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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interview with Adam Ellis

Today we present you with the second in our series of developer interviews.

Adam Ellis is one of our quest designers.

Thanks for taking the time to do this, we’ll try and keep it quick so you can get back to work! As a quest-writer, what does the full process of creating a quest entail?

It varies slightly from quest to quest. I usually start with an idea or a map. If I start with a map, for example, I’ll develop ideas based on how that map works. Sometimes I end up coming up with both at the same time. Once I know what I’m doing, then I need to script it.

Can you walk us through the process?

Surprisingly, it takes some time to do a map; or at least to do one well. The introduction of the larger map sizes actually makes it easier since I don’t have to create the illusion of an environment—I now have enough space to actually create one. It takes a bit of work to make the topography look decent but still be usable to players. And yes, I know that lots of the maps already in the game need a lot of work.

Scripting and debugging is definitely the most time-consuming part. Each spawn, every chest and its loot (I promise they have loot), all the pop-ups, and everything else has to be put in. Some quests are less complicated than others, but we are working with the programmers to get more advanced features put in to quests so we can make them much more interesting.

What do you look for in good quest ideas?

Primarily, the quest has to be fun. That’s why I like getting ideas from players—they often know fun way better than I do. I actually have a number of really good quest ideas in my Inbox that I intend to implement somewhat soon. Our players have some awesome ideas that I need to harass the programmers to make possible (or teach me how to write). Some of the ideas we get from players give us new ideas for quest mechanics, so keep them coming. The game will only improve from players’ input.

Is quest balance a big priority for you?

Oh yes. As lots of players have noticed, some quests aren’t quite possible at the levels they appear. And some of them are just plain crazy (the players know which ones I mean). One of the big things I’m going to be working on soon is readjusting almost every quest. We want to make them much better balanced and make them more fun.

We’re also working on improving the presentation of the overall story arc for the five (soon to be six) factions.

I know you helped write some of the new quests that feature the Undead, how was that process?

There was a lot of work that went into that which I didn’t even expect. I spent a while playing with the map editor to see what the new buildings and ground textures looked like in various ways. I even got a new computer here in the office so I can crank out some introductory quests for the Undead a bit quicker. So The Shadow have single-handedly improved my ability to make maps. I suppose I should thank them for that.

Are you working on any exciting quests right now?

My top priority is getting some Undead quests in for the near future. We want players to see how powerful they’re going to be. I’ve got a number of simple quests that are designed to showcase them, and those are almost finished, but they need a little more work so they can do the new faction justice.

After those, I’ve got to go through my Inbox and do the players a little justice as well by putting in some of their ideas. It’s nice to have more ideas than I have time—I don’t have to think of quests myself.

And now onto our ‘video game industry’ questions – Due to the overwhelming interest to work in the video game industry, we decided to take the chance to ask some of our employees what they think .

How did you get involved in the video game industry?

I actually started here at Silverlode as an Intern. My interview was actually pretty interesting; I sat down with Jason and told him how bad I am a RTS games. Did you know I can’t even beat the demo for Starcraft? He hired me anyway and actually had me try to get a feel for the game back in beta to see how noob-friendly it was. I hope I helped simplify it a little for new players.

Working for a startup company is interesting – employees get the opportunity to help out in a lot of areas of game development. What’s the most interesting task you’ve been given?

Heheh. What task haven’t I been given over the past few months? I’ve helped fold the booster boxes to ship them, I’ve tested countless features, I’ve even had to translate for our cleaning guy. The most interesting one, I guess, is when they ask me to stay up all night to help new players in chat when we run promos. There are players who think I never sleep.

Sleep? I’m sure I’ve heard that word before…Well, for our last question, what advice would you give to someone trying to get into the video game industry?

Get in early, be willing to start out lower than the peons, and do everything you’re asked to do and a little extra!

Thank you again for your time. We’ll let you get back to working on balancing those new quests!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Testing Tournaments

-Our lead tester just got matched up against our CFO for the second tournament in a row.

"I'll give you a $15/hr raise if you can beat me!"
-*Someone* in authority is pretty certain of his abilities.

"Do I get a raise if I beat you, Monk?"
"No, but if you lose you get to keep your job..."
-A tester

"How'd you get 4 units of Dark Elf Magi!?!?!"

-Me, after being ingloriously shut down by John in the Art department.

"Is the next tournament starting yet?"
-Pretty much all of us, right after losing.

"There's NO WAY you could have won without those spells!"
"That's my whole strategy!"
"Umm... Point remains guys, we're just testing tournaments right now... these aren't for real."
The lead tournament programmer responds to our head tester and CEO's conversation

As you might be able to tell, we've been having a blast around here testing out tournaments (still a few bugs to work out, but we're getting there), and inter-departmental tensions are at an all-time high. I just got beaten by John in Art - he managed to pull 4 dark elf magi! My single unit of Treants went down first, and after that the rest of my army fell pretty quickly (I don't normally play nature).

I don't think I'd ever realized what a competitive bunch we are! Put in an organized tournament and *wham*, smack talk galore. The losers are generally quite sore, the winners are generally quite immature, and treaties have rapidly come to ban the use of testing commands like 'F9', which instantly kills the selected unit (only on our test builds, never in the released game).

It's been interesting playing in sealed deck tournaments, because so much of the tournaments relies upon being able to craft a solid strategy with cards that were given to you randomly. Also, it's been very interesting to see the re-prioritization of spell usage. An earlier battle between myself and the CEO resulted in him deploying a single cavalry unit and blasting me with as many spells as he could.

Kiting aside, it's interesting to see what strategies are developed on-the-fly. Sometimes you only get one or two units you want, and a lot of filler. Sometimes you get a healer or two, and hope that a tank is coming soon.

Needless to say, tournaments are shaping up to be amazing - and we're all enjoying them immensely. We're working as hard as we can to get them to you, the players, as soon as we can! We'll be bringing you more about tournaments as development progresses ~