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Wasteland 2 is a sequel to the amazingly popular 1988 RPG Wasteland and the post-apocalyptic predecessor to the Fallout Series.
Wasteland 2 has been released to great acclaim, earning Game of the Year from PCWorld, and reaching #1 on the Steam sales charts. Now, the Director's Cut comes as a free PC update to all backers as our thanks for making the game happen!
Wasteland 2 has been released to great acclaim, earning Game of the Year from PCWorld, and reaching #1 on the Steam sales charts. Now, the Director's Cut comes as a free PC update to all backers as our thanks for making the game happen!
61,290 backers pledged $2,933,252 to help bring this project to life.

Wasteland Production Stuff

An official update on the project is long overdue, so I'll try to make the most of this one.  We have been so focused on production that we have not communicated as much as some people would like. We will look to improve the frequency of our updates and have the dev team post on the forums about the specifics of our development. The good news is that things continue to move along rapidly and I am very pleased with the writing and level designs we have so far. The players were vocal in their desire for mature, violent and strange and that is what we will be serving. 

Beyond tone it is the individual moments I remember most when playing a great RPG.  The curiosity of wondering how things might have changed based on my actions kept me engaged and wanting to re-play. And our job as designers is to make sure that the different scenarios that play out based on your choices cause real consequence. There is a small moment in the new Rail Nomads camp in which you hear a boy calling out for help as he is drowning. This time it would be a lack of action that could cause his death. Do you swim out to middle of the lake and save him or ignore his plea? And what happens when you are spotted ignoring his plea by a local resident? Do you shoot him before he can let others know of your behavior? These are situations that play out in the Wasteland. Each area has so many combinations and permutations of playing that it is almost statistically impossible for two players to have the exact same experience playing through the game for the first time. This design philosophy is what made the first Wasteland so great and why people continued to play it decades later.

Although not part of our original design for Wasteland 2, we felt that having portrait pictures of the enemies would add much color to the game. We have several artists helping to shape the look of things and we are quite happy with the vibe of bleak, violent, and unusual.

 

And some fans have had a little fun morphing the two together for extra creepiness.

The composer, Mark Morgan has now turned his attention to the music that the player hears while exploring in the Southwest. We asked for the music to have that bleak, edgy, lonely vibe mixed in with a dark western ambient. It's unusual to be working on music this early in the process but once again it allows for iteration time and for us to be as creative and nuanced as possible. Another excellent benefit of having fans fund the game.

The sample of the music is at the bottom of this update.

We have been very focused on getting the writing wrapped up by end of October so that we can do a table read of the entire game. Things are on track for about 95% of it which will allow all of us to get in a room for days on end to step through the game play. We look for flaws in logic, world consistency, keyword consistency, adding personality, adding ways to solve problems, creating visual cues, extra word descriptions, etc. It is quite a bit of work but it is a process that creates cohesion so that it feels like one world. There is so much content that the only way to grasp it all is to sit in a room for days for everyone to absorb.  And quite often the best moments will come from the random ideas that spring forth from it all.

One of the qualities that makes for a strong technical director is their ability to build systems around the philosophies and aims of the game itself. John Alvarado has done an excellent job for us in the past and continues to do so for Wasteland 2. At the end of this update is a write-up by John that dives a bit deeper into the programming side of creating a deep RPG.

And now, I give you John Alvarado….

--Brian Fargo

Wasteland 2 Engineering Update: Decisions, Decisions

Brian has emphasized that Wasteland 2 will put the player in the position of making tough choices that have deep affect on the unfolding story.  Every decision comes with some tradeoff—some known, some only to be revealed later.   There are so many paths through the adventure that it is likely no two players will have the same experience.   This is an apt metaphor for the process of game development.  In this update you’ll learn about some of the game systems the engineering team has been developing, and I’ll delve into detail on important decisions we’ve made around our story-scripting and localization systems.

Every game system we build involves making decisions about how to solve a challenge.  Thankfully, Unity gives us a big head-start by providing many built-in solutions, saving us the work and reducing the decisions we have to make (in a good way).  Using Unity was one big decision we made early on that has paid dividends.   But there are still challenges particular to Wasteland 2 that we must overcome, and that means making tough choices that will have consequences for the rest of development and the final product. 

As we weigh different approaches to a challenge, we attempt to gaze into the future and discern how the consequences of different decisions will play out with respect to design requirements (known and potential), content pipeline, run-time performance, and development time/cost.  Fortunately, our engineering team has decades of experience over dozens of successful projects that help us make most of these decisions with confidence.  So far we have made engineering strides on the following systems:

·         World Map System

·         Movement and Turn-Based Combat System

·         Saved Game System

·         Character Animation System

·         Inventory system

·         World State Tracking system

·         Story Scripting System

·         Localization System

We now have a player-controlled Ranger character moving with animation in a game-level and interacting with NPCs, triggering conversations and changing world states that affect future interactions.  This is where we wanted to be at this time and we are right on schedule.  Brian stressed to the engineering team the importance of having this ready by the time the writers are finishing up their level designs and story so we can begin implementing, testing and iterating.   That priority and the desired iteration process informed some important engineering decisions.

Conversations

There are many ways that the systems supporting conversation functionality could be structured.  I built such a system for The Bard’s Tale, <shameless-promotion> inXile’s first game which was released to critical acclaim back in 2004/2005 for consoles and PC, and which is now storming the top-10 charts on mobile devices with 5-star reviews as the funniest and biggest RPG’s on mobile. </shameless-promotion>   The Bard’s Tale was a very large game and handled a lot of dialogue with many branches and world states to track.   Here is a breakdown:

4,594 Lines of Dialogue

6,412 Localized Text Strings (including dialogue and UI)

1,720 World State variables

 

Wasteland 2 promises to be even bigger in the amount of dialogue and world states.  A world state is any information that must be remembered for the story to advance properly, such as what quests have been completed, what NPCs have been talked to and what information they have given.

At first glance it made sense to reuse the Bard’s Tale system, but one major difference is that The Bard’s Tale dialog was all voiced by actors. That meant all the dialogue and story was going to be fixed very early on in order to record the audio in voice acting sessions.  There would not be much iterating on story/dialogue in The Bard’s Tale.  The exact opposite is true for Wasteland 2 as there will be a light amount of voice acting in order to give us the freedom during development to modify, extend, and polish the dialogue and story right up to the very end! 

Localization Challenge

However, all that dialogue still has to be localized (translated to multiple languages) and that presents an engineering challenge.  In The Bard’s Tale we used a rather cumbersome system that required entering text into a spreadsheet and assigning unique labels to each piece of text before you could use the text in a game script.   The designers referenced the text with the unique label.  In this way the localization system could present the proper language text based on the unique label and the game’s current language selection.

While cumbersome, the text-entry only had to happen once and the story was very fixed so the designers didn’t need much flexibility with respect to modifying the text while scripting.  For Wasteland 2 it’s important for designers to be able to modify text quickly and easily throughout development, so that old cumbersome system just won’t do.  

For Wasteland 2 I’m relying on today’s faster CPU’s and larger RAM capacities to lighten the localization burden on the designers.   I’m allowing designers to place the English text of their dialogues directly into the scripts.  They just have to include a unique label at the start of the text.   At runtime the game localization system parses out the unique label from the string and then, depending on the language setting, will display either the English text it has in hand, or lookup the translation with the unique label and display the translated text.   Currently that means if a non-English language is active then more memory is used for a level because both the English text and the local language text is loaded. 

 

Text Auto-Extraction

The missing piece in what is described above is how all that embedded English text gets organized to send out for translation.  I’ve written an offline tool that parses all the scripts to extract the English text strings and create the spreadsheet that we can then send out for translation.  That tool is written in Ruby, a language that features powerful regular expression functionality that makes it easy to parse the C# script files to pull out the English text strings.  Helping that process is the fact that each string starts with a distinctive syntax to specifies its unique label.  It looks like this:  “<@label>text”.   For example:

"<@AboutRobotStrength>Robot strength is 10 times human strength, but we only use it for peaceful applications, such as mixing drinks."

The Ruby tool finds and extracts that string and generates an entry in a spreadsheet like this:

Label: AboutRobotStrength

English: Robot strength is 10 times human strength, but we only use it for peaceful applications, such as mixing drinks.

Because some English strings are also entered as game object properties inside game levels (Unity scenes), the tool also must parse the Unity scene files to extract strings.  Fortunately Unity provides the option to store its scene files in text format, which we are using to allow the extraction tool to do its work.  The tool also uses the script file references in the scene files to figure out what strings from the scripts need to be loaded up for each game level. 

I’m leaving out some details, and the extraction tool will likely evolve a bit as development progresses, but this is basically how it works.  It was a tough decision to abandon a system I already had working (from The Bard’s Tale), but it was the right choice to spend some development time to give the designers the tools they need for the special demands of Wasteland 2. 

Conclusion

Hopefully this peek behind the scenes gives you an idea of where we are in development of Wasteland 2 and helps you understand the factors we consider in our careful approach to engineering decisions.  Choices we make early on have a major affect on the team and how our story of developing Wasteland 2 will unfold.  Experience gives us some wisdom to guide us, and sometimes reusable tools and a bag full of tricks, but every project is different, and we must always step back and re-evaluate the current demands in light of current technology and the time and budget we have available in order to make decisions that will bring you the best product possible.

John Alvarado

Technical Director

 

 

 

 

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    1. Missing avatar

      Sigg3.net on November 2, 2012

      This music is seriously great!
      Reminds me of the movie "Dead Man" feat. Johnny Depp, with music by Neil Young. Really hit the spot on being alone in the wilderness, or, wasteland:)

    2. Missing avatar

      Lightbringer on October 27, 2012

      Could we get some sort of progress bar of how far it's coming along, and/or a WAG of when it might be done?

    3. Rafael Lopes Vivian on October 20, 2012

      The music sample was actually a touch of class here, thanks for putting it up.

    4. Rafael Lopes Vivian on October 20, 2012

      You know what's great? Currently everything.

    5. Missing avatar

      tyronetasty on October 18, 2012

      Absolutely incredible. This game is in good hands.

    6. Nadav on October 16, 2012

      Mark Morgan is a rare genius, every single game he made the music for was instantly much improved.

    7. Missing avatar

      mmennuti on October 15, 2012

      I am so excited for Mark Morgan's contribution to this game. It really pushed the ambiance to another level in the Fallout games. This sounds excellent so far.

    8. Uwon de Toster of the Obsidian Order on October 14, 2012

      Still listen to Mark's music...Give us more ! :P

    9. vodevil01 on October 13, 2012

      BTW great Mark Morgan tune there :) Been waitin' for his music soo long :):)

    10. vodevil01 on October 13, 2012

      or simply add the dog-faced guy to the game - as an abomination, after some wxperiment - just like Master in F1 after FEV.

    11. Maurice Descurieux on October 12, 2012

      The guy-faced dog I saw somewhere in the forum was even more hilarious, you should consider adding it to the game as an easter egg.

    12. Missing avatar

      Charles Capko on October 12, 2012

      If the dog faced guy with the gun isn't in the final game, I am going to be severely disappointed.

    13. Missing avatar

      Wholly on October 12, 2012

      I do believe that audio clip could be classified as "ruddy mysterious". Great work. You're gonna make at least one 50 year old guy wet his pants .... from fear. Yeah, I'm not that old.

    14. John Alvarado on October 11, 2012

      @Ber
      I could conceivably write an awesome all-encompassing tool to let designers build conversations in an IDE as you described. That however would be a risk factor for the project. Can I write it in time? Will it work properly and handle all cases? How much ongoing support/fixing will it need during development? Whereas I know the game can be built by scripting in C# with some documented structure and support functions that would take me relatively little time to create. Frequently in game development, good enough tools now are better than perfect tools later (and possibly too late). It’s a risk-mitigation decision.

    15. Bert Derveaux on October 11, 2012

      Great update, I like the music.
      I hope you guys can make the game everything you want it to be.

    16. Missing avatar

      Sebastian on October 11, 2012

      everything in there sounds good, especially the approach to the development,and the music is good, but I'm not too keen on the style of those portrait pictures, too "ugly" detailed for my liking. Still keeping the same vibe just changing it a little, just less on the grotesque side and slightly less busy with all the lines and shading. Just my opinion.

    17. Missing avatar

      mattgamer on October 11, 2012

      that music is music to my ears!

    18. Missing avatar

      Derpbert on October 10, 2012

      And just like that, I'm transported back to the dusty streets of Redding.

      Great track.

    19. Missing avatar

      zmonkey on October 10, 2012

      Looks like you're hard at work making one of the best games I will ever have the pleasure of playing. RPGs have always been more about the story and making me feel like I'm a real part of it than the mechanics of leveling (although they're both important, of course!). The atmosphere of Wasteland was unforgettable, and I know that you'll recapture that in Wasteland 2.

    20. Missing avatar

      George Akhvlediani on October 10, 2012

      Whoa shit. That music is awesome. I don't normally say that, but it had like a half-life feel and then really smoothly went to a western feel. I think music is overlooked when it comes to creating a unique game atmosphere. Keep making things like this.

    21. Bryy Miller on October 10, 2012

      What does a table read for a video game look like?

    22. Julius Schorzman on October 10, 2012

      Loving the music. Don't worry about writing lots of updates -- just make a cool game. :)

    23. John Alvarado on October 10, 2012

      @Orteko
      The part I’ve custom-coded so far has only been to allow the convenience I described for the designers in the scripting and level layout portions of the content pipeline. That was important for the reasons I described in the update. I already have tools from past projects to deal with the translation data-processing portion of localization using spreadsheets. If that was a mistake, well it was one made at the expense of a previous project, not Wasteland 2. :)

      I can still replace spreadsheets with xliff if it adds some benefit to the working system I have in hand. For example, I’m still thinking about how to make the localization system mod-friendly so content can be changed and translations provided by modders. Maybe xliff is part of that answer. I’m also interested in the possibility of crowd-sourcing the translations. Maybe xliff is part of that solution as well. I’ve had some input from another backer about crowd sourcing localization using Pootle. I haven’t made a decision on that yet.

      As part of risk-mitigation I’ve focused first on getting us to a point where I’m confident we can deliver a localized game, and now I can look at improving that position to facilitate crowd-sourcing and modding as important secondary goals.

    24. Ravenlight on October 10, 2012

      Ambient echoy guitars? This is sounding great!

    25. Dennis Smith on October 10, 2012

      Love the tone of the music. Thanks for the update.

    26. Missing avatar

      Dmitri Seletski on October 10, 2012

      Gosh it's gonna be great! I can already feel this American atmosphere of grim "wild west", where nothing is good or bad, where everything is natural.

    27. Missing avatar

      nibsley on October 10, 2012

      AWESOME music, I love the tone and atmosphere it sets even without the game!

    28. Wojciech on October 10, 2012

      Music is great, more frequent updates please.

    29. Ortikus on October 10, 2012

      Lookin good ! Loving this music. Mr. Morgan is the man !!

    30. Tom Minton on October 10, 2012

      Great update... mostly over my head.. but hey, I'm just a gamer.

    31. Missing avatar

      Dazakai on October 10, 2012

      ...great art too. Forgot to mention that part. Whoops. xD

    32. Missing avatar

      PiHalbe on October 10, 2012

      Very nice update and enticing music.

      Please make sure that the dialogue and other in-game text you provide is easy to read on the player. This does not only mean it should be interesting/sarcastic/gruesome/stylish, but also that it is easy on the eyes and I would love to see a customizable text-display (like text size, scroll speed, text box size, maybe even a speed-reading mode like zap reader).

      This would make the game so much more accessible!

    33. Missing avatar

      calabi on October 10, 2012

      Thanks for the update. Really interesting.

    34. Patashnik on October 10, 2012

      Good to hear, and the track has massive atmosphere - I am very, very excited for this. Keep up the cracking work, guys.

    35. Missing avatar

      Dazakai on October 10, 2012

      Nice. Thanks for the update guys. Music kicks ass too. GG.

      :D

    36. Glen Proko on October 10, 2012

      Eerie track... great stuff. :D

    37. Missing avatar

      David Holmin on October 10, 2012

      Really nice. Mark Morgan is gonna add a lot to this game. :)

    38. Kristofer on October 10, 2012

      I'm getting goosebumps while listening to the music track :)

    39. Missing avatar

      Artem on October 10, 2012

      Great track!

    40. Missing avatar

      TonZa on October 10, 2012

      Awesome clip, at the part where guitar plays it took me back the fallout 2 in the Redding mining city, but there was so much more too.

    41. metzger on October 10, 2012

      on a side note, for those who played anachronox or the wizardry series, please consider backing tom hall's kickstarter project SHAKER (http://goo.gl/0qJ6W)

    42. Jozape on October 10, 2012

      I thought the first track that we heard from Morgan was overly dark, but this is a 10/10.

    43. metzger on October 10, 2012

      i love the sound clip, kudos to mm

    44. silvercross on October 10, 2012

      I already saw both of the enemy portraits but I lol'ed when I saw the combined portrait.

    45. Missing avatar

      Orteko on October 10, 2012

      I'll add my own two cents regarding internationalisation - it might seem easier in the short term to write your own tools and export to a spreadsheet but in the long run it always turns out nicer to output to a standard format like xliff or just using gettext.

      Internationalisation is a problem that has been hacked on time and time again by web developers so the tools are in a pretty solid state these days.

      The benefits of translation memory alone can usually save quite a bit of time (And therefore money).

    46. Minsc&Boo on October 10, 2012

      Any chance for a 5.1 soundtrack? instead of 2.0?

    47. Missing avatar

      Matthew Kozachek on October 10, 2012

      Awesome update - I'm glad to see Unity working so well. I've dabbled with it myself and hope to do some development in it soon, it's a fantastic engine for creative output :) And I am *so* thankful I'm getting the digital soundtrack. This song is fantastic! Absolutely nailed the atmosphere!

    48. Benit0 on October 10, 2012

      Thanks a lot for the update, keep up the great work, absolutely loving that music piece you shared.

    49. Missing avatar

      Caleb Callaway on October 10, 2012

      @John Alvarado Dealing with static strings is always a pain, you have my sympathies. I count myself lucky to only have to deal with localized .resx files.