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The Lost Shipment: Making Of

Posted by on Dec 25, 2016 in Minecraft

By now we hope you’ve played The Lost Shipment, it launched on December 25th at 12:00 midnight. We’re incredibly proud of it and so we thought it would be nice to create this behind the scenes look at what it took to make, how it was planned and who was involved.

If you’ve not played it yet, please do not read this Behind the Scenes as it will spoil parts of the content you’ve yet to experience. Thank you.

How it all Began

It all started with a plan by Ricksterm to make a new sewer for our refreshed spawn (which Ricksterm also made). He began by creating the sewer in November on our Creative server which is where most of our spawn builds are prototyped before being imported into survival. As he was making it he thought what if the sewer itself was a playable egg and instead of having the egg itself at spawn players would enter it and be teleported to a lavishly designed sewer system elsewhere on the map.

He later on brought in iNook on the project and then myself (Pri) and the scope of the egg grew as we came up with lots of unique and exciting ideas.

The Trailer

We’ve made trailers for content before (Cube #1 and #2 come to mind). But never to this degree of quality. We felt it was important that players get to see a glimpse of what we were making, we had been working on it already for about two to three weeks when the trailer was made and many people had noticed we were absent on the Survival server (The Lost Shipment was made on Creative and then imported and finished there).

I made the trailer (Pri) and it took about two days going through concepts. I made 5 trailers in total until we got to the final version we posted on our official YouTube channel. We didn’t actually know when we were going to finish The Lost Shipment. At the time the trailer was made none of the code had been written, only about a third of the command blocks were in. There was still a lot to do which is why we didn’t include a launch date at the end of the trailer like we usually do.

Originally we were thinking it would launch some time in January but we were able to finish it sooner than we expected.

Unique Aspects

If you’ve played the egg you’ll notice straight away that this is the first one we’ve made where you can die, players enter with a working health meter, you have enemies that attack you, there is the possibility of falling from great heights and being killed. This is an egg where all the aspects of Survival come into play, you’ll need a good set of armour, good weapons and provisions to sustain you.

It’s also our first egg that features mobs and NPC’s (Non-Playable Characters). It’s almost invalid to call The Lost Shipment an egg because it’s so different from anything we’ve done in the past, we’ve been calling it “long form content” but it’s very much like an Role Playing Game (RPG) where you have a quest and people to converse with.

We’ve spent a lot of time on the atmosphere within The Lost Shipment. That includes many things to explore and collect, many NPC’s to talk with. There is over 400 pieces of dialogue for the characters to say there are also collectable books revealing more about the setting and challenges.

The last major difference is the game play, the actual objectives you must complete, the puzzles you solve. We’ve custom built all of them and many have never been used before.

Easter Eggs within Easter Eggs

As this is quite a large piece of unique content we did want to have some funny discoverable moments, part of the comedy is with the mini-easter eggs we’ve included. Some are more obvious than others but we have references to other games, movies and tv shows within the egg. We’re hoping you’ll find them all. Here’s one hint, enter 1981 into the door lock and make sure you’ve got sound on!

Custom Puzzles

One thing we really wanted to do was create new experiences that players haven’t played before and we wanted it to feel familiar but different each time you play it. Replayability had a lot of importance in everything we made. From randomly spawning Mobs, shuffling around the placement of items you need to find, changing the way NPC’s talk, even changing the way you have to complete actual puzzles.

Many of the gameplay aspects are new, we’ve not done them before, most of them involve NPC’s in some way or playing with your ability to be harmed. This egg is incredibly unforgiving, dying at almost any point will require you to start over from the beginning. It is for that reason it will be exciting, nerve wracking and the feeling of completing it will be exhilarating.

Rick felt it was important we gave players a reason to use their end game equipment. That means the cards you’ve collected, the armours you’ve forged or found, the weapons you have. All of these things will be usable in this egg because you are in real danger, fighting real foes that can do real harm.

I’m not going to go over all the game play aspects we’ve put in, but there are 12 playable aspects to The Lost Shipment. Each one was meticulously planned, built and most of them required custom code and command blocks.

The Story

It actually took us quite a while to come up with a name for the adventure. We put it off right until the day of the Trailer going up. We knew early on what the story was, you would be sent into the sewer by Smelly Barry to retrieve a lost shipment. For those unaware, Smelly Barry is an NPC at spawn (/warp blackmarket) and he deals in “counterfeit” cards.

I created his character in 2014 as a way to offer some unique cards at high prices for our long term players who have amassed a lot of wealth and want to purchase some vanity cards which most players don’t get access to. His persona is that of a pirate-like scoundrel who purchases stolen and counterfeit goods.

As he sends you into the sewer to find out what happened to his shipment you quickly find all is not as it seems down there, a violent megalomaniac has setup shop down there and is calling the shots.

You first meet the Merovingian in what we call the anvil room, it’s the sixth game play aspect where you dodge five rounds of falling anvils. Here the Merovingian talks to the player, commenting on your play time on RENMX. He is condescending, belittling and talks negatively about you. He is programmed to discuss your betting habits, card collecting prowess, how often you vote for the server, any bans or mutes you’ve accumulated, how poor your town is named and more.

The Merovingian has a backstory, he was a botanist who went into the sewer to collect spore samples from growing fungi to create medicines. Unfortunately one of the samples he found affected his mental state, turning him insane and paranoid. He is fearful of the sun and so created his own society in the sewer where he can live in the darkness while taking large doses of the processed fungi he collects down there.

He refers to it as his Ooze and as you’ve seen with the toxic rats, he is using it to create fearsome creatures that should never exist. It becomes clear by the end of The Lost Shipment that it is The Merovingian who has Smelly Barry’s shipment and that you’re not the first individual to be sent into the sewer after it, many other adventurers have tried and failed to return Barry’s lost goods.

The Code

As this is quite a unique piece of original content there has been a lot of code written to make it a reality. All the things that attack the player are custom and were coded by iNook. Custom spawners, custom mob names. Lots of command blocks were used.

We also have standing NPC’s which the players can interact with, these were created by iNook and Ricksterm with their speech programmed by myself. I created a “speech engine” which allows NPC’s to talk to players, understand facts about players (like how the Merovingian does in the anvil drop section) and also to make them say different things each time you play. Every single NPC in the game says different phrases each time you interact which was important to us.

Almost all the game mechanics like the Anvil room, fighting the Merovingian, The water room, the disguise finding section were programmed with custom code and command blocks. I personally wrote over 2,000 lines of code for The Lost Shipment and around 75 to 100 command blocks were used with various commands in them.

It was a real team effort not just to write the code and the content of the command blocks but also testing everything worked, discovering bugs and edge cases, predicting what players will do and then fixing the problems we found. Creating something new takes a long time, we had to create many tests and in some cases throw out what we’d already done and start over making things another way. Everything we did had to be reliable and scale from one player to multiple players.

Our Motivation and the Future.

When we started this, it was just going to be a simple thing to add to the realism of our spawn, real places have real sewers was our thinking. But it quickly became an open ended challenge. How far could we go? Could we create our own mobs, could we make new puzzles people haven’t played before. Can we create a new standard of long form story driven content that is engaging to our users and elevate what our players expect from RENMX.

I think we’ve done that. And the skills we’ve acquired from making this will help us to create new adventures in the future, bigger and better ideas and longer stories. Even stories that change over time based on the decisions players make while playing them.

We hope you all had a blast playing The Lost Shipment, it’s something we hope you’ll want to play through multiple times to see absolutely everything and hear all the unique lines said by the characters. There is so much detail to experience and items to collect and of course it has some unique cards too.