State Of Play
LINE OF DEFENSE
After five long years, lots of challenges, distractions, and everything in between, I am gearing up for one of the largest public updates to Line Of Defense since it went into development. Aircraft unlocks! And this update is part of the on-going visual improvements mentioned in several blog posts these past months.
Yes, I know, the comparisons to Star Citizen are going to keep coming. And it’s supposed (it’s not) to be flattering that some are comparing a 4yr + $100m (triple-A budget right there) built by up to 500 people at one point, to a 5yr year indie (less than two dozen people at any point) project that thus far cost less than $15m to build.
The fact is that, every single upcoming space combat game, can stand on its own merit because they all have a specific target audience, tech, visual style, gameplay premise etc. Battlescape Infinity, Elite Dangerous, Everspace, Into The Stars, Line Of Defense, Rebel Galaxy, Star Citizen, are the current and upcoming iterations of the new generation of space combat games. I’m not even going to bother throwing into the mix, the massive on-going visual updates to the only all-encompassing (and most complex) capital ship combat game of all time, Universal Combat (which has procgen planets btw!), the off-spring of Battlecruiser 3000AD.
But people keep making these comparisons because all of a sudden it’s apparently OK to compare all fps games because, well, they feature an fps component. That would be like comparing Fallout 4 to Call Of Duty. Stop it.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that game development is about managing expectations and being focused on specifically what you set out to create. Any deviation from that, even in the slightest, can and will ruin a project. Completely. A game genre simply can’t be everything to everyone; and you have to temper expectations every step of the way.
So yeah, space combat games are apparently back (not really, just a few), and so I am left wondering how long before someone picks up the rights to one of the classic IP like Freespace (Interplay), Freelancer (Microsoft), I-War (Atari), Privateer (Microsoft), Star Wars (Disney/EA), Wing Commander (EA), and do a new game in the series. But rest assured, while I don’t believe that this resurgence will last, I think the next few years are going to be very interesting for the genre. Some will make it, others will fizzle and fail, but hey, we’ll always have the memories.
At the end of the day, win, lose, or draw, LOD is going to be i) exactly what it was designed to be ii) a finished product that, like all my previous games, a lot of people will get to enjoy for what it is, not what they want it to be.
In the short-term, bringing (it has already been approved) it to the XBox One platform with Windows 10 <-> XBox One cross-platform play, is the ultimate goal.
My long-term plan going forward, as with all my games over the years, is to improve and expand it over the years. My ultimate goal is to expand the galaxy, build more planetary bases, add a simple (nothing as complex as in BC/UC games) trading (player-to-player) component, as well as the ability to fly carriers, cruisers, and transport ships – all from the IP the game shares with my other games – without the complex machinations found in the BC/UC games. But make no mistake, the game play focus will remain pure PvP, with very little PvE components.
LINE OF DEFENSE TACTICS
I have to mention that back when I had the idea to make a companion game as a marketing hook to LOD, I had no idea that LOD Tactics would end up being a fully fleshed-out multi-platform RTS game. The long road to the Dec 11th release on XBox One was very interesting to say the least. And it reminded me of all the reasons why, over the years, and through several console generations, I never – ever – wanted to develop a game for a console. In fact, I had to setup a separate third-party team (with Unity experience) to work with me on it because really it was just a marketing expense and experiment.
It was one of things that started off when, after looking at the Line Of Defense comics that my friend Rick Sanchez had written for a series we’re doing for DC Comics, I thought it would be a good idea to do something different and see where it goes.
So I reached out to Rick, explained the plan etc. And before you know it, he was full blown into writing the story line and all the 16 mission stories.
As we couldn’t use the LOD engine to build an RTS (that would on the level of stupid as using CryEngine to build an all-encompassing game like Star Citizen “vision 2.0”), I decided to use Unity4 because it was the easiest path forward for a simple game.
Since we only have one Unity person in-house, and it being a large project, I hired JJ over at CapitalJMedia to lead the development. We then hired six more people to work with him on the project. They became the “LOD Tactics – Unity” team and who reported directly to me and JJ.
Since LOD Tactics shares the IP with LOD, it uses all the same assets from the game. So those of us in the core LOD team, still had to support the LODT team in various aspects during the game’s design and development since they knew nothing about the game, let alone the IP.
We did the mobile (Apple, Google, Amazon, Steam) and PC (as expected, a bunch of lunatics with entitlement issues, derided it for being a “mobile” port – yeah, stupid, I know) versions first in 2014. And that was the end of CapitalJMedia involvement and the core of that LODT team once that was done. If you download the free versions on any platform (iOS, Android, PC), you will see the CapitalJMedia logo played after the 3000AD logo in the beginning. However, it doesn’t appear in the AndroidTV, XBoxOne or PS4 versions because, having finished the core game, we did them in-house without the involvement of the original LODT team.
Several months later, I decided to do console ports, and subsequently got it approved for both XBox One and PS4. Since we already had someone in-house with Unity experience, and it already being a completed game, I had him lead the improvements and ports for both the AndroidTV (for nVidia SHIELD TV, not yet released) and XBox One (released Dec 11th in North America only). And we will be doing the PS4 version for release next year; as well as other territorial releases depending on how much hassle (e.g. ratings boards, localization etc) I want to deal with.
My plan going forward is to improve on the console (I currently have no plans to revisit the PC or mobile versions) title via paid DLC in the form of new levels, missions, equipment, characters etc. Since the game can pull from a lot of pre-existing assets and lore, there is a quite a bit of room for expansion. And who knows, I may end up doing a full blown RTS game at some point down the road.