Welcome to the Saga Developers Journal.

Silverlode Interactive has released the worlds first “Collectible MMORTS” game, SAGA. This developers' blog is here to give you a never-too-serious behind the scenes look at the company.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Origins Wrap Up

Apologies for missing the last show update. I lost my voice late Saturday showing Saga to new player #973. I’m not sure how that kept me from blogging, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

It has been seven years since I last showed a game at the Origins show and I can report that not much has changed. Sure there were new products on display, some that I didn’t even recognize, but overall the players were just as excited as ever to play their favorites and search out new products to bring home. Among the best of the new products of course was Saga.

We had many players stop by the booth who had seen a review in the past or were dragged over by their friends. It was rewarding to see their eyes light at the same time as a bulb did over their heads when they started to grasp the scope of Saga and imagine the possibilities. Many ran off with a copy of the game only to return hours later with more friends in tow. Saga really is a lot more fun when you quest with friends.

Amazingly enough the feature players were most impressed with was the anonymous help chat. They were astounded watching question after question get answered quickly by the community without the condescending attitude they are used to in many other MMO’s. I couldn’t have been prouder of our players.

When I get back to the office tomorrow, I will post some additional shots of new and current players, for now I leave you with this shot of Casey, owner of SagaUnits, trying to “catch them all”.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Interview with Mark Owen

While Slava's off at Origins, the rest of us have been busily working away, preparing for the Undead and other exciting new features.
Here we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse on how the new movement algorithms were developed and what's still to come.
Dennis: What were your goals in re-writing the troop movement algorithms?
Mark: Well, up to this point, everything in SAGA had been handled on a unit basis. For example, when you would move around a lake or around a building, the entire unit would move, but the troops themselves would often collide with mountains or buildings. We wanted it to look a little more natural.

Dennis: So how did you tackle this process? Where did you start?
Mark: Usually with designing any new system, I'll start with research. One of the perks of developing video games is that research doesn't always entail reading through textbooks - it's simply going and playing other games. I did read through several articles on systems like this, but I also went through and played many different games. After watching how a lot of other games had done it, I started to create prototypes and finally came up with a system that I really liked.

Dennis: What was the most challenging part of this project?
Mark: One of the difficult parts of it is that there are things that are very unique about SAGA. For example, as units move around obstacles, troops need to not only move away from the obstacles, but they also need to maintain their formation.
The most difficult part, however, is that at any given time in SAGA there are going to be hundreds of troops on the map - so I needed to create an algorithm that was efficient enough that we wouldn't lose performance.

Dennis: What features are you working on now?
Mark: For the movement architecture, there are adjustments that will be made. For example, right now the troops tend to move very quickly into their positions, where I'm going to make it so that they go a little bit slower, so it looks a little more natural.
Also, right now we're working to improve the AI of the enemy troops, which will be announced a little bit later on, so we have many aspects if that that we'll be working on.

Dennis: There are a lot of people out there who want to work on video games, so we figured we'd ask our staff about working in the video game industry. What is your favorite part of working as a video game programmer?
Mark: There are actually two things that I enjoy a lot. The first is that with every video game there are very unique problems to be solved, and I really enjoy finding solutions to those problems. The other thing is that in many cases you'll spend a lot of time working on something trying to get it to work - to fix something. Sometimes you'll be struggling for a while, but then you'll get it working, you get to see it running, everyone gets to see it running, and once it's in the game, it's there. Every time you log into the game or play through a battle, you get to see your work.

Dennis: And your least favorite part of being a video game programmer?
Mark: One of the hardest things is that we all have a vision of what we want to be able to do, of all the things that we want to accomplish. But due to time, resources, or even our own experience we run into restrictions. That can be frustrating sometimes. You get to a point where you have to say, "well, we'd like to do everything, but we have to just do this." That's probably the most frustrating part of it.

Dennis: What surprised you most about the job?
Mark: The thing that surprised me the most is that when I came into the industry, I had kind of an idea of the things I wanted to work on and the things I would enjoy the most. In truth, some of those things I didn't enjoy all that much. The things that I thought I would enjoy the least I really started to love doing.

Do you have any examples?
Mark: I had never worked on an MMO before, and when I started working, I thought "Oh, well I'll enjoy working on some of the AI, some of the mechanics of the game - but I don't know if I'll really want to deal with a lot of the network stuff, per se." In reality, I've come to enjoy that the most, and it's actually become the most interesting to me.

Dennis: Thank you for your time, we'll let you get back to work!

Thanks for reading, next time we'll be interviewing Adam Ellis, one of our quest writers.

Origins Day 2

Yesterday was the first day that the dealer room was open to the public. With the Saga booth positioned next to the door to the CCG room, we expected a lot of traffic. What we didn’t expect were some of the very strange people who stopped by.

I think the guy in the Pokemon suite may be a Saga player.
This peculiar quintet that stopped by to steal some of my shirts and claimed to enjoy the game as well. From left to right, Trevoria, Greshish, Many Arrow, Paragrin. That’s SagaUnits behind the weird bunch. Many other players stopped by who escaped my lens, but there is always tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Origins Report Day 1

I arived at the Origins convention center with Casey from SagaUnits who volunteered to leave his online world and help demonstrate SAGA to 35,000 gamers. We found our booth at the opening to the CCG area and realized we had our work cut out for us.

While a dumpster in the booth has a certain charm, we elected instead to put up some art that players could enjoy. Large vertical posters were printed for use to adorn the back of our space.

The booth still seemed a bit dark and sparse, but after a trip to the local WalMart and getting my site back after blinding myself with one of the flood lights, the setup was complete.We are both looking forward to four fun filled days, lost voices and sore feet.

I will be posting reports nightly along with plenty of pictures, hopefully catching some Saga players who stop by to lend a hand.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fun at the office

As part of my continued efforts to expose players to the culture inside a game studio (I have been told that is all I am allowed to expose), I wanted to share these fortune cookies that our intern Sam made for us. You may remember Sam from her comics earlier in the year.

The game industry is a great place to work. The hours are long and sometimes things don't go your way. Stress is a huge factor, especially when you feel you let your community down with a bug that slipped through. The rewards however are well worth it, and the culture helps keep us sane.

The president of my last company wrote a great article on getting a job in the game industry that you can read here