Blog 726: Tiberian Renegade

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?

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Blog 724: Close, But No Biscuit — Alien vs. Predator

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!

Blog 723: Close, But No Biscuit — Star Wars — Part 12

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!

Aside 62: Why Have I Not Released Anything Yet?

Aside

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.

Blog 722: Close, But No Biscuit — Star Wars — Part 11

Starkiller Base is such a massive, critical failure of writing. Handed the keys to Star Wars, they did not carry the torch forward and instead sat still to make the same thing again but bigger. If you can’t remember, Disney, we already did that in the original trilogy and only barely got away with it. The galaxy’s biggest ever super-weapon, a footnote barely present for half a film and destroyed as perfunctorily — in the first part of a trilogy!

I don’t see a way that they can escalate beyond this, but neither can I see anĀ Empire Strikes Back-stlye de-escalation that wouldn’t render the thing more meaningless than it already is.

First film in the new age, such promise, such hope — and the ball was thoroughly dropped. Dropped so thoroughly that the best we can do in subsequent things is to sweep it under the carpet… But it’s too big for that. Aaargh! Listen as we outline better ideas.

Blog 721: Tiberian Fun

Real-world associate Chris McPhail and I might have been going through Star Wars in our Close, But No Biscuit podcast of late, but there’s another piece of cultural media that deeply affected my robot designs — Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun. The goody-goody Global Defence Initiatve forces had several grungy, industrial, brutalist, utilitarian hulks that evoked power and strength and resilience so much that I took my first faltering steps into 3D modelling trying desperately to ape them. If Star Wars set the robot wheels in motion for me, then Tiberian Sun gave them life.

Look at it this way — if I’d known the Final Sun level editor existed at the time, I’d have cut my modding teeth on Tiberian Sun over Age of Empires II. Oh yes.

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Blog 720: Close, But No Biscuit — Star Wars — Part 10

And so we come to the original trilogy, the sequence that so very much got the biscuit. The truth is that early exposure to Star Wars defined everything I’ve ever wanted from sci-fi and fantasy in the days hence, and that’s why the lacklustre prequel trilogy and the travesty of The Force Awakens both hurt so much — because the things they tried to build on were fucking brilliant.

Yes, the original trilogy got enough biscuits for everyone, even in those brief moments when it really shouldn’t have. Star Wars is awsome, and though you can try to convince me otherwise by appending crud over the top of it, you’ll never take away the parts that are truly beautiful. (And let’s face it, as a Star Wars fan I’ve spent all my life selectively ignoring parts of the Expanded Universe and elevating others — I wonder if any two people alive have a consistent personal Star Wars headcanon?)