The development of the combat prototype has been, to say the least, chaotic. It all started with a few criticisms that i saw on the web here and there, saying that i was purely concentrating on the technical aspects of the game, but not the gameplay. Of course, that is partially true, but i had already done a bit of work on gameplay-related areas, such as the physics, the generation of the universe, etc.. But in early March, i had an idea: to make a new prototype, not a technical one this time, but that would concentrate on a gameplay-specific area ( combat )... and this prototype would end up in a fully playable game ( although not as deep as a full game ), that anybody could download and test.
The goal in this prototype was triple:
- to test the early gameplay mechanics, especially the combat side.
- to test the controls, physics, collisions, and network protocol, and to fix bugs in those.
- to monitor performance and stress test the server in actual "real world" conditions and internet latencies. Of course, i'm not speaking of running a true MMO here; but how could i run an MMO if i already had performance problems hosting a small arena-based game hosting 20-30 players ?
Another thing that i thought would be useful would be, as a motivation boost to everybody ( me, but also the other developers and contributors ), to have deadlines. Now, i didn't want to be too strict about deadlines, but having a goal certainly helped.
Initially, i had planned to develop this prototype over a period of around a month. Development started in March, and was supposed to end in early April. Of course it didn't work out that well.. i didn't take into account various "external" delays, such as:
- the release of a new version of ASEToBin for modelers to be able to work ( a bit less than a week lost )
- me being sick for a week
- the release of Oblivion ( one week and a half lost ! ).. arg
- the PCGamer interview ( a bit less than a week lost )
- a technical demo for various interested companies ( one week delay again )
- the Minas Tirith project deadlines ( one week and a half )
In the end, i released the first "public" version, which i called 0.2, on Sunday 7 May.
The prototype was supposed to be opened "progressively", starting with 4 players to test the network, and up to 10-16 players after the first bugs ( note that those weren't unexpected, and indeed were present ! ) after a couple hours.
I certainly didn't expect 60 people to show up in IRC, all screaming to play...
To be continued in Part II: madness a few hours before launch.
Video of the latest release (0.3) from yesterday, Divx4 + MP3, 67 MB