The Casting Call
Starsiege 2845 Developer Diary #2
Well weve finally cleared what appears to be the last major content hurdle between the Tribes Vengeance code and us. Good news all around, and the team is very excited. I just got a look this week at some new models and skins from our art department for some Cybrid assets and, wow are things looking good. It never ceases to amaze me how well our team of artists has captured the core ethos of the Starsiege and Tribes Universe. They consistently manage to channel the extant style into new artistic elements that keep the project looking fresh and original without defying the unique sci-fi flair, which has thus far defined the franchise. I think the visual component is an integral part of the character of this universe, and Im thrilled to see our art department coming through in that respect. It makes me very proud so far of our stewardship of this chapter in the history.
As for those of us locked in the dank cellar apportioned for the writing team, weve been focusing a lot of our effort of late on our character list. Weve just finished up an extensive list of characters, everything from the playable heroes down to the obscure historical references that only a few of you will ever actually note the significance of. Sort of a dramatis personae writ large. Its all part of a heavy emphasis on immersion for us. The Tribes universe is a rich and intricate setting, and we want to maintain the level of detail and immersion that Starsiege was celebrated for throughout the campaign. In fact wed really like to ratchet it up to a new level if we can manage it. Ironically enough though, despite the long list of characters we have put together, it is not, and indeed cannot be, complete.
In the course of designing a single player experience like this there are often places where in the fine tuning of a particular mission you may realize, hey, we need a character here, where you did not previously intend to place one. Whether its to punch up the action by throwing in an enemy ace or to facilitate some needed exposition by way of a scripted encounter, often times its during the actual polishing of the missions that you realize additional character and dialogue needs that you then have to fill in. Some of these you can anticipate and prepare for, but there will always be unexpected additions that crop up. Thats one of the reasons that the bulk of voice recording is always saved for the latter stages of a project when the mission progression and design is fairly cemented and all that remains is to tweak and polish.
So weve tried to provide for some of those occurrences and for some of the encounters we already know are inevitable as a result of our plot. We know the list will need adding to as we go though. Then of course theres also the issue of squad-mates. The campaign is three chapters and each chapter will see you presented with a different set of squad-mates to choose from, and what if someone looses a squad-mate every mission? Or worse looses all their squad-mates in every mission? Obviously if that happened to everyone who played the game would be too difficult. Even if the campaign is exceptionally well balanced however, there are going to be players who for one reason or another test the limits of our design. As a result we need to be prepared with enough squad-mates to keep the player supplied throughout each chapter and still allow for a reasonable rate of attrition.
Numerically that meant something on the order of seventy-five squad-mates, not to mention major NPCs, predetermined enemy aces, historical references, etc
It was a long list. Were also toying with the idea of allowing the player to drop squad-mates and go with less than a full complement to help deal with the attrition issue and also provide a means of organically increasing the difficulty level. This would allow us a little more wiggle room where squad-mate numbers are concerned and also provide a way for players to give themselves a more challenging experience without having to resort to generic difficulty levels which usually consist of little more than nerfing the player or over-powering the AI. Were not totally sure what the system will be capable of in that respect just yet, so weve tried to give ourselves plenty of coverage just in case.
As you can see, the challenge in this list was not in the majors. Weve known who our major stars are for months and have sufficient information compiled for all of them to support anything we need to do where they are concerned. Its the detail work that goes beyond the star attractions and into the nooks and crannies of both making the campaign workable and believable where the real tedious effort lies. You try coming up with 100 or so unique, space-opera-esque names some time and then assigning them all personalities and details to convince the player theyre real. Trust me, its not as fun nor as easy as it sounds. Anyone can start listing names, but making them space-opera exotic and not making you laugh at the same time is a perilous tightrope to try and walk.
My favorite so far? Tough call. Id have to say Nevan Blake and Ordu Huan-Vos are high on the list though. Im going to have fun with their bios, minor characters though they are.
EXECUTE, EXECUTE, EXECUTE!!