15 Jan Game Development – New Year, New Maps
As game development progresses, and the design team get to grips with the gameplay, we’ve been creating new maps. It’s one of the odd things about game design and development, you don’t really know what you’ve got until you’ve got it right in front of you.
Anyone who has ever made a game with more than one person working on it will tell you how hard it is to get your idea out of your head, and into the hands of the rest of the team. It’s quite possibly one of the hardest things to do in a creative environment. That’s partly because it doesn’t matter how good your team are in their chosen specializations, since they’re relying on you to communicate the entire game, right down to the minutiae of the smallest piece of UI detail to them in a language which everyone can understand.
For example, take the common 5-gear bicycle. Now imagine having to describe that to a group of engineers who, although they know what a wheel is, what tires are and what a seat might be, have never in their lives seen or heard of a bicycle.
Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to draw it. If you’re a skilled illustrator, you can draw some extremely detailed schematics, with notes on exactly how the gears and brakes should work. And they may well go off and create a bike that looks exactly as it does in your drawings. But that’s only half the battle with game design. Because no matter what you tell the engineers, without any of them ever having ridden one, they have no real understanding of how it’s meant to work. They might know all about calibration, gear ratios, wheel rim sizes and tire pressure, but they know nothing about tearing round a velodrome at close to 40 km/h in the slipstream of a Lycra wearing, hairless superhuman as you try to whip round them and cross the finishing line in a blaze of glory.
The point I’m trying to make is that until you have it in your hands and can really play with it, you really do not know what you’ve got. But for the past couple of months we’ve had Gamma Protocol in our hands and are really getting to grips with what we have here. It’s almost like being a judge on a cookery show, one where contestants bring out their dish to have the judges prod it with spoon and fork, slice pieces off, chewing methodically, before lavishing praise on it or making comments like “needs more brandy butter”.
Or maybe it’s more like, having invented the wheel, we’re now in the process of listing everything we can do with it. Which brings me to the latest maps. Having built the game, we’re now in the process of dreaming up all the cool things we can do, and they all need areas to do them in. Some of them are born out of history, out of things that actually happened back in the 40s and 50s, (things I’m not allowed to actually tell you about but I so badly want to blurt it all out!) while others are the children of “wouldn’t it be cool if” ideas.
One of those “wouldn’t it be cool if” brainchildren is the Village. In the middle of this tiny town is a church with a cemetery (Friedhof) attached, while all around is flat, arable farm land. It has a distinct flavor, part spaghetti western, part rural France, it brings to mind the kind of wide open landscapes of the Salinas Valley made famous in John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden.
It’s a beautiful little town, the kind of place I’d like to spend a lazy summer weekend in, swimming in the lake, eating fresh local produce straight off the vine. But not when the surrounding fields are full of Tigers and Panthers. And not when the town square is home to a small squadron of Shermans hell bent on defending the town or blowing as many holes in it as possible before they’re sent to kingdom come.
You know that scene in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly right at the end when Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef are in the graveyard, each one of them with itchy trigger fingers? Now imagine that but with tanks. Yeah, you got it. That’s the Village.