Closing out 2014

About a week ago, I watched the WoW documentary "Looking For Group." Very little there I didn't already know, except the story behind the very beginning of Blizzard. They were a group of computer science nerds that always finished their class projects early. Since the same 10-11 guys always had a couple weeks to wait until their next assignments, they started hanging out. As they hung out, they formed a more permanent group and worked on game projects together--eventually staying together after graduation.

They had no real structure at first. For example, Chris Metzen mentioned that no one was working on lore, so he started drawing. He drew a map that would later become Azeroth. What struck me is that no one was in charge. It was a group of alpha nerds that voraciously tore into completing tasks because they had a strong desire to make games.

That's how I am. There are a few other people on our team like that. But we need to all be like that. I think it's a little different with creative people. Creative expression can take a lot out of you. It's a big investment, and so I can see how artist types might need a little more reassurance. I think the studio will help a lot. It should bring some security--aka, "If I invest a ton into this character, you guys aren't going to mutilate them or ruin the game, right?" This is why it's hard to outsource creativity. You need to be around people you trust in a safe environment first.

I remember thinking that as I reached the end of my time on the Origins of Malu project. Listening to the producer talk about the characters I created for the game and what they were going to do with them rather than asking me, making it clear they didn't get the point of their stories. In general, I'd watch the lore I created get butchered. It was hard to take. It's tough being a creative person and having no control over how your creations get altered or destroyed by people that don't get it. And subtle details are sometimes hard to explain how important they are. Imagine if George Lucas said to the concept artists, "Ditch Darth Vader's cape. He's not Zoro for crying out loud." Can you imagine the concept artist saying, "But... but yeah, but the cape is... it's just um. Ok, fine"? Or worse, find out that it was removed without them even being told. How motivated would they be working in an environment like that?

Enough of that. Game wise, let's go through what we have:

Raygun Rocketship
Zack's done a really awesome job with particle effects. Ships explode as if they're in a high quality game. We now have some desert buildings so Planet Level 1 is starting to look like an actual planet. I've completed story lines / dialogue for Planet 2 and we have art for that too. It's the first of many times the story branches. The two branches are radically different. Having the story arc double each level it's going to be a near impossible task. At least for now, I'm staying the course.

Granny Wars
Ryan has the game working already. Title screen and menu work, hit boxes and collision works, and jumping works. Not all the animations are in, but otherwise, Ryan's already done more work in two weeks than our last programmer did in 6 months. Need I say more about what the development issue has been and why we're not in beta?

Elemental Lords
Ryan has Elemental Lords fully functional. The game is playable with "programmer art." Zack is working on particle effects for it. We're finishing out the characters, then we just need UI, a better logo, and a background. It's a simple game that we could finish and release in a few months.

The Prototype II deck is finished and we're already play testing. I find the game fun to play, but it takes a long time. We played for 2 and a half hours yesterday and didn't finish a game. The game doesn't really get going for the first hour, so I'm thinking about giving everyone a head start and seeing if I can cut the first hour off. There's a few issues so far, but I think I need to play test a little more. Originally, I thought there should be a limit to how many creatures you can put on the board to defend yourself. I forgot to mention the rule and notice people were way over the limit, but then it made completing quests easier. Allowing unlimited forces on the board also eliminates the mystery. Aka, "You can attack me, but you have no idea what's in my hand. I might be holding powerful creatures to defend with." Well, no. If they're attacking with an army, whatever I have in my hand isn't likely going to change the outcome much. Hmm, that's got me thinking of a possible fix--you can only put low level creatures on the board.

The other problem is that there's so much going on in the game, that there are often times the board is full of stuff you can't do right now. There are high level activities that randomly pop up in early game while no one can do them yet, and they clutter the board making it take longer for everyone to progress. I might be able to fix that by adding more space on the board for more variety, or putting all the high level stuff, shuffled, at the bottom of the Events deck. Actually, that's a good idea. Sort out the early game stuff and the late game stuff, shuffle what's left, take half the main deck and shuffle it with early game stuff, the other half shuffled with late game stuff, then put the main / early shuffled half on top of the main / late shuffled half. Thank you blog. You've helped me crack the mystery.

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