About this project
Dominion - Episode 1 is...
- An epic single player game set in a vast on-line galaxy of over 200,000 star systems
- Free from classes - be the type of space-farer you want to be (Pirate, Merchant, Explorer, it's up to you to decide)
- Ever evolving - new content expands the universe in size, scale and opportunity (See: Development)
For more info (because I can - and will - go on, and on, and on...) feel free to visit http://www.maksw.com/dominion to see more about our longer term plans for Dominion!
Yes, we are Indies - and we fully appreciate the fact we are asking for a substantial amount of hard-earned pennies here. We argued long and hard about asking for far less and hoping to get what we think will be "the right amount" through your generosity - but after much debate we came to the conclusion that going low and potentially having to deliver something we didn't feel was quite "it" would do you - or ourselves - no justice whatsoever. Please read on to find out why we feel this way!
... is to produce a game which lets you explore the rich and massively diverse universe we've envisaged, in your own way and your own style, and at your own leisure. Although a plot exists, and it will determine the evolution of this universe over time, you can be as active or inactive a participant as you wish. The eventual goal of Dominion is to provide a universe where you can get out of your ship, walk around a space station, or a city, or a planet, go where you will - as long as someone has authored the content!
"... game publishers always say "Space doesn't sell..." - tell that to George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Braben & Bell...", Malcolm Sparrow - Creator of Dominion.
... initially - Dominion will be single-player only. Why? Because delivering MMO's is exactly what that first initial portrays... "Massive". Doing it well, and doing it properly is a huge undertaking, and requires far, far more than a few servers sat on some racking.
Episode 1 sets out to deliver the game-client, and thereby the fundamental building blocks with an MMO in mind - which is the intention for Episode 2. We're building Ep1 as if it were an MMO.
Although single-player, when on-line Dominion will sync up with the persistent game universe, grabbing new content as you need it, news feeds of events within the universe, the latest market prices within the systems, etc. All these things are dynamic, and can be influenced by the player and events they participate in - others are driven by the story, revealing story-turns and sub-plots as the game evolves.
In other words - if you earn enough to buy and commission a new space station - Tweet/Post it to your friends - get them to visit! Everyone else playing on-line will be able see your fabulous new station, and can visit it, trade there - and earn you (in-game) revenue from taxes!
Game-play will be tailored to be as simple or as complex as you decide. You can hire an engineer or buy an AI to take over the ships power grid so you don't have to care - or take over and issue commands to re-prioritise the shields/weapons/etc. Play Arcade Style - or nitty-gritty Simulation Style, your choice.
"Today I will mostly be a... " - there are no classes. You won't be type-cast as "a trader" or "a pirate" or any other classification. Your criminal rating is determined by your actions, and the local laws and policies of whichever system you are in. The only "role" you might choose to get involved in is if you enlist with the Imperial Navy, earning rank, medals a glory/infamy as you go.
So what can I do?
- run one or more ships - as a trading company, or a pirate clan, or couriers, or your own fleet - switch seamlessly from one vessel to the other thanks to your implanted nano-neural interface...
- bounty hunt - not just encounter pirate/kill pirate/get credits. Oh no. We really mean hunt. Visit their haunts, get their Ship Reg ID - bribe officials for information, leave telltales behind, track their drive signatures, lay in wait ready for them to exit a gate...
- perform missions for the Imperial Navy - enlisted, or mercenary - perform strike missions or reconnaissance, act as defence in a blockade, or serve in Outreach for diplomatic missions to worlds outside the Empire...
- take on commercial jobs - cargo transporting, passenger taxi services...
- purchase orbital bases or stations - wherever you like (and can afford with credits!) - on a planet, or a moon, outside the galaxy, inside a star's photosphere, a nebula, a gas giant, interstellar space...but don't forget to hire personnel... and make sure traders can find you...
- go rogue/pirate, steal cargo, take out opposing clan bases or stations, order a hit on someone, or fulfil a hit...
- just explore - new findings are reported and you're credited with the discovery...
- establish new trade routes - as players move goods about, the economies reflect the trade - and new relations/routes are forged - old unused ones die away...
- exploit naive races - you might buy a Carrallan Freighter and traverse the Empire, selling it in the Anduvar system where no-one has ever seen such a large Freighter - and for a hefty profit! Just make sure you leave before they spot all the dented panels, maser burns and realise the shields suck...
- be two-faced! Be a pirate/pariah in one star system, a hero in another! Your reputation is generally local to a species/civilisation - but word does travel, and soon your pariah status may well come to haunt you across the Cluster...
- friend feuds! You just saw a friend's Tweet that they've bought the MkIII Lancer heavy attack fighter, they are in a rival pirate clan - you know they're up to something - but you won't be outdone, you buy the MkIV and uprate it's weapons...
- pimp your ride - you don't like the stock configuration for your Vanguard Attack Carrier? The shield placement sucks, and you'd prefer the main weapons to be on the flank mounts instead of the forward, and who wants a green hull? Dock at a Shipyard and get them reconfigured...
- make a killing from scrap - no doubt there will be plenty of dead hulks lying about after combat - anyone brave enough to wade into a post-conflict debris field could get rich pickings - but watch out for leftover mines...
- go asteroid mining - resources are always in demand! It's the only way new vessels/stations/weapons/etc. get built... setup shop in a planetary ring system and let your harvesters get to work....
- do a favour - a friend can't fulfil a job/mission they've undertaken - so stand-in for them, or bail a trader out of a sticky situation with some local pirates, gain reputation for being so nice...
- Multi-platform - for PC/Mac/Linux/iOS
- Thousands of unique civilisations and species to encounter, living and long-dead!
- Tens of thousands of inhabited or colonised planets, even more uninhabited ones.
- Seamless travel across vast distances – fly anywhere, even stop in interstellar space for a brew.
- Large scale combat experiences.
- Fly solo, or build and run a fleet.
- Customise your vessels in the Hangar Bay - paint job, decals, upgrades, weapon configurations, shield placements...
- Buy stations or colonies. Your actions affect others - i.e. if you destroy a space station (and you can!) their trade routes collapse... chaos!
- Optional missions and campaigns.
- As many Easter Eggs and surprises as we can manage - we love surprises!
Stretch Goals (See Risks).
- Landing on planets – wherever and whenever you choose, but be prepared to deal with the consequences if you try landing in a city!
- Manage station/colony/planet economies and policies
- 3D Plastic Prints/merchandise - buy a model of your ship/station/planet! Also get in-game achievements/medals as 3D prints, so your skills are no longer virtual - wear them with pride!
- Social Integration - Facebook/Twitter/RSS feeds of events which take place even when you're not playing!
- Android Mobile port - yes, we'll try as many device variants as we can handle - but initially it'll be "vanilla" for the most common type and Android SDK version!
Dominion itself is an unusual Globular Cluster, orbiting a spiral-arm galaxy. It's unusual in that almost all of the civilised species have attained space-travel more or less within millennia of each other, some by trade relationships - others by "coincidence".
The Sulranian Empire quickly spread itself through neighbouring uninhabited worlds, forming the Empire you will see in Ep1 within a span of 1200 years. It is deemed the power to be reckoned with by all other civilisations - fortunately it's entirely benign and will emphatically remain so.
Peace has reigned for centuries, with numerous trade alliances between civilisations forming an unofficial super-power referred to as the Pax, backed by the various governments behind the alliances. Short wars have taken place, but typically have de-escalated very quickly into on-going diplomatic efforts. Whilst a few species rivalries exist, most are tolerated and peaceful within the Empire. However, for centuries - rumours have been filtering in that some unknown power is rising in Dominion. Communication has been lost with countless far-flung civilisations, and to date all ships or probes sent to investigate have failed to report in, or return. One third of the entire eastern hemisphere of the Cluster is effectively "lost", referred to as the "Deadzone" - and no sane pilot will venture near.
It seems systems are falling to this unseen and unheard force on an almost daily basis, and the Pax is beginning to become unsettled - demanding a more purposeful response from the Empire with every system lost. It's only a matter of time before something must be done...
Ep1 brings the story to the player in unsettled times, with piracy and exploitation of the Imperial Border Worlds rampant - fear controls most actions and refugees are common. The Imperial Navy is hard pressed to protect the Empire, and several of the smaller more independent fringe systems are becoming more and more rebellious - having seen little help being sent their way against this unknown mounting threat.
We're aiming for rich - but also intense action. Right now my driving aim is to battle my way through a fur ball of hundreds (if not thousands) of attack craft, carriers and capital ships - not just relying on skill but praying I can just make it past this last cruiser and get to the target before it's too late!
Using our own 666 game engine (see below), we'll be drawing on the latest techniques and effects to provide wow-moment visuals as you slide through a planetary ring system, but also to crank down the pixels when engaged in a fire-fight - all to deliver a smooth and seamless frame rate that doesn't compromise on the quality - especially for those of us who can't keep up with the bleeding edge of marching PC technology!
The Ringworlds (above) pose a vast challenge, but one we're comfortable taking on board with 666 - the sheer scope for exploration was too good an opportunity to overlook! It took half a day to get this R & D Ringworld in - and we're pretty chuffed with the results! (Backers can see a short video of it in action.) Plenty of other BDO's will feature - if you can find them... Dyson Spheres, Rama like stations (think B-5)... and any others we can conjure up in a renderable way!**
We're aiming for a realistic look and feel, but without curbing creativity. For example, space vessels must fulfil what would be the minimum functionality for a space going craft, living space, engines, cargo if needed, etc. But - based on the technology available to the species who "built" them - they can pretty much look how they like.
Lighting would ideally also be "realistic", but real deep-space lighting is, well... a bit black, so some artistic license is required - otherwise trying to spot a bright shiny silver craft in the interstellar void between stars would be a bit tricky without a large spotlight! The intention is to have a toggle, "Real" and "Pretty".
I'll ramble on about our engine tech later - but this is what we want Dominion to be able to do if we get half the chance...
From where you have landed in the forest of a planet, walk into your ship, take off into the atmosphere, through the cloud layers, out into space, past a space station, over the ring system, past the satellites around the planet, beyond the planets in the star system, across interstellar space from one star to the next, and then past it's planets, past it's satellites and stations, down to the surface of a planet and dock in a city.Get out, walk about the buildings - grab a cab, go on a sight-seeing tour. All without cut-scenes, hyperspace sequences/jolts/cuts/special effects/interruptions. Although chances are you might get shot at somewhere in there, so we can't guarantee no "interruptions"!
Granted, that's very ambitious - and probably won't happen for Ep1 - however, we will be laying the groundwork for it to be possible in Ep2!
Shaders will abound.
So - a one-man-band-indie-studio... and an artist... how can we possibly expect to achieve this?
Well - first - Dominion has been gestating in my brain for 26 years - yes, 26! I've been turning over what I want it to do, and how it will happen for that long. I’m as confident as I can be that I know what to deliver, and how to deliver it.
Second - I've been realising some of my basic ideas over the past few months, resulting in a visually unappealing prototype that demo's the core-tech - there is too much "programmer-art" in there to capture some video! However, I've only committed to this Kickstarter project after making sure what I am planning is feasible, and that I could realise it the way I wish.
Third - "Crowd-development"... one of our Unique Selling Points is our ambitious plan to provide the largest and most diverse content set any game has ever dared to hope for! How can we do that with such a small team, and a (relatively) modest budget when even the big publishers would not dare? Because we are Indie! And we are prepared to take the risk to achieve something unheard of! We petition all game artists to join our cause - worldwide! We want to form the largest content development effort ever, to produce the most diverse and graphically rich universe for Dominion that can be made... visit here for more details (even if you're just curious as to our madness!). And if this fails? We're prepared for that - you'll still get some stonking content (just less of it...) and we intend to keep shoving more in after release as the project hopefully grows!
Fourth - it won't just be "me and my mate" - that is why we need you! Your generous funding support will allow us to hire the developers we'll need to produce the full game (such as the team I've drawn up below). The UK has long been a hotbed for the industry’s most creative developers, so the more funding we can get, the more we can achieve!
Fifth - my entire career (games and app's) has been spent honing my "deliver-quality-product-come-what-may" skills - so far successfully! Without being immodest, I know I have what it takes to produce something to this scale.
The development aim is “AAA” – of course, even the most dedicated team with the budget requested for a game of this scale couldn’t consistently reach AAA – the big-boy studios churn millions of £’s to achieve that. But – our motto is “Aim high…” If you shoot for the moon but fall short, chances are you at least made it into space… the trick is to plan for what happens next!
Finally, we've got our own kit - laptops, beast-PC's with dual displays, Mac's, iOS devices, file/SCM/Web/FTP servers, software licenses, off-site backups... so we don't need to buy anything. The money being raised is for developing Dominion, not for creating a studio!
These are the guys I'm intending to dragoon into this beast of a project. Everyone is a hard-bitten gaming vet, who have all shipped multiple AAA titles. I'm afraid some of the people I will include need safe-guarding due to their current commitments, so forgive the aliases!
Malcolm Sparrow : Project Lead/Producer/Designer/Fixer/Do-er
12yr veteran, 8 published games(EA/SEGA), 2 self-published, 14 iOS App's - has worked full time as a Consultant, Lead Programmer, Ops Manager, Database Administrator, BSc Computer Science (Hons)
I will have fingers in all the pies - code, game design/game-play, technology, art direction, eating my wife's baking...
Andy Debus (aka PixelDad) : 2D Artist - UI/Textures/3DCG/Content Reviewer
17yr veteran, 11 published games + a further 13 games/apps contributed to whilst freelance - has worked as a Senior / Lead Artist, Illustrator,Graphic and Product Designer
All the in-game UI, logo's, splash screens, the stock models... all being well, Andy will also be point-man for the Content Authors - which we hope will become too big a job for one-man full-time!
AI Man : Designer/Engineer
13yr veteran, 6 published titles (+4 unpublished), presently a senior lecturer in game development, has been an AI Engineer, and Researcher. BSc Computing (Hons), MSc Management of IT.
AI Man will be in control of the nasty NPC's which will continually try to kick your-
Shane Mitchell : Artist/ Animator
9yr veteran, 8 published titles, Independent iOS developer, freelancer, and senior lecturer in Games Design.
One of the first willing contributors who will be realising the diverse content set we’re demanding for the game.
Mystery Man : Designer
10yr veteran, 6 published titles, 4 unpublished titles.
MM is currently reading everything and thinking, making notes... and will be handling all the subtleties and niceness in the game-play - such as missions, balancing, overall quality of the game experience, etc.
Mean Genie : Development Consultant
Aiding in keeping things "most-real" - advice, and grounding any astonishing ideas which spring up.
I have a vast network of QA guys who will gladly volunteer their time/effort. I have always been a champion of the "QA Guy" (or gal) - and have defended their corner against raging developers many a time. Never underestimate the power of a good QA guy...
Should this project reach its target fund - full-time development will begin on February 1st, 2013. Resources will be brought in as needed, scaling the development effort up and down as the game evolves.
If the fund target is reached, during December I’ll be planning like mad to ensure things are lined up and on track before development commences in February.
The fund is calculated to allow an 18 month development timeframe, by exploiting all of its contributors as much as possible (and with their willing!) - but still giving them a fair return for their time and effort! Believe me; if we were able to work for free doing this, we would…
As early as possible, we will provide an Alpha (first playable, place-holder content) to get feedback and allow us to review our process/design.
At 14 months (ideally, but subject to progress) we will provide a Beta (feature complete, final(ish) content in place).
The remaining 4 months will be spent bug-killing, and establishing the larger scale content and database servers that will be needed for launch, polishing what we have, and more bug-killing. The Beta may or may not be left up during this time, but all hands will be working toward the Final build.
Finally, all being well at 18 months, we will have a shippable title, ready for download!
In summary; the intended go-live date will be August 2014!
Nb. any wise project manager tries to add 20% contingency for slippages - they always happen, no matter how well-planned a project is. 20% would place us at 21 months (roughly), giving a go-live of October 2014. Some contingency is already catered for in the original 18 month schedule.
How will the funding be used?
- The "target" fund will be used for delivering the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), i.e. 200,000 stars with worlds to explore, space/combat/trading/missions and as much content as we can squeeze out the target fund.
- Excess funding (!) will be used toward stretch-goals, and ramping up what we have beyond the MVP plan above.
- Feeding developers - I'm sorry, but there it is. Passion requires energy...
- Early engagement with server-technology providers - this may require numerous attempts/approaches to get the right solution.
- Public Relations / Marketing - never ever to be underestimated.
- Audio content
- Licensing 3rd party software (as appropriate/if needed)
- Additional ad-hoc asset purchases which cannot be catered for in-house, or where our Content Author submission goals fall short.
- Final release server platform(s).
Nb. Dominion Ep1 is a charging game - even though it is F2P - it aims to generate on-going revenue to allow further content generation, customer/tech-support, paying for server costs, and also to fund Ep2 and more. Your generous contribution will allow us to develop the initial platform for something much bigger and better down the road!
At this time, the financial model we will use is very flexible - but it will be a Free to Play client, with subscription/micro-payment models opening up additional features and functionalities to extend the gameplay (such as owning and managing a fleet). We're also considering an ad-hoc/arcade-styled "Pay to Play" - where a life costs £1 but lasts as long as your skills allow, so you can jump in/out as you see fit.
I (personally) have been working on 666 for over 10 years. I ambitiously set out to create a "universal game engine" back in 1998, one that could produce any type of game genre, without imposing restrictions on the game itself. If you didn't want the 3D scene culling system, just don't use it. If you don't want the dynamic animation blending system - whatever, turn it off.
Sadly all it's been used for are a couple of modest 2D casual puzzle-games, and a load of "proof-of-tech" demo's which I'd never show anyone as they're too ugly - suffering the bane of programmer-art. Time is my greatest enemy. It has been used to produce the prototype you can just make out in the intro video. More interesting stuff is to follow on our website, and here when it is ready!
So - why use it? Especially given the flood of other industry proven AAA engine's out there? It's ours - all ours. We can change what we want, when we want. I know what it can and cannot do. I know how to bend it to my will. It runs on PC/Mac/Linux/iOS - and a good shove would see it on Android. We don't need a license for it. There is no learning curve (for me) and I'm the best suited to induct someone else into its cunning ways.
Often (though not always) an "off-the-shelf" engine ends up restricting you in some way, as it was never intended to do what you are now trying to do - and making it "bend" becomes a massive task. I've used numerous engines over the years - and had to evaluate more for studios themselves - and they are all great at what they do. But none that I've used to date would have allowed me to do what I'm now doing in 666 without massive re-engineering effort - or worse, redesigning the vision to fit the tech.
Ok, so that's a lot of spiel - and I apologise if I rambled on, but there's so much to tell! But before you decide to donate (or not)... I want to be clear on what your hard earned cash will be helping to build.
Ep1 is a building block - the hopeful starting point of a much grander thing. It may slip a few things here and there, or gain a few things - but essentially, your donation will be going towards building a space-combat game, set in as rich and as diverse a game-universe as we can achieve in the time-frame we've set out.
What happens after that - we can't wait to find out! We hope you can't either!
* No profane/offensive names or aliases will be allowed. All our content will be vetted and approved before publication via our Content Management System.
** Copyright and Legal issues aside of course - if such things are protected and we cannot obtain permission - then we'll naturally have to remove them from the game!
Risks and challenges
Developing games is a risk - even the biggest and best have fallen foul of over-reaching and/or under-funding. Whilst we are confident we can deliver (otherwise we wouldn't be putting our names out on this!) certain things may have to slip, but if they do - it will slip into the next point release, or the next Episode at the worst. However, our overheads are far-far-far lower than a traditional studio, because we don't have one! Hence we think we can do "as good as them" but for far less dosh.
Global Online Gaming - we really don't think we'll be able to roll out Dominion globally and fully support Online connectivity from day one of launch due to the potential volume of players. We're expecting to cater for a UK/Europe user-base, which will allow global connectivity - but user loads will always be an issue if the game proves successful! Dominion will grow, and evolve based on it's user-base of paying players, and servers will be instantiated when viable to support a global community over time.
Obtaining this server platform technology is a risk - one we intend to mitigate from day one by exploring as many commercial options as possible. We have a couple in mind already - but being honest, nothing has been explored technically or in full. The nature of Dominion is no different to any other MMO requirements, and plenty of commercial options already exist - so we are confident a suitable solution can be found. Our initial aim for Ep1 is primarily database and file hosting, so the challenges are less than a full-scale MMO, but still challenges never-the-less. Fortunately I've been a Database Admin and have designed/created/maintained SQL databases in the past, so all we really need is somewhere to plonk them!
Landing on Planets - this is a huge risk for us at the moment - one we appreciate full well. There's a reason this is generally avoided - it's a mammoth task. We could just dodge the bullet and land you on a textured sphere, with some idea of terrain from a heightmap - but that would be inexcusable. We want to make it as rich and immersive as possible. I want you to be able to walk around glaciers, mountains, forests, jungles, and deserts... if we can't deliver that, it won't go in. As this element won't directly affect Ep1 gameplay, it's considered "slippable" into Ep2.
Failing to recruit sufficient Content Authors. This reduces the diversity we're hoping to get - but it won't stop a shippable product. Stock content will exist (typically Imperial Navy craft) and procedural content will be used by default anyway, so "variety" will exist.
Using 666 - make no mistake, it's unproven in a commercial game of this nature - and therefore a risk. I know it's fit for the task (and can be made to be if not), but tools will need creating (for Maya exports, Blender and/or others - Max is done already), and more tool support means more in-engine changes to cater for specifics. Worst case - we restrict content to existing working tools. Extreme worst case - we dump 666 and pick up another engine. Jumping tech is painful, we've done it before for other studios - it's not something I'd care to do again believe me. I'm confident we won't need to otherwise I'd already be downloading another engine and evaluating it...
3D Prints - subject to cost/quality. Fortunately, I know someone in the business... purchasable merchandise should be no problem, but we'd like to print player achievements/medals for them "for free" if they are a Paid Up Player if the costs prove workable. Imagine earning the Imperial Naval Cluster at long last after months of loyal service in-game, and then getting it in the post!
Social Integration - what we'd like to do is post events of planetary disasters, trade price updates, new ships or members to the Empire - at worst this would be via RSS under our control. We're not yet sure if Facebook/Twitter/et al would truly appreciate what we have in mind suddenly flooding their servers, nor allow us to bombard them with such news!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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