Development Diary for Lost Empire: Immortals
Back when we began developing the original Lost Empire game, we were a young company with limited funds, yet filled with infinite passion. Collectively driven by the same dream, the team labored night and day to create the quintessential 4X space strategy game.
At that moment, our ambition was stifled only by the constraints of time and a limited budget. Since the release of the original Lost Empire game, the company has grown a little, but the company’s vision has expanded to become even greater than before. We want to make the best 4X space strategy game ever made! Though perhaps ambitious for such a modestly sized company such as ours, (there are some damn good games out there), Yoda questions: “Size matters not... Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?” This is the route we have taken…
Firstly to increase game speed the entire code base was transferred to C# and DirectX9. This has afforded the additional benefit of allowing the programming team to focus on game feature and logic implementation rather than wasting time on debugging legacy code. Game configuration has also been rethought. In terms of game design and possible game session outcomes, the original code has been overhauled to the point that hardly any of the original code remains.
As with any game development project, the team set out with a huge list of ideas penciled in for inclusion. Critical features were tackled first such as: kick-ass graphics, an intuitive and user-friendly GUI, least amount of micromanagement and a powerful AI. Yet as time begins to run out the more non-essential ideas begin to fall by the wayside. As programmers, designers and artists we all have our jobs cut out for us. The thing about making a game, like most creative processes, is that you need to try a lot of things before knowing what is actually going to work. You have got to be merciless and cut an idea’s when they do not work in practice. It’s kind of like David Hasselhoff’s singing career… It was probably a good idea on paper, but the man should have just cut his losses… Anyway, we’ve had to discard a lot of ideas, but that has just left room for other ideas. As we approach our deadline, we are getting closer to perfecting our vision.
When, in September 2007, Paradox Interactive agreed to publish Lost Empire: Immortals, things really started taking off. Suddenly we had deadlines to meet and important people to impress. Securing Paradox as our partner has allowed us to focus completely on the game, as they bring their expertise such as distribution and promotion to the product. This has enabled us to concentrate our attention on devising and implementing the relevant game components, permitting us to actualize our vision.
Our main priorities have been to make sure that the AI has a unique personality. The player has to get to know each faction AI in the game, in order to understand what it is up to. One faction AI may research fighters and bombers, while another focuses on colonizing a huge empire. As the player will have to produce a counter strategy to the each faction’s AI, no two games will have the same outcome. We have used techniques such as Fuzzy Logic for dynamic AI decision-making and A* for pathfinding and influence maps. In order to create the attack features, as well as the war and peace components, we have used a Finite State Machine, enabling us to compose behavioral reflections.
Another priority has seen players provided with the ability to modify the vanilla version of the game. All game data is stored in a spreadsheet. After the game has been released we plan to introduce an editing tool on the LE:I website. This will enable the player to access the spreadsheet and modify data contained therein, allowing them to modify the game according to personal preference and also create original content. We are big fans of the principle of modding. After all, who knows more about what gamers want than the gamers themselves? (By coincidence, most of the Pollux employees are avid gamers who love modding games in their spare time.)
To enhance the graphics of the game, we have also used a lot of programmable shaders, allowing us to create specific effects for the ships of each race. The Tritons, for example, are underwater beings that pilot organic ships. In order to display this graphically, we have created a shimmering effect specific to their ships. All of the graphic designs for LE:I have been created using 3D Max, Photoshop and Combustion.
We are now working our way towards finishing the Gold Master, trying not to become overwhelmed with the amount of work still waiting to be processed. To give you an idea what is going on right now, here is a brief description of walking through the office:
You more often encounter heated discussions on spaceship logic, than complete silence. Laughter is also a steady companion in the day-to-day making of Lost Empire: Immortals. The notice boards are coved with different colored post-its and LE:I artwork proposals. An assortment of half-drunk beverages and empty coffee cups lies strewn on office desks. Our toys (yes, we have toys!) are left in the light obscured corners of the office, neglected, having been out triumphed by keyboards and drawing pads. But most noticeable is the lingering, unspoken question:
“Will we make it?”
To which you can always hear the same collective reply….
Long ago the immortal Aeons presented the fledging races with the technology to travel the stars. Without pause for reasoning, vast fleets colonised the cosmos expanding the interstellar community until a great cataclysm occurred.
Now the Aeon's, a technologically superior race that once guided the lesser races, is all but lost to myth. Their colonies and technology lie beyond reach - scattered throughout the galaxy, like so many stars.
Only fading memories recall the cause of the Aeons downfall and the loss of the star-gates that ended the first Galactic War. Devoid of the means to navigate the stars, the empires of the six major races began to look inwards as communication between worlds was lost.
From the depths of the abyss, the long forgotten desire for exploration and conquest calls out once again. For it would only be a matter of time before each race would: recover the knowledge to rebuild their fleets, reawaken their desire to explore, rekindle their need to expand and return to warring ways.
As the six galactic empires make ready for the arduous struggle ahead, all manner of citizens are rallied to the cause. Scouting expeditions leave the safety of their stellar berths seeking out potential systems ripe for colonisation. Close behind terra-forming ships prepare planets for swelling populations. Throughout countless shipyards powerful battle-fleets are forged from newly acquired resources, ready to face the threats that emerge with every cycle of the sun. A new age has arrived.
- Colossal Galactic Map – Explore the vastness of a fully populated macrocosm, teeming with up to 5,000 stars of varying configurations. Encounter the interstellar communities of six playable empires and twenty-eight uniquely evolved minor civilizations
- Vast Scientific Multi-nodal Research Tree – Conduct research across eleven scientific categories, branching out into 150 individual advances.
- Customize Ship Construction – Spaceship models consist of eight classes that conform to a mission type: exploration, reconnaissance, defensive patrolling, fleet interdiction and planetary invasion.
- 3D Rendered Dual Warfare System – View massive 3D rendered space battles between turns, through an action camera and adjust your strategy based on the outcomes of the space battles.
- Multiplayer Action – Invite up to ten players to play in any one game.Create attributes to ensure that no two sides play with identical races.
Lost Empire: Immortals for the PC is scheduled for release during Q1, 2008 and will retail for $29.99/€29.99.
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