When we founded Warhorse we could watch from the windows of our new offices the demolition of an old factory, which gradually turned into a huge hole in the ground, from which a new building started to emerge. Every day we could follow the erection of this mega office building, in the bowels of which there was also to be a massive concert hall one day. It was surprising how few laborers there were working on the construction. At the time there were only nine of us. There were certainly more of them and we used to joke "Let's see who gets the job done first - us building our virtual world, or them building a real world edifice!"
Home Sweet Home!
Another month gone (tempus fugit – it feels more like a week) and it’s once again time for an info update. I’ll begin with practical news – new tiers have been added to our website, so if you want to support us, you can now pledge up to King level and get a beautiful handmade woodblock print, a (real) silver coin, a t-shirt, an action figure and other goodies. King is limited and there are only about 250 pieces left.
So now back to telling you about how the development of Deliverance is progressing. Although it looks from the previous blogs that the work is going without a hitch, the time has come to cool down a little and look at all the stuff that is not going so great and that we’re seriously struggling with. Not that I want to make us look like incompetent amateurs and lead you to a state of despair, but I think you will be interested to know about all the things we come up against. Read more...Got a cloning device?
So another month has passed and here I am to tell you what we’ve been up to. A lot of stuff has happened: we launched our own crowdfunding platform, developed several new game features and finally started designing quests, to name just a few things.
The most important news for us is that we’ve finally launched our own crowdfunding platform. It really took us a long time due to the whole range of various issues that arise when you want to make a complex system that must have no glitches, in view of the fact that it’s about money. The process involved lawyers, negotiations with PayPal and an attempt to use an existing platform, which we later rejected and created our own… Anyway, the outcome is that if you register with the same e-mail that you use on Kickstarter, you will see your existing pledge and you can also raise it. One registration will then do you for access both to the crowdfunding and the forums and it should be possible at any time even for new backers to raise their current pledge. Read more...BACK TO WORK!
It's over a month since our campaign ended and we’ve been keeping a bit quiet. Everyone is probably curious what we’re up to now. So here I am to tell you what our plans are for the upcoming months.
I’ll start with what we did last month. Following a two-month sprint it was time to start dealing with all the stuff that got sidelined, particularly such personal issues as family and taxes. Obviously it was also necessary to reply to the tons of e-mails that had piled up in the inbox and respond to all the interviews we had no time to respond to during the campaign. Following the success of our campaign our doorbell hasn’t stopped ringing and we’ve had a whole series of visits from various newspapers and magazines (like Forbes, for example), as well as a few fellow developers. Read more...WHAT'S NEXT
Our pitching tour over, we went back to work. A moderately nervous team was waiting there for us. “How did it go? Does anybody want it? Are we going to carry on? Can I take a mortgage? Should I be looking for a new job?” “You know, we’d like to know that, as well! But this, ladies and gentlemen, is the gaming industry, and that means everybody has plenty of time!” Everybody but us, of course.
If you, like our colleagues, were expecting our phones to start ringing off the hook one day after our return, swarming us with promises of millions of dollars, then you were expecting incorrectly. The first call finally came about a week later, and it was from our agents, letting us know who had already passed on our game. Very disheartening.
One of the biggest blows was being turned down by a very promising, international publishing company. Although the U.S.-based wing of the corporation seemed very excited about the project, their European representative let us know that they didn’t think the game would fly with Americans. We’ve faced rejection from other companies, too, of course, but that one was perhaps the most painful. Read more...THE ART OF WAITING
Me and an unnamed publisher.
Last time we left off just at the point when we were embarking on a pitching tour of publishers to try and push our game on them. So it’s obvious what’s coming this time. Yes, you are about to find out what was conjured up at those mysterious meetings with the people who decide what games you get to play. Will ours be one of them?
We were fairly well prepared for the trip – I would say even well above standard. We had a working version of the game that looked good and contained a half-hour quest with all the basic game mechanics fully functioning, a several minutes long trailer, lots of screenshots, a presentation and a nice flyer on luxurious paper – all data recorded on flash disks shaped like gold bars and packed in leather cases. You’ve got to make an impression, and when I compare it to how we pitched other games in the past, this is a whole other league (you can read about the preparation of these materials in our previous blogs hereand here). Read more...WARHORSE WORLDWIDE PITCHING TOUR 2013
An image from our storyboard, this one was not drawn by me
A strict deadline for all things to come together invariably leads to “funny” situations. You may for example have fully functional pathfinding and a completely operational crafting minigame and when combined into a single whole, both will stop working for some unfathomable reason. The likeness of that happening increases with the number of systems that are being joined together, as a result, when everything is merged, nothing works.
It goes without saying that the bar goes up as well. You stop overlooking “tiny” glitches like clipping (graphics that vanish when they get too close to camera) in combat. It didn’t bother anybody so far, everyone was happy that it’s possible to fight at all and we saw superficial stuff, like two weapons intersecting each other, as something to be fixed later. But when you show the game to somebody, the clipping and the weapons intersecting each other are the first things they’re going to notice in combat. It doesn’t matter that no other game ever had combat like this: it flickers and looks unfinished, so it must be rubbish. Read more...VIDEO AND CABIN FEVER
A fetching slide from our presentation
In the last entry I covered our overall strategy and how we started to get ready for pitching the game to publishers, I talked mostly about the game demo. But there is more to a pitch than just a playable demo, it includes various documents, screenshots, artworks and most importantly a PowerPoint presentation that summarizes everything in a nice and accessible way and which may be the most important thing of all. We are going to discuss the video next time, today, I am going to submit for your reading pleasure an essay on working the PowerPoint. It’s gonna be exciting!
If you want to be successful, you have to know how to sell yourself. You know the drill: Elevator pitch, describe your project in one sentence, what are the most important features of your game… If you want your game to see the light of day eventually, you have to have all the answers at the ready. For some games, based on one or two central ideas, this can be done more-or-less easily, but it’s a daunting task for an RPG where the combination of everything that goes in is more important than any single part. Read more...POWERPOINT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Real screenshot from our game
Long time no see! We’ve been silent for five long months, and you’re sure to wonder why. What was going on here? Why this long pause? To put it simply: we’ve been quite busy. We were finalizing the game prototype for a Publisher pitch that our future basically hinged on, so we were focusing on that and blogs unfortunately had to be sidelined. Besides, we didn’t want to publish too much information at that important moment as it’s certainly better when your potential partner learns the salient facts from you directly and doesn’t have to hunt for them on social media. Now we finally have some time so I’ll try to catch up and write an account of what was going on here.
As you may know, we are a startup financed by a private angel investor. We received funding for development of a prototype to demonstrate to Publishers. If they’re interested, (i.e. willing to finance at least some of the development and publish the game), we move from prototype development to full production and you’ll get your game. If they’re not interested, we don’t move anywhere and you’ll get nothing and we’re out of business. Of course, there are other alternatives, like Kickstarter, but this is not what we’re focusing on right now. Read more...LOOKING BACK
A screenshot from the leaked video. The image quality is not indicative of our current visual fidelity.
A piece of our “next gen” video from the game has been leaked! This means that anyone who’s been waiting for a chance can finally see at least a fragment of what we’re doing and judge whether it’s worthwhile keeping an eye on us or not. To pre-empt any rumours and misinterpretations of this tiny bit of the environment on show, taken out of the context of an hour-long presentation at a game industry conference, it’s best to clarify just what’s going on here and how our game is looking, and to recapitulate on the development so far, which I wanted to do anyway. So here we go.
Last weekend there was a small gaming conference for developers and students in Prague, Czech Republic, where we have our HQ. Alongside colleagues from 2K Czech, Disney, CD Projekt RED, Cauldron and others, we were also amongst the speakers and we had a whole five presentations on the agenda. The Czech game scene is small and development needs support, so we took it from the ground up and described the work on all aspects of a modern game from a purely practical perspective. I gave a talk on game design and tried to describe as accurately as possible how it proceeds. So as not to just blandly theorize, I showed our design documents. Viktor Bocan followed up with a description of how the game design is brought to life by means of the script and Roman Zawada, our main technical graphic designer, demonstrated how the stuff that has been designed is fleshed out in the form of 3D graphics, which he illustrated using the very piece of terrain that was leaked in the video. Michal Hapala, one of our programmers, then described the work of the programmers with a licensed engine and showed everything we were customizing for our game (and there’s lots), while Martin Klíma described how we function on an organizational level. Read more...WE'VE SPRUNG A LEAK!
Autor v obležení adolescentních zombií. Gamescom není pro měkoty.
Poslední dva měsíce pro nás byly docela rušné. Warhorse už je na světě rok a velmi rychle se blíží datum, kdy máme naplánováno dokončení, pro naši budoucnost veledůležitého, milníku - takzvaného vertcal slice, na němž celou dobu usilovně pracujeme. Vertical slice je, jak název napovídá, řez hrou. Měla by to být velmi názorná ukázka všech zásadních herních mechanismů, grafické podoby a zpracování důležitých prvků. Pro nás to znamená vytvořit poměrně velký kus grafiky (u open world hry se těžko dělá jeden level :), do něj nascriptovat reprezentativní quest, který bude obsahovat všechny důležité herní mechanismy, jako kompletní ovládání postavy, dialogy, soubojový systém, život a AI NPC a k tomu přidat nějakou tu animovanou sekvenci, dabing a uživatelské rozhraní. Celé by to pak mělo vypadat pokud možno tak dobře, jako finální hra. U střílečky bychom prostě udělali jeden level a spoustu mechanismů využili přímo z Cryengine, u RPG to máme o něco složitější. Museli jsme kupříkladu naprogramovat velmi složitý oblékací systém, který v žádném 3rd party enginu nenajdete, ale takový je život. Read more...VELKÉ DOBRODRUŽSTVÍ V KOLÍNĚ
The author, beset by a gang of teenage zombies. Gamescom is not for the faint of heart.
Things have been pretty hectic around here the last couple of months. Warhorse is up and running and the hour is fast approaching of planned completion of a very important milestone – the 'Vertical Slice' which we've been working hard on 24/7. As the name implies, a Vertical Slice is a cross-section of the game and should be a very polished demonstration of all the game’s basic mechanisms, its graphic look and its treatment of the important elements. For us, this means generating quite a chunk of art (in an Open World game doing one level is not exactly an option), scripting into it a representative quest, which will contain all the important game mechanisms, such as complete control of the character, the dialog, the combat system, AI controlled NPCs, and throwing in an animation sequence or two, voiceovers and user interface. As far as possible, the whole package should look as good as the finished game. In the case of a shooter, we’d simply do one level and exploit lots of mechanisms straight from CryEngine; with an RPG it’s a bit more complicated than that. For example, we had to program a very complex dressing system, which you won’t find in any 3rd party engine. But such is life. Read more...COLOGNE REVISITED
Niko Vuori, General Manager at Zynga
The most depressing thing about the recent kerfuffle about Zynga’s disgruntled workers were not the comments of Niko Vuori, Zynga General Manager, who assured the sheep in his flock that "NO ONE IS FORCING ANYONE TO WORK HERE AGAINST THEIR WILL [sic]", but the reactions of other developers to the effect of "be a man, dude, game development is not for wimps", followed by the yarns of the saintly days of yore when we all slept under our desks, ate cold pizza and ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when. Read more...CRUNCH AS A PENANCE
I’m an eternal malcontent, hater and troll. When I look at something, I immediately know that, if I’d done it, I would have done it differently and naturally better. I take to few things that I would not tinker with and simply enjoy them for what they are. Many people have a problem with that and I’m not even very surprised by it. Not everyone has a need to consider things in such detail; most are content to enjoy by their reaction and grouches like me pointing out the errors only spoil their enjoyment. Who does it bother that half-naked barbarian women are running around in three feet of snow in their favorite RPG? Maybe only miserable female cosplayers who decide to have their picture taken for real in a fur bikini in a snowdrift and discover that at -20 degrees it’s good to be wearing more than a thong, tassels over your nipples and a helmet and that their sword has frozen to their hand.
Cryengine? Unreal? Reality, and it is going to stay out of reach for some time in this level of detail.
You are Krutor, a wild barbarian from the land of Morkroch. You have travelled a very long journey, across high mountains to the famous imperial city of Lhota, the capitol of the world and largest agglomeration in the known universe, whose fame touches the stars.
The city consists of precisely fifteen buildings (one of which is the imperial palace); the town is inhabited by 30 NPCs, including Emperor Lojza, Archmage Lotrando and all of the members of the guilds of thieves, mages and warriors.
You visit the emperor, who sits alone in the throne hall, and he assigns you with an quest. The land is terrorised by an evil dragon from hell and Lojza is powerless. He has sent an entire imperial army against it, but the monster has killed all five soldiers. Now, he needs a hero like you! You have to find and climb the mystical mountain, Lohen, on which no human has ever set foot, and behead the dragon. Read more...A LESSON IN CARTOGRAPHY IN POTATO LAND
Screenshot from CryEngine 3 from Crytek's promotional materials. (© Crytek)
This time, I won’t be bitching about the evil game industry and how things suck for a change, but surprisingly, I will tell you about how great everything is.
We’ll have to go back in time to August 2011, when we were establishing the company. At the time, Warhorse was becoming reality but it wasn’t incorporated yet, so we were still just a bunch of unemployed guys.
But we needed to get going in order to be able to start testing the technology that we’ll use for our game from day one when our people arrive in the office and we needed to start negotiating with all of the technology providers. So we printed nice looking business cards, created the website to look like an actual company and went to Games Convention in Germany to do some business. Read more...CHOOSING YOUR RELIGION
HOW TO MAKE CALL OF DUTY KILLER FOR LESS
So, how many people do you need to make a triple-A game? In the last century it was anywhere from one nerd, to “big” teams of 15 to 30 pizza-eating individuals in a garage. I remember my reaction, when I saw Daley Thompson’s Olympic Challenge for Atari ST, back in the days when games were made by two people – a programmer and the guy who did everything else – while Daley was done by a team of five and the graphics were completely digitized. My first thing thought was: “Oh boy, nobody needs artists anymore, the good old days are gone...”
Screenshot from Daley Thompson’s Olympic Challenge, a high-budget, AAA, blockbuster hit from 1988
Luckily, I was very wrong. At the time. Read more...CHECK YOUR PEOPLE
A lot of people send me emails that go something like this: “Dear Mr. Vávra, I have a great idea for a brilliant game that no one has created yet. Could you please give me some advice as to how I could get it made?” I’m never really sure how to answer them as I was asking myself the same question for years. And these were not the years before I started making games; this was when I was actually making them. How the hell can I create the game I want to create?
The author giving a lecture about game development; a topic he is sometimes not so sure about himself. Photo: Jaroslav Wagner
Two years ago, I decided I have “found” the answer. I have to do it myself. After ten years in the games industry and a couple of million games sold, I should know how to do it. So I packed my stuff, left a well-paid job at one of the top five publishers, with a view to starting my own company and doing things my way. Yes, I am that naive idiot! Read more...LET THE STRUGGLE BEGIN!