This creating an indie game by oneself has been an interesting experience. I can’t help but come at it from the perspective of my career choice as a social scientist – I’ve noticed all the things I’ve done, the interactions I’ve had with people, the ways I’ve reached decisions about mechanics and gameplay ideas… this is not to descend into constant reflexivity and meta- discussions, but it’s been interesting. I’ve also reflected on my own thought processes a lot, a topic I’d like to cover in more detail with some really in-depth game mechanic blog entries in the future. Now that I’ve uploaded half of the skill trees, once that’s done I’m going to focus entries some more on specific mechanics and gameplay objectives for a little while during the push over the next month or two towards 0.2.0.
In the mean time, one thing I’ve noticed is a change in setting. First, I started as traditional high-fantasy fare; dungeons, monsters, etc. We had nagas, titans, orcs, dungeons, a magic system (back in the day!) and all kinds of other traditional fare. I moved away from this both because it wasn’t exactly original, and because I therefore felt every interesting mechanic or concept had been done to death. Then, I shifted onto a medieval setting but without the fantasy. Then, recently, there was another shift towards three different eras, the latter two of which I didn’t originally announce. This was because there were mechanics and ideas I didn’t feel I could fit into a single era. The “oldest” was still going to be medieval, but there were going to be two more. However, through all of these iterations, although I could see what the finished game would look like, I never felt 100% comfortable with any of these options. I guess in a way this is what comes with being a one-person development team; whilst I do have everyone here to bounce ideas off and my close friends, being the only one who decides on the final form of the game, and has access to the code, means the viability (or stupidity) of ideas sometimes takes a while to think through in detail.
The three eras were meant to be medieval, the Age of Discovery/Gunpowder, and a contemporary setting. This is no longer the case. From here on out, Ultima Ratio Regum has one setting and one setting only, which is going to be an amalgam of the first two. The setting will be an amalgam of the dawn of gunpowder, and the movement towards what we would now recognize as the scientific revolution. Think 15th/16th/17th century, though naturally not all civilizations will have an equal technological level. There is a slight conflation of our historical events here, but if studying science and technology has taught me one thing, it’s that history doesn’t work out along deterministic lines - when the game stops generating a world’s history, there could be any number of technological and societal permutatinos. Everything I have mentioned about the medieval setting will remain, but with the addition of very early gunpowder technologies, and a few interesting game mechanics I’d thought up for the middle era. The contemporary era was too far removed from the others, and had some pretty crippling gameplay questions (I want you to be able to explore the *entire* world map, every square of it, but who wants to explore modern suburbs?!). So, siege weapons, swords, and the rest of it will still exist, but you’ll have some very early gunpowder weapons in among the mix. This gives me the best of the mechanics I’d thought up from both eras, and makes the game – let’s be honest, going to take maybe a decade – a more reasonable development goal. It also means there are going to be four more skill trees, for Gunpowder Weapons, Riding (i.e. mounted/cavalry), Navigation (ships etc), Subversion (social/political movements, uprisings, sabotage, etc). These will be in 0.2.0, but as with others, will not yet be fully implemented until I program in their appropriate mechanics. Effectively, the new setting is 90% what it was, with the choice ideas of the Discovery era taken back in time a little bit towards their origins. There are no mechanics I feel I now “cannot” put into a single, complete, whole.
I hope nobody feels like I keep changing things just for a whim, as that isn’t the case. I want to make absolutely sure the game can involve everything I want, whilst still being a coherent whole – the second point in particular was threatened by the three-eras ideas. Ultimately, this is the first, and almost certainly the last, video game I will ever make. I want to get it right.
Next week: Gunpowder, Riding, Navigation and Subversion trees!