Our man, sser, conscripted a few Codexers and lured them into a wizard's arena, forcing them to fight to the death. After surviving, he decided to write up a preview of Julian Gollop's Chaos Reborn and provided some of his thoughts regarding the Kickstarter phenomena.
Gollop can get away with a more simplistic approach to presentation because he has been plying his trade in turn-based strategies since, well, apparently since a bunch of kids wouldn’t let him play their boardgames. The man, once a spurned nerd, is now a master of game design, and Chaos Reborn has all the nuts and bolts of a Gollop-designed affair.
The rules of Chaos Reborn are pretty simple: you are a wizard placed on a hex-based battlemap and must do battle with up to three other players by casting spells from a limited spellbook, ultimately winning the game by destroying the enemy wizard, or by scoring enough points to win in the case of a stalemate. Think of it as like Chess, but you start the game with only the King and you build your playing pieces around you as the game evolves.
Got any good stories from three years of development on the game?
Oh man, there are so many little things. From disasters like key personnel affected by serious illness, localization companies going bankrupt while you’re waiting for the game to master, there’s always stuff like that happening. But at least -- the difference with self-publishing is that you still feel stress, but it’s a different stress because you have a greater sense of control.
You feel like you aren’t totally swept away by the current, you feel more in control. You have a larger margin to improvise without having to defend your decisions or worry about what the publisher will think about your choices.
I think we were able to move a lot faster in that sense, because we could just call a meeting with key personnel and just decide to do something, because all the politics that surround publishing deals just aren’t a factor.
Strategy & Tactics: WWII is on Steam Greenlight. It's aiming to be a historically accurate, grand strategy game taking place during, you guessed it, World War II.
We’ve done our research on the major battles of the time and tried to replicate the troops available to each side as accurately as possible.
Accessible combat system
Our combat system that’s easy enough to understand for new players, but flexible enough to allow the hardcore gamer to make strategic flourishes. Old school wargamers are going to enjoy this game - but we don’t think new strategy gamers will have trouble joining in.
Five historical campaigns
These campaigns include the bloodiest battles of the Western Front, Eastern Front, the Pacific Front and Africa, and even the battles in Manchukuo and Sakhalin.
Two alternate history campaigns
These two longer campaigns follow the (fictional) war between the successful allies. It features battles in Alaska, Mexico and Canada - and even a last stand by the Third Reich at the South Pole!
As they progress through the campaigns, players can upgrade different aspects of their military, economy and research capabilities, with upgrades appropriate to the time.
Citybound has received a Road to Alpha video, showcasing some of the new features that have been added to the game.
▪ Made the procedural building system dynamic, so buildings are generated all the time and not just once.
▪ Connected the procedural building system with the zoning system
- Different zone types have different typical lot sizes.
- Lots are constrained to zone boundaries.
- Lots now are just rectangles, but in the future will become more complex shapes to fill out as much of the available space as possible.
▪ Implemented a procedural geometry system for buildings
- Started to create a vocabulary of architectural patterns
- Created low density building styles for agriculture, residential, mixed residential/commercial, commercial and industrial zones
Eurogamer has an interview with Julian Gollop, mostly about what he has done since creating XCOM. Check it out.
Do you remember Julian Gollop?
Gollop created XCOM - not the recent, superb remake from Civilization developer Firaxis - the original, the game that makes me feel a little tired when I realise it's 20 years old.
It was a game that, for some, perfected turn-based strategy. It influenced so many who played it, and so many who would go on to make games themselves, including Jake Solomon, the lead designer of the remake. The softly-spoken British designer's done well for himself, then. He's left his mark.
But where has he been these past few years? What's he been up to?
Most recently Gollop worked for Ubisoft's Bulgarian studio in Sofia. He led development on Nintendo 3DS launch title Ghost Recon Shadow Wars, a turn-based strategy game that played like a Julian Gollop game despite the branding that helped sell it. "I really enjoyed that one," Gollop tells me. "I think the game was pretty good."
Funnily enough, Shadow Wars spawned from development of a bigger game for multiple platforms that didn't end up seeing the light of day. That unreleased game was in development when Gollop pitched Ghost Recon Shadow Wars as "XCOM meets Ghost Recon for Nintendo 3DS", but because he already had a Ghost Recon game in production, and Ubisoft has a multi-format release principle that still governs much of its output today, the powers that be called for Gollop to add a Nintendo DS version to the slate. The DS version became a 3DS version because the 3DS had been announced, and the big Ghost Recon game Gollop had been working on was canned. And so, Ghost Recon Shadow Wars the 3DS launch title was born. It was "pretty good", as the understated Gollop puts it. Most agree it was one of the best 3DS launch titles.
After wrapping up Shadow Wars Gollop worked as the co-creative director of Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation for the PlayStation Vita - at least for the first year of its development. But it seems Gollop enjoyed working on Assassin's Creed less than Ghost Recon.
"Assassin's Creed, well, it was an interesting project," he says. Gollop spent a lot of time working on the game's character, its setting and story, as well as some of its more unique elements, such as the persona system, which allowed protagonist Aveline to change into one of three outfits that switched up her stealth options. But then real life threw a spanner in the works.
Gollop wanted to take paternity leave to help his wife with their twins. What he ended up doing was taking six months off "to contemplate my future". "I realised my future did not lie with Ubisoft. It lay with doing the games I really wanted to do." Gollop had, after five years working for Ubisoft, gone back to indie game development. Ubisoft continued with the development of Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation and it released on Vita in October 2012.
I guess it's fair to say I'd forgotten about Julian Gollop, however mean that sounds. After leaving Ubisoft and as next generation console madness went ballistic, he slipped from my mind. Every now and then I'd see something online about the new XCOM and I'd think, what's Julian Gollop up to? And then I'd think of something else, probably to do with resolutions or frame-rate.
Gollop might have been out of the public eye, but he was still thinking intently about creating games. He first had the idea to launch a Kickstarter for a remake of his cult classic fantasty turn-based strategy game Chaos in October 2012.
▪ Command armies and build bases from above.
▪ Take control of tanks, robots and aircraft to fully immerse yourself in the combat.
▪ Design and construct bases which you can then walk and fight inside.
▪ Control doors, turrets, alarm, forcefields to defend against attack.
▪ An extensive technology tree featuring over 200 technologies ranging from lasers to weather control.
▪ Sneak into the enemy base and steal technology or shut down their power grid.
▪ Vast array of planets to explore and strip mine.
▪ Multiplayer, as there’s nothing more satisfying then nuking your friends.
And with some I mean 22 minutes of it. And of something rather unexpected. Ultimate General: Gettysburg is actually looking pretty good. Not just with a rather neat graphical style but also in showing off an AI that might show something of a character. Which is rather astounding for an automaton. It all reminds me a bit of Sid Meier's Gettysburg! as speed goes. Hope they'll tone it down a bit. Otherwise a lot more interested than I was before. Will we have something to rival classics like Sid Meier's Gettysburg and Civil War Generals II to look forward too? We'll see.
RPS: You mentioned mechanics that are never properly explained earlier – I get the impression, with JA 2, that nobody quite knew when to stop. You hear about feature creep pulling people off track or delaying games, or even preventing them from releasing altogether, but JA 2 seems like a game where people kept plugging new things into it and somehow it worked, it all came together. That’s rare, right?
Lund: (laughs) Yes! It is rare and that’s one of the issues when working with something like this. Where do you stop? And so we know that what’s important to the success is to have as much modding as possible. To utilise the community that’s still around in The Bear’s Pit and similar places. We want them to be able to add all the stuff they want into it.
Right now, they are sitting and modding a 15 year old game. It’s crazy. We want to give this brand another 10-15 years by moving into a 3d engine that allows for new kinds of modding. I’m really hoping that it gets that kind of success.
RPS: Are there things that you thought would work, or that the Jag or Kickstarter community thought would work, that when you’ve prototyped them you’ve realised that they’re just not very enjoyable? There’s sometimes a danger of overcomplicating and veiling the core mechanics.
Lund: A lot of the things that we ended up not implementing have been on the plan since day one, since our aim was to take JA 2 as a baseline. We have the source code, as others do as well, and we’ve been fishing through to dig out the mechanics. Some things were a given, that we knew had to be the same way, and we haven’t diverted far at all. It was important to modernise without taking it too far from JA 2.
A lot of the modernisation is interface-based, so adding context-sensitive cursors and more information in the HUD. That explains some of the underlying mechanics and in JA 2 there were mechanics that were never explained – we talked to some of the original developers and dug through that source code, and found that there are a lot of things that have no explanation and no real impact.
So we had a discussion. Do we remove those things because they have no real impact? That’s the kind of thing we work out in prototypes.
Experimentation-wise, the changes we have made from our original plan is mostly on the story side. The original plan that we thought up and used on the Kickstarter is a Cold War setting, where we did have remnants of the Soviet Union and the US forces fighting on an island. The logo was the Hammer and Sickle. That has totally changed as we moved through the story planning.
The alpha for the game will be released tomorrow for backers.
Tropico 5 has a released date: May 23rd for PC. The PS3 and 360 releases have currently not been confirmed, I'm sure the Codex is on the edge of their seats with anticipation for those to be announced.