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City of Steam: Player Teleportation Feature

A pre, during, and post feature blog: The original design, the developer diary, and the final result. What went right? What changed? What went wrong?

 

Foreword

City of Steam is a browser based MMO using the Unity3d engine and our own server solution. As a designer, we have to take into account the server architecture and the client-side structure as well.

This design is about player teleportation and transport. We couldn't include our code examples in the design, but you get the general idea from the beginning of the document here.

We found that getting from place to place took a long time, and were concerned that this did not fit our overall goals of making a game that was light, rapidly delivered, and could be played in small chunks of 10 minutes. The running from level to level became a barrier to the realization of the game goal, so we designed Myth Docks to solve this.

 

The Design


Design Purpose
To provide a convenient and fast way for players to travel between instanced and public levels in a large zone of many levels.


Design Overview
The Mythdock fuctions int he following way.

  • Myth Docks are in dungeons. They need to be discovered and unlocked.
  • Myth Hubs are in open levels. They don't need to be unlocked.
  • Myth docks and myth hubs are not NPCs. We want teleporting to be as simple as possible, so walking on these objects needs to trigger them.
  • A Myth Dock can only teleport to ONE Myth Hub (not any myth hub, not other myth docks).
  • A Myth Hub can teleport to any Myth Dock in it's list.


Discovering a Myth Dock
Mythdocks exist in various dungeon locations. Players can interact with these special objects

  • When a player walks on a new mythdock, it becomes unlocked (forever after unlocked).
  • The client sends a message to the server with the mythdock ID.
  • The server compares the Mythdock ID and the Level ID.
  • If the player is in the correct level, the Mythdock unlock is confirmed.


Unlocking a Myth Dock
When a mythdock unlocks, there are several types of feedback the player receives.

  • The player gets a Tooltip "Mythdock Unlocked - /Levelname"
  • The mythdock shows a looping SFX light and sound effect to show it is now active.
  • The player can access the Mythdock GUI when he walks on the mythdock platform.
  • This Myth Dock will be recorded in the character database, so the unlocked Myth Docks are remembered.


Using a Myth Dock
When a player walks on a mythdock platform, it will display the following GUI elements.

  • Clicking the "Go" button will teleport the character to the Hub.






Using a Myth Hub

When a player walks on a Myth Hub platform, it will display the following GUI elements.

  • Characters must first select a destination, then select the "Go" button.
  • Mythdocks that have not been unlocked are grey colored, and cannot be selected.






What Happened

So when we started implementing the design, we found that there were several big problems with this.

  • Teleporting to a Hub before teleporting to another dungeon level would load levels twice, and slow a player from getting to their destination. Also, loading a public hub is a big communication for the server, so it's slow and taxing.
  • The functionality for the Myth Dock encompassed everything required to do the Myth Hub, so there was no point in including two types of objects onthe server.

Thus, we decided to remove myth docks and only include myth hubs. This allowed a player to teleport to any other location in the list, and to skip the public hub if he wanted to. However, the presentation of the myth stations on the client side of our game could be as different as we wanted, so it was no problem to make them appear different. Thus, the fiction of the myth docks didn't need to change.


Developer Journal

This is the repasted developer diary from our City of Steam site.

Myth Docks

Today is more of a progress update or reiteration of a feature that has been in development for a long time. I’m talking about the myth docks, the teleporters of ancient origin that have been repurposed around Nexus to offer convenient and instant transport to some of the city’s hard to reach places.

 

First, I’ll give people a bit of history about these machines, and the designs that failed.

  1. Take 1: The first myth dock just returned you to the city. It was a simple NPC standing there with the ability to relocate a player. It really didn’t get used and sooner or later we realized that it just wasn’t providing anything to the game.
  2. Take 2: The second iteration of the myth dock sold a “docket” which you could use as a teleport token to return to anywhere you’d been before. However, carrying around all these non-stackables was too cumbersome and took up all the space for sweet loots. Also, after you’d used up your dockets, you couldn’t get back there. Trading with someone for the right dockets became annoying, too. And, it was really easy to forget, after teleporting, to buy your replacement docket. Thus, it frustrated us and simply had to change.
  3. Take 3: The next mythdock was a machine you interacted with. This both sold dockets to the player and teleported them. But it was really awkward to use, the interface was clunky, and the convenience was minimal because each mythdock had extremely limited use. For a long time, there was no mythdock heading out from a city hub, so it couldn’t do two-way travel. All in all, it was an afterthought, not planned well and poorly implemented. We had plenty of other bugs to work on so it just got swept under the rug.

We started over… again. Damn we really do that a lot. Artists gonna kill me again… right after the coders do. And so we arrived at our current iteration, described below. I’m going to bullet point this to save you time.

  • Mythdocks are platforms upon which you can stand.
  • When you stand on one, it provides options for you to teleport.
  • Each area has a network of interconnected docks.
  • You can only teleport to other docks in the same network.
  • You have to unlock mythdocks one by one, so that you can return to them.
  • If you want to travel to a whole different suburb, you have to take the railhauler.

 

Note About World Layout: This design also compliments the new world layout. Basically, there is a central scene, and fingers of dungeon/action-environments spreading out from that. However, no dungeon connects one suburb to another. Basically, the places a character can travel to unlock over time because the world is simply too huge and intimidating to a first-time player. Thus, the myth docks and myth hubs support the city layout by limiting options until you’re ready to explore further.


Final Result

Here is the myth hub in Central. It’s kinda funny –you won’t even go to Central in the alpha but we do all our screenshots here to avoid spoilers. You can see that it has a pretty large area to walk over and is easily identifiable from other elements in the scene.

 

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