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In your digest this week
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News from Home and Abroad
Wasteland Engine - Unity
Unity is a cool engine btw”— Josh Sawyer, Twitter
InXile's director of technology John Alvarado released a "Kickstarter update" on Wasteland 2#'s choice of Unity as an engine. The full text is here but here's some selected highlights
(on the support offered from fans and the industry)
It’s been a great pleasure to feel all the support from fans of the game during Kickstarter, and that has continued during our engine and tools evaluation. Multiple vendors who also supported the Kickstarter came forth with their products, not just to hawk their wares, but to offer genuine encouragement and generous offers of custom support. Among them were prominent engine vendors as well as specialized tool vendors. We necessarily must decline some generous offers as we let the game requirements drive us to single solutions in each category, but we do so with great appreciation for the genuine good will expressed in the offers.
There was a broad enough offering just from the vendors that came to us that we prioritized our evaluations to these products first, hoping to find our solution amongst the ones making generous offers and hence help devote more resources to the game.
(InXile's "shopping list")
Besides the items mentioned above, high on our list of requirements for an engine was ease of use by the artists and level designers for getting assets into the game and editing levels. We are a small team and must be able to work very efficiently. This became a first-pass filter when evaluating engines. Also very important was ease of development for the promised target platforms. Following a close third was amount of support from the vendor and general availability of expertise for crowd-sourcing, contracting or hiring. Putting it all together we came up with a list of engine requirements that looked like this:
1. Ease of use by artists and designers
2. Targets Windows, Mac and Linux
3. Support and expertise available from vendor and in community
4. Adaptability for player modding
5. 3D rendering, pathing, AI, physics, character animation tools
The 3D rendering and other game systems at the bottom of the list are very important as we plan to make a great looking game with physics and effects. But these things, at the level we need them, are commonly provided by full-fledged engines, so they end up lower on the list in terms of differentiating factors.
Given the top down POV and camera height required to show a party of characters and enemies, it would be overkill to spend too much of our resources on detailed character models and all the cutting-edge rendering and animation techniques associated with that level of detail.
If we plan well, then we can put just the right amount of resources into modeling and animation so that it looks great from our camera POV without wasting effort on detail that will never be seen. Then we can spend more time working on other enhancing effects that will be noticed from or POV, such as physics for ragdolls and flying debris, and the fire, smoke and particle effects for the gunfire and explosions that cause those ragdolls and flying debris (hopefully for your enemies and not your party of rangers).
(On Unity's suitability)
Unity Technologies, with their Unity 3 game engine, was among the vendors that came to us with congratulations, goodwill and offers of support. Their engine stood out as an early front-runner on point 1 of our requirements. The artists loved its support for the native formats of the art tools we already use (3DS Max and Photoshop). I also like its built-in version control for assets and code.
At first it seemed to be missing a leg on point 2 (support for Linux platform), but I knew that we could get source code and therefore could provide the Linux port ourselves. Given that the engine is designed and structured to support multiple platforms, I felt it would not be insurmountable to port it to Linux (or actually hire some outstanding external contractors we’ve used before to do the job). After talking to Unity about this, we found they’ve already been working on a Linux port, so Unity is supplying inXile the Linux port alpha source code. InXile will work with Unity in order to port Wasteland 2 to Linux.
Where Unity really bowled us over was on point 3. Besides generous support available from Unity staff, the Unity Asset Store is a treasure trove of assets (3D models and code) provided by the large and growing community of Unity users. A recent Unity newsletter announced that the Asset Store customer base has topped 100,000, and the catalog has reached over 3,000 packages! We’ve been able to find all kinds of useful 3D assets and code in the Asset Store ranging in price from cheap to free! Having an organized marketplace like the Asset Store for finding assets and expertise fits right in with our desire to leverage and give back to the community. While we cannot share engine source code changes, we can share script code and components, as well as graphical assets as part of our modding support.
(Did someone say modding?)
On the Modding front, we always figured we would have to provide custom tools to users, so we didn’t rank modding support high on our list of engine requirements. We’ve also had generous offers from the Wasteland community of coders to help with developing those tools. And yet I think the fact that Unity provides their basic engine/editor for free is a big plus as a starting point for providing the tools necessary for supporting modding of Wasteland 2. And there again, I think the Asset Store will facilitate ongoing collaboration with the community on modding tools that can be offered in the store for free.
Just on a related front, backers through kickstarter have been asked to nominate which is their preferred platform for their copy of the game.
Nuka Break - MCA and Tim Cain?
Clearly not having learned his lesson from the last kickstarter he offered himself as a stretch goal on, Chris Avellone, along with Tim Cain have pledged to appear on the next season of Nuka Break - if the guys can reach 2x their original target. You can make your pledge here and for your troubles receive a gift.
Brian Fargo meets the press
Brian Fargo has been making the rounds of UK gaming magazines, first this from a small piece in GamesTM
“I have no doubt that true Fallout fans will enjoy Wasteland 2 like they the did with the first two Fallouts”, Brian Fargo has told games™ in an exclusive interview after the success of his recent Kickstarter project raised nearly $3 million to develop a sequel to Fargo’s 1988 computer game. “There is a certain formula I follow for making deep RPGs that were applied in Fallout and Fallout 2 and will be used again with Wasteland 2″, Fargo continues.
Fargo goes on to say that a full vision document for the sequel will be posted online soon but does enlighten us on the similarities between Wasteland 2 and the classic Fallout games that he produced. “Cause and effect are the most important hallmarks of this style of game”, he says. “People want to have their actions cause real effects which builds an immersive world and creates replay.”
Confusing the term "Exclusive", Brian also talked with Edge about kickstarter. The piece contains some insights no the kickstarter process, the publisher relationship, and the pressure InXile's faces over Wasteland 2, here's some snips.
Edge: Does Kickstarter help you through that process at all?
BF: You don't really get any direction. As with a lot of sites these days, it's rare that you ever get in touch with a human being. What they really do is review your video. I think they just want to make sure that it seems reasonable, that there's nothing objectionable there; I don't think their standards are super-tight. All we could really do was observe what other people were doing and give our own spin on it.
Edge: Ryan Payton told us that people said he should ask for less than he needed for Republique, so the buzz would help him reach his actual goal.
BF: I think it's totally wrong for anybody to ask for less money than they think they need. I don't think some people are really mentally going through the deductions you face; no matter what you're going to have somewhere between eight and 10 per cent disappear of the top to KickStarter and Amazon. I hope people are really taking that into consideration.
BF: Generally speaking, when you do a deal with a publisher, you sign the contract and the trust is gone the next day. They question every decision you make, they're on you every second. They withhold money in order to make you bend to their will - it can be a very distrusting experience. You couldn't have a more polar opposite than Kickstarter: the fans are saying, man, we trust you. Here's the money, up front, we trust you to do it. And it's so opposite, and it's wonderful, and I feel a great responsibility to not let anyone down.
Edge: Psychologically, how different is it working specifically for the fans, instead of a publisher?
BF: I've never felt more pressure to deliver in my life. And trust me, they send me Twitter messages letting me know what they're going to do to me if I don't do a good job - messages I don't even want to repeat. But I've also never felt more confident, because I'm in such lock-step with the fans. In the beginning, I would get interview questions like, "What can you do to appeal to the more mass-market?" I don't care about the mass market. I know who my fans are, I know what they want. We're in this sort of constant communication now that a publisher would never allow.
I'm wholly focused. When doing products for publishers, I spent between 25 and 30 per cent of my time and budget making demos for trade shows or convincing them that I know what I'm doing. You're just constantly spinning your wheels. When you remove that, it’s a more organic process, you know? If we have an idea we like, we put it in. If later we decide we don't like it, we toss it. It's a more organic process, and it's a healthier one.
Edge: Being without a publisher doesn't just give you freedom to work how you want, but to say what you want.
BF: Listen, I would go on press tours and be told in extremely strong terms to avoid using certain words. I wasn't allowed to use the word 'dungeon' when I was talking about Hunted: The Demon's Forge. I was unable to use the word. You get kinda stifled, you know? On one hand, they're paying the bills so I'm trying to be respectful; on the other, you end up going through these scenarios you're not comfortable with. If you don't stay to the script, you get these nasty emails if something wasn't said right so after a while, yeah, you don't want to talk to anyone anymore because it's not worth the fear of repercussions.
Edge: Will you delay Wasteland 2 if you need to?
BF: We've committed to try to get this thing done by next October, but if push comes to shove I'm not going to put something out that isn't right. I've come too far, and accomplished too much, to put out a product that isn't right. But you always want to have a stick in the sand that everybody's shooting for, and we'll continue to do that. I've tried to build a lot of iteration time into the schedule and our approach, so it's still quite possible.
Some people forget that Baldur's Gate was originally supposed to make Christmas 1998 - there was a lot of pressure to have that thing make Christmas. I had retailer penalties into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I sucked it up and we didn't ship until January. People talk about quality - it's easy to talk about, but when you've got a gun to your head it's much harder to make that call. I'm glad that no publisher wanted Wasteland 2 because this is the best way it could have been made.
Edge: What do you do afterwards? Now you've tasted this kind of freedom, how do you ever go back?
BF: I hope I never have to do another product for someone else again. Already the fans are saying please do another one - some specific products - and I'm saying, well, come on, slow down. For me, it's important that I stay focused right now. Remember that the project is fan-funded, so any sales that we get on day one let us do other things.
I hope this will be the business model for us going forward because it's a great one for mid-sized companies - and by that I mean 10 to 20 people. These aren't big rooms. It's been tough being in between; you've got the iOS market where it's two guys in Croatia putting something out, then you've got the big products - and there's very few independent developers working on them these days, just a handful. So it's left guys like me in the middle struggling with what made sense. I could have just stayed at home and made iOS games and made a nice living, but I like making big products and working with teams of people. It's been a real godsend.
JES on what could have been
Josh Sawyer has been talking on his Formsrping about cut content from Fallout:New Vegas. Here's some choice cuts.
The intention for the NCR and Legion was that most people would initially perceive the NCR as "good guys" and the Legion as "bad guys". Over time and exposure to more aspects of NCR and Legion culture, the dark side of NCR would show (this happened) and the positive aspects of the Legion would show (this did not happen, in large part because the Legion areas east of the Colorado were cut).
The additional Legion locations would have had more traveling non-Legion residents of Legion territories. The Fort and Cottonwood Cove made sense as heavy military outposts where the vast majority of the population consisted of soldiers and slaves. The other locations would have had more "civilians". It's not accurate to think of them as citizens of the Legion (the Legion is purely military), but as non-tribal people who live in areas under Legion control.
While Caesar intentionally enslaves NCR and Mojave residents in the war zone, most of the enslavement that happens in the east happens to tribals. As Raul indicates, there are non-tribal communities that came under Legion control a long time ago. The additional locations would have shown what life is like for those people.
The general tone would have been what you would expect from life under a stable military dictatorship facing no internal resistance: the majority of people enjoy safe and productive lives (more than they had prior to the Legion's arrival) but have no freedoms, rights, or say in what happens in their communities. Water and power flow consistently, food is adequate, travel is safe, and occasionally someone steps afoul of a legionary and gets his or her head cut off. If the Legion tells someone to do something, they only ask once -- even if that means an entire community has to pick up and move fifty miles away. Corruption within the Legion is rare and Caesar deals with it harshly (even by Legion standards).
In short, residents of Legion territories aren't really citizens and they aren't slaves, but they're also not free. People who keep their mouths shut, go about their business, and nod at the rare requests the Legion makes of them -- they can live very well. Many of them don't care at all that they don't have a say in what happens around them (mostly because they felt they never had a say in it before the Legion came, anyway).
We always wanted to support post-Hoover play. A few milestones prior to being content complete, it was obvious that we weren't going to be able to support it to the extent that it deserved (robust reactivity to the choices the player made). Because we didn't have time to do it correctly, I made the decision to cut it.
Unfortunately, those areas were never designed. The region containing them was cut before they were fleshed out. They were simply designated as Legion areas that would show more facets of Legion life.
How much more time would have all this taken? 5-8 months...
Because we can never get too much of Josh Sawyer here at the Digest, here's the latest changes to Josh Sawyers' personal mod:
- Fixed critical hit chance on Certified Tech perk.
- Tin Cans and Bent Tin Cans weight from 1.0 to 0.1.
- Tribal Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~* (see End of Document)
- Caravan Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~*
- Old CS scripts adding items to Chet's invetory have had those lines commented out.
- New (single) message indicates items are placed around the Mojave Wasteland.
- I Never Axed For This challenge and perk added.
- Added regular Hatchet to I Never Axed For This challenge + perk.
- Classic Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~*
- Mercenary Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~*
- Level cap properly set to 15, adjusts up to 35 with all DLC. This was stealth fixed for v3 a day after launch, but there you go.
- Auto-Inject Stimpaks and Super Stimpaks set to match Stimpak / Super Stim healing rates.
- Expired Stimpak set to 50 VAL from 75.
- Set the Roughin' It! Bedroll Kit ingestible to 10 lbs. from 15.
You can get the latest scoop on Josh's mod and download links from his blog.
Relic of the War that wasn't
For this week’s Relic we journey to Canada, and learn about their Continuty of Government plans, should the bombs begin to drop
In the 1960s Canadian PM John Diefenbacker authorised the construction of a series of Nuclear Shelters for government officials.. Mockingly called “Diefenbunkers” these “Emergency Government Headquarters” would be spread about the country, with the largest (CEGHQ) in Carp, Ontario(30km from Totonto) would shelter politicians, Civil Servants and senior Military officials; with more than 50 other smaller bunkers spread throughout the country connected by secured communications links.
Although all have been decommissioned, and some destroyed, one is still available to visit – thankfully the Carp facility. You can see their website Here, or if Canada is a bit too far to take a day trip to, here’s the CBC visiting the shelter. Alternatively, rent the Movie “The Sum of All Fears” which includes scenes filmed within the Carp facility.
Next Week: Our
Eurovision special, from Poland via Satellite.
Special thanks to The Old World Relics for the tip for this
Strategic Nuclear Moose
You may have noticed the Moose has been quiet of late. Its not gone away, but with a few other commitments it has been delayed a little. Garoux, Toci and myself hope to get a new edition out soon. We are as always looking for new content including regular patrons and one-offs, and for some help creating video content. Please get in touch if you think you can help.
Are you going to E3?
Open call to any potential "Roving Reporters"; if you can take pictures of any Bethesda or Obsidian setups, get auto/video of any speeches any of the guys behind the games make, or can harass any of the developers with questions, please get in touch!.