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Drakensang Online Dev Diaries

Discussion in 'Drakensang Online' started by Aaddron, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. Aaddron

    Aaddron Moderator Staff Member GameOgre Moderator

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    These are sorta old but give a pretty good look into the thinking behind Drakensang Online.

    All the originals can be found here

    Drakensang Online - Developer's Diary 1&2

    Date - 2011-05-13

    If you’re a veteran RPG player, than you’ve most likey heard about the Drakensang series: A huge success in Germany and well-respected by critics and game journalists worldwide, this PC fantasy RPG series was developed a few years ago under our former name, Radon Labs.

    Since becoming Bigpoint Berlin in summer 2010, we’ve worked from the heart of the German capital to take the Drakensang series to the next level by developing Drankensang Online, and now we’d like to tell you a bit about our work. We took on the challenge of creating a unique, online world, which won’t just appeal to current Drakensang fans but instead fascinate new players from across the globe who have never played before. In Drankensang Online, players will be given the chance to play with other people from around the world in 20+ languages, which will be made available during the course of the year. Drakensang Online won’t only fulfill our long-cherished dream but the dream of many other fantasy and RPG fans: We’ll finally be able to experience the world of Drakensang with friends and thousands of other international players thanks to this game being ONLINE.

    Drakensang Online won’t just be a static adventure, or interactive film that will be tossed aside after being played once; but rather, a full world which will be continuously developed and changed over the course of the coming months and even years. The number of cities and countries available at the time of the game’s release will rapidly be increased and the world will constantly be expanded: new continents, monsters, adventures, plus much, much more. The world of Drakensang Online is a brand-new, unexplored world, full of foreign dangers, fantasy creatures, undiscovered continents, and magic. In this slowly awakening world where secrets were buried over a thousand years ago and have all been but forgotten, who knows what adventures await and what mysteries there are for us and you to uncover. We’ve got a lot of exciting ideas for the next few phases but where we’ll head to next is ultimately the will of the players. Together with you, the community, we’ve got a real chance at forging a legendary, fantasy world.

    Now I’d like to present you with a behind-the-scenes look into the world we’re bringing to life and how we’re doing it.

    Designing a fantasy world from the ground up and creating a second home for thousands of players is no easy task. Yet, breathing life into a digital universe is a highly creative and fascinating process. It’s a completely different experience creating a fantasy world to provide 30 to 40 hours of offline gameplay as it is to developing an epic-online world to provide several hundred hours of gameplay. As developers, it gives us an immense amount of room to invent fantastic expansions, new continents and new nations.

    Our vision of Drakensang Online began with a general outline of how we wanted to develop this new world, but it was clear to us from the very start that the player community would definitely have a say in its future. Interestingly enough, the team’s conception of all important developmental points came together seamlessly and became clear to all of us just where the journey should lead, without having a single line of written text to describe this world. In this way, a medieval land quickly began to take shape within the fog. From which the first designs were inspired and the world began to form but still lacked depth. We knew intuitively how this world should look but we couldn’t explain why.

    It was quickly apparent that a world like this demanded solid foundations. Without knowing what laws, gods and kings governed this world, designs, levels, characters and quests couldn’t be developed. It’s important to know how the world was created and what holds it deep-down together or what’s trying to tear it apart. Should an RPG be developed in a setting which already exists, then an extreme amount of research is required. If the world is completely new, then all of the foundations must be established.

    This is often a difficult process to begin when you don’t know where to start. Should you start with the story? Or the world in which this story takes place? The world and story we had envisioned were vague to say the least, because it’s very difficult to create a living present without a past. So we began where all stories begin: With the birth of the world. From there we constructed several key points in the story and lead them to the present. Once we had established our game world’s entire story and its history, we had a rich foundation with which to work. It’s all coming together now as we give locations a background and depth to a character’s goals and motivations.

    That may seem somewhat easy but it’s actually a massive undertaking and our authors have invested months into this story’s development. Once you start, you begin to notice quickly how many questions remain unanswered and are essential to the fundamental stability of the world. Exploring these questions is the best way for us to prevent errors in reasoning or logical fallacies later.

    How did the world of Drakensang Online come to be? What happens when a character dies? Where does magic come from and how does it work? What sort of deities are there and what came before them? What shaped the story of this world and which characters and groups of people play a role in it? These are just a few of the questions that required explanations. The concepts were intensively discussed, worked out in detail and painstakingly revised until we were certain that everything fit together. We made sure to create an epic world that was coherent and consistent and maintained the feel we wanted for the game, all without sacrificing humor among all the exciting action.

    In the meantime, our world has begun to take shape and everything about the history, mythology, and legends are written out in a mountain of paper. The influence from this planning can already be seen in the development of graphics, music and gameplay elements. At the start, players will only be able to see the smallest part of these efforts, but it’s our base for all future developments in Drakensang Online. Slowly but surely the contours of this history will be revealed to the players. Much will appear to the players in a way that is different from reality and, as we mentioned before, the players will also have a hand in the outcome of this world. Here’s a taste of the beginning of our story:

    The island kingdom of Duria, where the player’s quest begins, lies on the northwestern edge of the world. As the old empire began to crumble the legendary commander Heredur founded a new kingdom and crowned himself its king. Today, roughly 700 years later, Duria has peacefully and prosperously existed for many years. Rumors of war in the north-east have begun to spread fear and panic among the population. The ties to Shorfolk on the kingdom’s east coast have been severed. Herders and farmers in the region have begun to flee to the capital city of Kingshill and report of bandits, witchcraft, wild beasts and monsters. The frail, peace-loving king Harold sits idly by and closes his eyes to growing danger from the comfort of his throne. His son prince Aldred has disappeared.

    Duria is but the first land for players to discover. They will begin their journey in the northern lands and slowly be led into the southern and eastern portions of the continent.

    We can hardly wait to set the first heroes loose in our world and see how they overcome the dangers, discover the world’s history, and experience an amazing adventure. We’ll watch the players with excitement as they go through these new experiences. We have many exciting things up our sleeves, but the world we created for Drakensang Online also has a few surprises in store for even us – we too stand before the start of a spectacular voyage!

    About the author:

    Bernd Beyreuther, Head of Development at Bigpoint Berlin
     
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  2. Aaddron

    Aaddron Moderator Staff Member GameOgre Moderator

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    Drakensang Online - Developer's Diary 3

    Drakensang Online - Developer's Diary 3

    Date - 2011-05-13

    The week we began developing Drakensang Online last June was an exciting time for us: Fantastic new doors opened up to us overnight thanks to Bigpoint’s takeover!

    In past interviews and talks with fans, I was repeatedly asked about taking Drakensang online and introducing co-op modes, but I was forced to answer: “No – it’s just not in our budget”. The original parts were, due to circumstances, very classic and almost old-fashioned, story-based single-player RPGs. Despite my attempts to say no, I was routinely asked about co-op possibilities, but once we became Bigpoint Berlin, the opportunity to make our long-held dreams of going online and having co-op gameplay was immediately there. Now, not just with three or four players at once, but with hundreds! Even thousands!

    It suddenly became clear to us that we had to turn the game inside out. We could feel it in the air. Now was the time to act – to do something completely new!

    Our team sat down and brainstormed for several days, putting our years of experience and teamwork to use. We thought about what game we wanted to make; what the strengths and weaknesses of the old Drakensang games were and how we could make them more fun; how we could further optimize our strengths; what the new medium’s requirements were; and what technical hurdles stood in our way? Hundreds of notes, post-its, doodles and diagrams were plastered on the walls. 30 to 40 people pulled together, some sitting on the floor, some working in smaller teams or all gathering together to discuss different aspects. From this massive reservoir of ideas, we were able to distill the central ideas of Drakensang Online.

    This process revealed to us that the entire team’s vision was very similar to some of the original concepts used in the older Drakensang games. While designing the old games, production difficulties, external influences, etc. often got in the way and forced us to stray from our original plans. The co-op mode was always at the top of our wish list but was always too complex for us to realize. Other aspects, which provided similar difficulties and even sparked criticism of our older games, were the player/camera perspective, the breadth and complexity of the game dialogs, long loading times, excessive distances and much more. In many ways, this concept for a new game was ultimately a return to our first aspirations for the series, despite being independently developed.

    The next step was making our case to the company decision-makers. Within a few weeks, we put together a prototype, which didn’t only boast new technology (our Nebula browser technology) but also had a gameplay demo, designed to give a taste of the game’s style, perspective and basic gameplay. The first Drakensang Online trailer and screenshots which were presented at GamesCom 2010 came from this prototype. Our talented team came through with flying colors and quickly delivered a playable prototype that wowed and dazzled with the game’s technology, graphics and gameplay.

    What’s the gameplay going to be like in Drakensang Online? What’s so new and special about it? The answer is the fusion of two gaming worlds: Action RPGs and MMORPGs!

    Drakensang Online is now faster and more intense than classic MMORPGs; it can be played directly and immediately in the browser without any loading time; players can dive right into the action, now largely based on now hack ‘n slay fighting. Hordes of 20 to 30 monsters are no longer a seldom event and their fighting styles will be faster, requiring players to make quick use of their talents, potions, special attacks and magic. With no way to pause, players will only be able to take a break from fighting the hordes of monsters by challenging each other.

    Teamwork is a major component of this game and is essential to discovering its immense world featuring an epic story and plenty of quests. In hub locations like the capital city of Duria, Kingshill, players will find not only hundreds of other real players but a city full of detailed NPCs, an iconic part of the Drakensang series. Drakensang Online tears down the barriers between online and action RPGs – a combination rarely achieved.

    To create the proper foundation for Drakensang Online, a completely new set of game rules had to be assembled, and they had to fulfill some pretty hefty requirements. Considering our desire to extend Drakensang Online in the future, it was a must for them to be easily expandable. They needed to be able to handle action-heavy battles, offer lots to discover and give players endless combinations to customize their characters. Not to mention, remain as transparent as possible. That’s why we avoided a system of complicated attribute conversions and implemented instead a system with direct combat values. Action-packed and direct also means, with respect to previous MMOs, that players can avoid an incoming fireball. Quick and clever reactions allow players to determine the fate of the battle for themselves.

    We’re particularly proud of our nearly endless collection of magic items that are dynamically produced and include unique selections for each character class such as equipment, helmets, magic tomes, potions and more. There’s also a large emphasis on character customization, meaning players can change their game figures’ appearance and weapons as they like.

    One of the most beautiful components of the game combat is the enormous and flexible skill system, which gives the players the ability to develop their own style of play. Players modify and enhance basic magic and special attacks with magic, elemental essences, turning basic battle magic into impressive fireballs. To make this massive collection of skills unique and visually appealing, a special “skill team” composed of programmers and animators was assembled to implement them. We can’t help but be proud of them and made sure to make the center piece of our second trailer which can be found on our official website: Drakensang Online | Free Browser MMORPG Fantasy Adventure Game » Home

    About the author:
    Bernd Beyreuther, Head of Development at Bigpoint Berlin
    Jg.1970
    Cartoonist, CAD operator and programmer, completed his studies in animation at The Potsdam Babelsberg Film and Television University
     
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  3. Aaddron

    Aaddron Moderator Staff Member GameOgre Moderator

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    Drakensang online - Developer's Diary #4

    Drakensang online - Developer's Diary #4

    Date - 2011-05-27

    A glimpse into the closed beta

    The Drakensang Online closed beta has been marching on since April 1. And throughout this time, we’ve experienced a series of nail-biting weeks and been exposed to completely new perspectives and knowledge. We’ve had our first nightshifts due to burnt-out servers, evaluated the first statistical feedback and tackled the task of sorting through mountains of regular player and forum feedback.

    As you are aware, Drakensang Online is our first online game, and since it was “turned on”, – albeit “closed” and “privately”– it has been an incredibly exciting time for us.

    Our lead programmer, Nico, sat in awe until the late hours of the night watching the number of active players explode. At the time there had been no press releases, no news, nothing informing the public. No one could have known that the system was online. At first we attributed it to a bug, until we realized that fans and newcomers alike from across the globe began to register as we watched. We were then officially live!

    It is truly breathtaking to see how many players really play and HOW they play. This direct and concrete connection to the players is incredibly interesting.

    Now we can see what you play and can read how you feel about it. We know that it isn’t a one-way road and that it’s just as important for us to tell you what’s been going on from our end. We’re also learning how to talk to talk to players directly.

    Fortunately we’ve got our Community Manager Thomas onboard in Hamburg. Thomas already has a lot of experience and works with the team to watch the forums (Drakensang Online - Powered by vBulletin) and writes the breaking news, release notes, Twitter info (Drakensang Online (@Drakensang) on Twitter) and Facebook posts (Drakensang Online | Facebook).

    Is this information helpful to you? Is it too little info? Do you know what we’re up to? We don’t always get the information out perfectly because we sometimes only have a few minutes to produce them and then have them translated into at least five languages. We’re working hard to stay open and transparent in our communications to inform you about every step of development and any problems. We also want to inform you about new things that we’ll soon be releasing and provide you with a platform that isn’t just entertaining, but also a place that you want to come back to again and again.
    What are we working on right now? Shall we take a look at the team?

    We’re currently focusing on two main issues:
    • We’re finalizing and polishing the most important features and balancing. This is where the majority of our feedback from the closed beta is being put to use.
    • We’re stabilizing and fixing bugs.
    Now let’s move onto the production of features:

    Picture removed, see first post for link to original which includes pictures.

    Here we see David Thamm – he’s currently programming the mini map, which is one of the most important features in the game that’s still missing. But unfortunately, I can’t show you a screenshot of it just yet because it will still take a few days before it’s completed. We hope to have it finished before the end of May. Why haven’t we had one until this point?

    Releasing quickly was very important to us. It doesn’t make much sense for us to tinker in our workshop when we could be developing the game with real players in a real environment. We decided to postpone a large number of the features we came up with during the development process to ensure a swifter release – even if it meant starting with less features.

    The mini map had seemed less important to us and was put on the list of backlogged features. The closed beta helped us to see that the mini map is the most important feature demanded by our features. One Facebook response stated: “loved this game but I won't play again till the mini map is implemented.” We’re working as fast as we can to implement the new system.

    Further features currently being worked on include the new shop and the complete retooling of the essence and magic systems. Both systems were far too complicated and full of bugs and we’re working hard to correct them.

    Picture removed, see first post for link to original which includes pictures.

    Patrick is currently drawing up the graphics for the new shop. Many of the functions that were improved have just been finished, meaning that only now can a graphics artist put the final touches on them. This also includes the icons.

    When the programmers aren’t making final adjustments to the features, they spend their days working on improving the stability and performance of the servers. During the closed beta, we were able to manage the mass of players on our servers via the account activations. To see how the servers would handle registrations and gameplay simultaneously, we intentionally overloaded them by controlling the level of beta registrations per day. The graphic displays the current number of active players and you can see that the least number of players are online between 3–4 am in the morning but that’s still more than none!

    Until now larger series of activations have led to bugs and performance bottlenecks and have kept us on our toes for days trying to resolve them. The closed beta testers notice this when the game becomes choppy; the servers can’t be reached or there are other similar problems. As developers, we get late-night warning e-mails on our cell phones, sit in front of our laptops watching the servers or adjust the settings ourselves. I, myself, can’t help but check my smartphone every five minutes to see how many players are currently active. A rapid drop in players usually means sever trouble or that something else isn’t working.

    What’s on the horizon? Starting in June the closed beta will move into the open beta phase. Everyone will be able to register and play. The start of the open beta in June doesn’t mean that we’re done developing the game whatsoever – it just means we can really begin.

    Gamestar summarized it well by saying: “Drakensang Online is … a seed, from which a great online-action RPG will grow, if it is nursed and lovingly tended.”

    And that’s just what we plan to do! Each week we’ll have a regular update. These updates will include new features and improvements which will all be described in breaking news and release notes. Hot fixes and patches may on occasion be uploaded multiple times in a single day. All of this, of course, with your feedback in mind.

    These weekly updates will help the game continuously grow. Among which will be the TEGANSWALL extension. This is the first major content update that should be appearing this summer – more about that to come in the next developer’s diary ...

    I’d like to thank all of the closed-beta testers from the bottom of my heart for your feedback and patience!

    About the author:
    Bernd Beyreuther, Head of Development at Bigpoint Berlin
    Jg.1970
    Cartoonist, CAD operator and programmer, completed his studies in animation at The Potsdam Babelsberg Film and Television University
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2012
  4. Aaddron

    Aaddron Moderator Staff Member GameOgre Moderator

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    Drakensang online - Developer's Diary #5

    Drakensang online - Developer's Diary #5

    Date - 2012-01-11

    It’s been a few months since our last Developer’s Diary entry. At the time we were still in the Closed Beta and I had written: “Wow! Those were a few breathtaking weeks.†However, at this point in time I didn’t know what was awaiting us…

    Now, Drakensang Online has been in Open Beta since August 8th. And the interest in the game has completely blown us away.

    We're rapidly approaching 2 million registrations.

    THAT (!) is truly breathtaking!

    Initially, we had planned on writing a diary entry every month. But the last few months have been so busy that we've had absolutely no time to make an entry or even write a short summary. Unfortunately, we also seem to have lost track of time – events that occurred only a few days ago suddenly seem like they happened a long time ago. This is because the minute a new release hits the market, we're already planning and testing the next one. Some features take weeks to complete, others only take a few days. The work pace is very quick and it’s easy to become confused while jumping from one version to the other.

    2011 is slowly winding down and there simply must be time to take a deep breath and reflect: What have we accomplished since August? I don't even think I'll be able to list everything…

    1.) When the server went live on August 8th, it almost crashed all of our servers. The incoming traffic was immense so that our systems were not able to correctly process the volume of registrations. We were prepared for lots of things, but not that the number of registrations per second (!) would be an issue. We spent two entire weeks trying to somehow get the problem under control. The exciting thing about this was that the deluge of registrations arrived (and continues to arrive) from all over the world. We can see that thousands of players signed up, not only from Germany, France and Poland (countries where Drakensang is especially popular), but also from countries on the other side of the world – from Australia, New Zealand, Asia or South America. This never ceases to amaze me.

    2.) The assembly and disassembly of the PvP arenas and modes and all the other related things occupied us for quite some time. The inclusion of the important functions that had initially been missing, such as buddy windows, guilds, PvP modes and much more eventually led to more and more server activity. We learned that a PvP mode is a very critical part of an MMO – but we also learned that not every player puts a lot of stock in it. We see that PvP and PvE are both fundamentally important aspects of the game. For this reason, we will of course continually work on developing PvP and offer new matches and improvements.

    3) TEGANSWALL, our first content update, with the Herald is not too far in the past and the NORDLANDE update will provide the release of a nice second expansion package before Christmas. This means that we have basically doubled the content since August -- with over 100 quests, more than a dozen new levels and just as many monsters, two new bosses and numerous small champions and the addition of countless items and equipment.

    4.) The continuous improvement of the GUI is another important aspect. We were surprised at how well changes such as the combat texts, the buff bar or our new notify system were received by the users, and we still have a long list of things we want, can, and need to improve – thanks in no small part to your feedback.

    5.) For quite some time now you have requested backup and it has taken some time: but now, finally, it has arrived – Rangers! They are very agile archers, but they can also pack a punch – this is why they are my own personal favorite. The Ranger arrives accompanied by a whole new skill system that makes using the skills significantly better and, at the same time, significantly improves the fun. We were not very happy with the old system, so it's no wonder that you weren’t happy either. The system just didn’t function properly and you made this abundantly clear to us. We were unable to fulfill my promise of creating a flexible, modular system in such a fashion that it was fun to use as well as easy to understand.

    However, I am certain that you will like the new system better, and I can tell you that in the coming months we will roughly double the number of skills for all archetypes. The low number of skills was never our concept, but came about through production restraints. We will change this going forward; month by month and piece by piece.

    The best part will be a skill tree that enables a real nice individualization that will also retroactively be made available to higher-level players.

    6.) We’d promised to provide you with weekly updates and we’ve kept our promise. We only had to move our deadline twice, since both times a feature was not working properly. We will continue working hard to ensure that in 2012 you will receive the updates on a regular basis.

    Our plan for 2012 includes a mountain of new content and exciting new features. Beginning in January we will be introducing a first, very cool feature which lets you adopt the player character. And, of course, we will add archetypes and countries …

    7.) Of course, we’ll continue looking forward to receiving your feedback to help make Drakensang Online better and better. And we will respond to your feedback in a timely manner.

    I would like to thank you for your bug reports, your cooperation in the forums and every point of critique. It is truly appreciated. I can assure you that your feedback is very important and is taken very seriously. We register and record every one of your suggestions, complaints or comments.

    Have fun with the massive Christmas update and hopefully we’ll see each other online soon!
     
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  5. Mordekaiser

    Mordekaiser Dealer of Death Ogre Veteran

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    Thanks for the posts Addron
     

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