This is the first, in hopefully, a monthly series of ongoing blogs about the development of Black Powder \\ Red Earth(BPRE) from the designer/creative team perspective. My name is Jon Chang, the creative and design lead for the game Black Powder \\ Red Earth. BPRE is an isometric action game heavily influenced by the original PC games Syndicate and Syndicate Wars. This is important and I will come back to this in a minute ;-)
BPRE started as a short story about military contracting that eventually became a graphic novel series (that you can pick up on Amazon) where the goal was to tell a story that was almost documentary in it's nature without being filled with out of left field zingers, ie control wasn't selling the protagonists out nor would the story turn into a OMFG we've got to save the world type narrative. It was written after years of research and interviews with people from all walks of life who were living through the GWOT and the fallout from it, first hand.
Between the short story and the graphic novel, I had linked up with some very talented people who would go on to form the core group at Echelon Software. We started the company based on the notion of social FPS gaming, ie something that took the customization, questing and other features from MMO type experiences but broke those out into a browser/mobile browser based social experience, leaving the core gameplay to happen on the desktop/gaming rig. We spent 2 years on the demo, working with publishers before we killed the project. It came down to: Publishers aren't comfortable with new models, Publishers did not believe in the PC platform and finally Publishers want to own everything. All were deal breakers for us so we scuttled the game and moved on.
Each of the partners started working on new games, using everything from card game to board game formats to test, while pursuing day jobs at a variety of other companies to "keep the lights on". For myself, I had been doing a lot of work in the real-world energy, intelligence, tactics and training industries. In 2010, an opportunity presented itself to join my long time friend Travis Haley, as he left Magpul Dynamics to form a new company - Haley Strategic Partners.
I had worked with Travis since late 2007, helping him with his company SDI Tactical and then building the branding and design for the company Magpul Dynamics. Haley Strategic would take the work we did at MD and bring it back to our roots with a focused core team delivering innovative training, original products and world class marketing services.
We had already been known for being one of the top weapons manipulation training shops in the world, but we wanted to take things to the next level. After months of brainstorming, trial runs and tuning, HSP developed a tactical problem solving program called Disruptive Environments. Built around real-world problem solving, D3(Disruptive Environments) was essentially game design applied to a advanced training program. And by extension, it inspired the development of the game we are building today.
Now one thing I want to emphasize, we are making a game. Not a sim. As someone who actually can work a carbine and handgun and knows tactics, I can tell you that real world doesn't work in any game and likely never will. In fact, I've found games like BF3, Modern Warfare and (the original)Syndicate allowed for more believable application of tactics than any ARMA or Rainbow Six game I have played to date.
That said, as a gamer, I love action games. Echelon is building a thinking mans action game. There are stealth elements, surveillance elements and kinetic elements, but these are abstracted. That said, combat as it is designed is far more complex than flank and counter flank. I will get into some of the thinking and experience that drove the core features of the game in coming blogs but for now...
Those looking for further info or ways to support us, the lead developer of BPRE maintains a tumblr blog where you can see some of his errant experiments gone amok at Altaymurat.tumblr.com
Our Facebook portal is here.
Our website is BlackPowderRedEarth.com
If you want to pick up merch, all funds go directly to supporting the further development of this game :)
Thanks. More to come.