The text editing is full steam ahead and we have now covered two thirds of everything.
That’s more than 700 pages of text that we can cross off our list.
Less than 300 pages more to go…
For the editing phase we are not just correcting commas and spelling errors. We are looking at every phrase and line and rewriting some of them, polishing others, while making sure that lore and branching is well aligned overall. This is a job that requires focus, determination and patience. The Johnson brothers are doing an awesome job on this!
A large majority of chapters are also trimmed down in this phase. Trimmed down significantly.
We have established a technical guideline that will ensure that the reader will never face more than 1.000 words of text before some sort of fiction interaction is required. Based on feedback and tests we have found that this rule will maintain a good balance between the novel format and choice based interaction while playing.
VISUAL CONTENT BOOST
In other news we have a huge load of quality urbex (abandoned urban exploration) photography donated to the game from Marcin Trojanowski through his Urbi et urbex project. He is devoting time and passion to capture some truly magnificent abandoned locations that fit well into our game and vision. Just recently Marcin has sent us the first batch of HQ photography and we will be diving into the drive and explore the data in the coming weeks.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the urban exploration documentation by Marcin Trojanowski. While these images cannot be considered spoilers for the game, they definitely serve to give you some insight of some the visuals that you can expect from the final product. Looks attractive, doesn't it?
While we’re initiating the editing phase of the fiction, we would like to share with you the role of our Science & Ecology Advisor for The Seed, Joe Barron. As we’ve said before, we categorize The Seed as ‘hard sci-fi’ with a strong basic formula of believable and realistic design.
We have many good back and fourths with him about crucial aspects of the balance of nature, the chemistry, biodiversity etc and we've thoroughly incorporated his remarks throughout the game. He's been our main go-to guy for every aspect that needed a more meticulous sciency set of eyes to check and make sure it's grounded in good old reality.
The best way to present his role to you we thought it would be in the form of an interview, so here we go. The interview was conducted by our programmer Damjan Cvetkov-Dimitrov.
1. Do you know of any other games that have an ecological advisor or give this much attention to such an aspect of the lore?
Joe - This is definitely my first official position like this. I saw the open call to writers and got excited. I couldn’t write a story to save my life, but I saw an opportunity to use my knowledge of science and ecology to help with this project.
A bit about myself though. I am a junior at Cornell University studying Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I currently manage my own lab here studying quantitative population dynamics of salamanders, which is a fancy way of saying “How many salamanders do I have and what happens to them?”
During the summers I work for the United States Geological Survey as a field technician, helping to survey National Parks for amphibians and diseases that affect them. I would by no means claim to be an expert on all things ecology and science, but my experience in the field and my ability to read a scientific paper without falling asleep comes in handy.
2. Without going into details and spoilers, what do you personally think of the world of the Seed?
Joe - Without a doubt – the seed is one of the grittiest settings I have ever seen. With every other post apocalyptic game out there, there’s some aspect of hope. Some goal that you have a chance of completing.
You rarely doubt that humanity will overcome the apocalypse and begin anew. In The Seed, it's hard even to think how humanity will begin again when your character is eating canned dog food just to stay alive. In this game you don’t feel like there’s a war for survival, the war has already happened, and you’re just unfortunate enough to be left behind.
3. How do fictional worlds, be it written fiction, videogames or movies, usually cover this aspect? Is there enough attention given to the hard science behind their worlds?
Joe -Unfortunately not very often. I mostly see nowadays that many games simply focus on making “cool” and “badass” creatures and locations, without giving much of a thought on the underlying ecology or biology of it all. Really these places just often serve as “eye candy” or just some new thing to shoot at. I’m not saying that’s inherently a bad thing, it plays into the type of game you’re making of course.
Especially in open world games though, it all just feels sterile to me when they do that, they don’t seem like living worlds, just collections of set pieces. In a game like The Seed, which is all about struggling to survive in a strange world, you must give more thought into making a world that makes sense.
When you do that, it opens up so many ways for the player to not only use skills like combat or stealth, but knowledge of the world and crafty science to survive another day. I’ve had the pleasure of playing a few games like that and it’s so much fun, and makes for some wild stories. I really hope what the writers are making will be able to capture that feeling.
4. How much of an impact do you think games have to promote correct science to the wider public?
Joe - This is a great question, I think we’re coming to a point now where video games are starting to influence people as much as a great book or movie. I really feel that the strength of video games is that you, the player, are making the actions, and that really has an impact on shaping people’s interests. It’s the difference between reading about plants in a book and growing one yourself, the latter will have a much bigger impact on you. Survival mechanics and crafting are great ways where you can put in some simple, concrete science and make a player learn some skills. I’ve mentioned before how important science should be to a setting, but adding it to the mechanics could really have an impact.
The bottom line is that video games can impact us because we are making the actions, we are influencing the plot and the world around us. I feel video games could totally use that strength to foster creative thinking, and show players the value of skills besides fighting people.
5. Have you ever played a videogame where you were surprised to the level of detail and attention they gave in terms of ecological coherency? If yes, which games were they?
Joe -Whenever I play a rogue-like or a similar ACII based game, (Dwarf Fortress is an example) I’m always blown away at the amount of sheer detail they all have. In some cases even the most mundane animal has an AI pattern and interacts with other animals, which leaves me absolutely awestruck! Of course, those games can quickly get overwhelming, I don’t think I’ve ever had a Dwarf Fortress last more than a few immigrant waves… So the challenge is bringing that level of detail to more accessible genre, without making the genre less accessible. I think S.T.A.L.K.E.R. had a bit of that, with dogs or other mutants getting caught in anomalies and the like. These simple random events really made the zone feel more alive.
6. Is there any way to make videogames pay more attention to the internal scientific consistency of their worlds? Any ideas?
Joe - I think it would have to come down to the very first steps, like the initial design document. I love reading Pen and Paper settings because they usually have very interesting ecologies! They always are sure to establish where the creatures are found, what they forage, and any special attributes that set them apart. In addition, really good settings will go in depth to each region, and lay out their ecosystems and weather patterns. All that in addition to the local culture. I’m happy to say I saw much attention to detail in the seeds design!
I guess that’s where I came in too. It's important to consider how everything works in the desolate version of earth in The Seed, because everything has changed. The designers and I had to consider everything from the soil, the weather, and even the air quality. The amount of detail we go into with this world helps us truly imagine and experience what survival in this world is like. I think it really sets this game apart from others.
7. To any world builders out there, creating hard science fiction, what would be your first advice? Where do they usually make the most mistakes?
Joe - There’s two things to always keep in the back of your mind when making a world with a realistic ecology. One, everything exists for a reason: natural selection is a very powerful tool for shaping the world the way it is. In a way, making a good ecology is like making a good character in fiction. In the way you would ask yourself: Why is this character doing this? What are his motivations?
You should be asking yourself: Why does this plant/animal have this? What is it used for? This plays into my other point too: nothing exists by itself in nature. One might say ecology is the study of the relationships between organisms in nature. When you’re making a world, nothing should be in a vacuum. You should ask yourself how this plant/animal affects the world around it, how it shapes the world, and especially how it affects people!
Thinking this way not only makes worlds feel so much more dynamic and realistic, it greatly enhances the quality of the setting. So much of culture is born around the places people occupy, and a well thought out ecology will help give way to a well thought out culture. It’s a bottom-up sort of quality control.
8. What are your favourite published videogames in any category?
Joe -Oh man I could drone on here, but I’ll keep myself under control. I would say my all-time favorites are Fallout: New Vegas and the Mount and Blade series. In general, I absolutely adore old RPGs such as Arcanum and survival games such as NEO Scavenger and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (of course!).
9. We still see a lot of casual mistakes and improbabilities inserted in regards to living organisms and the balance in the worlds they inhabit in video games and movies. Since it's very safe to say you are heavily familiar with the topic at hand, when you see this in a fictitious world, does it ruin your entire experience?
Joe - It's all dependent on the type of game and story telling. Of course I do not expect a linear shooter game to have a fantastically deep ecology, but good storytellers are able to give me just “a taste” to be infinitely curious about the world around me, but not too much that I can start poking holes in things. The Metro series and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series are great at tickling that curiosity.
The more open world the game is, the more these inconsistencies bother me. They just feel dead, and not in the fun “The Seed” way either. I imagine board meetings where designers are making a forest. It would be “Well, Forests need trees, big predators, and I guess bushes to harvest.” The trees provide the background, the predators the enemy, and the bushes the resource the player wants. What a sterile world! Do forests only have wolves and blueberry bushes? According to almost all of the survival games I’ve played – yes that’s correct.
This is a formula that’s so easy to fix its inexcusable. All one must do is take a step back and see how things connect, and why animals and plants exist the way they do.
10. Thank you Joe for this interview and we are honoured that you took the time to answer in such a detailed and deliberate way.
PS - we would love to hear your thoughts after reading this interview!
We have now reached the milestone of having all chapters written. Yeah, this is a great feeling and we feel more motivated then ever to move into the next phase of editing.
Tomorrow the core dev. team will be meeting online to plan everything well and make sure we got the details right of who does what in this phase.
As mentioned in our last Update the Johnson brothers will be handling the technical editing, while our lore supervisor is always a few chapters ahead of them. All in all we will be going through about 1.020 pages of A4 text in this phase. It may sound like a lot, and it is, but the edits needed for each chapter should be minor really.
Let's have a look at the status meter, just because we like how it looks:
But this game is not all numbers and text. The Seed is a visual journey that will take through a post-apocalyptic landscape, sure to leave a lasting impression.
This is a raw photo from an abandoned location:
Looks a bit dull, doesn't it?
Every chapter in the game will have a couple of location visuals to immerse you into the story and the sceneries that we have designed for the story. So we are adding props and details to make the world come alive. To make it look as if survivor groups have camped here. Just to give an example. Here's an example of that:
I wonder who lived and travelled through here? Maybe you'll find out...
We have another Update inbound soon, but we wanted to share this milestone and good news with YOU - our supportive backers.
We will be reaching a milestone in a few days time.
We are happy to say that the writing phase is now almost completed!
This is a long but interesting process for us to and we have learned so much from it.
There has been ups and downs along the way, but seeing the light at the end of the fiction writing tunnel is a huge boost of confidence and motivation to say the least. A huge accomplishment on our list of development achievements and goals to say the least.
To give you an idea of the quantity of writing we've accomplished today the total amount of chapters (for Act 1 alone) is covering roughly 1.016 A4 pages of raw text in size 10 in Word!
The development timeline has even been long enough to include a severe loss of data, full recovery, multiple team replacements, break-ins, numerous birthday parties, and an enriching change of gender for one of our devoted authors. How many development teams can brag about that?
Let’s have a look at our current status as of today:
When the last couple of chapters are completed we will be moving right into the editing phase.
This is a phase that we intend to cover with as much passion and devotion as we have thus far.
Every single chapter of the game will now be re-analysed by our lore supervisor, who will always be one step ahead of our technical editing team, covering the basics of grammar and style synchronization.
The Seed will be edited by the highly experienced Johnson brothers, Glen and Gary Johnson. These gentlemen have more than 40 self published novels on their resume and they know what they are doing.
We intend to release the game in US english, yet staying true to the fact that the story takes place in Eastern Europe, who uses kilometers and liters, not miles and gallons. We feel like this is the right thing to do with a Russian protagonist and a game concept that strife for relentless realism and immersion.
Again, we can’t thank you enough for the patience and understanding surrounding this project.
You do a great job at making us feel backed and generate wind in our sails.
This is an Update to let you know that we are very much working on the project, even during the weekends. In fact we are making a very good progress these days, and we'd like to share some light on the completion status with you.
The writing aspect is having our primary focus and we are seeing the light and the end of the tunnel. Of course a bit of professional editing awaits after the completion stage, but that's all easily taken care of and quite trivial really. So, that great news!
Our programmer Damjan Cvetkov-Dimitrov has managed to update the game code to be better optimized in relation to FPS, CPU and GPU- consumption. On average we are seing about 20% improvement on this very aspect, which is of course very good news. Ie. this upgrade means that your iPad battery won't be drained as much while the playing the game.
In other news we've updated the code structure to allow for pretty much any type of open font available. Not only does this mean higher aesthetic freedom for us as game designers, but it will also ease the challenges of data merging, translations and editing quite drastically.
To end this Update we have a nice little handful of edited ingame scenes to show you. While this is a mild spoiler for some of you, we are sure that they will serve as a great teaser for what to expect from the game world and environment.
Thanks again for all the supportive comments and encouraging karma!