Q&A, development schedule and... Battle Orchestrator?!?
Hi Backers and Happy New Year!
PS! If you read this update from your email, please remember to enable images. There are several interesting images at the bottom of this update.
Welcome to the first Kickstarter update for 2014. As mentioned in an earlier update we plan to do at least one update per month, perhaps more. Keep in mind that we prefer quality over quantity and do not want to spam you unnecessarily.
Today we are going to talk about what we have been up to and our focus going forward. But before we do that, let us do a Q&A to answer a few questions which have popped up from you, our backers:
What is the status on funding? Back in early December we received $677,000 out of $701,000 from Kickstarter but in addition we got around $24,000 from PayPal backers. With new donations from PayPal as well as BackerKit pledges we are currently at around $725,000. Given the fact that we have done NO MARKETING and people have been on holidays, this is actually a very good result. We are closing in on the $750,000 stretch goal which will unlock free digital add-ons for everybody who donated $25 to $49 (those who donated $50 or higher in total already get these digital add-ons at no cost). The digital add-ons in question are the character pack #3, the strategy guide and the art bible. We are assuming we will eventually hit $800,000 (extended mod support) and are planning accordingly... Kickstarter backers can upgrade their pledges inside BackerKit while PayPal pledgers can do a second donation via our PayPal store and contact BackerKit to have their pledges merged.
Who and where are those mystery developers? We are both recruiting old colleagues and new ones but there are still some legal obstacles we need to sort out before we can provide an updated team overview. That being said our programming team in particular has received reinforcements! This is essential for pre-production to allow us to estimate the cost of game features and plan out a smart architecture which will be easy to maintain, as well as data structures that make it easy to release expansions and community mods...
I pledged for design tier X. Where do I submit my designs? We are really happy with how enthusiastic many of you are to contribute lore and designs but please be patient. Our writers are working on both more examples, as well as typing up writing instructions to help you create better designs that work effortlessly with our existing lore. Also keep in mind that we are not locking down the design tiers until 31st of March. Due to the way our game is being developed, there is no rush to finalize the player designed captains, officers, starbases, weapons etc. In the mean time go read up on fan-made lore and stories. There is some good stuff to be discovered there!
Next we want to give a broad outline of what will happen in 2014:
- We are currently in pre-production, and we are investigating optimal pipelines and workflows. Also, we are still evaluating various middleware solutions that will free up coder time to focus on the features that make The Mandate unique and providing good tools. This will allow designers and artists to produce content for The Mandate more efficiently once we enter production. The difference between good and bad tools is really night and day!
- Since both our space combat and boarding combat need to play well, our initial focus will be on getting these game modes feature complete so we can evaluate the fun factor
- In parallel we will do design work on RPG mechanics, the adventure mode where you explore your sandbox and also the starbase mode where you research new tech, upgrade your ships, recruit & train crew. That being said these are lower risk as we have both design notes and game references to fall back on
- We are not going to waste our time chasing external milestones or events like E3. If we have a version of The Mandate we feel we should present, we will, but we won’t actively work on making temporary “hacked” versions of the game as this would take away time from developing the actual game
- You can see an outline of how we will approach the development of features for The Mandate in the illustration below. Check the arrows and you will see that we start with the high value - high risk [top right quadrant] features and then proceed to the high value - low risk [top left quadrant] as depicted with the grey arrows. We will then focus on the low value - low risk [bottom left quadrant] features and either avoid or save for last the low value - low risk [bottom right quadrant] features
- How did we calculate the value of each feature? Our first source is our game vision document. Secondly we had internal discussion on the developer team and we also looked at feedback from backers on both Kickstarter comments and the official forums. We appreciate that you may disagree with the value we have assigned to specific features but keep in mind that we leave the door open for some of the low value - high risk features in the future by virtue of mod support...
So, over to some specifics about what we have been doing lately. First of all, Garret’s wacom tablet broke, but not to worry, a replacement tablet is on its way! So we put Garret on merchant concept duty instead. These sketches are not final, but they did allow us to ask questions like: Will we have kids in The Mandate? [Probably no, depends on final art budget] Can we use the same animation rig for male and female characters to save time? [Probably yes] Of particular note are the concepts for the two middle woman and the kid that is second from the right. These three dress shapes are less than ideal as they will require custom rigging or run-time calculation of the cloth pieces to look natural. Since we want to support large scale boarding battles, we need to think and plan for performance from day one. These are the types of questions and discussions we are having during pre-production.
Finally, we wanted to touch on one of the features that we believe will make The Mandate both easier and more immersive to play. This is also the feature we teased a bit right before Christmas. Remember that while you start out as the captain of a small frigate, you will eventually control a flotilla and later a full battle squadron as well as squadrons of light craft. You may also remember that we posted an example of Battle Squadron Azimov(go down to “ORDER OF BATTLE”). How do we plan on making it possible to coordinate multiple ships and boarding operations in real-time? Our answer: the Battle Orchestrator (NOT FINAL NAME!). In addition you will of course be able to pause The Mandate and issue orders to your marines and ships in singleplayer. Now let us take a closer look at this feature with the odd name.
At Perihelion Entertainment we believe that the RTS genre as a whole has stood still for some time. Sure physics and destructible terrain, bigger battles and AAA graphics add “something”, but after a while it gets repetitive. We believe game developers in general misunderstand or ignore the important distinction between strategy and tactics, often sacrificing the former for the latter. The end result? A tactical click-fest that needs lots of micro managing. Suffice to say, Sun Tzu would not be amused!
So what will the Battle Orchestrator allow you to do? It will allow you to easily switch between the 3D space battle view and a stylized planning mode where you can plan out movement curves for your ships and visualize these. You may assign specific stances to ships (defensive, aggressive etc) as well as set rules of engagement for usage of fighters, heavy weapons etc. In addition you may “preview” the future position of your ships to sync up the movement of your fleets. Our goal is to make it easy to plan and modify orders for your AI escort ships which leaves you more time to manually control your flagship.
When you look at the pictures you may see the timeline feature and if you have experience using video editing tools, you will understand how we plan to make this work. By traversing left/right on the timeline you can see phantom overlay images of where your ships will be in the future. Also, it is worth keeping in mind that we are designing the Battle Orchestrator to support both NPC captains and other players. To facilitate cooperative play we are evaluating some additional planning and drawing tools which should make pre-battle strategy and changes in strategy quite easy to discuss and communicate [no need to yell at each other over Ventrilo or Teamspeak].
What about boarding? Well, you start with a small frigate and can only deploy a handful of marines. However, later on you will get multiple ships and can assign multiple squads, platoons or even a full company of marines to take part in boarding operations. Our goal is to adapt the Battle Orchestrator so it can be used to coordinate boarding operations and the user interface and control methods will be identical to how you issue commands to ships.
So what is next? We expect to have a video that shows a prototype of the Battle Orchestrator within the next few weeks and will do another Kickstarter update then. Already this feature is looking very slick and we have gotten some good feedback both internally and externally. Also we will be ramping up the PR and marketing (propaganda machine) and continue detailed planning for The Mandate. Please visit the official forums and leave your feedback and input on the Battle Orchestrator. Constructive criticism is welcome but trolls and flamers will be air-locked!
Your friends at Perihelion Interactive