Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
In a recent interview, Subspace Radio sat down to talk with Senior Environment Artist Mike Apolis about the Foundry and more. Listen to the recording, and read the transcript, here.


Link to the interview.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
04-24-2012, 12:51 PM
Something appears to be wrong with their mp3 download file. It is only 4kb.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
04-24-2012, 12:53 PM
All good now. Having / where it is supposed to be in the html code does wonders. :p
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
04-24-2012, 01:04 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by GraveFatal1ty
All good now. Having / where it is supposed to be in the html code does wonders. :p
Thanks, looking forward to listening
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
04-24-2012, 01:08 PM
--------------------------------------------
Interview Transcript
--------------------------------------------
Title: Mapolis Interview
Transcriber(s): Berryshine [Typist], Kim [Typist], Tanner [Typist], Yumene [Verification/Typist]
Date: 4/23/2012
Original Air Date: 4/11/2012

--- START ---
[Music playing]
Erroch: Good evening folks. This is DJ Erroch and with us here on Subspace Radio tonight we have a special guest in the form of Crypticís own Mike Apolis. Like I said earlier in the show, that weíd interviewed him before about, uh, a year and a half ago, somewhere along that line, uh, on Foundry before it came out. Iím really glad you could join us tonight, Mike.
Mapolis: Hey guys, great to be here.
Erroch: Well, letís see. Last time we had you on here you were getti- you all were expecting to have a child in, I think it was one of those within any day of the interview, there was some worry it was going to get cancelled because of said pregnancy.
Mapolis: [laughs] Yeah. It ended up being born on October thirteenth so, uh, it was safe for the interview but it was shortly afterwards.
Erroch: So, uh, life has returned to some semblance of normal in the swing of things developing-wise, now that youíve got the new kid?
Mapolis: Oh yeah, yeah. You know, paternity leave is all long over, and yeah. Things are going pretty good. Actually, thereís been a lot of new family additions at Cryptic, seems like everybodyís having babies at this time of year
Erroch: [laughs] Well, um, letís go and jump right in. Iím gonna start out with probably the three questions that I got from listeners that are not about Foundry, but I did make a promise that the first person who mailed me, I would ask whatever that they said and, um, so he sent me three questions.
Mapolis: Okay
Erroch: The first of which, ah, do you like Andorians?
Mapolis: Do I like Andorians? Actually, yes, I do.
Erroch: And is your favourite colour blue?
Mapolis: Ah, no, it is green.
Erroch: And do you know the muffin man?
Mapolis: [laughs] I know him personally, yes.
Erroch: Okay. Now that weíve gotten those out of the way, we can get on to the topic at hand. So, Foundry, the last time we talked, hadnít been released yet, was still in its last legs of development and I guess this is as good a place as any to start. How did the actual release go? We never actually got to talk with anyone about the Foundry release itself. Were there any hangups yíall ran into?
Mapolis: Well, um, actually yeah. The Foundry release went pretty well initially, we, um, I think within the first week we were really surprised at the amount of content that had been created. I think it was something like, if someone were to sit down and play through every mission it would take you a year to get through everything or something. And so it was just, it was, it seemed like a really great start to the tool because it had a huge burst of popularity and things were running pretty smoothly for a while. Um, technically speaking Iím not sure if there were any real big problems, um, except for what came, you know, in Season four, but the initial launch actually went pretty well.
Erroch: Was there anything in that initial launch other than the sheer amount of missions that were being created that surprised you all? Did you have time to play through them and see any innovations the players had made that really caught you all off guard?
Mapolis: Um, well Iím not if it was really innovations, but more like ways they used the tool that we never really expected. I think the first, within the first few weeks, people were already making their own interiors using just some spare assets we had in the library, that was pretty surprising, and then just being able to see the missions people were making and how different they were from our own content and how, uh, atmospheric, I guess, they were. There was one, I completely forget the name of it now, but it was kind of a spooky, um, some alien had infiltrated your ship and you were trying to track him down, and that was a neat thing we had, even before the Devidian series, so that was really cool.
Erroch: Did you all mission creators take any influences from some of these? Because I noticed, now that you mention that, the mission in, um, dangit, Iím drawing a blank. Uh, I have my shows here all the time. The missions for the Devidians where youíre going around the bowels of the station with nothing but a flashlight and your phaser, searching out that ghost, just popped into my head.
Mapolis: Yeah, um, we uh, we definitely whenever we see a cool Foundry mission thatís published, thatís brought to the teamís attention, um, they kinda check it out. So Iím not sure if thereís any individual things that we have, uh, seen and said oh yeah, letís take that and use that, but, um, thereís definitely been some cool stuff. I think the, uh, what was it, the, um, holodeck effect that was put in. The rest of my team was pretty jealous of how Foundry put it in because we couldnít really achieve the same effect ourselves, so that was pretty cool. And I think lately, uh, warp effect thatís been being used a lot, where it makes it appear that your ship is actually jumping to warp and moving to a different map without actually zoning, um, that was really impressive. I think thatís probably the coolest thing Iíve seen so far, come from the Foundry.
Erroch: Yeah, um, and this is a question speaking of that that came up, has there been anyone that you have added to the content creation team that you all have found from their Foundry missions?
Mapolis: Oh, like a new hire or something?
Erroch: Yeah, yeah.
Mapolis: Um, not that I know of. I believe the only hires from the community we have are, um, Jeremy from STOked, we just got him recently, and then Thomas Marony, um, Thomasthecat was the first one. I donít think weíve hired anyone specifically from Foundry content although I hope we do because thereís definitely some talent out there and I hope Foundry authors are sending in their resumes because we are hiring like crazy. [laughs]
Erroch: Well, ah, I know thatís not really part of what we planned to talk about, but since Iíve got you here and youíve mentioned hiring, what sort of positions are you all hiring for?
Mapolis: Oh, pretty much everything. Um, it should all be listed on our, uh, careers page at crypticstudios.com, but, uh, weíre hiring, actually, let me see if I can pull up a list real quick. But I think its, uh, weíre hiring artists, designers, engineers, customer service people, um, we might even be hiring some quality assurance people, uh, just pretty much across the board weíre trying to staff up. Since we were purchased by Perfect World thereís sort of, you know, reinvesting in that so we get to beef up our teams a little bit.
Erroch: Ah, splendid. So are you all hiring DJs?
Mapolis: [laughs] Djs. I hope so in the future, but no, I havenít heard of anything like that.
Erroch: Yeah, I had to check, we have a few of those here. But, um, alright, was there anything, you know, before we get to Season four, which I do want to talk about a little, was there anything in the initial batch that just didnít go like yíall had planned it at all or that slipped through the cracks. I know you all have a really solid QA team but, uh, and weíve talked with them actually quite a bit on here, but, uh, was there anything that went through that you all werenít expecting or that was implemented, once the players got a hold of it, in a very different way than was originally designed?
Mapolis: [laughs] Well, uh, definitely the first big exploit that we discovered with using the, um, enemy fighter ships to sort of level up really quickly, uh that was something we really didnít quite expect. Um, you know, you can sit down and design ways out of exploits all day long and youíll always miss something. So, that was one thing that kinda surprised us, basically you could explode on a bunch of different, uh, ships that were spawning in the same spot you were and get a bunch of xp. Since then thatís been squashed, I believe, so.
Erroch: Yeah, I had heard something about that as well, and there was some other issues with that had come up with people blowing up their ship in, uh, outside of Earth Spacedock, but thatís also been squashed. Um, so, episode, season four. Uh, this is kind of marked as the dark day of the Foundryís history for a little while, um. What happened?
Mapolis: Uh, well, it's actually quite complicated. Basically, there was, um, we were releasing a new season and we were still under Atari at the time and, um, we were under quite a lot of pressure to get that season out, um, and I donít believe we had, um, nearly as much quality assurance resources as we would have liked, so essentially the Foundry, um, did not get properly tested and run through. We were sort of surprised by, um, all of the back end infrastructure changes that, um, had gone in and sort of disrupted the Foundry. So, um, it took us quite a bit of time to sort of sort through that and to figure out, you know, what exactly happened and how we were going to fix everything, because at that point the Foundry database had gotten so large and complex that it was, it was kind of our first, uh, our first test to see how we were going to solve issues that would just come up and cause disruptions like that. So, um, we did learn a lot from that, and we have a lot of contingencies in place now to prevent what happened in Season Four. Um, but it was seriously an issue of just lack of resources and a lot of pressure to get the season out and unfortunately we released, you know, a subpar product and I hope we never do that again.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6
04-24-2012, 01:11 PM
Erroch: Well it does seem that the later releases, uh, what yíall did learn from Season Four has stuck, and we havenít really seen a bad, uh, a push that broke Foundry, uh, in the same way again. Um, I noticed just looking through the forums that thereís a lot of conversion work that has to go on sometimes with Foundry when a new major publish happens. Uh, is that something you can talk to us about? What sort of stuff you have to do on yíallís end?
Mapolis: Um, not quite sure what you mean by the question.
Erroch: Um, there was a note that when season five came out they had to unpublish and republish all the Foundry missions or somesuch.
Mapolis: Oh yes.
Erroch: get everything up to date. And I was curious on whatís actually the reason for that, whatís going on when that happens?
Mapolis: Well, basically every time we release a new season we have to republish all the projects and make sure that there is nothing new that weíve added that will cause major problems for that project down the line. So, if we were just to release the seasons without doing a mass republish, you know, two or three weeks down the line some author will go into his project and update it and, uh, if we didnít catch a bug that happened on republish, then weíd have to track each of these issues down one by one and it could end up being pretty disastrous so we actually force these to republish just to make sure that they are still working properly and that we can catch any kind of data loss issues before we actually release the patch. Um, so its one of those sort of contingencies we put in after season four so that we can, you know, just kind of test everyoneís missions in, um, with a batch process and make sure that they are still working and sometimes we find a few missions that, uh, you know, end up having errors, donít republish correctly and we end up having to, uh, either fix those by hand, fix whatever code problem created that, and in the rare cases we have to actually pass it to the author and say, well, something fundamental changed that means that you have to change your mission but I havenít heard of too many things like that, so Ö yeah.
Erroch: On that line, has there been anything yíall wanted to do that, uh, with Foundry or with the game that when yíall looked into it would have caused too much of a, how to put this, would have caused too many breaking changes with the existing foundry missions that have made yíall say Ďyou know, this would be great but we really canít at this timeí?
Mapolis: Um, you mean just like have we ever not added a feature to STO because of the Foundry? Or...
Erroch: Yeah, thatís correct.
Mapolis: Yeah. I donít think so. Itís, you know, itís still a fairly independent system, um, but I would say we, you know, there were some Foundry features that we wanted to add at launch that we, you know, I was at first disappointed that we didnít add, but then kind of in hindsight it was probably a good idea. Um, that was rewards, we had a whole plan for adding full rewards to UGC missions, um, but I kind of believe that we really needed to see how the Foundry would play out in STO before introducing that, because itís a very dangerous game when you get into rewards, you have to be right on top of every exploit and really think it through really, really thoroughly because if anyone has played, you know, uh, some other MMOs with UGC systems that have rewards, they can end up breaking the entire game for everybody if, you know, itís not done correctly, so that is one feature that I hope will get in in the future and I know weíre trying to get in for Neverwinter, um, but it does take some serious thought and design into it to make sure itís not exploitable.
Erroch: Um, speaking of, uh, exploiting, this is a question from one of my co-workers, oddly enough, has there, and you might not actually be able to answer this due to constraints by your superiors or whatnot, but has there been anyone, or has there been any cases of, other than the exploding ship and destroying the fighters, where people have had to be disciplined for things that they have done in exploit-wise in the Foundry?
Mapolis: Um, Iím not really privy to any kind of user issues like that, thatís typically handled by customer service. Iíve heard of a couple that may have been banned for creating exploit missions, uh, repeatedly, but we typically, you know I think our policy puts in quite a few warnings before youíre actually banned, so, um, but I havenít really heard of a lot of people, I mean itís not really my department, so [laughs] Iím not sure.
Erroch: Yeah, it was a shot in the dark question that I had to ask. But, um, other odd things, uh, one person wrote in that, uh, currently, and this is kinda a tech question, weíve seen something mentioned about this possibly getting added to Foundry as a whole sometime in the future, but currently if you want to keep hostile NPCs in place or whatnot, players are using kind of a hack of putting invisible walls around them to stop them from moving. Uh, there was something Mister Stahl mentioned about some improvements to AI in Foundry. Do you know if, uh, how do yíall feel about the control we have currently over NPCs and where do yíall want it to go?
Mapolis: Well clearly right now itís not enough. I mean, you basically only have the most basic control over NPCs, uh, weíve gotten lots of requests for being able to, you know, switch a friendly to an enemy, to be able to, you know, uh, change an encounter when an enemy gets down to a certain level of health like, you know, if he warps out of the system or something. Those are all things weíve wanted in the Foundry for quite some time, itís basically waiting on a, ah, itís sort of a module based scripting system that weíre creating, so, internally we have something called a finite state machine and that determines all of the kind of scripted events that happens and that includes anything special like a friendly turning into an enemy or vice-versa or, you know, a ship warping out or, you know, the changeling in one of the first missions in STO changing from a Vulcan to an Undine. Thatís all done with the finite state machine and unfortunately its a very raw and complex and powerful system that we canít simply expose in the Foundry, so weíre creating these precanned scripts that will let you do a lot of these things and you can essentially edit the variables in them. Um, the first step of that is to give you the basics like, you know, being able to change a friendly to an enemy and stuff and then after that weíre going to add the ability to chain those so you can create more complex scripted events. But yeah, thatís something weíve had on our radar for a while, um, itís sort of, itís tough to tackle but, um, we will be adding that in the future, Iím sure.
Erroch: Yeah I know thatís one of the big things thatís come up every time Iíve talked to folks about Foundry is theyíve seen some cool scene in an episode and theyíre like, you know, I want to do something like that, and I guess this will give us the power eventually to do things like having a bulkhead open and a bunch of Klingons rush out, or having a, having a commander decide okay, Iíve taken enough damage and warping away from a fight halfway through, things like that.
Mapolis: Yeah, exactly. That kind of stuff is coming for sure.
Erroch: With that, uh, kinda goes into one of the other things Iíve seen a lot of requests for and I know youíre probably, youíve probably heard it a little too much but, uh, are there plans of actually giving branching storylines in ways other than dialog? Iíve seen a couple of Foundry missions that have kinda done this by having a mission end with a dialog box saying, itís something like, do you want to save the ambassador or chase the bad guy? If A run this mission, if B run this mission.
Mapolis: Ah yes, branching storylines. Thatís something that [laughs] we all here at Cryptic want as well, uh, Itís something we donít really have in our own games so I would say if you see it in STO then it should be possible to do in the Foundry at some point, but I donít really recall any missions where you, um, had a branching outcome. I could be wrong, but, uh, but anyway, we actually are keeping an eye on that sort of thing. We have a few ideas that I canít quite talk about yet, but branching stories is something we all want. Itís mostly just a question of, you know, how do you create a system that doesn't get too crazy and too unmanageable. Because we still need to be able to test every branch, make sure that its completable whenever you do anything so in the end, you know, as it stands you kinda have to come back to one point anyway. But things like variables and stuff like that have been brought up. You know, just something that would change dialogue at the end of the mission so that if you had done something different, um, the guy at the end will say something different to you or something like that. I think we will always be looking for ways to add this and suggestions on how to add this, but itís a very complicated issue that weíre still sorta figuring out how to tackle with our own content, let alone Foundry content.
Erroch: Yeah, Iíd seen, one of the things we had talked about last time when you were on here was there was some thought about using foundry as a way to, uh, push forwards yíalls internal tools for mission building. Do you all actually use Foundry to create internal missions as well as the currently existing tools that have more access to that finite state machine?
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7
04-24-2012, 01:14 PM
Mapolis: Itís really up to the individual developer if they want to use the Foundry but yeah, Iíve actually seen some designers use the Foundry, some of the Foundryís features for creating some of the stuff thats just better than our tools, uh, for STO it was mostly the dialog editor that was a nice boon for us because creating dialog in the foundry is actually immensely easier than it is on our own tools so, that was pretty nice for a few designers to use. Um, on Neverwinter we have a feature that lets creators, that, um, makes map creation a bit easier and weíve seen some designers use that to get their maps started and sort of fleshed out really quickly because the Foundry tools allow them to do it way faster than our own do, so, um, I wouldnít say that they use the Foundry exclusively to make content, but theyíve used what parts give us an advantage I would say.
Erroch: Which is a smart way, I think, to go about it. Um, speaking of that, one thing weíve seen in the STFs is you actually have objectives in the STF you can fail. Theyíre time-based, theyíre protect this ship-based type missions, are we going to see anything like that in Foundry or are there plans for us to be able to create missions that players can actually fail? Or fail some optional objectives of?
Mapolis: Uh, if itís in an STF like that, I would say yeah, its definitely possible in the future, we can have failable missions. Iím not sure exactly how that was done, if it was done using the finite state machine I mentioned earlier. If thatís true then, um, that would be coming probably when we finish that whole feature.
Erroch: And you probably canít, uh, tell us this, Iím sure, but, uh, can you give us a hint for how far along that is or where in the timeline of development that might be?
Mapolis: Uh, itís a few months down the road on our current schedule, so we have some preliminary work done on it already, but it still needs quite a bit of work before it's usable.
Erroch: Splendid. And thatís something thatíll be coming to the Foundry or just an internal rewrite first?
Mapolis: Itíll be coming to the Foundry.
Erroch: Beautiful. I know thatís going to make a lot of people happy.
Mapolis: Um, yeah, even the simplest thing we can add with it will revolutionise a lot of Foundry content that can be made so weíre pretty excited about it.
Erroch: Speaking of created content, and this is something that Iíve been asked by people interested in both Neverwinter Nights and Star Trek Online, but, uh, they really want some way to be able to get some sort of custom assets into the game, be it custom maps, or just some decals on the side of a ship, something like that. Is that anywhere on yíallís drawing board for the future?
Mapolis: We talk about that a lot, actually. Itís kinda the, uh, elephant in the room, the holy grail of UGC. If we can figure out some way to give you guys the ability to add your own assets then, obviously, you can just take off from the Foundry in whatever direction you like. There are definite concerns on just maintaining quality and stuff. You know, we have pretty strict guidelines for making art assets here at the studio, it runs through a very tight pipeline, and we would definitely need to make sure that we could maintain a certain bar of quality as well as maintain enough staff to be able to review this stuff and make sure nobodyís uploading objectionable content or anything like that. That kind of system takes a lot more policing I would say, um, than the system we have now. So itís always something weíre kind of looking at maybe doing in the distant future, but as it stands I would say its probably not coming any time soon, just because of the amount of infrastructure we would have to build on our side to make it actually work, and, you know, not to mention all of the storage servers for storing new art assets and our tools for processing those into actual game-readable data, itís a pretty complex process, so I would say probably not any time soon, but the Foundry developers still want it just as bad as you guys do. [laughs]
Erroch: Yeah, uh, one of our listeners, romeowood, just mentioned in our in-game chat that something like that would be beautiful to have for fleet logos, even if not in Foundry, to be able to upload something and have your fleet logo display on your ship, even if it means having to go through some sort of an approval process before the image can actually be seen in-game.
Mapolis: Yeah, well I have heard of some games actually using the community to vet new assets like that, I believe Pirates of the Burning Sea does it, they allow their players to make new boats and the community basically approves that. I donít know how well that goes [laughs] But, you know, maybe thatís a potential solution for the future.
Erroch: And I guess uh, if you wanted to make it, uh, letís see, uh, they just mention again much less what you said, community volunteer and review process, which, uh, you just mentioned happens in pirates, but that kinda brings me onto the next topic that I wanted to bring up, asked about a lot. There is, there are a metric ton of foundry missions everywhere you go. Is there, there was mention a long time ago about creating a community review board, kinda like set of moderators that can go through and take out featured missions and what-not. I donít think it actually came to light, has it been any discussion on that?
Mapolis: Uh, well, beyond just the standard review system that we have, I would say were kinda going a different direction than that. We, um, are creating, for Neverwinter, were creating these sort of author pages, which will showcase all of the new authors, uh, content, allow people subscribe to them, I think were even allowing them to some sort of post little mini blogs and stuff like that so they can directly communicate with their fan base. And so, though that system, itís going to be sorta like um, ingame advertising system, and um, were kinda, this is still, you know, in discussion phases, but were trying to think of certain things we can do to allow authors to sort of advertise their mission, and kinda boosting it above the rest by making some ingame [scrambled] or something like that, um, thereís also, were trying to get more community manager involvement , with Brandon, recent foundry competitions, itís pretty much starting as a regular thing we wanna do so, So we just need to pretty much [scrambled] and get to get someone to run the monthly competition so we can get things featured, um, as far as author come to feature it themselves, uh, I donít know, it's interesting idea and maybe that would be, if that an author reached a certain status on, you know maybe if they published ten missions and are all five star something, I'm really cool, Iíll go in, and now I got the power to in and sort of deem a foundry mission, a featured mission, kinda like an interesting thing, we are looking at sort of a [scrambled] for neverwinter and leveling system for for authors in some way, uh, on it's just a idea , I donít know if it will actually come to frutation, but if we did something like that , I can see [scrambled] as a reward watching authors some extra promotion points for their own work and maybe others to, so
Erroch: you know one thing that on this line that was being discussed just before the interview started in our teamspeak channel was, was possibly having something like author pages where you can go into your friends list, right click a friend and say, uh, think is may be, hereís this persons episodes that they published , kinda like in game right now, you hail Starfleet, and go to the episodes tab and each storyline kinda has its own little banner, a summary and then a fairly fancy list of missions with options to transwarp to the location, replay them, and whatnot.
Mapolis: yeah, thatís definitely along the lines of what we're thinking of for author pages kinda of a nice, you know clean um just kind of home page an author and all of his work.
Erroch: Yea, that would be fairly brilliant, and one thing else, the other [scrambled] that came up on that is, right now on the forums, there are a bunch of players that have posts on the forums thats like here my top twenty favorite foundry missions. If there can be something, you can bring that, and also the results of the contest brandon is running right now into game instead of having to look on the forums, read through the news, then go ok this is the mission that won, some kind of internal registry for things like that people can have have, that would be brilliant
Mapolis: Yeah, we're definitely going to have uh, sort of, featured, since were regularly featuring episodes, um, we will have the kind of start page that will show you oh here is all the new foundry content and here's three featured once that won the last competition or something so that does working for better exposure for that we want to move a lot of this stuff in game and try to keep it all [scrambled]
Erroch: along this line reviewing and whatnot, Tarrak has asked if there were any plans on introducing some kind of system to limit who can review your mission. As with any online community there are conflicts within the player community, people that just donít get along no matter what their best intents, and weíve seen some cases come up where these players are going into each others missions and one starring them kinda out of spite, even thoulgh they are more or less, that they are on each others block lists. Is there some way to allow us to manage who can review our missions or to flag a review as inappropriate or some such.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
04-24-2012, 01:17 PM
Mapolis: Hm, well, um, well that would seem like a partially customer service thing and partially uh, just making the review system better thing, so the problem right now is that if one user goes in and one stars a mission, that's actually a pretty much a impactable review, and so they can basically troll other authors that way, But uh, I think that with the planned changes we have for just you know just the searching for UGC missions to how the contents displayed and, how the contents found uh, the star rating isnít going to be the only way missions can be found anymore and it's not really going to be the soul um indicator for what a good mission is, so, I think that that the power of users being able to troll each other that way will diminish but actually bringing up a good point, would be nice if you actually block a user, if you can also just block them, from even playing content that you made. Iíll put that down in suggestions and see what the other guys think.
Erroch: One thing that I would like to see personally is be able to pull off a list of missions that have a filter for the ratings that is what have my friends rated these missions as that way you now I'm looking at the ratings from a group of people that I know their opinions of how they think is what cool for me and my friends might not be cool for you know, let's take Tarrak and his friends [scrambled]
Mapolis: Yea, definitely we have of ideas for how we want improve that search system so that you can I donít know we were thinking about having multiple ratings were there isnít just a single rating for the mission, but maybe you could rate, uh, the combat, the story, the look and feel, kinda separately, so the author's kinda get some better feedback , cause um, you know, some people leave the rating and donít comment at all, thats so, itís kinda like, ok, I donít know what you really thought, so, were looking and just getting kinda making the feedback better in general and that way you will be able to tell what you need to work on and whatís working and whatís not, you know.
Erroch: One other item that just came in, uh, somebody has a request for a private review, to be able to rate the mission, and not have it, to give feedback on it, but not have it impact the overall rating, like going in and saying this mission was great, but I found this problem, this problem and this problem, you know, so they can go fix it, and not, but not have it come up and be overly harsh in public to that author, kinda like a private review system without having to resort to ingame mail or other out of game methods.
Mapolis: Hm, Interesting idea, I donít know why ingame mail wouldnít work just fine for that but uh, [scrambled]
Erroch: it, I don't really either but it just came into my inbox so I figured I would ask since we were on it. But on this topic though, the dilithium tip jar, that got put in has been very well perceived, especially by authors, uh, there were a couple of questions, uh, just curiosityís really, how much dilithium, do you know how much dilithium has changed hands through the top jar.
Mapolis: [laughs] I do not, actually, I'm not privy to that knowledge unfortunately.
Erroch: uh, but um, there was also questions on will that sort of feature also show up in neverwinter nights and is there some plans for making visible you what missions have, what percentage of people that played missions actually tipped in dilithium, you know, some sort of ranking on tips, things like that. I know any sort of ranking system is apparently dangerous because it becomes a new game to be played but uh, the question was there.
Mapolis: Well that kinda information we want to have available to at least the author, I donít know about making it, uh, publicly available, because, uh, well I know we will have the tip jar for neverwinter because I think itís just a good idea for any UGC system. But as far as being able to um, being able to, um, kinda have that as a rating, like, hey my mission got over how every many thousand dilithium, i donít know, I might, uh, that might be ends up being something useful for people to search for missions. I donít see how thatís too much better than the basic star rating, seems like it would be a little less accurate for finding good missions. So yea, I donít think we would use it for public rating, but thatís information I think the authors would love to have. Who tipped me and how much, what percentage of players would play my missions tipped me, that definitely a nice thing to know.
Erroch: I'd be honestly curious to get some kind of global statistics, how much dilithium was tipped this month in total, you know, how many users have actually tipped compared to ones who don't. Itís just some interesting statistics
Mapolis: Yea, uh, well we want to kinda have a better project page where the author can see a lot of data that helps them just make their missions better, that's something that authors want then we can add that.
Erroch: Alright, speaking of things that authors really want, uh, Iím getting into dangerous territory again, but, uh, thereís been one common request every time I talk foundry, to foundry designers, there are two things that come up constantly, one is, is there a plan to give a better map editor, that has better support of the z access, to actually place things into 3d space instead of 2d space
Mapolis: Uh, yes, actually, we do eventually want some form of a 3d editor and we sort of have to re engineer from the ground up because the 3d editor that we use inhouse is really kinda not suitable for the foundry, itís sorta really buggy and really hacky, needs a lot of specific hardware and networking infrastructure so, I know it sounds weird for a 3d editor but thatís the way it is. But so, yea, we kinda have to re engineer from the ground up, 3d editor, something , we know a lot of people want, we want it ourselves, um, thereís been talk of things like being able to, uh, start it out by laying out placing down markers while you're previewing your map so you can say oh I want to , save this position, go back to the map editor, I can, you know, place, uh, a building here or console hear something so itíll probably come in slowly as features that will sort of help to place the more difficult to place props in 3d and then eventually do want to, kind of, full a 3d editor but I think it will probably be post launch for never winter. So I probably wonít see that for another year.
Erroch: Along with that, one of the common criticisms of most MMOís but Iíve heard a lot for Star Trek online in southside of space, the missionary is more or less flat terrain nothing goes over and under each other, uh, on, in that maybe an engine limitation or is it the map limitation
Mapolis: Are you talking about the interior spaces or like exterior spaces
Erroch: interior spaces
Mapolis: it's mostly, uh, we, so we typically do not overlap, uh, geometry it's not really an engine limitation, we can do it, it's more of a mini map thing,It ends up ,you know, just overlapping everything on the mini map and it doesn't end up making sense, um, there are some tricks we can do where we can separate the different layers of the, of the objects so that the mini map is a little more intelligent than that, we just avoided just because it's hard to navigate those kinds of maps, uh, but having something kinda [scrambled] something is definitely possible with our engines, uh, we are making some improvements to the interior editor, and so, that will make that kind of thing a lot easier to do
Erroch: Can you tell us a little bit about these improvements, what sort of stuff is in the pipe for the interior editor?
Mapolis: Yeah, well, um, Iíve already talked about it a little bit on the forums, I believe, but we are essentially for Neverwinter making a, um, sort of a room tile system where youíll be able to have, you know, a set environment, like, using a Star Trek example, we have a Federation interior and a Klingon interior and, you know, each of those interiors has a set of rooms that you can sorta link together and create your own custom interior out of. And so you have, you know, a suite of hallways and rooms of all different shapes, um, I imagine for Star Trek it would be bridges and sickbays and engineering labs and stuff like that and, uh, itís actually a pretty intuitive creator. Weíve been working on it for quite a long time, pretty much ever since the launch of the Foundry on STO, so itís, uh, essentially its still 2d so you place down these big, um, predrawn room tiles, and then a lot of the walls are actually variable pieces that can be changed into doors. So if you matched two rooms up together itíll start by automatically placing a door, sort of in the middle, and then you can sort of slide it up and down the wall and determine where you want to put it, maybe add an extra door here and there so, you will be able to make any type of interior that you, that you see in-game with the Foundry once that gets put in.
Erroch: That sounds fairly amazing. That was one of the...one of the things I had heard people bemoaning about is the current maps are fairly static. You get a list of maps, you pick one and that's more or less what you're working with, but being able to like you said, just drop in rooms and link them together and create your own maps, and likewise, your own terrain at that point would really extend foundry.
Mapolis: Yeah, I mean we're starting with the interior stuff, um and then after we're done kind of with the interior editor we're going to tackle the terrain side of things. Terrain is actually more complicated than interiors. So, it's sort of requires us to start and make a whole new editor for that. So, they'll be coming in sort of pieces that way interiors will get fixed first, and exteriors will get a more easy to create custom versions of it as well.
Erroch: And what about space?
Mapolis: Space, you can already create custom space maps.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 9
04-24-2012, 01:19 PM
Erroch: I was just wondering if there was anything new coming for space in that editor. Or is it more or less in a stable iteration point right now.
Mapolis: It's in a pretty stable iteration point. I don't think there is anything major coming for the space side of things. You can already sort of freeform assets on the map however you want to. I would say if anything we could do to improve space it's just add more assets to the Foundry. More planets, more effects, more of everything. That's something we start doing with Season 6 and then continue to do from then on.
Erroch: I'm definitely, really looking forward to that. Let's see. Other questions regarding space, specifically. Right now we're kind of, everything in Foundry scales directly to the player's level. Which is intentional, and it's a good thing. It means that our fresh players who are new to the game, can hop on in and do player created content and have fun with it. Instead of logging in, going into a mission and finding out: Oh, this was made for a Level 50. Is there some plans on allowing us to adjust specific encounter difficulty? Like saying, "I want a +5 level encounter", or, "I want a tactical cube that's designed to be avoided instead of fought, and make it an exceptionally difficult fight to win?"
Mapolis: That's...more of control over encounters is something we do want to add to the Foundry as a whole in the future, but it's really game-specific. I would say for STO it's a bit more difficult, because you have to, there are critter groups, is what we call them. Romulans and Klingons are basically a critter group, that have a specific level or range. When you start messing with that system, you can end up making some missions that just don't play well. But, I think we can definitely add--in the meantime add, more encounters and different types that you can customize,a and maybe add some boss encounters of some kind. Some kind of really beefed up ships that are tough to bring down. I know that on the Neverwinter schedule, we are going to try and add something like that after launch. It would be more of in a distant future, next year, next couple years kind of thing that we would add something like that.
Erroch: The scenario that--this actually came from one of our DJs, CreamyGoodnss. The scenario he was looking at, or wanted to do with Foundry, was--and this was more for an interior setting--was to have an unkillable NPC in a room.
Mapolis: Right.
Erroch: But, the point of the encounter was that there were these four consoles or whatnot around the side of the room that you'd have to navigate through and open up doors while this unkillable NPC is busy chasing you down.
Mapolis: Uh, well, actually I think something like that would be possible with the uh, with uh, the finite state machine system that we're going to be adding later on, because then you could, essentially make a monster. You could watch a uh, uh an enemy's health and say: Okay, When you get to 50% health, you know, bring it back to 100%, and then you've got a uh, you know, an invincible, um, uh enemy. So, you could do stuff like that uh, using that system in the future I would say. So, you might get some of that.
Erroch: Well, the uh, the bit the uh scaling was more to where it doesn't feel like it's an impossible NPC, because that seems to be one way in how we've been talking to really, uh, to really agitate a player is to throw them in a situation where they think, "my only way is to go through this", but, you know, it's a gimmick. I can't kill him. He gets low on health, he pops right back up, you know, there's no way to actually defeat him through exceptional game play, or what have you. But, uh, speaking of exceptional game play: We recently had a set of missions come out in Star Trek Online that introduced a neat feature to the game: The environmental suit.
Mapolis: Yes.
Erroch: We've seen a couple of missions in Foundry where they have the players use the environmental suit, but it's mostly for a roleplay specific, uh situation. Like, "there's radiation in this area, you might want to put on your EVA suit." But, it doesn't really do anything in Foundry. Are there plans for making scenarios, or situations where the gear on the player can be checked? Like, uh, hazards that if you're wearing your EVA suit don't affect you?
Mapolis: Well, uh, see for STO I haven't heard anything like that, but that's actually a pretty good idea and it might line up with some of the stuff we're doing for Neverwinter. So, we might be able to use um, some skill check systems we're doing to sort of do the same thing for checking gear. Uh, we were talking about possibly being able to allow the authors to change the costume temporarily on the player. So, you could, you know, put an EV suit on them um, just kind of automatically. Uh, that's something that we're kind of debating right now, whether that's uh, you know a desired feature or not. But, that's another option there. Um, but yeah, as far as requiring specific loot, or checking any specific loot, I haven't heard any plans on that, but I mean that's a good idea. I'll write that one down and bring it up with the team as well.
Erroch: Yeah, that uh, was something else that had come up, was being able to create your own status effects. You know, visible debuffs or buffs, that really don't have any impact on the player, but show up on that buff bar. You know, some way to add immersion. Like: You know, we just flooded the uh, you know, we've just, uh, flooded the room, the warp core has been breached, there's dilithium radiation everywhere. You know just, put up a little, you know, debuff icon: "Radiation sickness", or whatnot, on the player. In certain states like that as well.
Mapolis: Yeah. Well, actually, one of the things I've been wanting to add, is a non-exploitable damage volume that can have multiple effects applied to it. So, you know, you could have a radiation area out in space that you could place down, or trigger that would put a debuff on the player. Much like you see in some of the contents in our game currently. Um, so, that kind of thing is definitely possible. We just need to figure out a way to make it not exploitable, and not useable on creatures and stuff. So.
Erroch: Alright, let me go through. I think I've had a couple of other questions come in. By the way, for anyone else listening, uh, please feel free to send a tell to Erroch@Erroch, that's E-R-R-O-C-H in game. If there are any questions you want. We've still got a little bit of time left in the show, so there's always more room for more topics. But uh, going on, though. There was another question, while we're on NPCs, and effects, and all that. Um, some folks had remembered back in the early days of Foundry, there was a way you could kit out--not just the appearance, but change the um, some of the equipment that the NPCs had. Are there any plans on allowing us that much control over the NPCs? You know, equipment, hit points, what type of weapons they are using, uh, things like that. So, if you wanted a Klingon group running around with, you know, anti-proton weapons instead of disruptors you could do things like that.
Mapolis: Um, that is, uh, goes back to creating your own encounter type of thing. It's a system that we do want to add for that games that use the Foundry, but it does require, you know, a separate treatment for each game. So, I would say the STO team would have to kind of design a system to make that work, because the way that creatures and enemies work in STO is a bit different than players. They don't actually have gear on, they have powers, basically. So, a Klingon will have a disruptor power. You know, he holds the gun and has the animation and everything, but he doesn't actually have the paper doll with a disruptor gun equipped or everything like that. So, it would have to be a system that would be different from adding gear, [where] you'd basically be saying, "Okay, you know, I am going to add an energy weapon and it's going to be, I don't know, anti-proton, and it's going to this much damage or something". So, it would have to be a pretty deep system to let you even start customizing that. That is one of our big wishlist items for the future. So, it may be coming to STO at some point. I have no idea when, though.
Erroch: Uh, speaking of the different teams, uh, Mr. Dan Stahl mentioned in a recent interview that the Foundry team have kinda been, uh, split a bit from itís, uh, original plan; You know the original plan was there was going to be one Foundry team and it was going to apply to all games, but there was something mentioned about that becoming too technically difficult and you know having to fork it into two separate projects?
Mapolis: Yeah well basically, uh, you know thereís, um, we have two modes we got going on with the Foundry right now. Thereís active development, um, which is what most of the team is on right now and thereís maintenance, so you know, um, fixing bugs and just maintaining the database and being, uh, you know, the person whoís going to make sure that all of the projects can properly get re-published whenever we release a big new update. Um, so there are people on STO who are dedicated to that task right now, um, and the active development developers are on Neverwinter right now, so we have been, um, we have been split but I would say that the, uh, code base that we use for the Foundry is shareable between our projects. The big thing is that the team has to sort of, um, graduate each feature individually and make sure that itís working good for each project because there are slight discrepancies in how our systems work between games so if we implement something for Neverwinter, uh, sometimes itís just directly portable to STO and sometimes itís not, um, but either way we have to have a, um, developer look over it, find the bugs, and and sort of do a little bit of conversion to make it work for that game. So, um, thatís pretty much the state that we are in now, uh, after Neverwinter ships Iím not sure whatís gonna happen, probably just really gonna depend on how the Foundry goes with Neverwinter, um, but I would hope that we would get some time to sort of give more love to STOís Foundry and stuff like that.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 10
04-24-2012, 01:22 PM
Erroch: Ok, um, I just got this question in from a Faxis, um, thatís the players name. They were wondering if you could give us a quick description of the life cycle of an addition to Foundry from a developers point of view, um, from where itís initially put in as a ďhey letís add thisĒ to it coming to the players.
Mapolis: Alright sure, uh, well we have basically weekly Foundry mission, or uh, Foundry meetings where the whole team gets together and kind of discusses what weíve done, where we are, and where weíre headed, um, and thatís also where we have the opportunity to kinda sorta just discuss future plans and, uh, future features and when we have a, um, feature that we want to work on we start with a kick off meeting where we kinda brainstorm everything what we want that feature to do, all of its possibilities, and what we definitely donít want to do with it and then sorta form a plan and a schedule from that and then we take that, uh, schedule and start working on it and it goes throught the same kind of phase that any other feature would, uh, starts off with, uh, the developers and multiple disciplines work on it and then when it gets to a certain point we give it to, um, QA and they take a look and find all the bugs and then we work out all the bugs and then, um, we move on to the next feature, and um, we typically come back to that feature later on to do a bit of polish after a few weeks. We find that it makes a big difference if you kinda take a step back for awhile and then come back to it and see, ok looking at this again what, uh, else can we do to make it polished and, uh, make it feel right, um, so thatís the approach weíve been taking for the, um, past year and a half or so .
Erroch: Alright, um, some of the questions coming in are kinda all over the place but, this is a bit of a unique one that I havenít seen asked before. Currently we have foundry for creating all the basic, uh, player run missions. Has there been any thought to extending Foundry to do things for Duty Officers, like create custom Duty Officer related missions or things that require duty officers in addition to ground and space combat?
Mapolis: Uh well the Duty Officer system is pretty new so there hasnít been a whole lot of discussion on that but, uh, I think its a great idea I mean obviously itís being integrated into all of the content that we have in STO now so it would be great if, you know, authors could sort of create a Duty Officer reward for their system, I would say that would come when we decide to do, um, rewards for Foundry mission content, that would be something akin to loot right, where you could make a Duty Officer that the player can earn by playing your mission and completing a specific task or something, um, that would probably fall in with that kind of system I would say. The Duty Officers are basically loot really in STO so they really, itís pretty much like gear that youíre using all the time so, um, I would say that would be the system for that.
Erroch: Alright, um, on the officers, uh, side things, Southerlandofred1999 has asked if there is going to be at any way in Foundry for us to do things with the players bridge officers like have one of the bridge officer crew, you know, use a model for one of their bridge officers in lets say like a hostage situation?
Mapolis: Uh, hmm, thatís a good question. I donít know about doing that. I know you can use them in dialogues but, uh, actually having the character there, um, hmm, Iíll have to look into that, that might actually be possible if we give you guys the right, uh, object to use, but, Iíll just write that one down, but yeah, I donít know if thatís actually coming, sorry.
Erroch: Thatís alright. Along those lines was actually another question that I have on my list of when creating a mission being able to set different start points for different players in the mission so that way if you logged in with a group of four you could have one of those players, well actually five, one of those players end up locked in a, you know, locked in some cell you have you have to break out your companions and what not.
Mapolis: mmhmm, uh yeah that's definitely something we need to improve, I know that there was some issues with that, you sort of have to place your spawn point in a wide open area so that no one spawns into a wall or someplace that youíre not supposed to be in. Um, I think that would be, Iíd consider it just a bug, frankly I think we should just fix it. You should be able to, I would say, you should be able to, uh, just place multiple spawn points maybe up to five since you can only have up to five people on a Foundry mission and then it will just use whatever spawn point hasnít been used yet when it spawns in a whole, the whole team. Um, I know that you can place spawn points, multiple spawn points now, so um, I donít know it might have that functionality already but Iíll have to check on that.
Erroch: Yeah, I uh, I will admit itís been awhile since Iíve actually had the free time to play around with foundry so I wasnít able to vette that question before we got here myself, but uh, it was interesting to bring up. They are sending me more tells about, uh, you know creating a mission where itís four different gauntlets that the players have to go through and meet up at the end to fight some boss encounter.
Mapolis: Oh thats a cool idea, yeah totally.
Erroch: Um, one other question from uh Southerland was uh is there some way, and I think this we more or less covered when we were talking about variables and what not but is there a, uh, is there something you all have planned to let, uh, certain bits of dialogue change based on the playerís race, or even parts of the encounter like having a Vulcan or a Romulan thats, well lets use Vulcan, a Vulcan that responds differently to other Vulcans then they do lets say Gorn.
Mapolis: Um, that would possible if we actually have somewhere a, uh, variable that says your specific race, um we do have that alien creator too so we have to wonder what would they do if you just created a custom character like, you know, say like a half Vulcan half Human using the alien generator instead of just selecting Vulcan, you know, would they have the same response, I donít know, it really depends if we have that data so um I will ask about that and see if thats, uh, possible but I donít think that we can do that, uh, based on race at least.
Erroch: One, um, Iím actually running towards the end of my questions that Iíve got so if thereís anything else you all want to hear you might want to tell me soon, but uh, Season 6 coming up, thereís been alot of talk, alot of discussion on Starbases and Fleet created content and, uh, Romeowood has asked how will that interplay with Foundry, uh, is this new Fleet created content going to be created WITH Foundry or will we get the assets from that, you know these new starbases and what not, for use in Foundry as well?
Mapolis: mmhmm, Well before we can introduce Starbases we basically need to allow you to create a persistent of the likes of Earth Spacedock or uh Risa or something like that that allows people to just sort of wander into your map and meet up with each other. Thats kinda the first step of that and, uh, so we do plan to add persistent maps at some point for Neverwinter and I believe that that is going to translate to Fleet Starbases for STO, just makes more sense in that kind of setting, so, um, it would basically just be like the Foundry editor I would imagine. You would just jump in to the map editor and make a single map that would be your Starbase and we may have some special objects in there that add some gameplay, Iím not really sure cause I donít think that that systems really been flushed out or designed or anything like that, itís mostly just kind of in brainstorming stages at this point, um, but it would start with a persistent zone that you create and then you would just build it like any other Foundry map at that point.
Erroch: Um, yeah I know thatís something that alot of people have wanted, especially in the roleplay community, STOís got a fairly thriving set of roleplayers and theyíve always been wanting to create, you know, their own social areas, these persistent maps, I know that weíve had requests to have somebody build us a Foundry map thatís a night club to where we could hold our shows in it and what not. So these would be great for that.
Mapolis: Oh yeah, I mean it's great for roleplaying. The thing is that I am mostly excited, though, is that it's a great hub to hook other Foundry missions off of, you know. It would be great if you could just fly out to some starbase that some prominent author has created, and then you have this whole series of missions and episodes just based off of that starbase. Almost like they're creating their own Deep Space Nine series, you know. I think that sounds really appealing to me.
Erroch: And, uh, well, on those lines, what about having even for the non-persistent missions, but having one mission lead into another? Like, with a lot of the current main game content, we finish a mission and we immediately get hailed saying, "hey, there's some stuff you have to do over here", and it's a completely separate mission. Will that sort of ability--is that on the drawing boards to put in the Foundry? Like, we finish mission one now, it gives us a uh...it immediately leads into mission two without making the player fly out somewhere else, or go find it in the list.
Mapolis: Uh, yeah absolutely. That's something we've wanted to add for a while is kind of a story arc that you can link up multiple missions into sort of a campaign setting of sorts. So, you can, you know, uh, have the--as soon as you complete a mission you'll get the pop up dialogue for the next one. Um, yeah that's, that's totally within our plans. I'm not sure when it would be coming for STO, but it will be added to the Foundry at some point, so it'll make it to STO eventually I'm sure.
Erroch: Um, now that I am out of the questions I had when I started, and a few of the other ones, Twigg from our IRC channel just asked a very open-ended question that I'm curious on: "What are your pipe dreams that you want to see added to the Foundry?"
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