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Illuvium Dev Blog — October 2021

Illuvium Dev Blog — October 2021

Intro

Based on community feedback, we have decided to create a monthly blog where we can collate information about the state of development of the project. Currently, information is spread too thin and primarily across AMAs and responses on social media. The general idea would be that you should still trust core contributor responses, but the source of truth will generally be this blog. As it is monthly, things can change between updates. Social media responses and AMAs can keep things up to date for those wanting bleeding edge information while allowing those who don’t want to scour the depths of the YouTube comment section can still keep informed.

Keep in mind that there will always be things that we can’t comment on, so don’t expect this to reveal information for which we might be in an NDA (such as some partnerships), but it will cover the general state of the game.

This blog is broken into sections, with each team getting its update. Some will be more in-depth than others. While we will strive to clarify any statements we make here via discord or other social media, don’t expect that we will have the capacity to answer questions in chat constantly. We do our best, but as always, development comes first.

I will eventually distribute this document through the website, but as per the Web update below, we are focusing on other areas.

Game — Overworld

A whole new world!

Gameplay Trailer Surprise

The Overworld took a massive leap forward, with most movement mechanics implemented to an 80% level. We will not update these until we finish other systems. We will go back and polish them to about 95%, which we are happy with for the Beta. Remember that our’ 95%’ might be a higher standard than other games’ ‘100%’, so the primary goal of saying this is to let people understand that we will still work on systems after the private betas conclude.

Inventory Accounted For

The next steps are to take the inventory systems and integrate them with the backend from their current proof of concept up to an 80% level. We were delayed slightly by our lead of UI being ‘unavailable’ for weeks. He’s back now and ploughing through the work.

We still need two more developers on this team and are sourcing them as we speak. We are putting an offer to one next week. Extra developers will help us ‘grapple’ with some movement mechanics we would like to implement and add some polish to the inventory.

Character Customisation

We would like to have some character options, but it probably won’t start the Public Beta. We might have some simple options available, but we do not promise anything. Also, players will get different suits and weapons, so there will still be some differences in players’ looks. We know this isn’t ideal, but we have to prioritise.

Game — Autobattle

A breathtaking system.

Core Systems Nearly Done

Many of the core systems of our Deterministic Combat Engine are complete. The implementation of Synergies, Hyper, Enhancements, and the migration from the square grid to the hex grid remain. A lot of people noticed that the movement was a bit boxy. Our movement issues were because we were on a square grid, AND we didn’t do a lot of tweaking to that code because we knew the final game would not use the square grid post trailer.

Most of these systems should be done by the end of the month, with the only foreseeable delays related to game design.

Cinematic Renderer

As seen in the trailer, the cinematic renderer is doing its job well. We still have work to do with regards to getting it working in packaged builds and camera tracking (currently, you have to key in the camera angles you want, which makes it smoother but requires some skill to get it right).

Game — Illuvium Zero

Zero to hero.

The game itself has had many upgrades over the last few weeks. It is still an isometric city builder type game, and I would still say it is a small game, but I would no longer call it a ‘mini game’. The game is nearly feature-complete with a few loose ends to tie up. The focus will soon move to bug testing and QA and visual and audio polish. We are currently working out how far we can take the audio, visual effects, and animations while still meeting the Alpha timeline.

Game Design

We are a team now.

Two game designers added

There was just myself for game design for a large portion of the project. However, we did manage to get most things fleshed out during this time. We hired Ben, formerly of Riot Games, to help with the design earlier in the year. Since then, he has joined full time, and just last month, we brought on two more game designers. There are many combat stats to design, and we still need to convert their design into data that runs inside the game. It will be tight to see how many we can do for the private Beta, but we could end up with more than expected.

Synergies, Hyper, Enhancements

We are currently working on the final numbers for the Synergies and Enhancements, at which point the game dev team can implement them. Some scaffolding is complete, so it won’t take too much longer to get the values in. This is one of the benefits of a data-driven system. Hyper is fully designed now, including some stupidly big equations, mainly because I’m stubborn.

Survival Mode

They have also just finalised the ‘Survival Mode’ design, which is what Private Beta 1 will be all about. You will be tasked with defeating wave after wave of Illuvials in the auto battler in this mode. Eventually, you will be overrun, but you might get a high score before then.

Blockchain

There are currently three main projects being worked on by the blockchain team. Staking v2, Land Sale, and Illuvitars. (Most of the minting work for the game itself is complete).

Staking v2

Staking v2 is essentially done, including unit tests and documentation. We will put out an IIP that we are confident will pass because it has been discussed with the Council previously. I am personally not happy with all the changes made since the original IIP, but the player base should be because you asked for it. Keep in mind that v2 includes upgradeability, so it is much easier now if things need to be changed. But there won’t be a v3 until we are ready to deploy on L2. There is no date for that.

Land Sale

Land Sale contracts are mostly done for the auction and minting. Most of the work that remains is about getting the IlluviDEX done, which is our marketplace. This is a significant amount of work and the main reason for the delay. But like the trailer, you will be happy with the wait because the experience will be top-notch. And it will get people used to the marketplace rather than doing it on a third party system. The Land Sale is not just a blockchain project, so that it will crop up later in the update.

Illuvitars

Illuvitars work is coming along. We don’t have specific deadlines on this, and because of the significant work pipeline, we will make sure it doesn’t overlap with other projects. As such, it will be in 2022. However, the blockchain work for this is not extensive, and most of the work is art-based.

Web

There are currently five main projects being worked on by the web team. Staking v2, Land Sale, Illuvitars, Media Gallery, and a new website.

Staking v2

UX for Staking v2 has begun. We want people to have a good experience with this, so the migration must be seamless. Not a heap will change overall, but we need to consider how we present it. We need to wait until the feature-completeness of v2 (which we think is now), but we won’t fully finish this immediately. We will code the staking app once we complete the UX.

Land Sale

The Land Sale is the largest web app we have built so far. It includes an interactive overview map of Illuvium where players can zoom in to pick the plots they want to buy. Eventually, we may even link up the real-time data from Illuvium Zero so that when you go to the ‘Land’ section of the IlluviDEX, you can see what has been built on a particular plot. This is a stretch goal and is more likely to happen during the public Beta. As above, mainly marketplace features remain to be built.

Illuvitars

Apart from a landing page, no work has been done besides the UX. It is far more straightforward than the land sale, and since it will also exist in the IlluviDEX, we should save some time hooking into the systems that will already be there.

Media Gallery

The Media Gallery is nearly complete and looks incredible. This is a place for approved influencers to grab official content for use in social media (pictures, videos, sound files, etc.) It has a back end where we can leak (read: upload) media and notify influencers. We have some BIG updates for streamers and influencers soon that should yield some big rewards.

The new website is the lowest priority. Yes, we could build something out and spend our time on that, but it would delay basic things that people want to see. The web team could pick this up as we build out the team, but it’s also ok to come out after everything else. Remember, the more content we have available, the better it will be. So don’t worry too much about this one.

Backend

There are some challenges with resourcing, but several new contributors are joining in the coming weeks.

Authentication and Integration with IMX near complete

We are making some good progress here, with a lot of work done into authentication. We are still building out a lot of our infrastructure but have acquired a solid lead here just last month, which will accelerate development. Keep in mind there are still many aspects of the game that will not rely on the blockchain, such as content delivery and user accounts. These need to be robust, and so while it might not be the most glamorous, it is an essential part of the game that is often overlooked at smaller studios. We still need to improve our bug reporting systems in anticipation of the private betas and many more features such as the Data Editor (this is something that will eventually allow token holders to design new Illuvials).

The backend team also supports the web team with many deliveries, such as building infrastructure and APIs for the land sale and the media gallery.

This section will be broken into Game Backend and Infrastructure from the next update.

Art

A strong team that is only getting stronger.

Biggest Strength

Our biggest strength at the moment is our art team. We have dozens of industry veterans. The teams are nearly fully staffed except for the environment. While we still don’t have as many as some AAA studios, we have hired only seniors who know how to produce content. There are very few art assets left for private beta 1, and we are confident that this will not be a blocker. Some art assets may need a rework afterwards, but this is expected when you launch as a public beta. And again, our standards are high. Most people were happy with what they saw in the trailer. We still think there is work to do.

Illuvials on schedule, OverworldOverworld catching up

Private Beta 2 will be tricky for the art team as we want to have a more significant number of Illuvials integrated and two completed regions. As mentioned above, we are still looking for a few more in the environment team. Additionally, two tech artists are working full time on restructuring, organising, and optimising the Brightland Steppes region. They made significant progress this week, which has made us more confident.

Overall the team has been flying along. Most took a week off to recover from the crunch of the trailer, but we are confident in the team.

Story

On the track, but still tight.

Tragedy to Triumph

Like most parts of the project, the original story idea has evolved into something much bigger. We are looking deeper into how we can continue this story well into the future. Our lead writer has now fully taken over the project from me. That handoff took some time, as many of the story elements have some relationship to the gameplay elements or even blockchain elements, and it’s not always easy to get your head around these types of restrictions. But we are now on the same page. Writers will weave story elements into the game over the first 6–12 months. These elements will start as text and become much more. We think people will want to be the discoverer of these things. We conceived out more than a year ago, and I’m surprised how stable the story has been. Most of the continuity errors have been solved, and we might bring on more writers to get things done quickly.

Remember that Riot has been developing ‘Arcane’ for six years. Illuvium will tell our story over time, and we are trying to set up the architecture to tell great stories. But don’t expect something huge in the beginning.

The next trailer is already in motion

Next week we begin writing the main trailer, and soon after that, we will storyboard it. Our partners that helped us make the previous trailer has been fantastic to work with, and we look forward to working with them in the future. Even though the main trailer will be cinematic, we will also create a small gameplay explainer video that goes into much more detail about how to play the game, rather than just what the gameplay looks like from the gameplay reveal trailer.

Marketing

We are just beginning to flex.

Experience from Riot and Twitch to help the project mature

Scott McCarthy and Veronica Foo have provided us with some much-needed insight into AAA marketing. They have already implemented many systems that will help us engage with more people more efficiently.

Influencing Influencers

We have excellent relationships built with influencers, and they will be even happier in the coming months. We are finding out the best way to target specific segments of the population and get them laser-focused on our game.

Continued focus on the community

Additionally, we continue to engage the community through AMAs and interviews and spend time answering questions in chat and talking in the discord voice chat. We feel it is essential to be on the same level as our players and continue to portion some of our time to community engagement.

Unfortunately, I can’t go into every detail of our marketing plans, but I am confident that we will lead the crypto market here and do it mostly organically, as we have done from the start.

Resourcing

A few areas are proving difficult, but we’re still growing fast.

Anonymous Art Director Von Neumann Revealed as Grant Warwick!

For the longest time, you’ve known him as Von, VN, Von Leakman, or just plain Von Neumann, but all along, he was one of the 4 Warwick brothers. I’ll just come out and say it; you should have picked it, and shame on you for not. Now you’ll be able to get interviews from all three co-founders (though not all at the same time, because that’s how Armageddon’s start, and you don’t want an Armageddon, do you?). Grant brings a unique perspective to the team and leads the art team. He is also probably the best and fastest hard-surface modeller globally, which helps when you have a game with many suits and weapons to create.

Core Contributors continue to grow

We are over 150 people now, not including outsourcing. We still have some spaces available that have made things difficult for us. But we are also quite proud of the ‘productive’ staff ratio to managers. We have a very flat structure, and as such, everyone on the team does actual work that goes into the game. In addition to their primary duties, the marketing team also writes character bios for the Illuvials. All our leads create content, write code, or design things, in addition to reviewing their team’s work and planning. Both our tech director and art director do more than direct. They both have ridiculously high outputs. And we do this with only three producers (including myself) and one art coordinator. Anywhere else, this ratio would be madness, but when you only hire top-level people who are willing to work, it makes sense, even if we are all remote. We don’t even set work hours. Everyone makes their schedule, as long as it fits in with their team, and they work the hours they want.

One thing that plagues many studios is that people in leadership roles that do nothing. They might say they ‘guide’ the team, but in our opinion, this is not the right way to create fast. If your job is to simply “have a team of people”, then you don’t belong at Illuvium. Our leaders are like warriors on the battlefield, getting their hands dirty. Like all you Rangers, they charge into the battle and lead by example.

Summary

Overall, things are going well. Our timelines are based on the idea that we hit all our goals, and if not, that we have a way to catch up. There will always be a balance between getting out the highest polish and getting things out the fastest, especially when you launch as a public beta. We will continue to focus on core areas to have a game to put in people’s hands soon. For those already part of the DAO, we ask that you have patience with us in our decisions. We decided to delay the last trailer because we had an idea of making it much better. We said it would take two months extra, and we got there (a 45-minute delay notwithstanding). In the end, though, the fact is that we have been going hard for over a year now. We are almost always crunching. And we are doing everything we can to release as fast as possible. And we are confident that we will create a great game.

Thanks again for all your support.

Illuvium Dev Blog — October 2021 was originally published in Illuvium Hub on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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