We recently had the chance to sit down with our old friend, Adrian Wright, from Max Gaming to get an update on their Garage Games Torque-powered mecha game, Dark Horizons: Lore Invasions, and their upcoming infantry expansion.
the Junkyard: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role on Dark Horizons: Lore Invasion's development.
Adrian Wright: Well my name is Adrian Wright, I am a long time Sci-Fi/Mech Gamer, starting back in the late 80's with the Battletech series and Multi-player Battletech, then great games such as Starsiege, Shogo, and the whole Mechwarrior series. I was blessed to run a couple leagues in my years as a gamer, CO and XO some great squads, and generally enjoy the genre from all aspects.
In 1998 or 1999 I set on my quest to make games, starting with working on a Total conversion of Shogo, working on mission for some of my favorite Mecha games, and in 2001, getting involved with the GarageGames community.
There I met several old time gamers like myself, who had some of the same visions and came to have to same commitment to want to make games.
Dark Horizons was a Sci-Fi Universe that I had come up with in the 90's when I was running MUDs, as a Sci-fi RPG. When I got into modding and working with some great people like žAllen CampbellÓ (programmer on the recent Robotech games) I started the search for others to build my company and to make a game based on the Dark Horizons Universe (formerly ŽCritical Subterfuge').
So finally in January of 2003 (almost 3 years ago) the team started to assemble, and the journey began on Lore.
Lore is interesting looking at the historical Timeline of Dark Horizons, because until 2003, the Mecha we know in Lore didn't even exist in the universe. But as we searched for an idea on which to build our first game, the MAV (Mechanized Assault Vehicle --Ed) was bourne. Most of the team were long time Mecha fans of several different games, so it made sense to us as a team to make a first game that we were all passionate about.
More info on the transformation can be found here: http://www.garagegames.com/news/7364.
tJY: What's the story behind Lore and what's this about the Confederated States and the Eastern Confederation? Who are they and what role do they serve in Lore's game play?
AW: In spot in the Universe Timeline there are 3 major Factions on Earth:
- The Confederated States - The remnants of the United States and other NATO Nations.
- The Eastern Confederation - A resurrected Soviet Union, lead by former conspirators in the last Russian revolution, and have managed to reunite the former eastern block nations into one.
- The Rising Suns - A conglomeration of the Orient and portions of the Middle East, known mostly for their technology industry, but boosted one of the most advanced Military presences of the time.
Long story short, the Eastern Confederation has invaded what were formally the lands of the United States. Partly based on disputes in other parts of the world, and partly based on the need to expand their natural resources. The Confederated States in defense of this region had long deployed remote units in this area called MAVs.
Unknowingly to the Confederated States the technology for these war machines had been sold to the Eastern Conferation, which allowed the Confederation to mount of surprise attack on the eastern boarder of the former United States.
tJY: It's been said that Lore is just a Mecha game. Others have voiced otherwise and said that it's closer to a Massively Multiplayer Online game. Can you set the record straight and explain what type of game Lore is and what makes it so special?
AW: Lore is far from a traditional Mecha game; in all honestly it's about a 60/40 hybrid of FPS/Mecha. We intentionally wanted to make a Mecha game that was the traditional SIM play, and allowed a wider audience to be able to jump in, and with little effort play the game.
Though we have taken a bit of heat from the Mecha community over some of the game play, we definitely have achieved our goal. Our community is a diverse set of players coming from strict FPS backgrounds to the good old fashion Mech fans who have found a new home and spin on a great genre.
What has made Lore special to me and to a lot of the players, is the ability to just get in and be able to fight without the requirement to know how all the traditional Mech SIM controls work.
On the other hand, piloting a MAV is not like running around in Quake or Unreal, there is a definite skill that the top pilots have learned, and it's something to see.
Another thing that makes Lore special is the Multiplayer, having the technology that drove games like Tribes has given us the ability to have some awesome games being played.
AW: I don't want to talk too much about the future games much past the 2nd chapter, mainly because they are just so far off into the future. A great place to see where the universe is leading will be to catch a read of the Dark Horizons RPG that will be released soon (sorry shameless plug) by our publishing partner Ronin Arts.
The next chapter in Lore from a game play standpoint will really be an even further hybrid of where we are at today with Lore.
In the larger more massive battle areas you will see Mecha, Power Armors, Armored vehicles, Air support, and large battle fields with multiple objectives.
In the more squad level missions, the game play will be a much more close combat, specific objective and team role oriented, bringing a new level of player influence over things like supplies lines, faction moral, and espionage.
tJY: One of the neat things about Lore is its persistent world and detailed statistics being logged behind every game, courtesy of Comcent. How exactly does Comcent work?
AW: At its heart Comcent is a statistical database, that captures data from official reporting servers. It then takes this data (kills, wins, objectives taken, flags captured) and turns it into a persistent battle map. Each objective on the map has a base takeover/hold score, which allows the objectives to change hands when one faction has enough points to either defend the objective successfully or take it successfully.
It also allows us to display Faction/Squad and statistics both in-game and on the player website.
This is one part of Lore that will definitely continue to develop to make it even more interesting to play the game.
tJY: What plans do you have for Comcent and the future games in the Dark Horizons universe?
AW: Comcent will be going through some major evolutions as we progress through the games we want to develop for the universe. It will become more and more persistent, really allowing the players to dive into the role-playing aspects, like no other game in the genre has allowed.
I honestly am very excited about where we are going in the future.
tJY: With the amount of statistics being logged and tracking being done on every player, squad, and objective in the game, was it hard to optimize the net code to make the game playable? How has the Torque engine facilitated your development in this regard?
AW: First of all the Torque net code is very slick, makes it possible to do a lot of things with the engine. This includes making it very easy to facilitate the transmission of statistics.
The current way that we are sending statistics, required no optimization to the net code, which made it a really nice plug and play system. The future of our persistent engine (žPrometheusÓ) will be much more advanced, but still is only requiring us to integrate the backend API into the engine.
AW: Scope, Scope, Scope. It's easy to try to make a huge game with Torque, but the reality is that for most Indies it is not going to happen with your first projects. So I would say scoping your project to fit the capabilities and timeframes you have is the biggest challenge for indie developers.
tJY: Do you have any plans to migrate Lore from the Torque Game Engine to the upcoming Torque Shader Engine? What hurtles do you have to overcome before you are ready to jump to the TSE? Do you foresee the move as a big challenge?
AW: The Torque Shader engine really is not a game ready engine at this time. Though it sports some great architecture, and is our engine of choice going forward with our more serious games, its not at a stage where we could port Lore over with any ease, and still be able to service a cross platform community.
Things like the ease of use of the terrain creation, lack of non-windows support, and the general ability for it to perform as a stable platform out of the box prevents any migration for the current Lore game.
With that said, we will be using it for the next full Dark Horizons title as we look at technology going into the future of the Universe.
tJY: Lore has always had a strong focus on accomplishing objectives in multiplayer games, gratuitously rewarding players who destroy a generator over simply blowing up the most enemies, for instance. Do you think this detracts from the fast-paced FPS aspect of Lore or simply provides another focus to the game play?
AW: It really depends on how you look at the game, and how players play it. We have a lot of players that are concerned with mainly making fireballs out of their opposition, and then we have a whole other set of players that are more concerned about completing the missions or defending the missions successfully. I think this actually makes for a great mix in game, and have produced some very cool battles that I have been able to take place in.
AW: Infantry is something we really had wanted to put in from the start, but since we looked at this as not only a passion, but also what we could actually get done, infantry was cut from the original game.
The Infantry Soldiers in the Lore era wars are genetically engineered, and have been designed to handle the adverse environment that the Lore era battles take place in. These units in the history of Lore were not introduced into battle till the last year of the war, and that is where we look to bring them in at now.
This will bring many new environments into the game, as the original game was designed mainly for MAVs, and will include some really cool game play where the Infantry units will be necessary to complete your missions.
tJY: Do you have any plans to officially incorporate infantry into Lore, or will it stay as a MOD for now?
AW: I guess at this point I will say it depends, we really want to continue to progress the game into the future, but a lot of it is going to be based on player feedback. The Infantry will definitely play a large role in the next chapter of games.
tJY: What steps have been taken to balance game play with the inclusion of infantry? Are there any special game variants created specifically for infantry and MAVs?
AW: We are actually still working on the balance, and soon will be including Lore: Invasion owners in testing the modification. It's probably the hardest thing to balance we have done to date, but definitely worth it.
Definitely some variation on existing game play is going to be happening here, its imperative that we give the Infantry purpose, because lets face it, if all remained even, why would you take an Infantry unit over a MAV?
tJY: How will the infantry and the MAVs interact? Will you be able to get in and out of the MAV during a game, or will you be limited to your decision on the jump screen?
AW: This is still a design contention for the Lore Mod, because simply the MAVs have no physical pilots. Though it will definitely be a place we spend a lot of time, so that we make sure the game play is something very cool.
tJY: What type of hand held weapons do the infantry have and do they have any anti-MAV capabilities?
AW: Currently the infantry have 6 weapons to choose from, 3 primary weapons and 3 secondary weapons. Including:
- Assault Rifle (fully automatic ceaseless rifle, with optional grenade launcher)
- Plasma Gun (basically a plasma shot gun)
- XL Sniper Rifle (point to point laser)
- Shoulder Fired Homing Missile (anti mav)
- Sulista Vulcan Cannon
Though it is tough for an Infantry to take down a MAV one on one, it is possible. The Anti Mav Missile is designed to be able to take out a low armored Scout Mav.
AW: Not really, we have had a picture of where we were going with Lore for some time, though other games had initial influence on what we wanted to do with Lore from its origins, it's really been on its own legs since its inception.
tJY: Do you see SS:2845 and Lore catering to the same audience? Both games have mechs (HERCs and MAVs, respectively), both games have infantry, and both have great communities. What do you think sets Lore apart? Where does it shine?
AW: I definitely think that the audience share alot of the same gaming tendencies, and its great to see others attempting to bring this genre back.
Well I haven't seen much game play of SS:2845 so it's hard to compare to pure game play, I will say that Lore's Mecha are really designed for a ease of play that has set us apart from other Mech games. Basically if you can play a FPS, Lore is a very easy game to pick up and run.
I think where Lore shines, and where our future games will excel is giving the players something more to play for then just racking up kills. Don't get me wrong we have several of the top pilots, who are the top pilots cause they just like blowing stuff up, but to really shine in Lore you as a Mav pilot are allowed to affect the persistent battle as both a individual and as part of your Faction and squad.
tJY: What does the future hold for Lore?
AW: Well Lore itself was just the first chapter in the game series, one on which we intend to support through the persistent universe, recent release of the client and server side scripting and through more releases of weapons, missions and of course the Infantry mod.
As for the next game, we plan to continue to involve the community in development from the beginning, starting with using things like the Infantry mod to testing game play, and moving on to allowing dedicated Lore players in on the early test stages of the next chapter.
tJY: Do you have any tips or words of advice for other aspiring game developers? Would you recommend the Torque engine to others?
AW: I think the biggest advice I can give is to scope your games properly, find people with the same passions that you have, and decide early on if this is something you want to do as a living or something you just want to do for fun. Reason I say the last part is that it is much easier to deal with the sacrifices of making a game if you know where you are going from the start. If its something you want to do, and you want to be successful at there are a lot of sacrifices to be made, especially since 99% of you will be working a žday jobÓ and making games at the same time.
I definitely would recommend Torque for people looking to get into developing, this is a AAA engine at a very low financial cost. It has a great community and if you are serious about what you are doing it's a great engine to develop a game on.
tJY: Thanks for your time, Adrian! Is there anything else you'd like to add or mention about Lore?
AW: I just want to thank you for spending the time talking with us about a project that is near and dear to my heart. I look forward to help reviving the genre and making it something really special for players to be involved with going ahead.