I’m getting impatient.
We’re in that phase of the project where a lot is being created but where there is very little to show. That’s quite normal, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
This goes not only for Dragon Commander but also for Project E, so sometimes I have the impression we’re not producing anything. But then I do a quick round of the office and I see tons of assets and features being prepared, and I’m momentarily relieved again that stuff is happening – I just can’t see all of it together.
After which impatience strikes again, and I do another tour
While the previous incarnation of Dragon Commander, the thing we showed at Gamescom, was a proof of concept, the next big step in Dragon Commander’s development is going to be nothing short of the completely playable game less a whole bunch of features. The difference versus the proof of concept is that whatever is within this version is what’s going to ship (plus obviosly a whole bunch of refinements).
By now, we have a pretty good idea of how things are going to work in both games (which took us some time), and in my head they’re both great, (well, what else would you expect me to say
My desk is riddled with notes, flowcharts and designs for both DC & project E, but since we’re not talking about E yet, I’ll give you a rundown on where we stand with DC. Here’s a picture of the desk Dragon Commander on facebook
Internally we look at DC as a game being split in two phases – phase 1 is the strategy/rpg part, phase 2 is the action/rts part. Since we want to be able to make the claim that you’ll make more decisions in DC than in any RPG we’ve ever produced, we made sure that for every character you encounter in the game, there are complex decision trees, and that the impact of reaching a certain point in each decision tree has an impact on the overall gameplay.
Looking at elf princess Lohannah for instance, I count 7 RPG like decisions to be made (i.e. moral, ethical, political, romantic etc…) with associated different consequences. Each character has been worked out like this, and we’ve made sure that whenever something felt like cliché or uninteresting, it was sent back to the drawing board. The ten characters on my desk alone yield more than 100 consequences, and I wished we had stuff like this in the previous Divinities.
It looks like a lot of fun but the only thing is – I can’t play it yet. It’s just flowcharts, with cues for the guys who have to script it, but we can’t script it yet as we’re waiting for the scripts, and the team building the script editor/engine to be ready.
On another front, we have a team working on the procedural generation required to create the enormous gameworld we need for Dragon Commander. Strategy implies a lot of areas to fight for, and given the speed at which the dragon can fly, these areas need to be quite large. The common number is 20x20 km for one area.
The proof of concept works, the strategy for implementing the pipeline that allows us to create huge continents and adapt it in function of gameplay is sound (except that we’re nervous about how large all the data will be), but we’re now waiting for the entire pipeline to be put into action, not only so that we can see the world we’ll be fighting for, but also so that we’ll be able to decide exactly how large the server farm will need to be that has to generate all of it. And then we still need to put all the manually placed stuff in that world.
On yet another front, the phase 2 front, we’ve succesfully managed to blend the RTS component of the game with controlling the dragon. This is really sweet, except that as we were iterating through various version of the control schemes and how the AI would work, the code became a complete mess. Now, we’re cleaning up, and integrating everything in our new engine. This takes time, meaning again that I can’t play it yet. That same front also needs to make sure that the entire plan is also going to work in muliplayer, obviously slowing us down even more.
And I’m not even talking about all the engine work that’s going on. That’s a veritable shitload of work.
So I’m a bit nervous. One day, hopefully in the not too far future, all of this is going to come together, and I hope that I’m going to be smiling and dragging people in telling them – check out how cool this is – but I won’t know if I’ll be able to do this untilthe moment that all of the little pieces fall together.
Writing this the Sid Meier quote comes back to mind – a (good) game is a series of interesting choices. He was talking about the gameplay, but it equally applies to the architecturing of a game. It’s a set of interesting choices, and now that we’ve made them, we have to wait for the implementation to see the result in action. Only then will it be visible if we were successful in generating a series of interesting choices for you, the player.
So, until the moment when we can play and feel the game ourselves, we’ll keep on telling everybodyt how cool Dragon Commander is, but in reality, we’ll only know ourselves once the work that’s being done now is finished. Obviously, I’m confident