Category: development

Up until this point, equipment has been a pretty minor part of Conclave.  When you create a character, you get assigned some basic items; at levels 3 and 5, the Council upgrades one of these for you.  You have no say in what you get, no opportunity to customize your weapons or armor or anything at all.  With the release of the Vault of Arms, that will all begin to change.

The Vault of Arms is a new place you can visit from the map.  At the Vault, you can use your Renown – the stock of faith and reputation you’ve built up with the Council – to take equipment from the Conclave.  Weapons, armor, shields, and other miscellaneous items are all available for your use.  You are only limited by the Renown you’ve built up.

When you see that brown tower appear on your quest map, you'll know the Vault is open for business.

So how do you get Renown?  Simple: by completing quests.  Each quest will earn you some Renown to “spend” in the Vault.  (Note that there may be other ways to get Renown in the future.)  I say “spend” because you never lose your Renown; your Renown simply puts a limit on how much equipment you can “check out” from the Vault.  For example, perhaps my True Bow has accumulated 500 Renown.  I might use it to borrow a Rastanhi heavy bow (250 Renown) and a bronze scale cuirass (also 250 Renown), say.  Later, I might decide to trade those items back in, and take out an Ashenweald spirit bow (500 Renown).  I can make these changes any time my party isn’t on a quest.

Why did we go with this model instead of the familiar “accumulate treasure, spend it at the shop” approach?  Flavor was the main driver.  We wanted a place where characters could go to choose from equipment that would scale up as they grew more powerful and faced greater challenges, but the traditional RPG shop is a bit of a flavor disaster: where do shopkeepers get all this great stuff?  If they have it, why are they spending their time running a shop?  But the Conclave itself has resources – smiths, artisans, some practitioners of magic – and should be able to keep characters equipped appropriately for a long time.  Renown provides an alternative currency that fits the flavor of the game better than gold and limits what the Conclave will make available to characters.  Prove yourself, and you will be rewarded with greater trust.

Mechanically, we also get the opportunity to maximize player options in tinkering with their characters’ equipment.  In a shop-based model, you lose money on each transaction: if you buy a bow for 50 GP, you can bet you’ll get a lot less than that if you sell it back.  That means experimentation is costly.  We wanted to make experimentation cheap, or more precisely free.  This means you can customize your equipment to the needs of a given quest, if you see fit.  Will this be fun?  We’re betting so, though we will also be keeping a careful eye out to make sure players don’t feel like they have to be changing equipment all the time in order to maximize the way they match up with each quest.  One reason we think we’ll be okay is that equipment will still play a fairly minor role in overall character power after the Vault is released (though it will be somewhat more important than it is today), so there’s no huge need to fiddle constantly with equipment.  Ideally, people who enjoy playing with equipment will have lots of fun, and those who don’t care as much simply won’t need to.

Some of you might be saying, “Sounds cool… but what about loot?”  Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten how much fun it is to find that awesome and unexpected sword while out on an adventure.  The Vault is just the first step – albeit a big one – in our larger plan for items within Conclave.

When will the Vault arrive?  Well, we pretty much never talk about release dates – that’s just begging for trouble – but it’s fair to say you don’t have long to wait.  Really.

State of the Game, April 2012

With so many new feature and performance releases for Conclave in the past couple of months, and with dramatic increases in our audience over the same period, we realized it was time for a properly comprehensive look at what we’ve been doing, what Conclave players have been doing, and what you can look forward to in the near future.

While Conclave was technically released in October of 2011, we didn’t really start talking about it until mid-February.  Since then, traffic to Conclave has quadrupled, thanks in large part to players spreading the word.  As we hoped, all those new players gave us a lot more information to work with in identifying good and bad parts of the game; not only could we see, numerically, where players were getting hung up, but our fabulous players also gave (and continue to give) us tons of helpful feedback through UserVoice.

Mid-February also saw a major feature release for Conclave.  Some of the biggest changes:

  • Players could join parties mid-quest for the first time, instead of having to wait for the party to finish their quest to do so.
  • We opened all quests up to solo play, not just the very first.
  • We added new ways to invite other players, like posted links and Facebook.
  • We updated quest selection from a simple list of available quests to our new map-based approach.

And so on; you can find the full changelog here.

As our traffic picked up and we began to gather more feedback, we used it to guide additional changes to the game:

  • We launched our first gameplay video to help new players more quickly understand the game.
  • We added new email controls that give players the option to turn off unwanted email notifications (eliminating many spam reports!).
  • Clickable terrain graphics were introduced, providing advance warning of hurtful (and helpful) terrain.
  • We added many performance improvements, including a 3x reduction in lag time between one player acting and the next seeing the result.

So what about the future?  Per Yoda, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”  But here are some things we expect to do soon:

  • Show you who in your party is currently online while you are playing or chatting.
  • Provide a better system for finding other people to play with.  Specifically, we want to be able to find players in similar time zones, and/or with similar expectations for how often they’ll play.
  • Loot!  You want it, we want it, you’ll get it.

It’s been a big couple of months, and we plan to keep that momentum going in months to come.  Let us know if you have any questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Sometimes it’s difficult to get a tabletop RPG going in person: friends move away, or you just don’t live in an area where many people want to play. Since the three of us at 10×10 Room are divided between two major cities, we know what that’s like.

To help with that, we’ve created Bones, a dice-rolling app for Google+ Hangouts. If you’ve never tried one before, a Hangout is a group video chat that supports extra features like screen sharing. With Bones, now you can roll dice and share the results with gamers no matter where they live:

Bones for Hangouts Screenshot

To play with Bones, you’ll need a Google+ profile. Then click this button to kick off a Hangout with the app:

Start a Hangout with Bones

After that, you’ll be able to select Bones from any Hangout you kick off; you won’t have to keep using the button. Check it out and let us know what you think!

p.s. Hangouts are also handy for playing our web-based RPG Conclave face-to-face.

If you’ve ever wondered what Conclave looked like at various stages of its development, here’s your chance. Those of you who are sensitive to crimes against good graphic design might want to skip the first few screenshots.

1. In the beginning …

Our very first prototype of Conclave had no graphics. We were too busy trying out ideas for gameplay, but even at this early stage you can see that we quickly settled on a tile-based battlemap for the combat part of the game:

Combat Iteration 0

2. You ought to be in pictures

It didn’t take long for us to get sick of looking at a text-based interface. We grabbed some placeholder graphics, came up with a preliminary layout, and switched to the default “fantasy” font, which on many browsers is the overused Papyrus:

Combat Iteration 1

3. Things start getting real

As you can see, we tested a few different dimensions for the battlemap. We started with 8×12, briefly went as small as 5×7, and finally settled on 7×9. We also made and commissioned some real graphics, replaced Papyrus with other typefaces, and began to experiment with different layouts:

Combat Iteration 2

4. The ninety-degree turn

One of our first conclusions from these experiments was that we needed to switch the orientation of the battlemap to make better use of the horizontal screen estate afforded by most monitors:

Combat Iteration 3

5. Bigger, better, brighter

Up to this point, our iterations had been fairly incremental and straightforward to implement. Our next one was not. We decided to:

  • upgrade the quality and size of the battlemap backgrounds so that they could cover pretty much the whole user interface
  • switch from a straight grid to a staggered one that behaves more like a hex map, which had some profound implications for our code and mechanics
  • cap the party size at four rather than six
  • add more effects to the battlemap: inaccessible squares would be darkened, the token of a character hiding in shadows would be made slightly translucent, and so on

The result:

Combat Iteration 4

6. What condition my condition was in

We haven’t made major changes to the battlemap itself since then, but the other interface elements have changed quite a bit as we’ve improved the game. We added persistent conditions like burning, bleeding, and off balance, and we made it possible to review prior events in combat. Both those features required us to rejigger the interface a bit:

Combat Iteration 5

7. Good things come to those who give feedback

Since the start of Conclave’s public beta, we’ve made some tweaks based on the feedback we’ve received. We added timestamps to chat messages and an icon to indicate party leadership. We also made it easier to find and manage the party’s settings:

Combat Iteration 6

I think it’s safe to say we’ve come along way since that first text-based prototype. I expect we’ll continue making changes, both big and small, as the game evolves.

You wouldn’t know it from how little we’ve posted lately, but we’ve been very busy working on our game the past few months.


Same game, new name

The most obvious change, if not the most significant, is that it has a new name: Conclave. For the first year and a half of development its working name was Bastion, but you might have heard about the recent launch of another game by that name. Although we were using the name first, we didn’t think a legal battle would be in anyone’s interest, and it gave us a chance to come up with something better. The word “conclave” refers to an assembly or gathering, and we think that’s fitting for a game designed to bring friends together online. It also has an important in-game meaning, which you’ll hear more about in the future.

Besides the name change, our summer can be summed up in three words: development, development, development. We received a hugely positive response when we demoed the game at the “Made in MA” event on the eve of this year’s PAX East, and since then we’ve been working to complete everything that wasn’t ready then. To make sure we’re staying on the right track, we’ve also invited small groups to playtest our changes. If you haven’t received an invite, don’t worry; we expect to begin an open beta of the game soon.

The improvements we’ve made include:

  • dozens of new character and foe abilities
  • interactive terrain for our combat challenges
  • forks in the story where party members can vote on a course of action based on their skills
  • thoroughly revamped quests and challenges
  • a more responsive and graphical interface

Each of those could be its own post, but right now it’s time to get back to work. It won’t be long before you’ll all be able to see the results.

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