July 6, 2012

CyberStrike - Breaking Ground

CyberStrike Concept Art
In addition to using this blog as a technical-art dump, I'm also going to be using it as a development blog for a project i'm working on in my spare time called "CyberStrike".

Whenever I hear someone say the words "We are going to make this awesome mod," or "I have an idea for a game," 99 times out of 100, the scope of their project is just too unrealistic for it to ever get finished. Most of the time it's because there is some lofty gameplay goal that can't be achieved without an experienced programmer, or it might be because there's no incentive for anyone on your team to actually do what you want when you want them to do it. In other words, the lack of discipline. These are all very real problems that I knew that i'd encounter if I ever wanted to start my own game project. Furthermore, because i'm actually employed by a game company, I could never actually finish a title and get it published by some other company without getting fired and then sued into oblivion. So how am I going to get this game made with those kind of obstacles? Read more to find out.

Ever since I was 16, I've been learning the ins and outs of 3d modelling and modding. There wasn't anything that I wasn't willing to learn. I was like a sponge when I was in college, soaking up information everywhere that I could. If there was something that I didn't understand, it would drive me insane until I had a firm grasp on the concept. This attitude still persists in me today, and that flame for knowledge burns brighter now than it ever has before. This passion for understanding every facet of the game development pipeline is what I believe has led me down the path of being a Technical Artist. However, there has always been one facet of game development that I have not been familiar with. And the lack of knowledge in this particular area is what has been stopping me from creating my own game prototype.

The area of development i'm talking about is programming and scripting. I know enough about everything else, but I don't know much about actually coding a game and making it all work, and it's been quite an obstacle for me when it comes to doing the things that I really want to do. Luckily I've been able to teach myself the basics of scripting with all of the MAXScript stuff I was doing back when id Software was having me do absolutely nothing for 4 months after RAGE shipped. After that, I thought to myself, "Well, if I can do this, I can probably do UnrealScript." After I made that call, I had to make sure that I didn't fall into the trap of biting off more than I can chew with whatever project I wanted to undertake. I really wanted to keep the scope of the project small, so I decided that instead of making a full fledged game, I would focus on developing a small prototype that would feature basic gameplay elements that will define the game. Furthermore, The art style would have to be something that was unique and polished, but also something that wouldn't take me 2 years to produce by myself. Keeping all of that in mind, I decided that the best genre of game to try and make was that of a top down shooter. Something similar to geometry wars, but instead of just a crazy shooter, It would be fun to focus more on strategy.

Enter CyberStrike. A top-down, cyber-techno-punk shooter that takes place in cyberspace. Artwork heavily influenced from Ghost in the Shell's depiction of cyberspace, as well as fantasy user interfaces from Minority Report, Tron: Legacy, and anything from Stark Industries. I want the game to feel like a visual representation of the player "hacking" his way through a series of advanced defensive AIs on a quest to disable some kind of oppressive AI construct that's censoring the internet. The story is simple enough and the art style is unique (As far as I know), and it's drawing from an already successful game (Geometry Wars). In my opinion, if I actually finish this prototype, I think it has a good chance of actually getting released. However, who's going to release it?

This is the part of the planning process where I realized I only have two options. The first option is that my place of employment makes it. Since i'm employed there, I can't shop the game around to publishers or else i'll be fired. So I've decided to develop the game in my spare time on my own as a personal project, and when it's done, i'm going to attempt to pitch it to the awesome guys who run my company. If the pitch fails, I can always just release the game for free to the community. Either way, people will get to play the game, and I get to keep my job. These are the only two realistic options that I have that allow me to stay employed at such an awesome studio.

So, like I said before the jump, I'm going to be using this blog to talk about the development of CyberStrike whenever I make a big update. I'll be talking about some of the challenges I've faced and discuss the solutions that I've come up with. Hopefully it'll help some people who are trying to get their own project off the ground.

I'll leave with a video that shows the current state of the project. Cheers!

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