Update #46: How (Proto-)Typical
Update by Darren Monahan, dinosaur fan
Yep, you've seen this before - but not animating!
In this week’s update, we’re back with me for one more! We’ll cover what the team’s up to currently.
To start, every one of Obsidian’s games goes through a series of phases. Those phases, chronologically, are: Prototype, Vertical Slice, Production, and Finalization. At the end of each phase, the team and owners do an analysis of the progress; we verify that we’ve hit key goals, and (hopefully) officially move the project into the next phase.
So where are we at on Project Eternity?
We’re coming to the end of the Prototype phase. While you might think of a prototype as something you would consider before making a game, in our case, we use the term to mean a demonstration of the game that, when successful, demonstrates the game’s vision (AKA “pillars”) and concept. For Eternity, one of our biggest pillars is to recreate the Infinity Engine experience. To that end, we need to have a number of key things in place to make sure our prototype is a success. Things like:
- Character movement and combat. We want to make sure we have a party of up to six characters, each of whom can be moved independently and/or as a group, which does then imply rudimentary support for formations as well as NPC and basic creature AI. Basic AI meaning to ‘see’ the characters, face them, and then move to them and start attacking. This also means we need character models that have enough animations to demonstrate this convincingly, as well as at least one monster. For our prototype demo, we have one known only as “Chompy” for now. More on him (or her?!) in future updates!
- Basic RPG mechanics. We need to prove that we’re making an RPG here obviously! We need basics like loot management; for instance, inventory and opening containers like chests. We need basic conversations and quest giving, including receiving a quest, tracking its progress, and then providing a reward for it being completed.
- Environments. We want to have a working outdoor area as well as a tileset-based interior that the player can move between and throughout. This makes us prove out area transitions too (I can hear it now, “YOU MUST GATHER YOUR PARTY BEFORE VENTURING FORTH...”)
For our outdoor area (see screenshot above), we’re bringing life to it by not only building out the rest of the level, but getting our technological solutions in place. We have a working waterfall now, with moving water, replete with foam around the rocks(!) and more.
Eeeert (sound of a record scratching…)! Wait, tilesets, Darren? What?
Believe it or not, a lot of the areas in IE games were actually assembled through tile pieces (granted, outside the game in 3D art packages), and then were beautified by hand to give them a more organic look and feel. This tradition carries on with Eternity.
Work in Progress Concept of an Interior
Our next phase of the project is called the Vertical Slice. At Obsidian, this is the phase right before Production. In Vertical Slice, we try to do two things:
- Get Ready for Production. During Vertical Slice and definitely up into Production is when the team size grows. Early on, we’re getting all of our tools and processes designed, programmed, and with luck, polished up for our designers and artists to hit the ground running. Unity has been a dream for our developers so far, and it’s been easy for us to bring over our latest tools from other games for things like text and conversation management.
- Produce a Final “Slice” of Gameplay. We also try to develop a ‘final slice’ of gameplay. It’s generally a short, maybe 5-15 minute demo that demonstrates all of the core pillars of the game, as well as taken to what we’re aiming for at a final quality level in terms of visuals, audio, and presentation. During our Prototype we try to make stuff look great, but it’s secondary to form and feel.
So, how are we doing?
Well, we are absolutely trucking along. We’ve recently added several new concept artists to the team, two longtime Obsidian designers have also come on board (more on them later!), and we are hiring for other positions too. The team all has their heads down pushing forward for our prototype review.
Fear... of the Dark
Periodically throughout the rest of the project, we’ll have a number of weeks where we’ll ‘be dark’ (or rather more succinctly, "won't have an update" :)) due to a variety of reasons, and next week is one of those instances. Don’t worry though, we will most certainly be working on the game, but we want to always make sure we’ve got cool stuff lined up for you, and our Prototype final is something we all want to keep focused on.
When we’re back the following week (3/26), we’ll start a series of fresh new updates from Josh, Rob and the Art team, Adam, me, and more Let’s Play Arcanum with Chris Avellone. You might meet a few new team members, and maybe even hear from George again soon too.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
-Darren and the PE Team