As you all know, I’m new to this serious “game development” stuff, and it really is a rollercoaster ride. On one hand, I can think of nothing else I would rather do than develop games for a living (which, I hasten to add, I don’t at the moment), on the other hand it is still quite stressful. Stressful in a “striving to meet expectation” sort of a way, rather than a “must hit deadline x” sort of a way. It’s a far cry from coding games in my spare time for fun. We all REALLY want Blast! to be the best game it can, but with coding being limited to a few hours a day its sometimes difficult to see the milestones as they pass.
It’s a relief at this stage that we are working to our own deadlines, rather than a publisher imposed deadline – it allows us the flexibility to actually have lives aside from the development process! Having said that, I wouldn’t grumble if any publishers out there wanted us to develop Blast! full time and support us financially whilst we did so, but I expect my phone to be silent for a while yet. We really need to prove we are talented and passionate about what we are working on, and we intend to do that.
At this point its probably a good idea to reveal a little about Blast! and I can think of no better way than by letting you have the full back story, so here it is:
“In the late 23rd Century the Terran prison system was on the brink of collapse, with no funds to build extra prisons and crime rates rising predominantly due to an out of control black market for weapons and technology, something had to be done and fast. The Terran Flight Corp (TFC) had the opposite problem. Due to a prolonged war with a fierce Rebellion, fighting for their freedom on planet Hexx, many pilots were lost, with hundreds more left seriously injured. This stretched the TFC’s resources to their limit, and was starting to place a heavy strain on Terra itself.
Both the prison system and the TFC appealed to the Terran Government for help and support. The prison system needed to control its’ numbers and the TFC needed more men. The government quickly appreciated that these two problems could resolve themselves, and came up with a new Law, “Motion 208”. One month later “Motion 208” came into operation giving The Wardens the right to send low level prisoners to the TFC for combat training. If they proved themselves proficient in the initial training, Motion 208 gave the TFC the right to offer them a chance to fight “for their freedom” by participating in one-to-one dogfights with each other.
For every two prisoners, the TFC would gain one soldier. It was a win-win situation for both parties. For a whole century the dogfights went on and so did the war with countless soldiers and ex-prisoners alike being sent to their almost certain death.
With the leaps in technology over this period, the TFC were soon able to install all their ships with a teleportation device. With this and giant leaps in nano-technology they were soon able to reconstruct a ship within a few seconds, and on its destruction, transport the pilot to their new cockpit and so almost immediately re-engage in battle keeping the pressure on the Rebellion. This, however, had an effect on The Wardens and the prison system. The need for soldiers decreased dramatically as fewer and fewer pilots died in battle. With “Motion 208” still in effect, the TFC found itself becoming overcrowded. For every five prisoners released only one could be accommodated. The Wardens and the TFC leaders had to rectify this situation before it got too far out of hand.
The dogfights were turned into a mini-tournament and prisoners had to win five fights before they could enroll into the TFC. With the prisoners not being moved quick enough for The Wardens, funding had to be raised to support the system. Throughout the last century the media had reported on the war and the enlistment of prisoners into the TFC so people knew of the system but never saw what the prisoners went through to win their freedom.
On Christmas Eve 2424 for the first time ever, The Wardens appeared on the global news. They issued a statement that would start one of the biggest and most fought over bidding wars that Terra had ever seen.
“On February 14th 2425, Valentines Day, Project Blast! will be launched to the world to give you the opportunity to watch the exciting recruitment process a prisoner must endure to enlist in the TFC. Each day the prisoner dogfights will be televised. Only one network will have the exclusive rights to broadcast these fights. The bidding starts now and will close on February 1st. PROJECT BLAST! IS COMING….WILL YOU BE READY?……”
As the media began fighting over the broadcasting rights, The Wardens, using the old TFC training grounds began construction of a huge, city sized dome. Standing 30 thousand feet tall, this monster of a building would be the centre of all the battles. Dubbed the “BlastDome” by the media, it would create virtual battlefields allowing the Wardens to fully control every aspect of the fight, from weather and time of day to including obstacles to make the battles even more entertaining.
Sure enough, on 1st February, Global News Network (GNN) was announced as the winner of the television rights after bidding a staggering 200,000,000 New World Dollars a year deal. Due to the staggering amount of money at stake, the contract had a built in “get out” clause for the network, that if the ratings dropped below 50 million viewers for more than a month, then the contract would be cancelled immediately and all advertising revenue would belong to the network (subsequently making them the largest and richest on Terra).
300 million viewers watched on Valentines Day to see the first ever Project Blast! line up. Twenty battles were fought and many of the prisoners lost their lives. The public were enthralled and overnight hundreds of Virtu-net forums sprung up taking ratings higher and higher. Two years later, the ratings started to dip and it seemed that the public had grown weary of Project Blast. After many weeks of research, the Wardens noticed that a pattern was emerging. It seemed that the better certain prisoners performed, and the more they appeared, the more their ratings began to increase. As soon as that prisoner earned his freedom or died in battle, another dip in the ratings would occur.
The TFC was becoming more overcrowded as the pilots lives were now protected by the transporter system and the prisons were seeing a dramatic decrease in crime. It seemed that people were turning away from crime in order to avoid becoming part of Project Blast. After 130 years of “Motion 208” it seemed that it was now unnecessary.
The very wealthy and powerful Wardens were concerned that Project Blast! would be cancelled. They approached the TFC and requested their nano-technology and teleportation device schematics in order to prolong the life of the both the prisoners and Project Blast! They also introduced a new voting system enabling the public to become involved in the life of their favorite combatant. Now the popularity of the prisoners became the main focus which gave the public the chance to choose who lives and who dies. If popularity and ratings for a prisoner dropped an execution order was issued and carried out live on air. This bloodthirsty angle took the show to new global success.
As everything was now “in-house” and there was no release into the TFC, the Wardens now allowed some of the sickest individuals in the prison system to take part and earn the right to live. This was not enough for the Wardens though, the power and wealth they cradled was godlike as they could control who lived and died by entering them into Project Blast! Soon they turned their attention to the entire population. Secretly, a new large super-computer was built to house the data for every person from the ages of 18 to 35 (the prime targets and perfect for Project Blast!). The Wardens, to avoid “running out” of prisoners would ensure that anyone selected by their computer would become a prisoner in the system to ensure their participation in Project Blast! This was known by the Wardens as “The Lottery”.
Once you were selected in “The Lottery” there was no way out, the Wardens would control the entire justice system with money. Corruption was rife and they ensured that they could control every one they needed, all to guarantee that Project Blast! was here to stay.”
So this is the Blast! Universe in which our game will be based!
Whilst the very ethos of the game is “pick up n play” fun, I find it much easier to code the game have a good grasp on the universe we are in. It makes both coding and future design decisions a little easier to make as you have a referral point within the universe to base a decision on. It also helps focus the entire team on what would happen if XYZ were to occur. The chances are that the player will not really have much of a feel for the back story whilst they are playing the game (it’s not really all that necessary) but of course, it will be written in the documentation for those who are interested! The idea of setting a game in a well developed universe, also gives us angles for sequels, or different avenues to explore in the future. I really hope to be able to give you a glimpse of Blast! soon, but it has to be the right time for us and the game, so watch this space!
As I’ve stated before, our website is up and running, sign up to the forums and say hello! I will be doing regular progress reports and updates there in addition to these diaries, so if you enjoy reading these then sign up!