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Dev Status Update

Supreme Cmdr

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Traditionally, projects are announced either when they are out of pre-production, a year from release or somewhere in between. Usually projects, for whatever reason, get cancelled, delayed etc. In our case, while we haven't had any project cancellations, market conditions and direction caused us to either put a project on hold, re-imagine it etc. All standard fare for the industry.

One such project of re-imagination was KnightBlade. Back when I first announced it, the plan was for a pure XB360 only space combat title because I felt that being a space combat shooter it wouldn't fare well with gamers since the space combat genre is well, basically dead as far the mainstream is concerned. In fact, for the most part, sci-fi combat shooters are down and out.

My plan was to just come up with a high end space combat shooter with the hopes that, given the console install numbers, would ignite the space combat genre to some extent. Market conditions didn't quite seem ready, so I put the project on ice and decided to instead focus on our PC roots. Thats when I started looking at acquiring the Freespace license with the hopes of doing Freespace 3. We all know how that went. In the end, I decided to start a new series of combat action games. Thats how GALCOM was born.

The idea behind my thinking was that the PC version would test the waters. Of course it didn't help that GameTap didn't release the original first game in the series which was completed and delivered last year. Again, according to them, due to the genre being too hard core for their install base. Rubbish of course; but who I am to tell someone how to run their business? All I care about is that we did the work, delivered it, got paid and moved on.

But the release this past March and general reception of the more advanced Echo Squad SE, got me thinking again about the console.

Now why would I want to buck the trend and even come up with the resources to develop a console game based on a dying genre? Because I believe that all its going to take is one - just one - really remarkable space combat title, to re-ignite the genre. And so I decided to continue with the port of Echo Squad SE and come up with the console specific version, Talon Elite. Paying a third party to port an already completed game is far - far - less expensive than developing a console game from scratch. And since I'm quite certain that I will recoup my investment, we've moved forward with this.

Of course since we can't self-publish (e.g. MS have successfully screwed up XBLA as only MS can), we're going to either need a publisher or keep it on PSN (which doesn't have any of the ludicrous demands that XBLA has). Good thing is that the middleware we're porting the game to, supports PC, XB360 and PS3. So if we don't find a publisher to release it, hopefully we can get it on PSN and call it a day. Finding a publisher is not the issue really. The issue is that even with no advances (which you don't need if you're funding everything), they still have to fork out the money for marketing (if any), production, sales effort etc. So it still costs them money even if they don't have to pay to get the title. Its that out of pocket money - and the deal they're getting - that has to be worth their while for them to even consider taking, let alone selling, a space combat title.

You see publishers, in between being mostly comprised of total bastards recycled from one publisher or another, are creatures of habit and complacent copycats. If they see one title genre do decent numbers, the next thing you know, they're jumping on the bandwagon and flooding the market. One example (though I can't name names, the next combat flight game you see announced, would be them) was a mainstream publisher we were talking to for Talon Elite, the console version of our recently released Echo Squad SE. After the usual bullshit back and forth song and dance had settled down, we were flat out told that since there was a demand for non-sci fi flight combat games, that they were more focused in pursuing those type of games. And that they had recently started talking to another studio about just that.

You see, somewhere along the line, publishers have ooked at the sales numbers for Blazing Angels series, Ace Combat 6 etc on the console. The recent H.A.W.X flight combat game announcement by Ubi I think kinda sealed the deal on that premise. In between all this, the [recent] North American sales data for games like Project Sylpheed (XB360, 25K units), Warhawk (PS3, 200K units), Ace Combat 6 (XB360, 350K units) were the catalyst for what is going to be the next trend. See the disparity between the space combat game and the two others? There's your yard stick. Don't even talk about the PC sales numbers.

So now, amidst the usual fps bloat, we're going to start seeing more flight combat games on the consoles.

If you think for one minute that you're going to see Oleg type expertise on any of these incoming flight combat games, you need to check your brain at the nearest blood bank. There was a time when you couldn't turn around without bumping into no less than two or three new fixed wing or helo combat sims. Since publishers can't have that in the mainstream, they've decided to go the casual route and do the style of games we've been seeing on the consoles. Now the question is, how long before someone decides to head back out to space with a big name production - while not screwing it up in the process?

Galactic Command - KnightBlade Update

As I mentioned above, KB was one of those titles that I decided to re-imagine based on current technologies, industry conditions etc. Again, another attempt at kick-starting the genre. Only this time around, while keeping it simple (like Echo Squad if you have, at least half a brain and have given up crack and use of controlled substances which only serve to impair said brain), the goal is to immerse the gamer in an adventure type storyline that doesn't just focus on the space combat aspects.

To this end, I've completed my final design (though pre-production ended last year, I hadn't finalized my design up until now) and settled on how I want the game flow to work. For one thing, its going to feature the player in the roll of two careers simultaneously as the storyline unfolds. I have to admit, though my previous games featured no less than ten careers, the inspiration to do an in-story career swap came from COD4's excellent use of this alter-ego swapping in their awesome single player campaign. If you've played it, then you know what I'm talking about. Without ruining the story or displacing the player, COD4 expertly moves the story along seamlessly while swapping the player in and out of career rolls. I for one, played that campaign straight through a total of four times at different difficult levels.

So, in KB, even with the support for a pilot and marine career, they won't be different storyline campaigns; but rather a single epic story which swaps the player in and out of rolls depending on how the [linear] storyline plays out. Think of it as an adventure (like all games really) but with various levels and degrees of immersion and gameplay. e.g. one minute you could be racing to the flight deck to hop aboard a fighter to fend off inbound hostiles and in another story branch you could be a elite force marine hunting intruders aboard the KnightBlade or being transported to a planet to battle Insurgent forces sieging a starbase. In between missions running alongside the storyline and while being free to roam around the ship, you can still experience other events (e.g. a fight that breaks out in the rec room, wandering onto the bridge and being thrown out by the commanders marine detachment stationed there, a radiation leak due to combat damage to the ship etc) which keep you immersed in the game. Oh, and you can talk to everybody.

But whatever you do, don't call KnightBlade a space combat game. Please? :)

The game is a tremendous effort for us; especially since, unlike Echo Squad, it features various new engines, including no less than four middleware engines - all of which have to work seamlessly. Its one thing building a 3D level of a ship and clearly another to hurtle that entire behemoth through space and planets at FTL speeds - while keeping everything intact. Then you have to deal with combat, AI (the entire ship is AI controlled, since the player can't fly it), dynamics etc while keeping it simple (after all it is a multi-platform title). But its coming along and the level work is progressing nicely even though various tweaks and revisions will be needed before we finalize everything.

I have released some more work-in-progress shots of other parts of the bridge. If you look at the schematics from the first set of shots, you can see which decks are left to construct. We expect to finish and finalize everything by the middle of Summer. At which point the all exciting pathfinding, lighting and other critical affairs start. Not to mention the grunt work of doing animations for all the new characters that are going to populate the ship.

Galactic Command - Echo Squad SE DLC Released

Today, ahead of the Episode 2 release later this quarter, I have released the first [free] DLC for Echo Squad. You can download it from here. If you have completed the Episode 1 campaign and are waiting for Episode 2, this - I hope - should tide you over until that one arrives.

What ever happened to Galactic Command - Bravo Team?

I've been getting emails about this, so I thought I'd address it again. Bravo Team was to be an fps game set in the GALCOM world. Unlike Echo Squad which featured the pilot career, it would have featured four of the seven marine careers our technologies support. However, around the time that I decided to do Echo Squad SE, I felt that - yet another shooter in an fps saturated market - wasn't the way to go. Plus all the resources for BT were assigned to ES_SE. So I decided to put it on ice until an opportunity arose.

....then a month ago, a funny thing happened. While talking to a publisher about Talon Elite, we were asked if we'd considered doing an fps title set in the GALCOM universe and now more simplified gaming style. So we started talking about that. At this point, it may or may not amount to anything. At least not until I get something on paper and a firm commitment. Until that time comes, Bravo Team will remain on ice and we'll just focus on Talon Elite and KnightBlade. If anything changes, of course you'll know about it here first. :beerchug:

btw the decision to re-imagine KnightBlade was made long before we even finished the original Echo Squad. However, at the time, we were going to focus on Talon Elite as the next game and targeted for the console. Now that the decision to out-source is made and the effort underway, working on KB is our current priority; while working with the out-sourced team on Talon Elite.

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Hmmm.... I quite like the rec room, somehow I imagine the crew doing some form of disco rave to relax in there :) The galley freaks me out a bit, tentacles serving your food!

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Hmmm.... I quite like the rec room, somehow I imagine the crew doing some form of disco rave to relax in there :beerchug: The galley freaks me out a bit, tentacles serving your food!

LOL!! Yeah, those freaked me out too and I asked that they be removed.

You see, the way it works is that I give a general description of what the area looks like. Then the company doing the levels sends me concept sketches. Once I approve those, they go work on the levels and send me frequent updates for approval. The first time I saw the galley and the tentacles (which weren't in the concept) I freaked too. Imagine a malfunction whereby those things reach out and choke everyone. :)

There are various minor revisions going to be done for the final versions e.g. the commander now has a double instead of single bed. Various items need to be moved around in order for the NPC pathfinding to work without causing blocked paths etc.

So, level design and construction is just one part of the puzzle. The real work begins when all the levels have been inserted into the ship's 3D model and exported as one single entity. At which point, the work of getting the paths, animations, event triggers, turbo-shafts (a.k.a. elevators and which link various levels) etc have to be coded, tested etc. Then you have to take the ship into battle and see what happens then. e.g. does an NPC walking down the hallway during a hull breach impact fall, stumble or just go about his/her merry way? We don't support breakable environments due to the massive amount of work involved and the memory required to store all that stuff, but through the use of shaders and a particle systems, there'll be a lot of damage/repair work going on.

Most of the areas on the ship are going to be occupied by NPCs operating under scripted AI events and such. So one time you could go to the Rec Room and not see anybody. Then at other times its jam packed and with a lot of chatter, music etc going on.

Its going to be a blast. Most of you know that I've always wanted to do this, but the sheer scope and amount of work involved in doing it for previous BC/UC titles was insurmountable. Now, since its only one carrier and with advancements in technologies, its a lot more doable while still be expensive. Imagine if we had to do this for every ship, startstation or starbase on previous games!!!

and your entertainment room is really awesome too.

heh, thats only about 50% of the software that I have. Most of it is in a storage locker because I simply don't have enough room any more.

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