The Mandate Producer's Letter
Dearest patient Backers, ahoy!
First off, let me introduce myself; my name is Michael I am the executive producer for The Mandate and I arrived in the team full-time about 4 months ago. My role is to oversee the production, ensure we are actually building the game that will deliver the experience we envisaged, and I negotiate with our publisher.
Originally, I was only working as a consultant but I fell in love with the universe, the game itself and the talented people building it. When they asked me if I could join full time I didn’t had to think twice. It is not the easiest project but all of us are fighting for making it the incredible experience we all want it to be.
First off, let me apologize to you on behalf of the whole Mandate team. We read the forum and tweets regularly, we know you are waiting for at least news and we know our communication was very timid, skittish and lately almost frozen. Today finally we have news worth sharing, this means positive news.
The team and the project went through a rough patch last year. We iterated and changed and fell short while building the grand vision of the game we had, we struggled to communicate our intentions within the team, we faced difficulties with our heads down.
One of the decisions we made early on was to relocate the team and work mostly from our office in Slovakia. This helps a lot as it improves communication and gives us much faster iteration cycles. We also worked on sharpening the game vision, and organized the teams differently. We convinced amazing people to join the team – I am super happy that we found Iain and Charles as game designers, Amelie as UX/GUI designer and Donna as our Community Manager (you might have already met her).
In this global world we learned that communication needs to be easy and instant and that humans -- even the nerds we are -- benefit from being next to each other to make quick and better advised decisions.
Many of you have been supportive enough to write "take your time and don't screw up this game" that's exactly what we intend to do, to continue to do until we get it right.
Decisions and changes were made to the team and to the game so that by bringing the pieces together we could find the internal logic we were missing so far. Now we need to flesh things out so that the dream we had 4 years ago can stand on its strong base.
Let me now give you the details of what we’ve achieved so far and the issues we have encountered.
We are putting the Galaxy together. The first Cluster, which consists of a four star system, is done and it was very needed to have the core systems in place for fast iteration and to have a quality benchmark for level design -- now it’s much easier for us to expand and build the rest of the “world”. It was a major step and we’re much relieved now that it’s completed and that it works as we imagined it.
We wanted something rich, we have it, next for us is: build on it and use it up to its full potential.
We are starting to populate the Clusters with missions. This includes both tutorial missions and advanced missions.
Since the relationship with the crew is our focus, personal missions will be included, like requests from your very own officers. You will dive into their Background and learn about the world you live in through their own experience. We know precisely the experience we want to create but it ties into a lot of game Systems. We are looking at how to integrate this at the moment.
As of today, the entire story for the first Cluster is completed, we are currently designing the crew missions, additional side missions and faction specific missions.
Some of the delay can be attributed to the narrative. When we put everything together, we felt, that it was too weak. Of course our universe stayed the same and, but we have now achieved the internal consistency we needed and a way for the player to create his unique version of the story.
There is a much deeper and richer narrative, which ties into you as a captain on a personal level as well as your crew, while still retaining all we have promised before story wise, like the conflict between factions for example.
Events are situations that happen during play and require a response from either your crew or your captain. Basically every event has a clear cause and effect, but there are a couple of events that are triggered randomly, to act as some kind of surprise element you need to take care of.
For now, events are split into two categories: Interior Ship Events, affecting the interior of the ship and Space Events, relating to situations that occur outside of the ship, such as rogue asteroids, pirate attacks, etc. This is one of the things we had right, so we kept it and are working on integrating it to the missions.
Exploration will be a big part of the experience when you are roaming the universe. You will encounter different Points of Interest (POI) -- You can unveil them by ordering your Astrogation Officer to activate the ships’ scanners. There you might find lore, items, events or other types of activities, such as special combat encounters. This is part of the things we decided to add as we looked at how we could make our adventure mode the most interesting we can. We will confirm several more aspects as we move forward.
For our internal test purposes, the UI did not have to be very user friendly or pretty, so let me tell you, it made Amelie’s eyes bleed. But slowly but surely we are changing this, replacing placeholder art with real art assets – she is thankfully already recovering. Of course this process needs a lot of iterations, but hey – we are getting there and moving towards playtest in the next 3 months!
This is one of the things that nobody notices if you get it right, and everybody complains about it if you do not. During the last months we iterated on the control scheme for the Adventure Mode. Currently you can decide how to navigate your ship, you can also set a desired camera angle to enjoy the universe either top down or more from a third person view. We need to pass the validation test in a few months and iterate to make it smooooth.
We wanted to use E3 to reconnect with the press and the user base. Garret, our art director was joining our publisher in L.A. this year.
It was great for us to talk to the press and showcase what we have in a transparent fashion, it was great to talk to the curious and the fans, to collect feedback, to get to know our audience better.
These events have the power to ground you, you work all year long on your thing and then you remember bluntly who the people are you’re making this game for.
Our motivation got a big boost, we’re just as excited and impatient as you are to be able to share more of the stuff!
The rough patch I was telling you about in the intro
Well, it’s no news that objectives and priorities change during production, systems have to be altered or extended, to match new needs and wants from the community. Code and art have been refactored, designs have been updated and extended. We were ambitious, we took risks and tried things. Trust me we still are, but some of the stuff was just not working and we had to fix it before going further down the line, even if going further down the line is somehow reassuring because then you ask no questions.
We have finally reached a stage where we feel the ground work has been laid for the game that we want to make, there is still a lot of work but we have the solid base we needed. Now we are building on it, careful to check, test and iterate we are still making the game that got us started.
Once again, I want to thank you for your support, for your understanding, for believing in the same game vision we do. Making good games is a challenge but it’s the one we chose and it’s the one you trusted us with. We’re getting there.
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