Drakensang is a lost gem. Back when the world was lamenting the lack of Baldur’s Gate-a-likes, Drakensang slipped out without much fanfare; I picked it up on a whim seeing it on the shelf in Game (remember when Game had PC shelves? Good times). Based on The Dark Eye system rather than Dungeons & Dragons, it nevertheless promotes the same ideals: a player-created character leads a tight-knit strike team as they vanquish evil in real-time-with-pause combat based on a tabletop system.
I was interested in C&C4: Tiberian Twilight, despite all the rumours of its horror. The core concept — trading standard base building and assault for a mobile super-vehicle — seemed quite interesting to me. For a man that favours the ultra-versatile solo operatives of RPGs and FPSes, the conceit had legs.
The game did not deliver anything of what I imagined; it is exactly as bad as everyone says. So instead of delving into that den of iniquity, let’s indulge instead in what it could have been, had somebody with dreams more like mine been at the helm…
Oh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I set myself 36 features to build in 3 weeks at the end of last year/start of this one and I have completely failed. Ah well, no plan of battle survives contact with the enemy after all. What’s important is that there has been progress at all… right?
Recently, I’ve been focusing on non-unit level hazards: laser tripwires, spike pits…
It seems to me that everything Westwood touched turned to gold. They were most famous for their real-time strategies — the pinnacle being Tiberian Sun itself — but they seemed to diverge from that mould more than history would have you believe and come up roses all the same. Foremost of course was their stab at the hack ‘n’ slash RPG, which produced one of the greatest games of all time, Nox.
Over here, though, we have their first-person shooter. Set in the Command & Conqueriverse, occurring some time during the original C&C, this answers the age-old question that haunts every strategy franchise — what would it be like to be in one of those battles?
All right then. If Tiberian Sun is the unassailable classic of the Command & Conquer franchise, what of the sequel that emerged seven years later? Built merely by “EA” rather than Westwood Studios, is C&C3: Tiberium Wars a dead husk wearing the skin of C&C or a genuine continuation?
Ho ho ho.
From the name, you’re all thinking that Alien vs. Predator is a dodgy franchise cash-in. Cheap cross-over, exploit two fanbases, job done?
In one sense, yes, it’s a bit hammy and less refined than some of its predecessors. In another sense, though, no — as an Alien prequel it holds up really really well. All the fun of Ancient Astronauts but done properly and plausibly, with coherent links to the other films but nothing too forced, continued themes of an uncaring universe rather than putting humanity at the centre of it… If you genuinely like Alien and Aliens, then Alien vs. Predator is actually a very good extrapolation. And it’s fun!
The Force Hits Snooze. This should have been a rollicking finale to Close, But No Star Wars, but we’ve said pretty much all that we need to about The Force Awakens throughout our rambling examination of the Star Wars films, usually as a counterpoint to what the other ones got right. So here we put a few final nails in the coffin and… move on with our lives?
Bah. I only get angry because I care. My answer, of course, is to bear in mind all of this as I work on my own fiction. I will have giant death lasers, yes — but mine will have the narrative framework to support them, and give them due weight when they arrive. I will not be afraid to extrapolate my universe, I will not endlessly recycle the same set-pieces, and I will not let old characters completely smush new ones… I hope. (But rebellions are built on hope, right?)
Since I don’t really want us to end on a downer, remembering only the pain of bad Star Wars rather than the heights of good Star Wars, I’m going to part with this fantastic 15-minute disco medley of the Star Wars theme(s) by Meco. May the force be with us!
To me, game development is an intensely personal activity; it’s art, it’s the purest form of self-expression. I have poured my heart and soul into this game for more than three years now, much as I poured my heart and soul into all the intermediate projects that came before. But people keep saying, “why have you not released anything yet?”
The answer is complex.
First, and probably foremost, as game development is so intensely personal, so I have an intense fear of giving it to other people — because to do so is to give myself to other people. What will they think? What if — and this is very likely, given my understanding of the successes of similar and not-so-similar games — they don’t like it? Ultimately, I would rather the mere potential that my friends will dislike it than the actuality of such, because to dislike or even be indifferent towards this thing into which I have put my life is to dislike or be indifferent towards me. That is how important it is, rightly or wrongly.
Second, as game development to me is Art, so it is bound up in the vision of what I want to create. To give that to people before it is right is to risk that vision being corrupted. Is the game in a good state right now? Yes, yes it is. Does it match the minimum of what I consider to be a coherent and cohesive unit? No, it does not. The game I have planned is large and detailed; while many of the broad strokes and foundations are now in place for the earliest piece of that vision, many more are not.
Third, although it may not be obvious now, there is a heavy narrative component. I have plans for this mythos and I intend to develop it over many different scenarios over many years using the same base engine and materials. Once I release a single thing, then that narrative will no longer be fluid — it will become concrete. Much as I rail against retcons and ass pulls in other media, I do not want to put myself in a position where I will be forced to undo previous work that should be set in stone because I made a hasty choice for the sake of releasing something. Whose deadline am I working to anyway?
Fourth, I am a lone developer, and as I want to develop this single thing over many years after its initial burst, so I only have one shot at making a first impression. I fully intend to spend some money on marketing when the time is right, but I absolutely cannot afford to have that undermined by jumping the gun and starting the ball rolling too soon. I announced enough WC3 map projects Too Soon back in the day to be able to afford to do it to something genuinely important. Triple-A game developers can rely on a buggy first release and promises of massive overhaul patches, but a nobody like me cannot.
So please, do not ask me why I have not released this yet. I am acutely aware of all that I have done so far, all that I have not released versus all that I want to build, and this is incredibly difficult in so many ways. Please, trust me.