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While update #21 to the BattleTech Kickstarter campaign only alerts us to the fact that BackerKit invitations were sent out and describes their importance, update #22 provides an end-of-year development summary on the futuristic RPG. A hefty sampling from the latter:
In a nutshell - we're a few months into pre-production now, and we've been busy prototyping and iterating on the core combat experience. As awesome and fulfilling as the Kickstarter experience was for us, it's also been nice to focus entirely on game development for the past month!
With the scope of the game now clearly established by the funding goals we reached on Kickstarter, Jordan and I along with the rest of the design team have been able to really hone in on the core of what we're making, and to start planning out the experience as a whole. We've established a strong set of design criteria for the game - for example: (I feel like all types and tonnages of '˜Mechs can be useful in combat.) And: (I rarely feel like concentrated fire is the only strategic solution.) It may sound obvious, but writing these goals down and referring back to them each step of the way really helps focus our prototyping efforts and ensure that the end result accomplishes everything we'd like it to.
The Merc Campaign
On the Mercenary campaign front, Kevin Maginn, our Design Lead, has been busy consulting BattleTech sourcebooks and furiously generating document after document like a mad-document-scientist, laying out some of the initial design foundations to implement those pillars and design goals.
The purpose of these documents is not to write a definitive spec for the game; the campaign game is just too big and complex to definitively document every possible outcome. Instead, we're using them as a starting point to build prototypes that we'll iterate on over the course of the next year of development. I strongly believe in rapid prototyping, team-wide feedback, and frequent iteration leading to the best possible product, and look forward to working with Kevin and the rest of the team to bring these designs to life next year.
Chris 00, Chris 01
Meanwhile, our Lead Engineer, Chris 00, has been focused on laying a strong architectural framework for our codebase. This is one of those things that is invisible now but will really pay off later. When designing a piece of software as complex as BATTLETECH, it's critical to lay the right structure to build from, as well as define the components that the rest of the engineering team will build. This is especially important in a game that has to support both single-player and server-based multiplayer!
To capture how all of these efforts move forward, our Producer, Chris 01, has been working on a high-level block schedule for the project and planning our major milestones for next year. Our goal is to have a vertical slice (i.e. a representative demo short on content, but more complete development of high priority systems) of the combat game ready next summer and then bring on a larger production team to build out the environments, missions, and content around the same time. It's a slow, careful burn until code foundations and content pipelines are in place and proven.
We've also been making good progress on our story for the game, the core of which will be set in a small region of the Periphery on the Rimward side of the Inner Sphere. We're not ready to talk about story specifics yet, but I'm excited about where we're heading with various plot points and characters. I've been re-reading Dune and it's been a great source of inspiration here - not for individual plot points necessarily, but for the overall tone of court intrigue, machinations and suspicions that we're trying to achieve with the various factions involved in our narrative.
At the other end of the BATTLETECH team's corner of the HBS offices, our concept art team has switched gears from concept illustrations to actually spec'ing out how a variety of systems in the game will work. We're prototyping the 3D portrait creation system and have found some great ways to get attitude and expression out of our MechWarriors so that we don't end up with the (blank-stare-at-the-camera) style of 3d avatars that some games end up with. We're also cooking up an Emblem Creator for your Mercenary outfit, and a flexible framework for the cosmetic customization of your '˜Mechs - so that you can select individual paint schemes and colors, as well as add details like additional emblems and nose art. We're also starting in on terrain pipeline and development - essentially, how do we achieve this look, but with a full map that satisfies both gameplay and performance constraints.