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=Story and Dev= A day in the life of an AQ Story Developer

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11/1/2010 1:10:12   
Legendary Loremaster

In June I posted some design notes regarding the storyline development team wherein I noted:

[link= http://forums2.battleon.com/f/tm.asp?m=17737877] ORIGINAL: Falerin[/link]

As a point of fact any of AE’s many staff persons may suggest or offer storyline content for AQ. This situation means that the realized canon (that material that has actually occurred in game), the meta-plot (the combined canon of all of our games), the deutrocanonical material (material not yet in game but released by us in some official capacity, and hopefully to make it in game eventually. My histories for example), and the quasicanon (material that we are working on and intend to put in the game but that may change during the actual development process), can all become blurred.

... snip …

A proposal for a story is discussed with either Galanoth, Myself, the both of us, or the staff entire.

Based on this proposal the author writes a draft script, either as part of an overall arc or outline or as a standalone release.

This material is shared with other developers.

This is polished and edited and then forwarded along to a progressively larger portion of our team as the storyline becomes closer to a final state.

The storyline is then woven into the overall plot of the game and the meta-plot entire with the connections being written as needed.

When the storyline is considered close to complete, any art requirements are assessed and Galanoth forwards these to our talented artists to complete as time allows. Because our artists are overworked and have limited hours in the day a script may stay at this stage for some time.

Once the art is complete, or if limited or no new art are required, a layout artist and animator will then put together the alpha form of the release in flash.

Once animation is completed the layout artist will upload the material and one of the coders or Galanoth himself will place the quest in a condition where we can test it.

The team will run through the material in order to try to detect editorial issues, inconsistencies, problems with animation and the like. This can take some time as well. At this point the material will be assessed for coding needs and where it fits within our release schedule and Galanoth will either schedule the release or determine with the team where the material best fits.

Any items, pets, npcs, guests, and monsters will be examined by the KoO and with input from the rest of the team they will try to come up with stats and flavor that are consistent with the art and story theme.

Only once these are decided can coding processes necessary to full bring the quest to life occur. In this final stage additional testing occurs and Galanoth and/or Zephyros often add some finishing polish to both dialog, art, and material. Often by this point we are right up against the scheduled release time and after some final testing of the beta process the links necessary to actually release the quest are put in place and any staff only testing features are omitted.

What ideally happens then is that when the release day occurs some levers are pulled, switches flipped, buttons pushed, and variables are set and the content comes live. Of course because the process is as lengthy as it is, because we already view the content knowing what it supposed to do, and because we all have many tasks to handle sometimes things slip through.

Ganden’s somewhat less initiated eyes, should help us somewhat to detect a greater number of these sooner rather than later.
All said in done the actual process from concept to release can take much more than a year for some releases. Indeed my own first writing for the game was a process of nearly five or six before it actually occurred in game. Of course there are definitely exceptions and less intensive content from a development perspective, and more timely material related to immediate arcs can be developed much sooner.

All of this very complicated process is made possible by the very many talented individuals we have on our team and the fact that our team dynamic is very familial. This means of course that we sometimes fight like siblings but that we all come together like a family to put out the best game we can for our extended family, the community.

I have reformatted some of it to more clearly break up the process but the content is identical. You can check the original at the link within the quote.

I have since then gained the capacity and knowledge to upload work that I am developing directly removing one intermediate step to the process for me.

Since June I have also become progressively more involvement with the production of various pieces of quest assembly and am very heavily involved in production of finished product.

Division by zero contains considerable examples of my growing work in all aspects of this in fact. Up to and including art, somewhat to my amazement,as I have the artistic talent of a brick.

However I am told I did a decent job.

You can be the judge.

The luminous mogwraith is one of my efforts.

We often are parallel developing very many things at once and development for a given weeks release is likely to have been ongoing for months.

It is at the end however where the majority of coding tasks happen and when we spend considerable nights up testing debugging polishing and coding. Generally this commences on either monday or tuesday and runs full steam through wednesday with it sometimes having to spill in to the thursday of the release as well if problems are discovered.

Very occasionally we need to delay something at the last minute by several hours or a day. Somewhat more often we do miss something and need to apply an immediate bug fix. In general however we have considerably streamlined our process from days of old and have a very good set of working relationships to get it all done.

Many people have suggested at one point or another that a revised release schedule might make more major releases easier to implement and might help finish other efforts that are more back burner.

While there is definitely a grain of truth to that. It is far from that simple. As you can see many things are being worked on at all times and some of us can work on only specific things. It is only this last section of the process that extended time would directly aid and then there are some issues.

As it is we work heavily to polish a release mostly in the early part of the week to be released toward the later part of the week and then we return to the other running tasks. A compounded release would provide more time but it would be somewhat tricky to schedule.

Our present release schedule has undoubted flaws but it does allow us to break up our work into long term and immediate efforts each week.

If multiple weeks were allotted but we were producing larger content for the on week. We would be doing the same work load we are now but either be doing it over a larger number of back to back days followed by a larger number of off days or we would be splitting that final phase over multiple weeks which is not really preferable when we are in the meat of working on something.

Furthermore, some seem to think we can both produce larger content by doing this AND also deal with the backlog of other efforts like: finishing the sweep, finishing our secondary and tertiary efforts etc…

Unfortunately, that’s impossible.

Making a very large release does not take less work then two smaller ones.

Indeed, in many cases the opposite can be true, for a few reasons that come to mind.

Division by Zero was pretty large release in and of itself and it was a pretty monumental effort.

Furthermore our initial promise was weekly releases, one very prominently made, and while many have offered to let us out of our promise, others have been less forgiving and regardless we intend to keep it.

All of this is a rambling introduction to something of an aside.

It occurred to me that some of you might like context about what a given day/week in the life of an AQ developer is like. This may give you greater insight appreciation and understanding.

To this end I am going to spend some time documenting my own daily activities both AQ and non AQ related and producing a log of what I do.

When I am done I will clean this up add some narrative and reflections and after review with my colleagues will post for you my personal “journal” over that period.

Such a project really does not involve any greater time then I am already spending it just means making a note to be more proactive about documenting and tracking it.

If time allows perhaps some of my colleagues can do the same.

Hopefully this will give you a clearer picture of what development for AQ is like, why we love it as much as we do, why we sometimes find it so maddening, and maybe it might inspire you to aspire to one day develop as well.

Of course it might thoroughly scare you off instead…

As each of us reads literally daily: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

I will leave you to search for a translation for it yourself. I will tell you that the origin is Dante Allegri: The Divine Comedy, and in particular, The Inferno.

< Message edited by Falerin -- 11/1/2010 1:17:56 >
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