Dear friends, fans, foes and haters of ZEITGEIST,
it's the news.
The news we've all been waiting for, however probably for different reasons.
It has been three and a half years since our last update - and, frankly, three years since the last work on Zeitgeist happened, and now is the time to open up about ZG - since we need help. ALL THE HELP we can get (please scroll down to the end of this novel if you want to see right away what this means).
It has taken me that long, too long, honestly, to pick up some courage and explain where it all got utterly, utterly cocked up.
Although this is not, I repeat: not a post-mortem, I want to explain thoroughly what happened on the way between the summer of 2009 and the summer of 2016, so expect some reading to follow.
My name is T. A. Sichel, sometimes known as "Albatros", and I am the author and creator of "Zeitgeist".
Back in 2009, we started out with a concept, a bag full of flies, fantastic ideas and some talent.
Not much more than that, really.
- a name, a good name as it is a loan word in many languages, easy to pronounce and expresses a lot.
- a setting in the past, in a period of time with extremely fast progress in technology, design and culture
- an enthusiast with no experience in game design other than casual modding.
In the following three years, things escalated quickly.
At first, my goal was to establish the game's name at the ModDB so it would not be taken away anytime soon. In order to substantiate my claims to the title, I published my ideas - mostly images, screenshots and sketches, along with some lines of text.
Unexpectedly, people asked if they could join the team.
I was pleased, and together, our progress drastically increased.
And this is where the escalation started.
Within the next couple of years, a story was written - a real story, a real book, 700+ pages, my personal life aside from "Zeitgeist" came to a complete stand-still. More artists joined the project, and all of a sudden, the idea had turned very, very serious. We received applications from people working on actual TV shows, radio stations, and eventually, a master's thesis was written on the subject of game design, taking Zeitgeist as an example (interestingly on how-to-do-it. One can't help but beg to differ in hindsight :P).
We were featured in several magazines with a total reach of several million readers, and the ideas just kept popping up.
And this was when we ran into problems.
The simple, mundane kind of problems, to be honest.
None of us - by now, a team of six people - was heir to a fortune.
In fact, all of us had very limited funds.
None of us had any prior industry experience OR connections into studios or companies.
And, above all: the SOURCE engine turned out to be a catastrophic obstacle, and the one, big reason that Zeitgeist could never be realized the way we planned to:
- Zeitgeist deserved high-end graphics to deliver the grade of immersion promised by the story and the setting. Instead, we had to cope with texture resolution, shading, animation and workflow concepts of the early 2000s.
- Our open-world-philosophy with functional vehicles, a public transport system, several continents to travel to was severely limited by the technological limitations of SOURCE. Of course, we got it to work, sort-of, but we all knew that we had to severely reduce our expectations if we were willing to go through with it and build the game for this engine.
- The final nail in our coffin: licensing fees for SOURCE were in the ball park of six digits. Absolutely impossible for us to come up with, then and now.
It was then that a different mod team promised us to help us with our struggle to modernize the engine and overcome the
licensing issues. Unfortunately, after becoming commercially successful, they wouldn't even answer our questions anymore, and we were back to square one, or worse.
This was in 2012.
We kept on working, but it was obvious that, without a budget, we would get nowhere. We needed a server infrastructure, motion capturing hard- and software, we had to pay for content that we could not create ourselves, and above all, we had to find a way to turn the mod into a game and get the game published and promoted for any engine licensing to become even remotely possible.
So I decided to get a job, and I did, joining two former VALVE-people (Minh "Gooseman" Le and Tony "Omega" Sergi) who were working on the unofficial successor of Counter-Strike, "Tactical Intervention" (also here somewhere on the IndieDB), which was stricken with hundreds of thousands of bugs and glitches. I gave as much of my creativity to the game and created scenarios, but these things take time, and it wasn't until today, four years later, that the first batch of really decent, exotic, Zeitgeist-like scenarios is about to become part of the game.
Anyway, now at least I made some money while everyone else was still in university, but what little cash I could spend on ZG, quickly turned out not to be a great help at all.
To the contrary - my output decreased immediately, I was working 70+ hours a week, and I lost control over the team and the whole concept.
And none of our showstoppers were solved - not even close...
THE MIDDLE AGES.
In late 2013, we decided that, in order to get Zeitgeist funded, we'd have to make a small game that we could kickstart and gather experience, in order to do the same with ZG at a later time.
AS YOU CAN IMAGINE... we started out very small, with a SOURCE-based, medieval sword playing game set in the early 1300s.
And then, things escalated, again :)...
Within half a year, we had hundreds of pages of storyline, research on architecture and equipment (we're all experts on Staufian castles now), and thousands of images as references.
However, as everybody had grown older, time had become an issue, and our progress slowed down - obviously, new showstoppers had arrived at the scene, and this project, too, was put on hold in 2014.
We had discovered one thing, however.
There was an engine on the market.
Really good looking.
And did I mention - free?
And insanely hard to learn for people who had done nothing other than command line compiles and BSP-Editor work throughout their professional lives :P.
UE4 was released by EPIC in 2014, and this was the greatest discovery we could have made: a free, state-of-the-art video game engine, requiring nothing but a small royalty share to be paid, with a market place slowly filling up with content, and blueprint-coding that, eventually, could be learned by anyone interested to spend enough time on it.
Unfortunately, with the unavoidable end of our "gap filler" game, our team had dissolved. Some of the guys are still with me and will definitely be up for a reboot, but I can't force anyone to spend their leisure time any more, even though I am aware that some of our talent is more than eager to give it another try.
But with the end of our medieval game, the team basically disbanded.
Today, I am still Art Director over at FG, working on "Tactical Intervention" - but with a much more relaxed schedule and, finally, enough time, patience, connections and game design experience to really start over with Zeitgeist; not to mention that, since the appearance of UE4, the game will finally stand a chance to deliver the content that matches our label.
Step by step, this is our plan:
- Build up a team of experts and volounteers to tackle all that is needed for Zeitgeist to become a proper game.
- Create a Demo of "Zeitgeist" on UE4 to send out to publishers and interested parties
- Translate Zeitgeist, Vol. 1, to English, so it can be released to the public.
As I said in the beginning: I will need all the help I can get, from each and every one of you!
- are you an artist, especially one with UE4 experience or the ability to learn to use that engine quickly?
- are you part of a bigger studio or a company and fancy a joint-venture or cooperation of some sort?
- are you skilled in languages with a solid ability of translating from German to English (no worries, you will probably be assisted by a very well-spoken veteran along the way)?
- are you an expert on finances?
- on crowdfunding campaigns?
- OR, do you feel you could contribute in ANY OTHER WAY to making the game become a reality after all those years?
IF any of this is the case, please contact me via PM or directly through "tasichel at gmail.com".
I want to do this, I need to do this, but I definitely can't do it on my own.
As I explained before, there still isn't a budget available, which we will need; and creating the game will require MUCH work. Yes, I am on my own. Yes, we all have to expect long hours, the compulsory blood, sweat, tears, and quite a bit of suffering ahead of us. But hell yes, we can do it.
This is the first time in seven years that I see a perfectly clear way to succeed with this project, and letting it die... well, to put it this way, it has never been less of an option than today.
Again, SORRY for all the waiting and the unfulfilled expectations - it just turned out to be the best idea at the worst point in time, and I can completely understand if you take this opportunity to click the "stop tracking" button on Zeitgeist.
But I do hope you won't - instead, we can make this thing happen yet.
Best regards to all of you and thank you so, so much for your patience.
Til "Albatros" Sichel