I can't really say much about what's going on at work right now, but I can say these two things:
- I am busy as all hell right now
- This stuff is going to be really damn cool
We've been known ever since X Beyond the Frontier for having some of the best looking games on the market. Unfortunately, that's been one of our few strong points.
In fact, one of the main things that inspired me to join the team at Egosoft was the abysmal flight and combat AI in X-BTF. Ships would just sit there and get blown to pieces, or turn around at very inopportune times (and with physically implausible precision) and smack straight into you, and so on. Fans of the series will note that these problems have persisted throughout the series, although there has been some improvement over time.
At the risk of revealing too much, I'm now personally in a position to ensure that these problems go away in the future... and the future is looking very, very bright.
One of my favourite things about this team is that nobody has an ego problem (puns on the company's name notwithstanding). We all know where our weak points lie, and everyone is committed to doing everything we can to improve in those areas. There's been a huge amount of thought and effort poured into the aspects of our games that aren't so great, and if we accomplish even have of the awesome solutions that we've come up with, future products from our studio are going to be truly amazing indeed.
I know that's going to come off as a lot of marketing hype without any credibility. I really wish I could be more specific. All in due time, though [smile]
Some technical thoughts
I can't get real in-depth yet without risking some serious NDA wrath, but suffice it to say that at some totally indeterminate time in the future I'll have some very, very interesting things to share regarding the design and implementation of complex realtime simulations.
Here's as far as I can go: we're messing around with some alternative design philosophies based largely on functional-style programming, and the amount of freedom and potential this has opened up is truly incredible. More importantly, the amount of really nifty stuff we can do with little programming effort is phenomenal.
The trick to making a great simulation game is not to have a great simulation - it's to have the illusion of a great simulation. We have some toys and tools here that can really raise the bar.
One of the hardest parts of working with a smaller team is having a lot of great ideas that we can't realize because we just don't have the manpower. There's a lot of polish and little fine-tuning that would make the X games even better than they already are, but we never had the chance to do it. If these experiments pan out, it'll make us a lot more productive. To put it simply, we'll be able to do deliver a much more polished experience for comparable amounts of developer effort.
And now I've probably officially said too much [grin]
Musings on humanity
I've got something of a hobby of observing patterns in human behaviour and in the human condition. A couple of these patterns have jumped out at me a lot lately.
The first is that most people seem to deal with a very similar set of problems. This holds in many parts of life, not just technical jobs; but the bottom line is we all waste an awful lot of time worrying about the same damn things. Worse, once we figure out how to handle them, it seems very rare for us to pass these along to anyone else. I wonder how much human progress - in all manner of areas - has been hampered by this. I haven't yet really come up with a satisfactory explanation of why this occurs.
The second pattern is that it's common for people to come up with great ideas, and then totally fail to implement them. Usually this happens because they express the idea and then expect someone else to pick it up and run with it. Of course, nobody does. I suspect this mentality is actually the same basic misconception that leads to "I won't tell you my idea for this really cool hockey MMO because you might steal it". What's funny is that people who would never fall victim to the "you'll steal my idea" foolishness seem to commit the other mistake an awful lot.
As much as I'd love to be able to find some magic solution that cures both of these issues instantly for the whole human race, I somehow doubt that such a magic formula exists. (And if it does, I probably can't afford it.) So instead I'm leaning towards taking a page out of Ghandi's book. I can't instantly change anything else, but I can certainly be an example of the changes I want to see.
So something I'm personally working on is breaking the habit of the second pattern. I think a lot of potential falls through the cracks, especially at Egosoft, because we all just sort of subconsciously expect someone else to carry our ideas to the finish line. Well, enough of that; there's some really cool stuff that I can make happen with the tools I'm building right now, and I can't expect anyone else to make it happen. So I will.
I know that ventures dangerously close to Not Invented Here territory; and honestly, I haven't yet figured out a reliable distinction between the two mentalities. They feel different, though, so I'm sure there's some differentiation to be found.
I'd like to tackle that first pattern, too, but it's still a bit big and scary [smile]