Not too long ago, James Margaris stepped down as the Lead Designer on the community driven Torque engine-powered game, Realm Wars, and Logan Foster took up the lead. We sit down with Logan and make inquiries as changes have been made to the development process and the game. Read on...
the Junkyard: Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your position and background.
Logan Foster: My name is Logan Foster and I am the Lead Designer for the Realm Wars project. My background is primarily as an artist. For the past few years I have been involved in the Garage Games community offering art support, contributing to various projects such as Realm Wars and Dark Horizons Lore and also editing and contributing to the Game Mechanic Newsletter. Recently I was a co-presenter in a pair of the art sessions at IGC 03.
tJY: What new responsibilities have you taken on as Lead Designer since you left your position as Art Lead? Was it a big step for you?
Logan: I have been involved in the Realm Wars project since it was first handed over to the public so it’s really difficult to say that there have been new duties added as opposed to just formally stepping up to the plate more. The only truly new responsibility is that I am now the guy who has to try to spear head things and whose neck is also on the line to get Realm Wars delivering something more tangible. It is definitely a risk for me to undertake but because I love the project so much I felt that it was worth it.
tJY: Who is the new Art Lead and how was the decision made to involve him / her?
Logan: Actually I have not given up my duties as the Art Lead on Realm Wars. I really haven’t seen much of a need since I feel that the project can benefit from my knowledge and expertise that I can offer it as an artist who is experienced with the engine and the project itself.
tJY: So, what has been going on with the Realm Wars process for the past six months?
Logan: Well actually there was a bit of hiatus after the WWDC build went out the door, this lasted until IGC. This obviously didn’t sit comfortably well with anyone but it happened. Around September I began to talk to Garage Games and other developers that I know about getting the project moving again. Once the introductions were out of the way, I gathered together all the “core guys", people who were key developers during previous builds, and we sat down and discussed a phase list and an updated design document that I tabled. We have since moved on from there towards getting things ramped up again for production. This included getting some new development tools ready for the team, logging bugs, and assigning the first list of tasks. Currently we are working towards getting our first phase completed.
tJY: Recently the decision was made to change Realm War’s design process from a centralized community built game over to a dedicated team of volunteers. What was the deciding factor that urged you to make the switch?
Logan: Essentially it came down to a problem with the idea of the “community process" as we had been using it. I do not want to get into the details because I do not feel that they need to be mentioned here, but the simple fact was though that the community process was beginning to reflect Open Source development where 5% of the people are doing 95% of the work. That, and we also had a high signal to noise ratio where we were taking up more time responding to communications than we were actually working on the project (hence biggest reason why the project hasn’t evolved much). As a group we felt that we needed to solve the problem quickly, but without destroying the community process either, because it is valuable asset for this project.
What we decided to do was to invite everyone who seriously helped us out with the project and wanted to continue to be a part of its direction into the Core team. The Core team will be responsible for developing most of the features that you will see in Realm Wars. The community is still welcome to develop for Realm Wars as well, in fact we encourage it. If they want to tweak something or submit in a new feature we will gladly take a look at it.
We feel that this will allow people who want to contribute to contribute on their own time or level. They can commit as much or as little to the project as their time allows them. If they want to be involved in the Core team they can, or if they just want to submit something as a community member they can too.
tJY: About how large will this dedicated volunteer team be?
Logan: The teams overall size will be fairly small, likely no larger than 8 full-time people. There will obviously be more people contributing as we need their work and as they can give it to us, but overall the team really doesn’t need to be large in order to get this work done.
tJY: Now that Realm Wars has a dedicated development team, can we expect to see a lot more updates? Or at least, at more regular intervals than what we have been conditioned to?
Logan: Yes this is the overall plan, we want to get updates out there fairly fast and we are going to do this by taking small baby steps along the way. This will allow us to build and tweak slowly based on the feedback. We really felt that the old method of trying to do a lot of fantastic updates at once really killed any momentum that the project gained because we would release and then go back to work for months working on something new.
tJY: Do you believe the intimacy of this team will allow for a more efficient development of the game?
Logan: I definitely feel this way, most of us know one another and have worked with each other on a variety of projects or tasks before, so we know what to expect from one anther. We know that we can be very honest without having to worry about bruising egos or feelings and we can also feed off of one another’s enthusiasm and work in order to get the job done.
tJY: What is the status of the Mac and Linux versions of Realm Wars, and how are they fairing against the good ol’ Win32 version?
Logan: Well since everything with Realm Wars is initially developed on a Win32 platform and then moved over from there we obviously have ‘some’ delays in getting Mac and Linux builds out there. The real issue though is not developing for these platforms but having people available who can do the builds and help us test them out in time.
tJY: Are there any plans to implement AI or bots?
Logan: Right now we just want to try to make a good multi player fantasy theme FPS game and having a feature such as bots is pretty low on the requirements list. The second problem is that there we simply lack any decent AI code that could provide what we feel is needed. So you might see it further on down the road, but likely not in the foreseeable future.
tJY: Why is it so advantageous to move the core design of the project to only a fantasy theme FPS? What happened to “combat on an epic scale"?
Logan: It became too epic to do with an unfunded volunteer based team.
Honestly though I feel that we were putting the carriage before the horse and were too caught up in adding too many fantastic features instead of just concentrating on the basics that are our foundation to grow upon. We were never really going to accomplish anything if we kept that up so we simply cut out a lot of anything that we felt was a “would be nice, but isn’t necessary" at this time.
tJY: Since you are simplifying the theme from “combat on an epic scale" to fantasy FPS, are you planning on dropping any races, weapons, or any other elements of gameplay?
Logan: We are going to stick with Elves and Orcs for the first little bit and then add in Humans and Dwarves later on. We don’t really see the need in adding a wide variety of fantastic races to the game when they really won’t add anything in the long run. I suspect that a lot of people will be disappointed by this, but that’s the way things are going to go.
tJY: What can we expect to see in the next build of Realm Wars?
Logan: I am hoping very soon. The next build is mostly going to be a maintenance fix for the WWDC build that was done a while back. Tweaking game play and issues while adding a bit more to the game.
Some of the stuff that we are working on includes: Phil Carlslile is currently updating Realm Wars to Torque 1.2 this week. Paul Dana is going to do some fixes to hand to hand combat (to remove that ridiculous turning limitation when swinging). I am going to be fixing up the Port of Encalaris map as well as designing at least one new map/mission to add to the release. Douglas Baker has a camera resource he will be added that will help minimise camera occlusion when in 3rd person. Oh and we cannot forget other small tweaks and updates that we are going to perform as well.
tJY: Can you give us an ETA on the next build?
Logan: I wish I could give one, but all that I can safely say is soon. It’s all really up to how much time everyone can contribute and how fast it can get done.
tJY: Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself, GarageGames or Realm Wars?
Logan: Well in regards to Realm Wars I just want to say that I hope that we can take Realm Wars to a place where everyone can really appreciate it and if you have the talent and time to help us reach our goal we would appreciate hearing from you.
In regards to GarageGames I would like to give them a shameless plug and a thank you for giving us a great tool to make some great games with. I truly think that this is the first time in over twenty years that talented people stand a chance of making games that are on par with the industry. So thanks for putting the ability to make great games back into the hands of the common man.
Has Realm Wars been revived? Does Logan Foster have what it takes to bring the project back to life? Not wanting to sound like an old movie cliche, but only time will tell. But the move to implement a core development team and scaling down the project development process is a great start.