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, October 27, 2008

Interview with John Lawton

Our artists have been working busily behind the scenes to help make the Unit of the Week program a reality. Joining us today for the third installment in the series of developer interviews is John Lawton.

I guess to start things off, what's your official job title at the moment?
My official job title at the moment would be "lead artist," even though I do a little bit of everything right now. I've been here longer than all the other artists, and it's now at the point where I'm making less of the art assets, and instead managing the content our offsite artists create, and then implementing it into the game.

So what does it take to put a new unit into Saga?
It actually takes a lot more work that just plugging it in. First, you have to put a unit's mesh and texture into the game, and then you have to animate the unit. You also have to specify what particle effects the unit will use, and create them if they don't exist already. In addition to meshes, textures, animations, and particle effects, you have probably half-a-dozen scripts to tie all of those together. It usually takes about 3 hours to implement a new unit into the game, not counting the time it takes to actually create it. After we implement a new unit, we have to test it to make sure it works and does what it's supposed to do.

What goes into balancing a unit?
A lot of time is spent actually playing the game, both on internal and on live in PvP and PvE matches. If there's something that's not working right, the balance team will go in a tweak it, then play a couple of hours on internal to see how the changes work out.

There's a lot of time spent doing math. A lot of math is involved figuring out what a unit is actually going to do. We have a formula that we've worked out to figure out the actual value of a unit, and also its combat effectiveness (which includes both its stats and its special).

Not every unit is useful in every situation- there are a lot of them that are good only for niche situations. Then there are your overall good units. There's a variety in the game, but I don't want to say that there's ever a completely useless unit. They all have some use- you just have to know what their strengths and weaknesses are.

How did you end up entering the game industry?
Well, my major wasn't actually 3D animation; it was multimedia, which includes a little 3D animation, webpage scripting, and video and audio editing. Kind of the jack-of-all trades major, and that's why after being hired here, I've been filling multiple roles besides just a 3D artist. Most companies will look for what skill you have in animating, and not actually what your degree is. So even though I knew only a small amount of 3D animation compared to someone that had taken 3 years of an animation degree, the quality of work I did was still above-average, and I was able to get a job.

Most of what is comes to if you're looking to be an artist in the animation industry is just practice, practice, practice. If your artwork stands out, then there will be somebody out there that wants you on their team. You're not going to get hired right away. I went over a year doing odds-and-ends 3D jobs, but my goal was always to find a job in the game industry. It has been ever since I was little.

When I was younger, I always used to create my own table-top games- you know, figure out all the math formulas. Then I'd get my friends together, and I'd figure out what was working and what wasn't, so then next week we could do it all over again. There's not many people that do that at the age of 10 or 12. (laughter) I think the game industry was meant for me. It was always what I want to do. If you're patient enough, that will happen. Some people just have to get into the industry as something like a tester, and then work their way up into design. The main thing that counts is starting to get experience.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Dark Elf Assassin Revealed

Enemies of the Magic faction have a new reason to fear the shadows; the lethal dark elf assassin is set to be released today, after the new patch has gone live. This skilled (and sultry) blademaster is well-suited to picking off the unprotected or the unwary. With the highest DPS of any magic unit and the ability to teleport short distances, a group of assassins can quickly flank and dispatch any ranged unit unfortunate enough to be caught out in the open. Members of the Order shouldn't take it too hard, though- as far as mortal enemies go, you could probably do a lot worse than a leather-clad temptress with a homicidal disposition.

The dark elf assassin is the first faction-specific card released as part of the new Card of the Week program, and is a 2CP, uncommon troop. If you're a member of another faction, try to contain your raging jealousy just a little longer; additional faction-specific units are hot on the assassin's heels. Rumor has it that the peculiar combination of dwarven ingenuity and insanity has spawned yet another invention, and if it doesn't explode, it could spell trouble for the Brotherhood.