Development Blog Archive - Q1 2006
Read the latest on SiN Episodes straight from members of the development team!
March 22, 2006
Exciting times ahead. Emergence is barreling towards the finish line and preproduction for Episode 2 is starting to gear up. GDC is this week, which is very cool conference. The games industry has a few really big "events" � E3 being the most recognizable. GDC is a really different beast. E3 is all about the games, while GDC is all about development. Different mindsets, but both are very important for the industry.
Watching Emergence on the Heliodisplay was a wild experience. The video is compelling, but doesn't really do it justice. I expect we'll see the Heliodisplays appearing all over the place in the future, first in trade-shows, then in retail, and finally at home. The applications are limitless.
Being the first game to run custom content on the Heliodisplay is quite a milestone for us, and I want to thank the guys at IO2 once again for giving us a peek at this awesome technology. I can't want to get my hands on one!
March 1, 2006Using Context Look to Expand the Story
I wanted to take a little bit of time today and talk about one of our features, and how it relates to the story in Emergence.
Those of you who have been following the game closely have probably heard about our Context Look system. We haven't talked a whole lot about this thing, which is too bad, as it's actually pretty slick.
One of the things that's always problematic for games � FPS games in particular � is how to convey the story yet not interfere with the game play. This is tough because you have two different camps. You got the gamers that LOVE story and want to know everything, and you have the gamers that just want to blast things in the face. So, we came up with a system that lets us have the best of both worlds.
Like HL2, throughout Emergence, the player will encounter in-game choreographed scenes; these are the scenes that are "Mission Critical" to the story. Everything else, though, is completely optional. The Context Look system allows players that are interested in the deeper aspects of the story to dig in a little further, but allows players that just want to get on with the destruction to do exactly that.
The system works pretty much as you would imagine. All over the world are things that have associated dialog. If gamers look at one of these objects the Datacom will chirp, and if they want, they can activate the Datacom and get additional information.
Context Look elements go far beyond just the expected datapads or prop. We wanted to extended it to the characters as well, so if you stare at Jessica too long � well, she just might have something to say about it.
Now, given that the critical elements of the main storyline are conveyed through the choreographed scenes, what kind of information can a gamer expect to get through the Context Look system?
Ah� That's where it gets exciting. Just like great episodic television, like Lost or 24, SiN Episodes has an overarching storyline that stretches beyond any single episode. Expect lots (and I mean LOTS) of twists and turns in the future. I can tell you now, no one in the game world truly knows what Elexis is planning � and what she has done. But, just because none of the characters know, doesn't mean that YOU can't. Embedded within the Context Look elements are hints and clues. Some foreshadow events to come, some throw light on events that have already occurred. Many may not make sense� yet.
Each and every one of these pieces, though, has a purpose � each is a small piece that reveals a bit of the overall story tapestry. It will be interesting to see how gamers react to the elements they find; and even more interesting to see how everyone thinks they tie together.
February 23, 2006It's official. We're Beta.
This is a very exciting time. As of Monday, we've shifted entirely to bug fixing and preparing to launch this thing.
It's been a hectic week as well. On Monday we had a company-wide playthrough of the entire game. Everyone was looking for problems and places we could add that last little bit of polish. I got back volumes of feedback, and the Design Team has been locked away for the past two days sorting through it all, prioritizing issues, and slamming stuff into the Bug Database.
The above paragraph might sound a bit like whining, but trust me, it's not. I was ecstatic at the feedback we got. As I've said before (ad nauseum by this point) the game we have right now is already great. All the feedback was just minor little things that we can do to really make it stellar.
Now, in an awkward segue from the game to the industry at large, I'm very excited about the idea of episodic gaming. Granted, I have a bias, but I think we're at the start of growing trend, and this same idea was espoused at DICE this year. Society is moving towards a "customized for me" sort of paradigm. Look at the popularity of iTunes, or the growing movement for a la carte cable channel selection. In more gaming relevant terms, you've got the phenomenal success of Steam, Xbox Live, and of course, the heavy weight precursor of customized games � Mods.
Episodic gaming, because of its faster turn around, offers the ability to react to consumer feedback (this has been talked about endlessly already) but it also offers flexibility to try new and really innovative ideas. I can't see this as anything but great for gamers, and it ties directly to the "customized for me" ideal I discussed above. Basically, it's giving all gamers more choice. Gamers can pick and choose titles, options, and gameplay that really appeals to them.
Now, I don't for a minute think that traditional full length games are going away. Nor would I want to. I'm a gamer, just as I'm a developer. I still want epic RPGs, large scope RTS games, and gorgeous, video-card melting, technology pushing FPS games. Just as movies and television provide entertainment in a complementary fashion, I see a similar balance unfolding between full length and episodic gaming as the episodic trend continues to unfold.
February 8, 2006
Well, hopefully by now you've seen the official Emergence video released today. There's some pretty tight stuff in there, and huge credit needs to go to Tom Mustaine for cranking with the crazy editing skills, and of course Zak Belica our resident sound and music genius.
February 1, 2006
I want to talk a little bit about how one of our characters have evolved, both in terms of visuals and gameplay as the game has progressed.
As you can see, this outfit is more military looking. In a fit of irony, the slight camouflage pattern actually makes them easier to see, which was exactly what we wanted.
January 25 , 2006
We're getting close.
For the most part, we have our game now. There's still some additional polish and tweaks that need to be done, a few assets still need to trickle in, and of course, we need to wipe out our bugs. At any rate the game is stable, looks great, and most importantly, is fun.
We had a lot of excellent coverage from our appearance at CES. We got a lot of great community feedback from the videos as well. The game has made significant progress since then. I think all but one or two of HL2 placeholders have been replaced with their final assets, we've done additional work on the AI and dynamic difficulty systems, and we're getting more and more of our choreography complete.
One of the things I'm getting real excited about is our music. Zak Belica, our sound and music genius, has been dropping in the new music tracks. The game is sounding fantastic. It always amazes me what a difference a good soundtrack makes, it adds to the overall atmosphere and helps accent the player emotions.
Right now, our major push is on finishing this thing, but small changes are still bubbling up. We're really trying to focus on those few places in the game that were just ?okay,? and push them until they're really fun. Thankfully, at this point, these changes are usually pretty minor, but the sum total of all the changes really adds up and increases the quality of the game.
Now that we're closing in on the end, I'm hoping to be able to update this blog a little more often. In the near future I plan to do some updates on the story, the writing process, and talk a little bit about our characters; so as the development winds down I'll be talking less and less about the process and more and more about the game itself.
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