the Junkyard: James Margaris on Realm Wars

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James Margaris on Realm Wars

James Margaris on Realm Wars

Posted by: Mhaddy on 12/18/2002
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With the recent debut of the new bulid of Realm Wars, we sat down with Lead Designer James Margaris to get a few of our questions answered on what's new, what they've got planned and their progress.

the Junkyard: What's the current status of the Mac build of Realm Wars?

James Margaris: As of now the Mac build is finished and waiting to go. The Mac build is based on slightly newer code than the other platform builds. We were hoping to synch up but I'm not sure - we might just release the Mac build and try to get on a synched schedule later.

tJY: What improvements have been made to this build over the last?

James: We added the Elf character model, CTF code, Ogg Vorbis music support with some great musical selections and some new world models. We also have some of Melv May's foliage rendering code, which we will keep up to date as he makes improvements to it.

tJY: How easy and flexible are you finding the Torque engine to work with? Are you able to implement all of your "Wha! That's an awesome idea!" ideas or are you restricted by the engine?

James: Working with the Torque engine is great. I think one thing many people forget is that the Torque engine is not just a graphics engine, it handles all sorts of things that you want in a typical game. We have the source, and just as importantly the source is well-organized and understandable, so we can make changes as we see fit. At this point nothing in Torque has gotten in the way of what we want to do.

tJY: What weapons aside from the Orc's crossbow and the Elf's staff are in development?

James: We plan for a pretty even split between missile weapons and melee weapons. On the missile weapon side we have the crossbow and a longbow, and will also have items like dart guns, smoke bombs, and hopefully burning oil with nice fire effects, among other things. On the melee side we will have all sorts of swords, axes, pikes, scythes and shields. We have a shield, sword and axe model in the game, and the longbow model is on the way shortly as well, but we disabled them in the demo since they weren't functioning 100% correctly.

tJY: What's the magic system like? How do you use it and why would someone use it over conventional weaponry?

James: We plan on testing out two alternate methods for spell use. One is a straightforward mana-based system, and the other is a system with time-based charging of spells, where charging longer allows for more powerful versions of the spell. We want to avoid spells that are basically magical versions of missile weapons or spells that are simply numerical buffs. For example a spell like Flame Wall is a lot more interesting than a fireball spell that just shoots a flaming projectile that might as well be an arrow. Conventional weaponry will be simpler and serve a more "bread and butter" role in combat, whereas spell use will be more deliberate and tactical. Another example of what we are thinking of: casting a strength buff on a player might increase the size of that player by 50%. So it might be great in certain situations, but in other situations you might be making your teammate a better target for ranged attacks.

tJY: How many gametypes are currently in design and how will they differ from anything else that's all ready out there?

James: We are starting with the proven basics like CTF and Deathmatch, but we will include a number of other game types as well, such as games based around destroying enemy buildings and capturing and holding various objectives. Looking through my notes I have six or seven different types of games listed. One of the challenges of creating new game types is making them genuinely fun rather than novel additions. I would say in most FPS games usually one or two of the game types are popular, while many others fall by the wayside. Much of the time the small details are what determine if the game type catches on or not. You can find all sorts of game types scattered over existing games, but it is hard to find any one game that does more than a few of them well.

One of the game types we are considering is a game where players on one team must protect NPC's from giant creatures on the other team. That sort of game type would be difficult to perfectly balance but could be great from a casual fun perspective.

tJY: How big of a role did community input play with the current build?

James: The most obvious role the community played is that many of the graphics, models and scripts come from the community itself. Most of the screens leading up to the actual in-match screens were created by the community, as were a number of game objects. There are a large number of community members who can point to a model or graphic in the game that they created.

Beyond that many of the design decisions that were hashed out on the forums will begin to appear in future builds. That is of course slower than incorporating models and scripts, but in the near future community members will be able to say "I suggested that spell" or "that aspect of melee combat works the way I outlined."

I would also point out that the Win32 build is the only build that the core team members were solely responsible for getting together.

The sky is the limit as far as contributing things to Realm Wars. Anyone is free to work on a large a chunk as they like and make it their own.

tJY: What kind of general responses are you getting from the community in regards to Realm Wars?

James: One thing I am pleased about is that we are attracting more and more people into making substantial contributions, while few are moving on. That sort of traction is hard to come by in indie efforts. As the number of contributors increases more gets done and the project becomes more interesting to the community as a whole.

The response to the new build was favorable. We got a number of good suggestions but no major complaints, other than a few compatibility issues. At this stage we are still early in development, so we can't show people things that would blow them away. But I think we are winning people over and convincing more and more people that Realm Wars is something worth looking forward to and worth contributing to.

tJY: How many more characters are in development? What are their strengths / weaknesses / etc?

James: Our plans are to have a male and female version of the Orc, Elf and Human and expand from there into some more exotic and specialized classes like Golems and Ratkin. The sex differences will not be cosmetic but will be entirely separate classes. Below are the classes we are considering right now:

- Elven Sorceress - Attack and offensive magic.
- Elven Ranger - Mid and long-ranged fighting class.
- Orc Warrior - Melee and mid-ranged fighting class.
- Orc Shamaness - Elemental, support and buff magic.
- Human Saint(?) - Healing, support and some fighting ability.
- Human Rogue(?) - Recon, stealth.

tJY: What steps are being taken to ensure the longevity of RW with the community?

James: We are focusing on setting reasonable expectations and then making steady progress to fulfill those expectations. Soon we will have an automated build process up, and the Realm Wars web page will be launching in the near future. The best way to keep community members interested is to show steady progress, and the webpage and build process will help further that goal. Of course to show steady progress we have to be making steady progress, which means keeping everyone motivated and interested. We are lucky in that the team we have is very dedicated and great at dealing with bumps in the road.

tJY: Is there any notice of any kind of release date or beta release that we can look forward to?

James: There aren't any release dates or beta release dates at this time. We plan on releasing minor builds often with more polished publicized builds at regular intervals. The minor builds should be on a one or two week schedule, while the major builds should be about once every two months. As the major build gets farther along we can begin referring to it as beta.

tJY: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to say about GarageGames, the Torque engine or Realm Wars in general?

James: I'd just like to thank all the people that have shown interest in Realm Wars, all those that have contributed to it, and all the other team members, who have been doing a terrific job.

Fin: Final Thoughts:
On behalf of the community, the 'Yard would like to thank James Margaris for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

Related Links: Related Links:
  • GarageGames
  • Realm Wars Project Page

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