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development (part 4 of 6)

[October 2003] Chris and Andy now focussed on bringing our one and only level to life. At some point the rich blues of the previous versions were lost and replaced with a cold and empty red, which was probably a mistake in hindsight, but we had only just created the Virus and suddenly everything had to be Red. Perceptive readers will notice this level is actually the Escort level from the finished game, and the objective was the safely escort some Laser Troopers accross the map and fight off the Virus as they came at you. At this point the Player STILL controlled a group of around 100 Laser Troopers at once, which meant despite all our best efforts over the past few months, the game was still shit.

[November 2003] Chris had a flash of inspiration about how to generate trees using simple fractal algorithms, and was more than willing to invest serious time investigating this issue rather than dealing with the underlying gameplay problems. Nevertheless, the resulting trees were beautifull to behold and gave us some wonderful early screenshots.

[December 2003] It's important to remember the original design for FutureWar called for battles with tens of thousands of troops per side. After many months of work this was reduced to thousands per side, and then eventually to hundreds per side. Each of these reductions were made due to gameplay issues - the lack of control over large numbers of troops, rather than any technical limitations - we already knew we could have tens of thousands of troops on screen from the first tech demos. It is extremely difficult to let go the initial ideas and preconceptions when working on a game. Which is why it took us so damn long to finally accept that if we actually wanted a playable game, the Player would have to take direct control of a very small group of entities. Maybe five, just like Cannon Fodder or Syndicate. Any more than that and you lose all hope of controlling them responsively. So here we are, an amazing 19 months after starting the project, with the first version of the Insertion Squad. We still only had one level, but it was finally starting to feel playable. The Laser Troopers would amble across the landscape to the safe area behind the laser fence, while you tried to protect them with your Squaddies. At last, we had a game, and this made up our "First Playable".

Continue to part 5 of 6


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