mariusz wrote: Well, I put a lot of hard work into what you will hear from your speakers. So I hope you will enjoy the music and sound as much as the game itself.

First Animations

Hello!

This week we’re showing off some video footage of some of the animations being created for Conquest. These are all idle animations, therefore they would be used at times when your character isn’t active. Once your character stands still for a short while, we get a number of animations to cycle randomly, blended over the top of a standard ‘breathing’ animation.

This way even when you’re not playing the game, the animations seem realistic in the way they play out. Due to the way we recorded these animations, they’re not seamless. But in-game they would be.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be working a lot with the characters. Our current plan is to get some form of crude combat system in place as soon as possible. So you can expect a lot more of these short animation preview videos, and later some combat related ones too!

More Information!

Conquest HD Village Concept

Hello again!
This week isn’t quite as eventful as the last. However we’re going to provide you with a bit more information, which is something we keep getting asked for. So without keeping you for too long on your Wednesday, here is some more information about Conquest: Hadrian’s Divide…

Combat System
The combat system in Conquest is mostly what you would expect from a third-person shooter. Your camera follows you, fixed slightly to the side, giving you a better view of the space in front of you. Combat makes use of the keyboard and mouse. The mouse giving you control of your attacks, while the keyboard allows for you to perform more complex ‘moves’ such as strafe blocks, ducking blocks and attacks while moving (which are harder, but have more force behind them).

The three classes (Heavy, Light and Ranged Infantry) all have their own unique abilities. For example the Roman Heavy Infantry can use the shield wall ability with the rest of their team members. This is an easy way to create a (potentially) impenetrable wall between your teams archers and the enemy. On the flip side, the Celtic Heavy Infantry use scare tactics to rush into combat, taking a lot of damage, but also giving a lot out. This would be a great distraction to allow your teams archers or light infantry to sneak around the rear of an oncoming unit and finish them off.

Ranking / Experience System
Conquest will have a form of experience or levelling system. Not quite like a traditional RPG or MMO. But as you gain kills, teamwork points and bonus (round winning) points, your character will rank up. You’ll start at rank 0, and progress to maximum rank of 60. Each rank rewards the player in some way, but the main use of this system is to set players by thier skill, and not their playtime on the battlefield.

If you’ve learnt how to make use of the combat system, and your a good team player. Experience points will be something you come to get used to. However just grinding away for hours on end, gaining solo kills aplenty will only get you so far, or take you a really really long time to reach the level cap. We’re rewarding skill, not your amount of spare time.

Unlocks and Rewards
As mentioned, you will gain rewards throughout the game. Whether that be from ranking up, or from completing various personal tasks. Rewards are similar to traditional achievements, however every reward is linked with a unique cosmetic item to display on your character. For example, completing the “kill 100 enemy players” task would grant you an badge, or a necklace.

These are normally team specific in design as well. Some tasks can only be completed on certain teams, and therefore only give the wearable reward to the corresponding character. Another use for this reward system is for things like pre-release competitions, alpha, beta and pre-order rewards, and so on. So you might have a chance to win some of these customisation additions before the game is even released.

Your Character
When it comes to your character, we’ve taken a few steps to ensure that the game is balanced. But you still get to create a character for either team. The way this works is that each game account receives the ability to make their character. This character has both a Roman and Celtic appearance, and therefore will show the relative team appearance when you join either team in a game. This means that there can still be team auto-balancing on servers, without forcing the player to create another whole character, etc.

We’re not to sure whether your account username will be used for both the Celtic and Roman versions of your character, or whether you’ll be able to separately name them. It’s also worth noting that each appearance has full access to change every part of the character. Meaning you don’t just change the armour. You change the hair, face, tattoos/facepaint, armour, and so on.

Head’s Up, It’s Interview Time!

Happy New Year, Here’s hoping for a good one!

We’re back to our weekly developer updates. The alcohol is all gone, the cake has been eaten, and the presents have long been opened. We’re back to work on Conquest, and we’re starting the year as we mean to go on.

This week’s article is focused around the character customisation system. It’s mostly going to give you an insight into what is coming. But we’re also going to show of a few images of the current progress with it.

It’s also good to mention that we’ve picked up two talented programmers. So while gameplay wasn’t something we were focusing on before now. It’s definitely going to start showing itself over the next months.

Interview with Lee Devonald – Creative Director


1.
Tell us a bit about yourself, what are you up to at the moment? What is your experience within the Games Industry, and when did you join the team?

Lee wrote:
My name’s Lee Devonald. I’ve been doing freelance stuff for various studios for a few years now, but that’s not how it started out. I actually got into character art through a teenage man crush on Manga/Anime. I was a hardcore Dragonball Z fan, and found a mod for half-life (GoldSource engine) called Earths Special Forces, I’d suggest checking it out, and they’ve done some very cool stuff with a very old engine! From there I moved on to making my own characters for Jedi academy, and then on to freelance. I joined Crystal Core a couple of months ago. Originally the idea was to create an episodic RPG type game with a small group of friends under the CC name. But that went out the window and we all pulled together to work on Conquest.

2. As Creative Director, how much control do you have over the visual and gameplay areas of development?

Lee wrote:
About as much control as there’s possible to have! It’s very exciting for me, I’ve always had a strong vision for how I’d love games to look or “feel”, but I’ve only ever done character art at the same time. My personal background outside of games design is in management, so this is like the perfect blend of the two disciplines. I get to apply my own artistic spin to everything within the game that you can see. And of course, visual style can often dictate gameplay…

3. With Conquest’s customisation system, how does this effect character development. What is the process of providing content for the customisation system?

Lee wrote:
I had to think a little outside the box for tackling this problem… we want players to be able to customise their characters. But that could potentially leave an insane amount of work for the character artists to perform. I realise that many fulltime hardcore games studios have already got this workflow down so anyone out there reading probably won’t be surprised by the answer. But I built a base mesh… kind of like lord of the rings “one base mesh to rule them all”. This one mesh was fully UVW mapped, and the entire body was textured. From there it’s simply a case of sculpting different heads from that one mesh. Each face texture blends “somewhat” seamlessly with the existing body texture; the only difference to the mesh itself is vertex positions. So within the game all that has to happen is to call up different textures + vertex positions.It’s sped up character creation quite a bit.

4. Visual style is very important in videogames. How was the art style of Conquest developed?

Lee wrote:
Well of course Conquest is Roman themed. So in a lot of ways colour will play a strong role. It’s actually quite interesting to see the dynamic between the Romans and Celtics in this area. Romans had relatively colourful clothing, deep reds, blues, and other colours, accentuated by gleaming armour. While the Celts had dirty brown and green clothing, little more than rags and leather in most cases.By stark contrast though, roman buildings were almost universally white or terracotta, leaving a very “boring” look in some ways. With very little contrast between buildings other than the architecture itself. Celts having very similar building styles, but due to materials were full of greens, reds, browns etc.Ultimately we decided on a fairly realistic looking game, so I hope we can pull it off. I just keep having to remind myself that often realism is achieved through imperfections rather than perfect symmetry.

5. How much of the artwork is accurate to Roman and Celtic history?

Lee wrote:
As much as possible. The Roman armour is being extensively researched and will be modelled as accurately as possible. However some things may differ, for example robe colours will likely be dictated by the player themselves.Similarly Celtic weapons will be as accurate as possible to what materials and building styles they had available to them at the time.

6. What other influences and references are you using in the visual design of the project?

Lee wrote:
I have a literal mountain of naked male and female photos for reference, as well as a couple of mannequins kicking around. I’ve got a nifty laser scan of Michelangelo’s “David” on my computer too. It’s quite breathtaking!In an effort to maintain realism, good reference is everything. I’ve got pictures of all kind of different faces, clothes, cloth types, metals…

7. How much customisation is possible with the current character system?

Lee wrote:
Almost infinite. I say almost, because truly infinite is impossible. Ultimately each different faction and gender will have 5 starting base meshes and textures. The player can blend these meshes and textures to create something close to what they would like for themselves. They can adjust skin tone, how greasy the skin is. Whether the player is heavily scarred, has body hair or not.A couple of things we’ve left out of customisation though, particularly for the Romans, are things like age. It’s not that it’s difficult to set up, but more that the roman army was quite strict about who was allowed to serve at a particular age.

8. What will we be seeing from you over the next few months?

Lee wrote:
Stuff.

9. What games are you playing at the moment, and who is your favourite game character?

Lee wrote:
Actually I’m slowly weaning myself off of gaming to give myself more time for my art and for my family. I play Warhammer Online a lot; I find it a lot of fun. I also played through the Assassins Creed games recently, and I play Gran Turismo quite a bit. I enjoy a good shoot em’ up too, but I’m quite picky… I never got into the whole Call of Duty thing, I found them very “dumbed down” for a particular audience, and stick with quake 3 and unreal tournament for my fps kicks.

10. That concludes this interview with Lee Devonald, Creative Director for Conquest: Hadrian’s Divide. Would you like to add anything before we finish here Lee?

Lee wrote:
I made a chocolate cake yesterday… it was yummy!

As promised, here is a preview of the character creation system. This image shows three variations of the characters face/head. They are all using the same polygon structure, and therefore can share animations, armour, materials and the body and hair meshes. So essentially you’ll be able to pick from a variety of different heads, and then on top of that, choose your hair style and colour. Then any face paint, tattoos, and other items.

It’s very early. But the plans are in place, and the artwork to support it is now being produced. So you can probably expect that by the time the early combat system is in place, you’ll also have some amount of customisation available at that same time.

The next image we’re showing off is an update to the last concept we showed. This is the ‘before’ version of the Celtic Village. This is our next map, which will see the Romans storming for control of a Celtic settlement. It’s a vital step for the Romans. Enabling them to set the Celt’s back even further.

Conquest HD Head Models

And finally, we’d like to give you something for free. We’ve been a customer of DreamHost.com for just over a year now. They’ve provided the best hosting service yet. With brilliant support, Subversion and FTP thats easy to use. Not to mention the other stuff we haven’t even used yet. So we’re giving you $75 off of your new signup with DreamHost. Just make sure you enter the code, and it should be discounted from your order!

That’s all this week. Although we did well considering we spent more time drinking and celebrating! We’ll be back again next week. Until then, feel free to sign up to the community forums. Read this and leave your comments here, or on the Conquest blog. Or be our friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Holiday is Here

Holiday is Here – WDU#2

Well, it’s that time of year again…
That time of year when families come together to exchange gifts, to spend time with one another. It’s time to open up those presents by your tree. The stockings are filled, and that special visitor make’s his way to every corner of the world, to bring christmas joy.

Just like Santa’s little elves, we’ve been hard at work on Conquest. Fear not, this holiday will mean two things for the development team. Extra time to work on the project, and some much required rest after the announcement.

This week, we’re showing off another concept, and a sneak at the next environment for you to tear apart! There will be more information about this level soon. But i can assure you it’s full of awesome.

We’re expecting a lack of these weekly developer’s articles from now, until after New Years Day. Naturally while we’ll still be working hard when possible, any spare time we get will go to our families. But come the first days of 2011, you can expect the first of the developer’s interviews. Which will give you an insight into the process one of the team members follow to achieve what is required of them in thier position on the team.

We would like to thank everyone for their great support and feedback. We assure you that while we have a solid concept behind the game, we are always looking to add features or modify certain aspects to your liking.

We’ll be active in the forums though, so make sure to register there and we’ll answer any questions you might have while we are enjoying that Christmas roast!

Finally, we would like to wish you and your families a very merry Christmas, and the most wonderful New Year! We’ll leave you with the question…

What do you want under your Christmas tree?

Your Questions Answered!

THANK YOU!

It’s been great receiving the positive feedback from around the web. While we didn’t get as much ‘air time’ as we would have hoped. I think we made use of the community spaces well, and we’ll be sure to pick up more followers as the weeks progress.

This is the first Weekly Developer Update (WDU). We will post a new WDU every Wednesday, at around 8pm UK Time. These updates will include the past weeks progress, or touch on subjects related to development. We may also hold competitions and other interactive events via these weekly snippets.

This week, we wanted to reflect on the recent announcement of the project, and more specifically: answer some of the common questions that have been floating around about Conquest. We may do more of these Q+A sessions in a more interactive way in the future, however i think this is the best way (for now) to explain the project in a bit more detail.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED!
Q: What genre is Conquest? Where does it fit in…

A: This is the question we’ve been hearing the most. Mostly from the website / forum, as our IndieDB profile has that information listed. Conquest is an action/combat third person ‘shooter’. We don’t like using the word ‘shooter’ as only one of three classes has the ability to shoot. But until something that fits the game in a more descriptive way comes along, we’ll go with that.

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Q: Is the game historically accurate?

A: Yes and no. We’ve tried to keep things as accurate as possible, but certain things may deviate from historic records or facts. Our first goal is to create a fun experience, the second is to create it based on historical events. We just want you to have fun

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Q: What is the combat like?

A: This is a very broad area of the gameplay. It makes up almost 90% of the time you’ll spend in-game. So we don’t feel like trying to answer this in a short answer like this. HOWEVER, we will be featuring combat footage, design discussion, and previews of the combat system over the next months.

If we were to explain the current system (it might change). Then we would have to say, if you imagine some of the other close-combat/melee games. It’s nothing like those

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Q: Will the Romans be overpowered?

A: This has been something we have been focusing on, ensuring that it is not going to be the case. While historically, the Romans we’re much more advanced in terms of Weapons and Armor. We’ve made a few design tweaks to the Celts to allow for a little more metal in their costume. We’re also making sure that the Celts have the ability to blend in with their surroundings. Hiding in the bushes for surprise attacks and ambushes.

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Q: Isn’t this game just like “insert name here”.

A: Nope. We don’t want this to just look like a mod, or another rip-off of previous or current games. We’re going in a unique direction with things like personalising your character, and the multiplayer objectives system. Unlocks, titles, and ranks will also set the game apart from some other indie projects.

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Q: Will Conquest have a singleplayer mode?

A: Right now, we don’t plan to include one. However, depending on how the development of the multiplayer goes. Perhaps this is something we will either consider as an addition to the current project. Or we will release something along those lines as downloadable content after the game releases.

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Q: Can i join the team?

A: There’s a good chance that you can. We like to ensure that members are talented and dedicated first though. So we first get you to email us your portfolio / resume. We then look through the various people and pick out one or two at a time. You will then enter a week ‘test’ period. In which time you are given a task or collection of tasks to perform, and we monitor your activity and skill level. This is both to ensure you are right for the team, as well as what sort of work we should have you doing if you are to join the team. You can email us your portfolio/resume to: contact@crystal-core.co.uk

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Q: I want to buy the game!

A: You’ll have to wait, I’m afraid. It could be months away before we get to a stage where we accept pre-purchases. We will be allowing people to buy the game for early (alpha/beta) access. We will also at some point accept donations. But we feel we should have something to offer you in return for any sort of payment you might make. Which I’m sure you will appreciate!

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Q: Can we have X, Y, Z resolution wallpapers?

A: Yes! When we receive enough requests for a particular wallpaper, we’ll think about adding it to the media page. We will most likely add new content to the media page to coincide with these weekly updates.

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Q: How can i ask you questions? (Okay, no one actually asked this, but we feel it’s worth mentioning)

A: Easily! Either just leave a comment on IndieDB, Twitter, Facebook or the Blog / Forums. Or contact us directly via the Meebo chat widget on the Crystal Core website, or email us.

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Hopefully this WDU helped to answer a few questions you might have had. Remember to left us know if you have any more! Before we go, we want to leave you with this week’s content updates. Lee has been hard at work to produce the first signs of life. We’re currently working on the character system, which involves creating a base mesh.

The character artists then use this mesh to sculpt new characters from it in Zbrush. Naturally due to the way we have planned a customisation system, some things may seem unfinished or in basic form. Such as the detail comparison between the head and body of this character.

Also, just a brief reminder. If you wouldn’t mind just visiting the website’s front page. Then just hitting the tweet and facebook buttons you find there. We’re only going to gain more popularity by spreading the word. So if you can either direct your friends to the website, or just click those two buttons (If you have accounts at Twitter / Facebook, it takes just a few seconds). It will really help us out.

Until next week!