After having been locked in a basement for 10 months, we're finally back - and we've brought goodies! We are fully aware of our nature as a silent team, but it's not a result of a lack of progess. It's quite the contrary. We love to release information and media, but we would much rather work on the mod than planning/writing these devblogs. 10 months is a long time though, even for us. So let's get down to business!
The internal demo, as we call it, is going exceptionally well. As of this update, we have 6 out of 8 maps ready for the first phase of internal demo development. Details will follow later in the devblog on what this internal demo is and how we work. The observant reader might have noticed that we said "6 out of 8 maps" and anyone with basic knowledge about the mod knows that it's a 3 episode project with 8 maps a' piece, so what's going on? It is true that we initially aimed for 3 episodes, but when (January 2009) we started work on the internal demo - which basically meant restarting all level design for Episode 1 - we quickly realized that this could be it.
The task would be too big to handle for a team as small as ours and if we wanted to release something, we had to aim a little lower. So what we did was to focus on Episode 1 and its 8 maps, treating the other two episodes as if they didn't exist. We haven't shrunk the story and it still spans over 3 episodes, but we will only tell the first part of it. We haven't completely ruled out making the last two episodes, but it's not something we spend much time thinking about these days. The good part is that episode 1 will be completed. That's as much a 100% guarantee as a modding team can provide.
And now on to the Internal Demo ramblings.
First of all, we would like to make it clear that it is exactly as it sounds; Internal. We will not release anything until the episode is finished, polished and ready to go. It's done when it's done. With that out of the way, we can proceed to the inner mechanisms of the internal demo. We have split up the map creation process into three phases.
The first phase is basically about getting the maps in a stage where you can play them, complete with monsters, functionality and puzzles. They basically need to get into a stage where you, in an unfortunate event, _could_ release the maps before phase 2 and still have a solid product. The maps are, after phase1, a nice and balanced playthrough, but perhaps lacking the extra story details and polish you would expect from a top notch game (or mod). This phase is the longest of the three.
* Plan out the maps
We have the story and we know the locations. Now it's time to plan the maps in terms of areas and puzzles. We usually draw the areas before mapping them.
* Build them architecturally
The actual geometry is built, so the entirety of the level is architecturelly complete.
* Make it playable from start to finish
The map is sealed. Visportals are placed. Doors are inserted. Puzzles are scripted. Gui placeholders are made. After this stage, the entire map should be available for testers to play.
* Monster placement
The initial monster placement is done. The different set-pieces, encounters and spawn-ins are placed/scripted. Rough balance test takes place.
* Sound placement
Rough sound placement stage. The bread and butter sounds are placed; machines, wind, echoes and so forth.
The second phase contains the last content for the mod. The content made in phase 1 is improved upon and new content is inserted. This is especially a phase for polish, narrative and graphical user interfaces. This phase, while extensive, is shorter than the first. This is the phase where we take it from MOD to GAME.
* Implement narrative
The maps have, of course, already been planned and created with the story in mind, but things like PDAs, e-mails, dialogue as well as scripted events that propel the story are implemented at this stage. Phase 1 has prepared the levels for this.
* Fine polish for the areas
The levels are inspected in an area-by-area fashion, writing plans for each. Some may need a lighting makeover. Others need more details. Outside areas will need to have simple brushwork replaced with models. A few areas might get removed or even added. After this stage, everything should be looking sharp and ready-to-go. This also applies for monster encounters, puzzles and so forth.
* GUI work
The placeholder guis will be replaced with better, more graphic versions that integrate seamlessly into the world and help contextualize the puzzles. Main menu, PDA and other larger GUIs will also be touched up/altered.
* Sounds, voices & Music
The final direction of the sound, dialogue and music is done(inserted).
The mod is basically done, but we want it to be the best it can be, so we go through the content again - improving what we can within reason. This phase is the shortest of the three. It can't be allowed to eat up much time. It's a fine balance.
* Performance optimization
This is something that's done throughout both phase 1 & 2, but this is the final pass where everything needs to play smoothly. Minor adjustments are made.
* Final balancing
Any smaller problems with the play are dealt with here.
* Final polish...of everything
We go through the areas again, making sure everything is up to speed.
We hope you enjoy the screenshots and feel a little better informed about what's going on with the mod and where it's at in the development process.
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