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 Post subject: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:19 pm 
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We have an internal project planner where we've been discussing things, we are now going to be moving some of the themes into here so everyone can see our chat. I'd like the community to know we want them to feel involved and for the most part will just discuss everything openly within our forums! Only devs can post in the dev area but everyone can post in their thoughts and opinions in the "The Round Water Cooler".

Kevin mcdonagh Fri, 5 Dec at 8:12pm
Well the CO system is going to be first on the agenda for a good seeing to once we can get this tiling bug dealt with. Instead of having classes for each of the COs we’ll abstract out all of their main attributes and generisize the whole CO system. If we make a system that parses files from a folder called ‘characters’ then we’ll immediately cut down on like 30 classes. A good start to doing this and getting familiar with it woul dbe to start developing junit test for the existing COs. If we have junit tests that pass as green on their original behaviour, when it comes to implementing a new system, we’ll be 100% sure that they are doing the same thing. Tiny baby tests are fine, anything is better than nothing :).


Coconut Tank Sat, 6 Dec at 2:32am
That can be done with a simple interpreter I guess.
The reason we didn’t eventually do so was due to the unique effects introduced with each CO, many which had strong conditional requirements and unique calculations. If we tried creating a interpreter that could encompass all of the different mechanics that all the COs were using, it would have had very massive, very strict syntax, and be pulling information from various sources all the time. It wouldn’t have granted much gain over having the COs be individual java classes. This was something many people noticed part ways through the project, but we were already very far ahead with how we had designed the COs, so we had decided to do things differently for the next iteration, or the next project.

So then: how complicated do you intend to have COs be this time around?

...

Kevin mcdonagh Mon, 15 Dec at 8:53pm
I for one would like to see your contributions focusing in graphical elements. Any precious donated time donated should be put to the best effect so maybe you could start thinking about how we are going to invent a few basic characters for out of the box functionality. We’d like to see custom wars moving into the lime light as a project that stands as a great game project in it’s own right. We will need to find ways to detach the project from it’s initial roots while still maintaining its core values. It is in the best interests that we get enthusiastic artists like yourself generating some ideas as to how we can quickly make custom wars a stand alone project.

At the moment we are working on just getting it solid and working again but as soon as we have this release out in January we will be thinking about the content. Maybe this would be a good subject to start generating some much needed action in the custom wars forums!

...


nart s Tue, 16 Dec at 5:58pm

We actually already have a majority of original characters. Making CW completely original is no bigger task than simply removing the some existing COs and replacing the terrain tile and army overworld sprites with custom made ones, as well as replacing some menu / interface / miscellaneous graphics. After this is done, we would still have a quite rich and playable Advance Wars style game. But this is only if we are planning to iterate on top of the old Custom Wars – If this project is about starting afresh with new content and gameplay, there is obviously more work to be done. Which one it is? We need an answer to this before we start focusing on content.

Also at some point you might want to think about appointing leaders for the art and design departments, unless you are planning to manage everything yourself.


Kevin mcdonagh Tue, 16 Dec at 6:46pm
On the Direction of project

It is essential that we move away from any dependency on the original inspiring wars series in order to ensure the continued existence of the project. If we appropriately externalize the resource management into a dynamic plugin architecture I see no reason why we can’t have plugins which accurately describe the the styles and behavior of each of the inspiring wars series, simply by dropping the resources in the appropriate location.

As long as we can still offer the expected functionality then fans will definitely be happy but in order to do this appropriately we will have to offer this externally from our core offering. So as a base distribution we will offer original content if anyone sees fit to add plugins then so be it, we are simply making a game which is inspired by the wars gameplay. Obviously if we are going to invest time in our original offerings then we’ll make them as excellent as we can!


On the management of the custom wars project

I’m glad you asked about that, I could never manage everything on my own. On the face of it, it looks like I’ve slipped into a management lead, but that just tends to happen in open source projects. It’s a Cathedral and Bazar effect where rather than roles being dealt to people from on high, people naturally are deemed to be filling a role by the rate and quality of their contributions. In my mind Urusan is still the guiding force behind this project but I believe he is very busy just now.

Nart’s to be honest I’m still relatively new in the community so I would feel uncomfortable ‘appointing’ anyone to positions without first knowing how everyone felt. In saying that though, if you have contributed work in the past then all you have to do is gravitate towards the role and the people that matter will respect your opinion based on those contributions. If everyone would like to talk about roles and such I’d be happy to do so with everyone in the new year. If you could start actively thinking about the art direction then it would be appreciated by everyone. If people would like to outline any areas they would like to focus in then I suggest that they just make it clear that is where they will concentrate their efforts and then we’ll update the Skills Area appropriately. Cool?


nart s Tue, 16 Dec at 8:35pm

I am fully in support of a plug-in based architecture, good to know we are on the same page on that. It just seems the most logical course to take, especially considering how radically different ideas people had when we last polled for opinions about which direction a “Custom Wars 2” should take. With an easily extendable engine at least, we could have several teams and individuals realise their own unique visions for their dream Wars game without programmers having to divide their attention between different branches of the wars engine.

Very well, we will see who will gravitate to the leadership roles. I warn however, that if an Art Lead may be relatively unimportant, the Lead Designer definitely is not. Because of the wide variety of conflicting opinions people always have, we need to come up with some way to define and maintain the overall direction for this project, and the best way is to have a person do it, rather than delegate the task to a faceless political construct like a voting booth, which will just give us a stream of garbage disguised as decisions.

Unfortunately, even though I have spent one and a half years in this community, I can’t give a definite answer on who would be the best man for this job. On the internet everyone seems to think they are a rising star game design genius, and it is difficult to judge someone’s ability at this line of work without actually seeing them do it. We can’t just randomly take someone with some cool sounding ideas and make him the designer, that would be just inviting disaster.

The only person who I know has proven himself at design related work on CW, is CO_Frosty, who took care of balancing the original game. However, the last I saw him, he seemed quite busy with real life. I’m not sure if he would be willing to take this job again, but contacting him wouldn’t hurt. Also, it should be noted that game design is not only about balance – we need someone with imagination and storywrighting abilities, and all Frosty ever seemed to be concerned with were gameplay mechanics. Though of course, there is the possibility for the design lead to appoint specialist designers to take care of those parts of the game he is not confident with.

Probably the best way to search for a designer would just be to ask every designer wannabe to write up an essay on why they think they would fit the job, as well as a detailed description of what kind of game they would want to turn Custom Wars into, then post their visions on the forum. Then we could judge the coherency, plausibility as well as sheer “coolness factor” of everyone’s vision, as well as take community reaction into factor before we decide who we accept for design lead.

I would be happy to think about art direction myself, but I can’t really do any meaningful decisions on an art style before I know what kind of game this will be in terms of story, theme and overall atmosphere. Will it be bright and humourous like the earlier Wars World games, or dark and serious, like Days of Ruin? Or something different entirely? We need someone take the lead design role to get answers to questions like these. Of course I could just decide myself and draw the kind of art I want, but do we want artists and programmers making decisions that belong to designers?

What if some other artist comes around and starts making art in a completely different style and a part of the community likes it? Who will then be right? If there’s no one with the authority to lay down directions and solve conflicts we will, at the best case, end up with a patchwork of random conflicting motifs that don’t form a coherent whole, and at the worst case scenario we will fall apart and nothing will get done. Creative anarchy is, quite honestly, a horrible way to manage a game project.


Kevin mcdonagh Tue, 16 Dec at 9:37pm

Loads of good points and it has been mentioned that people felt lost in a total lack of singular focus last time round. As for the essays idea, yeah we could do that and open it to the forums, announcing that we are looking for campaigns, Cos and units.

I will also directly contact promising individuals to ask if they are interested in working on writing / designing for the project in some capacity. Or just encourage them to post their ideas in the forum.

I am inclined to think that those who do provide good outline for campaigns wouldn’t necessarily be ideal for the sole responsibility of bringing their ideas into reality. They will need help from the likes of me and yourself and probably people with sort of related experience. So yeah you’re right there will need to be some people who solely concentrate on balance and play. As I said there are no obvious candidates just now. We could maybe start developing a ‘game bible’ based off of the back of the original wiki. A game bible for those unfamiliar is a detailed overview of a game, it’s themes, characters, etc. Most of the content never makes it to the game but just acts as a good portal to compile it all together and get everyone on the same page. Then eventually we’d just appoint someone the role of taking a hard edge against it finding a beginning, middle and end in the muddle.


nart s Wed, 17 Dec at 5:33pm
I have thought about this, and realised that since we’re going for the easily customisable “mugen” approach, we don’t necessarily need a grand vision or anything for CW2 or whatever we want to call our “default game”. All it needs to do is showcase the engine’s ability to run an wars style game and be 100% original content for the graphics, text and audio. Mechanics-wise we could be conservative and base it off one of the official AW-games, preferably the first one because it’s the simplest – avoiding the whole balance mess that always comes with brand new mechanics. The theme and story could be whatever the artists think is cool, and they would likely be something simple and generic. A simple default game like this would do just fine until people with ideas and enthusiasm start to congregate and plan a more complex mod of their own, and also people could build their mods off the default game by the means of expanding it with plugins.

Kevin mcdonagh Wed, 17 Dec at 7:06pm
Yeah that’s what I mean, we could set our original aims against achieving a good quality game with a campaign of maybe 4 levels. While we are at it, we can be warey of the fact that the plugins must work excelletly for our user base. Looks like we are on the same page.

Paul W Thu, 18 Dec at 12:57am
Really, the official content should be a showcase of what the engine can accomplish. The end users should be able to open up our plugin scripts, read them, figure out how they work and do whatever the hell they want that the engine is capable of.


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 Post subject: Re: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:46 am 
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I've thought about this more actually and we may need to go even further than the AD1 style game in our release. Looking at the classes as they exist just now the idea of a CO or 'officer', there is lots of game specific logic in there. This would make it quite hard to extend for instance if you had a plugin game. The plugin game may for instance not implement special powers in the same way or not even implement special powers at all! But at a programmatic level when they cam to implement the CO interface (or extend it as it stands) they would have to implement all of that redundant stuff. If we are aiming for an as simple as possible approach then we my have to go really simple and then offer a base plugin.


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 Post subject: Re: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:55 am 
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I'm personally fine with an AW1 sans the COs. However I imagine powers and special abilities would have been expected since people seem to strongly associate AW with these concepts.


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 Post subject: Re: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:30 am 
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You are right first a basic version then add features one/one without modifying the basic.

So we need a list of things that should be in the first basic version:
I'll just give some examples this really deserves a topic on it's own
fog, moving(of units), scrolling?, resource loading gui: drawing a map, main menu, scripting

cos are really just hax that change the game totally, so not a good idea to have them in the basic version.


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 Post subject: Re: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 7:51 pm 
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Yeah you are right about those.
Lets put a list together under the topic that narts started: http://forums.customwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=109&t=8818


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 Post subject: Re: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:10 pm 
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I think the technical specification and feature list for the engine should be kept in a separate topic from the game design document, which is specific to the demo game.


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 Post subject: Re: New Custom Wars Project and Team Objectives
PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:51 pm 
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Yeah you're right narts I started it in a seperate topic:
viewtopic.php?f=109&t=8826


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