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In your digest this week
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News from the wastes
Wasteland Update 19
Some cuts from Brian Fargo's report
Beyond tone it is the individual moments I remember most when playing a great RPG. The curiosity of wondering how things might have changed based on my actions kept me engaged and wanting to re-play. And our job as designers is to make sure that the different scenarios that play out based on your choices cause real consequence. There is a small moment in the new Rail Nomads camp in which you hear a boy calling out for help as he is drowning. This time it would be a lack of action that could cause his death. Do you swim out to middle of the lake and save him or ignore his plea? And what happens when you are spotted ignoring his plea by a local resident? Do you shoot him before he can let others know of your behavior? These are situations that play out in the Wasteland. Each area has so many combinations and permutations of playing that it is almost statistically impossible for two players to have the exact same experience playing through the game for the first time. This design philosophy is what made the first Wasteland so great and why people continued to play it decades later.
We have been very focused on getting the writing wrapped up by end of October so that we can do a table read of the entire game. Things are on track for about 95% of it which will allow all of us to get in a room for days on end to step through the game play. We look for flaws in logic, world consistency, keyword consistency, adding personality, adding ways to solve problems, creating visual cues, extra word descriptions, etc. It is quite a bit of work but it is a process that creates cohesion so that it feels like one world. There is so much content that the only way to grasp it all is to sit in a room for days for everyone to absorb. And quite often the best moments will come from the random ideas that spring forth from it all.
One of the qualities that makes for a strong technical director is their ability to build systems around the philosophies and aims of the game itself. John Alvarado has done an excellent job for us in the past and continues to do so for Wasteland 2.
Some cuts from John's Alvarado's report
Brian has emphasized that Wasteland 2 will put the player in the position of making tough choices that have deep affect on the unfolding story. Every decision comes with some tradeoff—some known, some only to be revealed later. There are so many paths through the adventure that it is likely no two players will have the same experience. This is an apt metaphor for the process of game development. In this update you’ll learn about some of the game systems the engineering team has been developing, and I’ll delve into detail on important decisions we’ve made around our story-scripting and localization systems.
Every game system we build involves making decisions about how to solve a challenge. Thankfully, Unity gives us a big head-start by providing many built-in solutions, saving us the work and reducing the decisions we have to make (in a good way). Using Unity was one big decision we made early on that has paid dividends. But there are still challenges particular to Wasteland 2 that we must overcome, and that means making tough choices that will have consequences for the rest of development and the final product.
As we weigh different approaches to a challenge, we attempt to gaze into the future and discern how the consequences of different decisions will play out with respect to design requirements (known and potential), content pipeline, run-time performance, and development time/cost. Fortunately, our engineering team has decades of experience over dozens of successful projects that help us make most of these decisions with confidence. So far we have made engineering strides on the following systems:
· World Map System · Movement and Turn-Based Combat System · Saved Game System · Character Animation System · Inventory system · World State Tracking system · Story Scripting System · Localization System
We now have a player-controlled Ranger character moving with animation in a game-level and interacting with NPCs, triggering conversations and changing world states that affect future interactions. This is where we wanted to be at this time and we are right on schedule. Brian stressed to the engineering team the importance of having this ready by the time the writers are finishing up their level designs and story so we can begin implementing, testing and iterating. That priority and the desired iteration process informed some important engineering decisions.
There are many ways that the systems supporting conversation functionality could be structured. I built such a system for The Bard’s Tale, <shameless-promotion> inXile’s first game which was released to critical acclaim back in 2004/2005 for consoles and PC, and which is now storming the top-10 charts on mobile devices with 5-star reviews as the funniest and biggest RPG’s on mobile. </shameless-promotion> The Bard’s Tale was a very large game and handled a lot of dialogue with many branches and world states to track. Here is a breakdown: 4,594 Lines of Dialogue 6,412 Localized Text Strings (including dialogue and UI) 1,720 World State variables Wasteland 2 promises to be even bigger in the amount of dialogue and world states. A world state is any information that must be remembered for the story to advance properly, such as what quests have been completed, what NPCs have been talked to and what information they have given. At first glance it made sense to reuse the Bard’s Tale system, but one major difference is that The Bard’s Tale dialog was all voiced by actors. That meant all the dialogue and story was going to be fixed very early on in order to record the audio in voice acting sessions. There would not be much iterating on story/dialogue in The Bard’s Tale. The exact opposite is true for Wasteland 2 as there will be a light amount of voice acting in order to give us the freedom during development to modify, extend, and polish the dialogue and story right up to the very end! I'll leave out his comments on localisation, but you can find the full report here, along with Mark Morgan's music here.
Brian Fargo talks to VG247
Regarding Wasteland 2 development, Fargo confirmed that the project is blazing forward, “As for the process, once we’ve set our core tenants and main systems in stone, we immediately kick off the level designs. Right now, we have over 10 writers and designers finishing up all of the maps.” “During this period, engineering will be working on pipeline tests and creating tools that we need to have each discipline work effectively. Our team is pretty experienced and we all have ways that we enjoy working in our specific disciplines.” “After that, it’s about getting a single level up and running so that we can start scripting it to get a feel the scale of the world and get some initial cameras set up. We believe strongly that nothing can make up for iteration on a game, no matter how good the initial design.” “Once we have a system implemented, we will evaluate it and shift priorities as needed to make sure it’s supporting the overall game mechanics we want to put forward.” … “Design will be complete at the end of October,” Fargo confirmed, “then we focus on full production and iteration. We’ll also have an early closed beta and will get feedback before the actual launch of the game.”
Wasteland store open
If the Wasteland news has given you the wish to buy the game, you can now preorder a copy with InXile Directly, along with sme of the preorder bonuses kickstarter contributors got. There's still time to get that in game statue if you have $5,000 kicking around.
Chris Avellone at GDC Online
Several media outlets have quoted from Chris Avellone's speech at GDC online. My favourites come from The Verge
For all four DLC packs, there could be no more than 10,000 lines of dialogue total. That may sound like a sufficient amount, at first blush. That would allot 2,500 lines for each four-hour add-on, only slightly less than the 3,000 lines of dialogue that appear in an average motion picture. However, 10,000 lines of dialogue is a fraction of what appears in an average full, open-world video game. Mass Effect 2 had around 30,000 lines. Fallout 3 had 40,000. Grand Theft Auto IV had a staggering 80,000 lines of dialogue. Creating downloadable content for Fallout: New Vegas required the same amount of speech as these full fledged titles, but its piecemeal nature and smaller price tag mandated a smaller budget. "I will admit one bit of trickery I did was, because we had a limited number of voice lines, we started doing things like making some of the main characters mute," Avellone said. "So they'd only do like, hand gestures and symbols and non-spoken text. We were only able to get away with that for so long."
Bethesda requires a process called "text lock" for each of their titles, during which the script is essentially frozen for two weeks and checked for problems. Every line of dialogue is combed for errors, quest text is examined for logic flaws, voice sets are lined up against dialogue to make sure that voice overs and subtitles match. Everything is examined, from major NPC conversations to "barks," the reactive dialogue that characters shout during gameplay. Each character has 35 to 50 barks, Avellone said, which further ate into the team's 10,000 line total.
IGN Australia talked to Wade Savage, behind fan project Fallout: Lanius. Some cuts follow.
“I've loved the Fallout games since the first one, and I just knew that I could do the material justice. Fallout: New Vegas offered up some interesting characters to work with and it also helps that I just loved the game. “Fallout: Lanius serves as a monumental change in style for me, as I've just directed a really heavy drama. I really like the idea of doing something that challenges my skills as a director and storyteller. That, and Lanius as a character is really interesting.” Shooting out of Perth in Western Australia Fallout: Lanius is an origin story of Legate Lanius, the primary antagonist from 2010's Fallout: New Vegas, so Savage’s first step was to strike up a relationship with Obsidian. “At the beginning of the process I contacted Chris Avellone and John Gonzalez for story notes,” says Savage. “Both of them gave me a really great insight into what kind of man Lanius was; this in turn helped me flesh him out as a character.” “Obsidian has been really supportive of the project thus far, so much so that a few designers have pledged to our film. I guess the key is being really upfront about what kind of project we are trying to create and why we are doing it. The key been making it clear that we want to produce the best fallout film there is, within the frame work we have.” “Our team is all incredibly experienced,” says Savage. “I've cast strongman and martial artist Johnny Domino as Lanius, and I've cast theatre performer and Australia's Next Top Model finalist Caris Eves as Quill – a tribal girl.” “Our cinematographers Sam Winzar and Ben Pascoe have shot on feature films, commercials and music videos. My production designer Alana Starcevich has designed everything from theatre productions to feature films. Our prop designers Jeremy Shaw and Jon Toll have worked on projects like The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Makeup FX artists Kate Anderson and Naomi Lynch have done extensive work in the industry, Naomi recently working on Drift with Sam Worthington. “Our fight designer Kaneda Cruz trained in Japan and Hong Kong and was the Blue Power Ranger in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers! Goodness, a Power Ranger! Kinda feel like he should be on the NCR's side though. You can find more and contribute here.
If like the cool kids you've been playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown, then join us over at The XCOM Wiki. You might even spot a familiar face or two.
As you may have noticed, I'm winding down Eternity coverage as its not a Post Apocolyptic game, but it still promises to be the best RPG ever, ever (except maybe for Wasteland 2 and Fallout 1). The Kickstarter now stands at $ 2.932 Million, with over $50k extra in direct paypal pledges. Over 60,000 people have contributed so far, and there's just 3 days to go. So buy now if you haven't already.
Relic of the war that wasn't
I know I promised a piece on Seoul City Sue, but sadly my exam prep took more time than expected. However to celebrate the release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, take a look at this:
A real Genuine plan for a USAF Flying saucer. This find in the US national archives describes a craft that would fly 2,600MPH (thats over 3 times the speed of sound) and as high as 100,000 ft. Expected cost (without inflation a mere $3.1 Million (or $26.6 Million today). As with most relics, the project was cancelled. The guardian has more.