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Kingsmen

Kingsmen Level Design

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Hail future rulers,

I realize it has been a while, long while since the last dev update here on the blog but be assured, we are still hard at work on our tactical turn-based game here at SMG.  Lots of stuff working in the background and we hope to be able to share it with you soon.  Today I am turning over the blog to our Lead level designer, Curtis so that he can share with you what he does around here.

Hi, my name is Curtis Rochelle, and I’ve been designing the tactical maps for Kingsmen. Before working at Stealth Mode, I was a Level Design student at The Guildhall at SMU. I’ve made levels for first-person shooters, role-playing games, and horror games. Kingsmen was my first experience designing for turn-based tactics games, though I’ve been a devotee of the genre for many years. I’d like to take a few paragraphs to share some insights into my process for designing Kingsmen maps.

Incorporating vertical play space is an important element of our design philosophy for Kingsmen. We want to give the players plenty of interesting spaces to interact with on the tactical maps. Ideally, a good Kingsmen level should invite the player to think about the battlefield in three dimensions, and to discover ways to take the high ground from their adversaries. Because of this, I try to avoid creating flat play spaces as much as possible. Medieval villages and countrysides aren’t as well known for multi-story structures. With a little creativity, however, we were able to come up with believable options for vertical gameplay.

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Another important factor for the Kingsmen maps is designing with an eye to the unit movement constraints inherent in tactical games. In any given turn, the player can move no more than 12 grid spaces in any direction. If the player wants to take an action with a unit, that distance gets cut in half. Because of this, I tried to think of the level in intervals of 6 and 12 squares. Whenever possible, I made sure to include points of interest, such as cover, verticality, and chokepoints every 5-8 squares. This became a useful metric for avoiding too much dead space in a level area.

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One of the most critical elements of any successful level design is correctly determining the scale and proportions of a level’s playable space. This has proven especially true for Kingsmen maps. Because of the way our system handles unit navigation, any game object that affects the geometry of the level has to fit within specific proportions to prevent pathing errors. This means that even in the prototype phase of a map, I need to have a clear understanding of the “footprint” for any building, wall, fence, or other feature that could block unit movement.

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To keep up with these strict requirements, I have to communicate clearly with the art team during the whitebox and prototype phases. Since the art team relied on my prototypes to determine their workload for the level, I had to be very systematic and intentional about the size and location of each BSP brush I placed. To give the artists a convenient reference, I created asset spreadsheets for my levels. These spreadsheets included reference shots, dimensions in Unreal Units, and detailed diagrams of each asset’s footprint. The documentation has proven to be quite useful in determining the size and shape of each major asset.

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Thus far, designing Kingsmen tactical maps has been both challenging and rewarding. There’s still plenty of work to be done before the game ships. I look forward to creating many more levels for Kingsmen, and I hope the results are as satisfying to play as they have been to create.

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Kingsmen at the Show!

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Back in September, our small crew took a trip down to south Texas.  Here is a very quick mention of the experience.

We were honored for Kingsmen to be selected for the Intel Developer Showcase at the Austin Game Conference. We got to present the game at the showcase and demonstrate it on the exhibition floor in the Intel booth. It was an amazing and intense experience. We learned a great deal and got some excellent feedback.

We were a bit worried. This was the first time that anyone outside the company really had an opportunity to actually take the controls at the game. And we had rushed to make it ready – while we’re closing in on finishing our first demo stage but we had not anticipated the showcase. And there is always the desire to fix just one more little bug, polish one more facet, etc.

The response was excellent and really helped our confidence. After a while on a project, all the people working on it see are the flaws, and so they get magnified in the mind.

I want to personally thank the Intel Achievement Unlocked crew who were all extremely helpful and supportive: Randi Rost, Cindi Wiggin, Stephanie Balicki,  Landyn Pethrus, Sierra Reid, Josh Bancroft, and Phil (who’s last name I’ve misplaced) all made it a very rewarding experience.

Epic Games was also at the conference, which allowed us a chance to talk to one of there technical artists to get some valuable insight on making our skeletal animations much more efficient.

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Answering questions for some players.

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Curtis and Bloo at the Intel booth.

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SMG at the Intel Developer Showcase

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Some Summer Love

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Hi there future Liege!

Holy hell it’s hot!  I love Texas but getting used to the summer heat…well that’s another story.

I wanted to do another update of what’s been going on since we launched the new website.
Work continues, as always, on Kingsmen.  It’s coming together rather nicely.  A lot of the major systems are in the game and working.  We still have some minor bugs and a few more major systems to add like Fog-of-War and the customization system, but as of today the game is playable from client launch to finish of 2nd story mission.

August is not only hot temperature-wise but all the guys are feeling the heat to get our latest alpha build polished up for the Austin Game Developers Conference in September.

Here is a bullet list (because who doesn’t like bullet lists) of some of the things we are trying to wrap up:

  • Title cards
  • Opening storybook cinematic
  • Base UI polish (strategy layer)
  • Mission HUD polish (tactics interface)
  • Our 3rd playable map
  • Village map polish
  • Sacred Grove map polish
  • Voice-over work for female unit “barks” and storybook narration
  • Unit (both player and A.I.) additional animation sequences and animation blueprint work:
    • Jump down sequences
    • Specialty combat sequences
    • Action camera animations
    • State machine work for crouching, cowering and cover

Our relatively small team means that we will be nose-down busy for the entire month.  Alan will continue to keep everyone updated on things we are doing, our progress, as well as some screenshots and short videos of Kingsmen.   If you like what you see, please share with other like-minded individuals and make it known that someone IS working on a medieval turn-based tactics game with a strategic base layer.

We really feel this is something tactics-based players will enjoy and we need to raise more awareness of its pending existence.

You can also follow us on Twitter @stealthmodegame.

Like us on Facebook here.

Below are some concept pieces of one of our Shattered God minions, altered human fighters known only as Earth Elementals.  I’m also including a couple of in-game screenshots.

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Screenshots from latest alpha build:

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Thank you for being a fan of Kingsmen!

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Watchtowers and Regions

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People ask me all the time, “Hey, Bloo! How do these Regions and Watchtowers and the Castle work? What’s up with them? Bloo? Stop playing Overwatch and answer me!”

To which I say, “PLAY OF THE G– err, right. About OverWatch Towers. I mean Watchtowers . . .”

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In the world of the Kingsmen, you rule from your Castle, which is basically your capitol, or capitol region. It is surrounded by other regions, which are part of your realm, but they are not as well developed. Each region pays taxes. The happier they are with you, the more taxes they will pay. The biggest thing you can do to improve your reputation with a region is to build a Watchtower within it.

A watchtower is like a small castle and helps defend the region. Each watchtower can house one patrol of soldiers. Patrols stationed in a watchtower will be closer and therefore quicker to respond to missions that occur within that region. Otherwise, your patrols would have to come from the main Castle, or even a watchtower in another region, and might not be able to get to the mission in time.

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Many missions will have a time limit. If you don’t start the mission in time, you lose it. For instance, you might have 3 days to send a patrol to the defense of the Sacred Grove. If you don’t send a patrol in time, because you’re waiting for a soldier to be healthy, or for construction of a new weapon to finish, or whatever, that mission will fail and the enemy will have the Sacred Grove. That will then decrease your reputation within that region, and reduce your taxes from that region.

“If the watchtower is like a small castle, does that mean it can be attacked by the enemy?” you might ask, if you are the type of person to ask questions. Yes. Yes it can. “What happens if the watchtower is lost?”

Bad things.

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About the Game

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A ruler’s first, and most important, task is to protect the Kingdom, its territories, and its people. To do this the player will recruit, train, and equip elite soldiers of the realm known as Kingsmen. Next comes organizing them into squads and commanding them in battle against the enemies of the Kingdom. That’s why we are creating a visually dynamic and exciting cinematic experience for the tactical combat portion of the game. It’s very important to us that our combat is visually engaging. We want each savage strike, every arrow to the knee, to convey a sense of dynamic action and motion.

Along side these martial responsibilities the player must also manage and maintain their Castle and territories by constructing and upgrading essential facilities, building remote watchtowers, garrisoning them with troops, establishing a more permanent presence in a region, and collecting taxes to pay for it all.

Capture the joy that comes from elevating a lowly recruit whose name and look you choose, and keeping them alive to the heights of rank battling on the front lines over many missions. Endure the bittersweet sorrow of a favorite trooper lost in noble sacrifice to complete the mission.

As ruler and tactical leader, you will face hard choices that affect your troop makeup along the way.

Who will fight for you? Who will take up arms against your endeavor?

Your choices will make each and every playthrough new and exciting!

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Introducing the Ranger Class

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This updates concludes the introductions of our playable units in Kingsmen. It’s important to note that these updates have only showed off the base Tier of these classes. During the course of Kingsmen, you will be able to level and gain rank with your small army of units, unlocking opportunities to upgrade their abilities and equipment. You will also be able to customize your units by swapping heads, hair, certain colors, voices, helmets, and other things. Armor changes are also an option once the different tiers are unlocked through your base’s blacksmith facility.

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Since the fall of Shattered God’s empire, some have refused to accept the rule of anyone but themselves and have settled in the eastern frontier. But many dangers are greater than any one independent village or family holding can face. From the Wild Woods to the Twilight Grove, the Rangers protect them and other travelers from those dangers.

Families of these frontier lands often pledge one of their children into the service of the Rangers. This is considered a high honor. These infants are pledged in the ceremonial Ritual of Joining in which a new tree is planted. Now pledged these ‘Seeds’ return to their homes until their 13th year when they become ‘Saplings’. Thus adopted into their new family, they begin the years of training required to become a Ranger.

Rangers learn to move freely and quickly through woods, discover both hazards and benefits of the forests invisible to others, and the ways of the creatures of the forest. Many become masters of the longbow. Read More

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Introducing the Rogue Class

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In today’s update we are featuring the Rogue faction class in Kingsmen. We still have the Barbarians and Rangers to show you over the course of the next month so make sure you bookmark us here, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook so you’ll know when the updates are coming.

Our milestone build is coming along nicely. The UI functionality is starting to come together and new maps are in the planning and testing phases at varying levels. We are really excited about the prospect of showing folks what we have been working on for over a year and equally excited about moving into a full internal test phase, ironing out game play mechanics, polishing up the visuals, making the game more fun and eventually getting more of you playing around with what we have.Rogue BannerThe Rogues are members of the Riverlords, an extensive trading guild that dominates trade along the Soundless River, the lifeblood of commerce between capital and coast. They own most of the barges, docks, and warehouses along the Soundless and its major tributaries. If it moves along the rivers, these Rogues get paid. In exchange, they offer protection, security, and insurance. But they take swift and brutal action against bandits foolish enough to raid in Riverlords territory, as well as against independent rivals who offer too much competition. Their family leaders are the driving forces behind the growth of many cities and expansion of development further into the wilds, which has led to some unfortunate misunderstandings with the Rangers and other neighbors.

Trade Moves, Money Flows, Trouble Sinks. Read More

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Introducing the Barbarian Class

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Only two more class reveals left. We’ve been nose-down, working on the game but still enjoy bringing you these class reveals. Today, we present the Barbarian faction class.

Before we dive into this ferocious tribal faction, we would like to thank everyone for all of the support so far. We will do a press release soon, but in the meantime, we would appreciate telling your friends about Kingsmen; a turn-based tactical strategy game coming soon to a PC near you.  Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook…go ahead, we don’t bite….most of the time.

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The Crimson steppes and Blackfinger fjords of the northwestern lands are home to the semi-nomadic clans of people who have embraced the terms others use to describe them: Barbarians. Long winters lead to short tempers. With scarce resources to share, they have always battled between each other. Most conflicts get settled through violence giving rise to their savage reputation, even though that violence is often ritualized and may actually minimize bloodshed, sacrificing one or two instead of an entire family or clan.

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When the waters of the bay warm enough their boats can cross it, they have raided the south for its cattle, its gold, and sometimes its people. Attacking the pilgrims along Tarshim’s Road was the most profitable for years, until the Knights of Tarshim rose in their defense. Now, only in the most dire of circumstances will the Barbarians raid that far in numbers.

The Barbarian clans have recently united under the leadership of Shanim Marsana naming her Mother of Pain. Little is known of Marsana other than the fanatical devotion of her people. Nor is it known why her people have been raiding south in greater intensity. The winter has been mild, there is no word of drought or plague. Read More

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Introducing the Knight Class

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This week we present the playable unit class: Knight, the second of six class introductions that will highlight all of the units the player will have the opportunity to include in their pool of playable fighters.KNT_BannerThe Sacred Military Order of Tarshim the Great are a monastic organization dedicated to the service of Tarshim – Tarshim the Great, Tarshim the Sunderer, Tarshim the Divider who separated the Earth from the Sky, the Water from the Fire, the Night from the Day, the Summer from the Winter, the Living from the Dead, the Human from the Animal, the Magic from the Mundane. Tarshim the Hero who shattered Kan’Seht the Binder and unchained the world

The Knights of Tarshim guard several holy sites through the realms but primarily Tarshim’s Road, which is traveled by devout pilgrims who visit the Shrine of the Great Ravine. Legend has it that Tarshim defeated Kan’Seht on the now severed bridge over the ravine. They stand ready to fight the evil servants of Kan’Seht, often referred to as the Cult of the Shattered God, who seek to assimilate all the people of the realms into the service of their fallen lord. But they most often defend Tarshim’s Road and the region from raiding Barbarians who plunder the fertile lands and pilgrims.

The Knights are melee combat specialists, they can wield either sword and shield, as the Kingsmen can, or great two-handed swords, which no other class can use. Additionally, they can upgrade their shield to a Tower shield. They are also skilled at inspiring and rallying their comrades in battle. Read More

Detailed Kingsmen concepts

Introducing the Kingsmen

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Our web update today will kick-off the start of our class reveals for Kingsmen. Over the course of the next few months, we will be highlighting the player unit classes in the game. We are eager to show off what we have been working on over the last year. Our plan is to be out of pre-alpha by the first of July and start showing off more and more gameplay through this site, and our social media avenues. So keep us tuned in, not only here, but with our Twitter account, and Facebook page. Lots of neat things coming.

This week we start the reveals with the backbone of the realm – the Kingsmen Class.Kingsmen BannerKingsmen are the most loyal soldiers, direct servants of the ruler. They have no allegiance or fealty to intermediary lords. They are an elite force investigating dangers and executing the ruler’s desires. As a clear indication of where their loyalties are, the Kingsmen wear the ruler’s colors.

Kingsmen come from every walk of life, their chief requirement is selfless devotion to the kingdom and combat ability. In combat, they are generalists fighting with sword and shield or bow. They must be prepared for almost anything. Although other factions and classes such as Knights and Rangers may also serve, Kingsmen are uniquely empowered to lead patrols dispatched by the ruler.

Kingsmen travel the whole realm to protect it from various threats, whether it be Barbarian raids from the North, breaking up Riverlord gangs in the South, working along side the Knights of Tarshim or keeping the peace between the Rangers of the Wildwood and villagers.

In any crisis, the Kingsmen are the First In, and the Last Standing. Read More