Jagged Alliance 3 Developer Diary #3 - Making a Mercenary

The latest developer diary for Haemimont Games' upcoming Jagged Alliance 3 is dedicated to the game's robust roster of colorful mercenaries that will include a great deal of familiar faces and some newcomers hailing from both the AIM and IMP networks.

Apart from telling us who to expect, the diary also tells us how the developers here go about breathing new life into some of our old favorites, how they come up with new mercs, and how the game's dynamic relationship system works.

Plenty of good stuff there, so here are the text bits and you take it from there:

DevDiary 3 - Making a Mercenary

Hello and welcome to another DevDiary for Jagged Alliance 3. My name is Boyan Ivanov, and I am the co-Creative Director of Jagged Alliance 3. Yes, another Boyan no to be confused with my dear friend and college Boian, whom you already know through the first DevDiary.

What made Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 so special was the cast of unique and quirky mercenaries under your command. There were many memorable personalities, and every player had his favorites. Some of mine are Barry, Fox and Tex from the first installment.

We knew that to make a great Jagged Alliance sequel we had to have a big roster of mercs, and we had to get them right.

Tex – Cowboy of the Rising Sun

Speaking of Tex, while he was a bit too busy being a B-list movie star in Jagged Alliance 2, he’s back in action in Jagged Alliance 3.

To tackle the challenge of recreating the old mercs like Tex we need to do our research. We began by creating a profile document for each merc with their background and story or at least what was known about them.

We then extracted all the voice lines from Jag 1 and 2 to get the vibe and feel of the character. Combing all of those for additional information and character quirks and idiosyncrasies. Like Tex calling enemies rustlers and asking you if you prefer Clint Eastwood or John Wayne.

We knew we wanted to advance the timeline only by a couple of years and we wanted to reflect that in some of the characters. For Tex things weren’t going all that well in Unfinished Business (the expansion to Jagged Alliance 2) and as B-list action movies fell out of fashion he had to don his six shooters once more and sign back up with AIM.

Suit up!

The next step was to create a visual concept for the merc. We had to recreate the characters as full 3D models in the game world. This was a big challenge – recreating the faces was the first hurdle. We had portraits from the original games and those portraits managed to convey a lot with just a few pixels. Translating that to a 3D model proved a big challenge.

One source of inspiration were your discussions and comments. We have been reading and listening to forums, discord and reddit. We greatly enjoyed the fan casting in the thread and tried to imagine the awesome hypothetical Jagged Alliance movie. All of this inspired us to make our character concepts even more detailed and thorough.

Next came the merc’s outfit. Initially we began with a system of combining uniforms, different armor and combat gear pieces. Reflecting what the character had equipped. This didn’t turn out as well as we expected. Mercs were hard to distinguish from enemies and looked very similar to each other. Their uniqueness was completely gone from the visual side of the game. We played around with colors and attachments. Turns out you can’t change the colors of camouflage gear all that much and with too many attachments characters started looking like Christmas trees.

We decided to go in another direction – each merc has a unique model with his own style. Reflecting the character rather than the situation in which the merc is right now. We designed each outfit based on the personality of the merc to make him or her look instantly recognizable.

Each character profile was filled with references of what we wanted them to look and small details to make their personality stand out. Tex was easy to figure out – after all he’s a modern-day cowboy, action hero - but some characters were notoriously difficult to pin down. We had to dive back to our memories of the early 2000s and research trends from back then to get the time period correctly.

The Newcomers

As is tradition, a new Jagged Alliance installment brings some new faces to the ranks of AIM. Creating new mercenaries was one of the most fun aspects of developing Jagged Alliance 3. One newcomer you might have seen in the cover art is Fauda.

Kevi is a veteren heavy weapons and explosives expert. She joined the Peshmerga with her brother Zoran but after his death she was retired and joined AIM as a life of fighting was all she ever knew.

Fauda went through many iterations during development. She began as a young and eager expert sniper but that seemed to similar to other characters in the roster. We decided to switch her specialty to heavy weapons and explosives and with the change Ian Currie came up with the idea of ageing her and giving her a gruffer personality (if you don't know who Ian is, check out the second DevDiary). As the character took shape her story came about with her life as a fighter and the fate of her brother.

As you can see her look also went through a lot of iterations and exploration until we found something that fit her character well.

Finding a voice

The vision of the characters is definitely important but what was most striking about the mercs in Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 was their voice. Having fully voiced characters back in ‘97 and ’99 was rare. Having 40+ main characters and NPCs voiced was practically unheard of.

The mercs and characters in the world of Jagged Alliance 3 are fully voiced once again. And they have a lot to say. As in the previous titles, mercenaries express their quirky personalities throughout the game. They will often chime in with comments about the situation, your actions and their colleagues and teammates.

Missing a shot in a fight will have some mercs curse, others offer a helpful tip. If a merc thinks that a shot is particularly hard to make they’ll voice their opinions and cheer if they actually hit. They will also praise or complain about the success and failures of other mercs in your team.

Relationships and negotiating

Mercs have their own likes and dislikes. They have relationships with other members of AIM and these are not static – they can change in the course of the game. Tex for example likes to work with Fox and will often praise her even if she misses an important shot:

Tex: “Fox make even bad shot look good!”

While Fauda doesn’t really mind Fox initially as a teammate she can begin to really dislike her if let’s say Fox fires a stray shot and hits Fauda.

Fauda: “Instead of checking your make-up you should check your fire!”

Characters are also not always happy to work with you. They may have specific requests like having one of their friends on your team or proving yourself in combat first. Or they may judge your actions – Fauda won’t be happy to work with you if you haven’t won at least 3 battles in the recent days.

Tex: “Fox is there? She should be fighting in big movies, not little battlefields. She is so talented! I will be honored to work with her again. I will change schedule for this.”

Fauda: “Working for you is dull and pointless. I came to fight and kill the agents of Shaitan. Instead, I sit in camp doing empty work. I spit on this. If I am to be doing nothing you will pay me more!”

Merc’s wants and desires are not static and change and you will experience different events with each playthrough based on the team that you pick and what happens throughout the campaign.

Independent Agents

AIM isn’t the only place you can find characters ready to take up arms and fight the good fight. As you delve into the world of Jagged Alliance you may find characters that can join your team if you help them with their own woes. Though we will keep their identities on the down low for now to avoid spoilers.

And there’s one more web site that can help you find a mercenary that fits your specific needs. Yes IMP is making a comeback with a new personality test to make certain that they find the best match for you!

That’s all from us for now. See you soon in the next DevDiary.

Boyan Ivanov

Co-creative Director of Jagged Alliance 3