We’re not yet ready to launch Epitaph 1.0, but we get closer every day. We’re so close at this point that I think it’s worth talking about where we’re going to invest our effort once we’ve opened the doors to anyone and everyone.

There is always a danger in publishing a ‘grand plan’, because life is an unpredictable thing. I had such a plan for Discworld that I had put into the hands of playtesters[1], but had decided to leave before it had progressed to much of anything. It was still worthwhile to write it though, because a lot of it went into the structure of Epitaph – much of the cool stuff that we have here is stuff that I had first considered in the context of Discworld.

Grand plans are tantalising, but they are not contracts – all I want to do in this post is simply outline what, at the the current time, I am imagining in terms of features for Epitaph 2.0. It’s all fluid – everything is subject to change, but it will hopefully explain some of the direction we’re heading and perhaps why some features in the game have been devised and delivered as they have been.

The biggest system that you’ll see in Epitaph 2.0 is the vehicle system. My sailing code on Discworld was so close to completion that it did hurt a bit to leave it unfinished. DW’s loss is our gain though because it was always my intention that the system support sea-based travel *and* land based travel. With the vehicle system, you’ll be able to hotwire cars and steal motorbikes – they’ll be safety, they’ll be fast travel, and they’ll be the one realistic way of getting from one city to another when we reach that point of development. But more than that – because our crafting system is so great (and man, it is), it’s also going to be possible to CRAFT YOUR OWN VEHICLES. Yeah. That’s a thing that is going to happen. You’re going to be able to build your own apocalypse-mobiles, Mad-Max style.

Vehicles will also be the only way that you’ll be able to scavenge certain larger, bulkier items. Why would you want to be able to do that though? Well, there’s a lot of stuff out there that you’ll want if you are going to make your own personal stronghold as effective as possible. The plan there is to let you claim any building in the game as your stronghold. A stronghold will be a safe house that you create, protect and maintain – you’ll find power generators, you’ll keep them supplied, you’ll wire up the stronghold and barricade the doors and windows. It’ll be part player-housing system and part necessary headquarters for your own faction.

Yeah, your own faction. The factions that exist in the game are factions that we have put there, but a medium term plan is to make it possible for your clan to become a faction of its own, complete with NPCs (who come to you because of your stronghold), skills it can teach, missions it can give out, and everything else. You’ll get access to all of this by your clan collaboratively spending points that they earn from gaining clan achievements. Of course, the bigger your faction is, the more other people, and other things, notice it…

How would you like a music system? Well, we’re going to have that too in Epitaph 2.0. You might think that text is a bad medium for doing that, but just listen up. You may or may not know that Lord of the Rings Online has a music system, and it is so cool that you can find Youtube videos of groups playing real, actual songs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4QMtvk4ihg for an example). Our plan is to steal and modify that a bit so that it works for what we have in Epitaph. Essentially you’ll plot out your instrument’s part, and then your character will try to play that with their bonuses. At the end, what you’ll get is a sound file that plays through the MUD (if you have the sound protocols available), as well as it stored in your ‘playbook’ so that you can play it again at later dates (for example, in multiplayer recitals).

Unarmed combat in most games is almost always a let down – despite there being so many martial arts and pretty much all of them being insanely awesome, it’s often the case that unarmed combat comes down to ‘you punch X’, and ‘they kick you in the stones’. I would like to see that change by having a system of unarmed combat on Epitaph that is just as varied as ranged and melee weapon combat. It’ll work in some respects by simply flavouring attack chats by your chosen martial style, but it will also come with a set of flexible commands and combos that you can offload if you fancy going down the path of the ninja.

The last of the new features is a little unusual, and really something that’s here just because it *is* unusual – a parkour (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PPUYRBKEPI) system that lets you run around the city in a more fluid way. You’ll start running in a direction, and then have access to the set of parkour commands that let you navigate the urban jungle, avoid foes and obstacles by vaulting over them, and walljumping into otherwise inaccessible areas (and also regular areas that are just part of the city itself).

These are the major subsystems we’ll be implementing in the months after Epitaph 1.0 goes live – I think it’s an exciting set of possibilities, and while the plans are are ambitious they are still all perfectly achievable[2]. At the same time, we’ll also be expanding and fleshing out the systems we already have – you can expect to see new crafting and gathering systems (chemistry, fishing, painting), as well as more benefits to existing crafts (adding pockets/symbols/words to clothes; engraving the same onto metal, wood or stone; and systems for adding decorative flourishes to various items). You can expect to see more areas, more NPCs, more factions, more quests, more achievements – just more more.

The feature-set of Epitaph 1.0 is pretty much there – we’ve got a game, we’re now bringing all of those elements of the game together and making sure they work, intersect properly, and they’re fun and they meet our design goals. But just because the number of new features slated for the short-term is much more miserly than it has been over the past year, hopefully you can see from the above that it’s not because we’re running out of ideas.

Drakkos

[1] It’s still lying on my hard-drive somewhere. Maybe I will make it available somewhere at some point for the sake of interest.

[2] I know I blow my own horn quite a bit here[3], but what we have done in the year and a half since the barebones mudlib was installed is, I think, testament to the fact that we Get Shit Done. mofos.

[3] It’s hard to help yourself when you’re double jointed.