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Dev Status Update (08-02-07 to 03-04-08)

Supreme Cmdr

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Believe me, thats the last drop which can be squeezed out of the old PTE4 gal. Believe me, there's oil leaking everywhere. :)

The new PTE5 terrain engine (which uses GROME maps etc) used in Talon Elite and beyond will be even better looking.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was going to do a dev update today but I'm swamped and totally wiped out (been up since 4:30am). So, am off for the day. But for you loyal fans who are babysitting the forums, below are sneak peeks from the batch load of blinding shots being released tomorrow along with a gameplay movie. The dev VCF has also been updated with a wealth of info.


08-01-29 pics

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awesome shots, SC!

What is that wide beam in shot 41, is that an antimatter leak or a turret firing (It looks a little wide to be a turret beam, but too straight to be an explosion leak)?

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awesome shots, SC!

What is that wide beam in shot 41, is that an antimatter leak or a turret firing (It looks a little wide to be a turret beam, but too straight to be an explosion leak)?

Its just one turret beam that is sweeping from L to R. The shot was taken between frames, so it looks thicker in that shot.

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Wel, by now those of you who saw my late night post of yesterday, have seen the recent shots and the new cockpit HUD layout.

Now for the real dev update. heh, this is going to be short since all the good news is already written about.


Well, we're on the home stretch now and its been a ton of fun. The boys and I are churning stuff out morning, noon and

night as we race - once again - to the finish line.

In a way, I am pleased with the decision I made to release an SE version of ES based on the WIP Talon Elite code. What I didn't plan for was just how over the top I was going to go and

in such a short time. Still, my thought process is that if I'm going to introduce a new franchise in a genre (combat action) that I'm not entirely familiar with, I might as well go all the way.

Whats the worst that could happen, short of it not being fun?

It just so happens that, technology aside, the game is a total blast. Just wait until you get in a massive scale battle with hundreds (yes!!) of ships in the region and 50% of them out to

wipe out your fleet. Its just so immersive that my eyes water everytime I am playtesting. Yeah, hype, I know. But just wait and see for yourself.

I was so pleased with the progress that I overshot my original budget by close to a $100K and not only ended up commissioning a complete and 100% audio/music asset dB upgrade,

but also decided to hire Somatone to do voice overs which consists of dialog close to 1000 lines. Sure our previous games had tons of dialog, but 90% of them were for the

cap ship crew. This time, its everybody and their mother-in-law in front of a mic. Its one hell of a chatty game I tell you what.

But today, I'm going to be doing some audio profiling work in order to get the SPL levels right because with all the din from explosions, chatter, music etc, I think that most gamers

will just keel over in shock due to the assault on their senses. I need to dial it down a bit and this is going to be hellaciously tricky.

As for Daniel's music tracks? I'm not saying anything about it. Wait for the movie and draw your own conclusions. And yes, the one included in the upcoming 1280x720 gameplay

movie isn't even the best of his tracks. Not even close. He's going to score all my future games. No question about it and he's scheduled to start scoring for both Talon Elite

and Bravo Team when he's done. Thats how much I love his work. YMMV, but I don't give a damn. Its my game. You don't like the music, turn it off and stick your own music

CD in the drive.

I can't talk about this new build, without talking about the cockpit revisions. As seen in the shots, thats what I promised in my last dev update. Apart from the fact that the

3D cockpit is fully functional, the HUD overlays (the concept is that those are fed through the pilot's targeting eyepiece) add a lot to the interface and does away with the

legacy 'sim like' text boxes and whatnot. I like it. Again, if you don't, press F1 and turn it off.

Apart from some minor tweaks and bug fixes, we're 100% code and feature complete and just awaiting the delivery (next week) of the final audio assets for integration

into the dB. Since no coding is involved, this part is pretty trivial and boring. The exciting part is firing up the game and being assaulted by all those high def audio

chatter. The audition audio for the (all individual) actors hired by Somatone to the work, were quite impressive. So I'm kinda excited actually. The last time I overhauled

my audio/music dB to this extent with an all new replacement, I think Reagan was still in the White House. :)

Next week I'm gearing up for the [closed] tech preview with IGN's File Planet subscribers. That will run a week and open to only 10K keys. The demo will follow

at least two weeks to Going Gold.

The tech preview, apart from running two stress test combat scenarios, will also be running the two demo scenarios. So if you manage

to get in on the tech preview, then you've pretty much got an early peek at the demo and a lot more.

If you want in on the tech preview, now would be a good time to check on your File Planet subscription because (a) the tech preview is closed and run only for a week (:)

the demo only features one space and planet scenario, while the tech preview features four scenarios, two of which were created specifically for that tech preview stress test.

GDC 2008

First things first. No, I'm not going to GDC this year. So those of you who keep sending me invites. Please stop because I just don't have time to keep responding

to each one of them.

I've got two games to ship this year and being the lead developer and designer means that I have a lot of wrap-up work to do. Though I'd love nothing than to go catch

up with my industry colleagues. No D.I.C.E this year either, last year with the [excellent] Turner GameTap crew (Rick, Sandy, Roger et al) was a blast. Had tons of fun and had some time to relax and not

write a single. line. of. code. yay for the once a year slacker!!!

Valve Releases SteamWorks

When I read that, I was, well, speechless. Then it hit me!! This *is* Valve we're talking about. The industry's nicest and most low key dev group out there. So for them to do something like

this is really not a stretch because right down the line and through the ages, they've been a very community friendly company. This is yet another example of why Valve is one of the

most liked game developers.

For this move and given just how robust Steam as a delivery platform is, coupled with Valve's notoriety for actually doing stuff right this might as well be the death knell for

traditional game publishing. Steam is *huge* and its only going to get larger. Why? Well for one, stuff just gets done. You don't have to go through layers and layers and layers

of suits (doing their bit to justify their over paid jobs) to actually *get* something done. I don't have my games on Steam yet and its not from lack of trying. Its just timing

and all the logistics involved with that; but I have industry friends who have dealt with Valve and its all good things being said.

This is the part where we all say a silent prayer for the death of third-party tools/communities like GameSpy, Games For Windows Live! and their ilk. If Steam

becomes the de factor standard for PC game distribution, man, I can't even begin to imagine just how huge that would be. They'd be like the Handango of

PC gaming. And the good thing is, you don't have to worry about some upstart taking off with your money, paying late or not paying at all.

Here's a thought: Built in voice comms? Free. Robust copy protection? Free. Robust and *proven* delivery platform? Free. And the total package? Priceless.

...and speaking of the devil out back, I'll just come right out and say it: Microsoft's Games For Windows Live! initiative is DOA. This was...

  1. someone's wet dream gone horribly sticky
  2. poorly executed and without a single shred of evidence (at least to me) that they were even thinking about gamers, let alone game developers when they came up with that particular farce.

It never ceases to amaze me just how made missteps MS can possibly make, given the mind boggling amount of resources they have. Thats what happens when you design by committee

and you need meetings for the meetings in which you're discussing plans for a meeting about something that a dept. headed by a guy you've never heard of - but work with in the same

building - decides they're going to do in a meeting with the guy up the food chain.

Thats right someone back at the shop foolishly figured that console gamers - who don't - and never did - know any better are like PC gamers. You know,

the ones who already know what the status quo and go insane when anything shy of global warming heads South and requires them to dig deep into their pockets.

So, since we're the #1 online spot in the online console arena, lets go do the same thing to the PC gamers and charge them for stuff they've traditionally had for free.

Yeah, that should do it.

Memo to my friends at Microsoft: Console gamers and PC gamers are two completely different breed of gamers. Even when you have someone who is both a console and PC gamer, my guess is

that pseudo caste alone should be a clue that trying to treat them as one is destined to fail and a lesson in futility. When in doubt, just don't do anything stupid.

These days, Microsoft's game development initiative reminds me of the old IBM. How come? Well, I was right there in the forefront and the backend of the IBM meltdown in terms

of desktop OS. Remember the OS that could, OS/2 and its follow-up OS/2 Warp? I still have both my White and my Blue/White box in my back room. Those were the days. Somehow,

the brain trust at IBM decided they were going to make desktop OS a secondary priority. The end result is that, well, for good, better or worse, we ended up with Windows. At the

time, a vastly inferior OS to IBM's offering. Then to add insult to injury, they came up with the microchannel architecture. By the time the dust settled, the Chinese had moved in.

So, I'm here thinking that MS is focusing on the console side of the online business, which is fine, so don't start flaming me yet (wait until I'm done writing at least) while letting the

PC side languish. Despite their big push with the Games For Windows initiative. Which in and of itself, IMO, is a farce and clearly designed to sell copies of Vista because as a developer

who knows the requirements, there isn't a single item in the pre-requisites that a dev can't do if they wanted to. Whats the frigging point of ensuring 64 OS compatibility when MS

themselves, for all intent and purposes, don't seem be even the least bit concerned about propelling 64 bit computing (at least for gaming) forward as they are pushing Vista. So, now I have

a game that will run on my 64 Bit OS. But oh, wait, thats right, I can't have a good gaming experience due to OS bugs, buggy and plain bad drivers (and Microsoft supplied DLLs btw) etc.

Show me one.single.game that the Games For Windows initiative made better in terms of operation and sales. In fact, go look at the NPD sales charts and compare pre- and post- GfW

titles and see for yourself. Its a gimmick. If the retailers are going to start stacking GfW branded games in the end cap....after being paid copious amounts of dollars to do so.....why

uhm, not have them do it for *all* PC games, regardless of branding. How does pushing GfW make PC gaming any better? Or worse even?

Memo to my friends at Microsoft: Yes, I'm still a staunch and undying supporter and all that, but daaayum, you're not making my life any easier when I have to explain this crap to people

who already figured out that you, well, have this whole Vista + gaming == good deal agenda thing going and that if Vista doesn't take off with gamers, that you're just going to abandon

(which most already speculate was the plan all along in an effort to push XBox gaming instead) PC gaming. So, why not just, well, make Games For Windows Live free. Yes, thats right, free to

gamers and get rid of this still tiered payment approach. Its not like you can't afford it.

My guess is, they're going to release it for free. You heard it here first. Case in point: Who pays for Silverlight? uhm, nobody. Its a free content creation/delivery platform. Why make gamers

pay for Games For Windows Live?

And to add to the conspiracy theories...quick!, name one new PC game coming out of Microsoft, either first, second or third party. And I'm not talking about existing franchise properties

like Flight Simulator etc.

Until next time, keep the dream alive!

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I think SteamWorks was a pretty smart move by valve. Right where they are right now, Steam can very well become the new standard if they keep on the right track (and knowing Valve, they most likely will). I've been a Steam user for a few years now and I can say it's definately a solid product, there's no other online distribution system I feel as confortable with, when it comes to paying...

BTW I was wondering if Derek Smart's universe would ever make it to Steam, glad to hear there've been plans about it. And I suppose that now with the brand new SteamWorks on the way, we're a bit closer to seeing it in... Also, with the auto-updating system in Steam (which is an unbelievably transparent and unintrusive one) we can forget all about the tedious searching/Dling for patches.

I also remember some old interview made to Gabe Newell(Co-foundator of Valve), when he was asked if they would turn in to the "Games for Windows" scam, for their future titles, and what he said he thought was pretty much what SC said from the developer side of making "Games for Windows". But he also said that if it ever became widely used they would end up fitting it in... Seems they decided to turn the table and go straight for the big guns! and if there's someone right now who can arrange something like that, that's Valve!.

Personally I think MS is gradually capping PC gaming overall, in benefit of their millionaire franchise, which is console gaming. They think computers should only be used to view photos, websites, and whatnot, and if you wanna play games... Well then buy yourself a gaming console, look here, we have multiple buying options, will you use a CC?

just ridiculous... but that's right where we're going if no one does anything about it, I hope Valve can pull this out (cause they're just not some greedy bastards unlike other companies).

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heh, shots are only a small part of it. Better start stocking up on diapers then because the HD movie coming out this week will make you a marked man in the house once your daughter figures out where her diaper stash went. :)

Glad to you see around ol' chap.

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Wow!! Its been really busy since my last update. In between programming, designing and all that boring stuff, I've had to audition voice talent, sort through tons and tons of assets etc.

Anyway, the updated VCF is online showing out latest exploits since the previous update.

Got a lot of tweaking on and also implemented a new help system which uses bitmap data instead of PDF. You see, in the original GameTap Echo Squad version, the game commands, tutorial and manual were all PDF files accessible directly from within the game. This meant that the game would spawn a PDF reader (Acrobat, Foxit etc, whatever was registered on the OS) and then returned.

This time, I did a keyboard layout of the game commands, then sent it off to one of my guys to create a keyboard template from. The WIP version is linked to in the VCF, tell me what you think.

For the manual and tutorial, I bought a third-party print driver, printed the PDF docs to PNG and then now use the PNG images. These are paged (arrow keys) while in the game. Since they're textures being processed by the video sub-system, they are quick to view/close and with no spawning of a child process. You'll like it. The new H (help!)command is simply a 3-way toggle which cycles through the keyboard commands, manual, tutorial easily.

Also, in the next build, since there is no Navitron computer in the GALCOM games, the G command will display the bitmap galaxy map, just like it does the other documents. So now, you don't have to print anything unless you really want to. Everythng is now self-contained within the game.

Also decided to expose the high level AI combat algorithm via a Config setting. I suspect that those who think they're jocks will instinctively turn this on (its off by default) when they start tinkering with the program config settings. heh, they're in for a shock.

I finalized my profiling tests and using a highly intensive combat sequence script, I am happy to say that even with all the options at high, the game runs at a nice 30fps (or thereabouts) @ 1280x720 (widescreen) or 1280x960. I can't imagine playing games at lower resolutions anyway (1024x768 is so nineties) so it was important to me that these two resolutions worked great. At that point, I decided to document the use of a new time slice parameter, Fixed Time Step which can be enabled with the /fts command line param. I'm not going to put it in Config because then it becomes officially supported and people who don't understand what it actually does, will end up using is just because they can. Its really there for those running the game at HD (1280x720 and higher) resolutions and who want a more or less consistent frame rate.

This weekend I also did a bunch of space combat movies. After editing them in Premiere Elements, it came out to about 8 mins. I did it at 1280x720 HD and it came out

awesome. Except that it ended up being a 1.3GB file.

After messing around with that for a bit, I ended up doing a standard DVD 720x480 SD version. That came out at about 300MB. Sent that off to the publishers, interested parties etc via a private link.

Then I did a 320x240 version which came out at about 30MB.

Threw it up on both YouTube and GameTrailers....



....and my beautiful movies ended up looking like crap when those sites were done mangling them.

Some media sites also have a similar 300MB version as well as the 320x240 version. I doubt that they're brave enough to host them given the sizes.

Naturally, I have no intentions of hosting 300MB+ files on any of my servers. So I'm just about done uploading both the DVD and HD versions and will be setting them up for .torrent delivery later today. In the meantime, feel free to look at the attrociously bad conversions above.

Thats all for now. Its going to be fun! Only weeks to go now before the big announcement comes!

UPDATE: Still working on getting the HD version up on torrent. In the meantime, here is a link to the [pure] 320x240 QuickTime version

UPDATE: Torrents are up!!! Read this thread for more info.

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looking very good, there SC, everything looks awesome, though something about the damage electricity effect looked a little odd. It might just be the low resolution, I'll wait for the HD version (which I'm really looking forward to :) ) before commenting on it.

*edit - watched the HD version and am leaving Azureus running overnight to pay my penance B) -

everything looks incredible, it was just on a couple of the sparks from the station appeared to be coming from thin air in the large gap between station struts, but it was very minor.

Awesome work and great music to accompany it :D

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Thanks guys.

Yes, it has been a *lot* of work, but I think that doing the revisions and releasing Echo Squad SE was a good decision.

This weekend I am going to do another movie with space and planetary combat. But this time, instead of music, I'm going to capture the actual in game sounds fx, including the now completed VO (voice overs) from Somatone (they did the sound engineering and hiring of the seven actors who do the VO). You guys are going be *blown* away. Just wait. :D

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I just download the 720p torrent and have to say this has to be the best looking space game anywhere. are the effect tracked for for each ship visually because you can see everything and its just great. when i talk to friends about the different features that would make the game easier i never even thought about the ambient effect like dimmed lighting for fighters in hyperspace and the backlit icons for the hud. yeah i'm pretty blown away but would you ever consider,

adding movement around in the cockpit like some figiting

changing up the outside turning angles of the fighter so it looks more directed in a 3-d pan.

having a fade into outside ship angle so you can pilot a ship in a 3rd person view

and porting to the ps3 would be pretty sweet with sixxaxis and rumble.

How much bigger has you dev team gotten since the collectors edition because your game looks alot more focused than the screens of the original echo squad.

Please keep it going through 2010+!

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The "dimmed" lighting for ships in hyperspace is actually called "motion blur" and we do it full screen and on the entire scene. So if you're in hyperspace and looking at anything from any view, you will see the motion blur.

And yes, all the ships have the effects; as long as it is applicable to it.

Since the entire cockpit is a 3D model, it was easy to add environment lighting (internal and external) to it.

There are no plans to anything else to the game at this time. Its feature locked and on the final stages to release.

We have no plans for a console version of this ES game.

The Second Edition version of the game looks tons better than the GameTap original (developed in 2006) because of this amount of work that went into it.

The game looks 50% better than in trailers which have been subjected to various types of compression (MPEG2, MPEG4, QT).

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personally ill push for 1600x1200 whenever can move to graphics card that will sit will in my set-up. i've got a single pci-express so anything that can run smooth with those frames would be perfect like 9800 x2. the interface seems good though if you think about ucce it looks alot easier to focus on the combat and knock off whatevers i front of you like an fps doom or ut with the plus plus for the interface. I'm really just looking to pick off tanks at 50m but thats just what i do.

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Wow!! It has been one busy week!! I've been swamped with so much work as we ramp up to the game's release. So, whats new?

Echo Squad SE Release Date

Since we are way ahead of schedule and not waiting for the boxed version's production materials and all that, the game's official digital distribution release date is

now March 3rd instead of the original March 28th.

IGN Exclusive (one week) Sneak Preview

The sneak preview is already in the hands of the IGN folks and should be going live today or Monday once all the DRM backend stuff has been checked and double checked. All the other backend stuff they already did a couple of weeks back.

IGN will also be doing a pre-orders program with the release of the sneak preview.

New digital distributor added

We also signed Echo Squad ES (and four of our Universal Combat back catalog: UCG, UCAWA, UCSE, UCCE) to Paradox Interactive's popular Gamer's Gate portal. The Universal Combat games should be going up sometime next week.

They're also on track for a March 3rd availability of Echo Squad SE. They too are going to be running a pre-orders promo program (10% off I think or something like that) different from the IGN (who got a week's sneak preview instead).

Sneak Preview Details

The sneak preview is the latest RC16 build. I expect that there will be one or two more builds (tweaks and such) ahead of the final release for March 3rd. I plan on locking the game on or before Feb 22nd.

The only differences between this preview and the full game are:

  1. Does not include the [mind blowing] intro movie
  2. Only contains two of eight music tracks
  3. Does not have multiplayer
  4. Does not contain all the VO (voice over) files (about 100MB) for the tutorial as well as the Episode One campaign. Hence the 320MB instead of the final 416MB size.
  5. Does not contain any campaigns. It only includes a demo specific version of the game's tutorial scenario. The full game's version is just the tutorial (three phases as per the docs), while the demo starts with the same tutorial and depending on how well you do, there are two intense combat missions thereafter. Just like the old days where you had to plot through a space game's tutorial first before being allowed to go any further. :ph34r:

Public Demo

The IGN exclusive sneak preview will run for a week. The public demo version (same as the sneak preview but possibly with a newer game build and of course DRM scheme) will be released thereafter. Which puts it somewhere in the week of Feb 25th.

That whole GameTap thing

btw, no doubt you've seen the latest media sensational news reporting. Of course its our sensationalist media again with the whole Derek Smart thing because this is hardly news

And because, like everything else, they took it out of context. I'm already in touch with Rick at Turner he's not very pleased about it either; but we can't control what the media does/says. They took one interview - which had nothing to do with me - and made it about me; complete with the usual sensational headlines. Why? Well, because Derek Smart is a celebrity of sorts and anything with my name in it, makes the news, gets people talking (and gnashing their teeth) and drives site traffic I guess.

Without going into any NDA breaking details, basically GameTap had the game on exclusive license for a specific period. We did the work, delivered every single milestone on time, got paid on time after their sign off etc. The producer of the game, Roger Faso, an industry vet who sadly doesn't get enough credit since Rick is the face of GameTap made sure that everything was done by the book and everyone was happy. I'm talking picking up the phone at any time of the day kinda stuff. Seriously.

At the end of the day, it came down to marketing. So let me get this out right now. The GameTap marketing people know nothing about our gaming business. And I have tons and tons of emails to prove it. They simply didn't know how to market the game to their own subscribers; who btw, were running up high gameplay metrics for games like Tachyon, Freespace 2 etc (most of which were recently unceremoniously pulled from the service along with 70+ other games) which was the whole reason they decided to license the game exclusively for a period of time anyway!!

Even though the contract called specifically for marketing and such, none was done. Go ahead, show me one single piece of marketing that was done by GameTap since the game was signed back in 2006.

Then they [marketing] botched the release of the demo. A demo which I did for free and without asking for any payment even though I was offered to be compensated. It was to be released first to the subcribers and later the public. Never happened.

Then despite the fact that we hit every single milestone without a hiccup, the release dates kept being pushed from one date to the next. To the point that I completely lost track and just quit asking; instead focusing on Talon Elite and the future of the franchise.

Things came to a head when, in typical GameTap marketing fashion, they unceremoniously informed me that they were not going to be releasing the game on GameTap due to the fact that marketing just

couldn't get behind it. This was after weeks and weeks of emails with them inquiring about what they were doing with the - then 100% completed - game.

Then the pulling of the 70+ games from GameTap came.

The bottom line, apart from the whole marketing thing is, they opted not to release it on the service (when they changed focus?) due it not (according to marketing) appealing to their more casual subscriber base. To be honest, on one hand, I can understand it (being that this is an unpopular genre depending on who you ask). On the other hand, its crap - because they shouldn've known that going in. They [marketing] just didn't know how to market it. All they had to do was release it on the service and it wouldn't have cost them anything more as far as paying me was concerned.

So instead of holding on to the [exclusive] rights without doing anything with it, it just reverted back to me in a mutual termination. If it wasn't mutual or if it was anything but what Rick and I have said, someone would be in a lawsuit right about now because all of you know that I don't take stuff like this lightly at all. Especially since its the first game in a new IP that I took a HUGE risk on developing when I decided to take a break from my niche offerings. But the fact is, this whole thing is just the usual backend decisions that those in our industry make all the time. I enjoyed my time working with Roger (and Rick's) and his crew; and have zero complaints about it. I did the work, got paid. Who am I to complain if they want to sit on a multi-million dollar game when I've already been paid? Its just business as usual.

Plus, I don't know where any of their skeletons are hidden, so its not like they have any incentive to play nice with Derek Smart or else. This is AOL/Turner we're talking about people, not some hole in the wall corporation.

This stuff happens all the time, except that in most cases devs don't own their IP. It was because of this that I decided to do the Second Edition and release it, while moving the second title, Talon Elite into my 2009 schedule.

I had even planned to release the GameTap original version for free on the Internet. I decided against it when it made sense to just release the Second Edition; which btw, has already ended up costing me North of and additional $350K to develop; not including the cost of the work on Talon Elite itself. Thats how strongly I felt about releasing this first game in the new IP, rather than letting it go unreleased. This is how much work went has gone into SE since the GameTap version (at the bottom of the page).

Frankly, if this were a run-of-the-mill fps shooter or one of the usual rubbish casual games, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But the bottomline is that this is a space game. A genre that every [mainstream] publisher just wants to see die. Despite the fact that the genre has a very large install base. All its going to take is one game to post high numbers and everyone will be flocking again to this once popular genre. I make no excuses for the rubbish that is the Wing Commander and Battlestar Galactica games on XBLA. Thats the direction because casual - even rubbish casual - is still casual. So that sort of crap will still get made. And by mainstream publishers who DO have the money to do this genre justice.

I, for one, am never - ever - going to let this genre die. Ever. I don't care if I'm the last man standing and the only one doing these games; as long as someone out there buys enough copies to make me enough money to afford future development, I'll make them. And if the install base drops and I can't make enough money on the games, I'll borrow the money and keep making these games. I will never quit. Ever.

This game is unlike ANY of my previous offerings and, well, anyone who is familiar with my games will be shocked as hell. Guaranteed. But the proof is in the pudding and the IGN sneak preview going out to 10K subscribers and then later the public will allow you space combat fans to draw your own conclusions.

Then you can all go and thank GameTap for dropping the ball and allowing me to develop and release publicly (instead of on a closed subscriber system) a more advanced game which would have come later (rather than sooner) with Talon Elite originally scheduled for Q4/08.

I'll just sit back and watch in mild amusement.

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It's really nice to see that we can get Echo Squad SE shortly.

And also nice to see Gamer's Gate have ES digital distribution.I've used their online digital download purchase which is running very smooth and almost met no problem.

Too bad for GameTap....

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  • 3 weeks later...

UPDATE @ 14:12 EST: ITS GOLD!!!!

The State of the Union

Good morning boy and girls. This is what I believe to be my final dev update for the GALCOM ES project. The almost final final dev VCF is now online as well.

As I type this, we're on the "Gone Gold" count-down clock for today as I expect to pull the trigger later today and release a formal statement. We've already notified all our digital distribution partners who will have the game on their servers by this coming Friday.

The Echo Squad SE game supports up to 9999 (yeah, I just made that up because its less egotistical to just say, oh, I dunno, infinite) episodic scenario. When Turner expressed an interest in the original Echo Squad game, a lot of work went into this sort of thing because that was the concept under which we were operating. Coming from a broadcast network, this is hardly surprising.

So, with Echo Squad SE, we have four completed episodic scenarios, each with over 20+ hours of gameplay. This *drum roll* is Season One. If all goes well and we sell enough units of Season One (including the inevitable Christmas bundle), there will be a Season Two and so forth. Of course, since our episodic releases will also include engine updates, revisions, new tech etc, we all win.

  1. Episode 1 - Rise Of The Insurgents
  2. Episode 2 - The Excalibur Gambit
  3. Episode 3 - Lost Echo
  4. Episode 4 - The War Within

The plan is to release a new episode every month or so, barring any unforeseen problems. Which means that Season One will conclude with the release of Episode Four around the end of July.

The game also ships with two multiplayer scenarios. Deathmatch and Base Wars; both of which fully support co-op. We pretty much overhauled critical parts of our multiplayer kernel (still powered by ReplicaNet developed by my old buddy and support developer, Martin Piper) for Echo Squad and its.....well, just wait. Seriously. Just wait.

I had planned on including 2-4 player co-op support for the campaign scenario itself but due to time constraints, had to drop it from the list. The plan is to complete it and include it in one of the forthcoming episodes. Playing the episodic campaigns with three of your buddies should be worth a thrill I think; especially after you've played it solo with your Echo Squad NPC wingmen.

Anyway, the plan is to roll some of these multiplayer enhancements into Universal Combat CE so that those of you still playing the ol' gal, can benefit from this work. I expect that to happen with the 1.00.06 release due out around the end of this month.

The State Of PC Gaming

Its rubbish really. And only going to get worse.

And the big fish eating little fish phase has only just got started. By the time the dust settles, it will be the same old players, releasing the same old recycled rubbish. Only this time, they'll be doing it with someone else's money. Assuming most of them even have jobs - let alone money - when they get taken over.

Then of course there's the talent. Name one person you know who wants to walk away from a paycheck in this day and age. Nobody wants to quit when you have bills to pay. So the end result is that you have all these really great and talented folks end up working for companies they'd rather not, only to pull a paycheck. Then you have guys with advanced degrees, lots - and lots - of experience under their belts working on....another clone or sequel.

The end result (and good thing?) in all this is that eventually each and every second and third tier publisher (retail or not) will cease to exist. It is inevitable. If nothing else, the price of admission to console game development and publishing will make sure of it. Assuming of course Microsoft stops short of turning XBLA into a swap meet. Right up to the part where Sony come to their senses (as they now seem to have done) and make PSN, as well as development for the PS3, even more accessible.

At this point in time, I really don't care either way who wins or loses. I just want to develop and sell my games. Other [casual] indie devs have been doing it for years, quietly, with no fuss or muss; and portals like Handango, Wild Tangent, Big Fish etc have made it possible. This is what puzzles me the most. All this noise about indie gaming, as if this is something we started yesterday when everyone was sleeping. I guess its just that the term "indie developer" somehow denotes "casual gaming" and since "casual" is the new Black, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Most don't even have a frigging clue what they're going on about let alone have firm grasp about the indie scene.

In case some of you missed the memo, the release of Universal Combat CE this past October, marks my exit from niche space games. I'll leave that torch to the good folks at Egosoft. I wish them luck - which - given the current gaming climate, they'll be needing a lot of.

If something tickles my fancy, I may do another niche title sometime in 2010 or thereabouts.

Assuming that there is in fact a PC gaming industry still left. I seriously doubt it. Like with everything else - and all my previous predictions (which all came true btw) - I predict that the PC gaming scene will flatline by Q4/2010. In fact, my guess is that only the indies - who will still be struggling to sell titles amidst rampant pircacy and draconian DRM schemes (which, in truth, are just an inconvenience to the gamer and do very little to deter - let alone prevent - piracy) - will be left to carry the torch.

And the only way you'd see a [worthy] PC game - in a box and on a store shelf - is if one of the big boys is still paying (they're called MDFs) the retailers to stock them.

As I mentioned so many years ago in one of my dev blogs (hit the archives), digital distribution is the wave of the gaming (PC and consoles) future, but given the penetrating of retail game sales, it is highly unlikely that digital distribution will gain as much traction as selling a box. Why else do you think publishers are still doing boxed games? Its going to be like the RIAA vs online music all over again. They'll all be sleeping when the ball drops.

Those of you who think that because Steam has 15 million plus subscribers means that games on there are selling like hotcakes, need to be slapped into consciousness because it doesn't work like that. At all.

Think about this. Millions of us have cable and/or satellite (I, funny enough, have both cable and DirecTV, though I hardly watch TV - except for CNN or HNN - opting instead to just record my fav shows using my BeyondTV powered HTPC) - which we're paying for. When was the last time you watched, oh, I dunno, Wife Swap? You're paying for it. And your subscriber still counts you as a subscriber though you hardly watch TV, let alone some of the rubbish (I swear if those mofos don't bring back Life, Journeyman and K-Ville, they'll be hearing from me) they're broadcasting these days.

Whatever those folks - with too much time on their hands - over at Intel, Microsoft etc are cooking up, will fail. Spectacularly. You don't promote PC gaming by - *gasp* - turning the box into a console. That particular gamer rebellion will be louder than the Vista version.

So how are you going to do it? Besides, who said there was anything wrong with it?!?! OK, besides sequelities; but who are we to argue about that if our friends keep buying them. Here's a tip: don't want sequels? uhm, I dunno, but stop buying them. That would be a really good start I think.

Microsoft started it with their Games For Windows initiative, though like most, I - as a staunch MS supporter and long time MS developer - still have no frigging clue what that was about. Apart from it being a way to sell Vista boxes of course. Quick!! Look on your shelf and tell me how many GfW branded games you actually have and which - wait for it - actually make ANY difference whatsover to their digital distribution non-GfW counterparts? Do they crash any less? Do they need less support? Bug fixes? What? Games For Windows was supposed to be about marketing PC gaming. Of course if that worked, why would we even need a PC gaming consortium?

There is only ONE* thing wrong with PC gaming: piracy.

There are THREE companies who can fix it: Microsoft. AMD. Intel.

Piracy prevention needs to be a hardware (BIOS?) and OS (Windows) level initiative.

The much maligned Starforce initiative actually went as far as the OS kernel level. Look where that left them. Thats right, much maligned. And not because it was a bad initiative, but because it was just too intrusive for comfort and in turn wreak havoc with other software and drivers. And guess who got to make the loudest noise? Thats right. The pirates. That much noise is solely responsible for the rebellion against Starforce and causing most big name publishers to stop using it. We stopped using it too btw, but only because SecuROM was far less intrusive and much easier to work with.

With access to the BIOS and all the HW manufacturers that make them, both AMD and Intel can come up with something. Anything!!.

Microsoft knows about their OS kernel more than anyone else. Their Windows activation is pretty much safe, standard, non-intrusive etc. Why not offer to publishers and developers a similar solution to make our games that much less harder to crack and re-distribute? I don't need [now canned] DirectX 11 thank you very much. We've hardly tapped into DirectX 10 yet!!

There is no sure fire way to prevent piracy. Heck, if DVD, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD. iPod, PSP et al can all be cracked, so too will any intiative that these three come up with. But why not give it a shot instead of coming up with an initiative thats either (i) never going to get off the ground (ii) destined to fail - as I predict that it will.

PC gaming was once a hobby. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry and yet still - with all that money and resources - nobody can figure this out. But no, lets have more meetings to discuss the meetings we're going to be having about those meetings with the other guys regarding this whole "Save PC Gaming" campaign we've got going.

This is the same Intel and nVidia that are collectively responsible for our troubles related to sub-par graphics chips (not to mention new chips that are supposed to be better than the previous, but are not etc) and whatnot. Yeah, anyone paying attention to that "gaming alliance" crap has too much time on their hands.

Well, thats all for now. My next dev update will have all the juicy details (and some shots!) from Talon Elite and/or Bravo Team.

* No, bad drivers, buggy software etc are just par for the course and should be regarded as a given. NOTHING will ever fix that. Heck, they're still patching console games. Go figure.

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