After the large break of the last few months, we're incredibly pleased to say we're back and working harder than ever! This update is a big one, so hold onto your pants...
As you are no doubt aware, we took a long break for university, non-SoA work and transitioning from uni to work in some cases. This has been hard on us and on development of SoA and we have been itching to get back into the saddle.
While we're back, we are back in a different way to how we were before the break, which gave us good time to mature and think about our approach to development. We have realised that the approach we were taking before was quite a naive one, and that we could improve it considerably, and so do a better job making the game you want to see.
Part of this has been to recognise we're not veteran developers with a grand understanding of working on a big project. This is something we were always aware of, but have been much more acutely aware of during the time we've been unable to make massive progress. As such, we are changing tack to something that is very exciting for both us and you!
Well, what is this elusive tack you refer to?
Okay, okay. Sorry, the suspense makes it all the better though, I promise. We have been thinking over what would make sense as an approach to make us, as a studio, better at our job as well as expedite the creation of SoA. What we concluded was to shift from the focus of making one huge game (SoA) to developing a series of smaller games - I promise SoA is going to benefit, I'll get to explaining but you'll have to read on - while doing less work directly on SoA. Creating and shipping much smaller scope games should give us experience we desperately need for any big project.
Since that realisation, we have been discussing what would make the perfect first small-scope game. We have hit on the idea of an arena shooter - we don't have a name yet. We're going to do things differently to what we have seen with Quake of old, and even Unreal Tournament. This choice is for two reasons: first, it inspires enthusiasm on the same scale as SoA does with us as developers, and second it will have a feature set where pretty much every last drop of code can be incorporated directly into SoA.
I know, it means we aren't directly developing SoA in any large amount, though we will be doing things here and there - Ben has been doing some awesome work in planet rendering recently that we are excited about - BUT every feature we develop for this arena shooter will be a feature we would have needed to develop for SoA. Think first person shooter mechanics, fluid movement, character models and even customisation.
Once we ship this game, we will be looking at making other smaller-scale games, ideally where their mechanics will also lend themselves to being implemented directly into SoA also. Ultimately, we hope that the end result will mean that by the time we are ready to shift back to pure SoA development, we will be much better developers and much more deserving of the support you guys have shown us!
Tell me more!
I love the enthusiasm! Alrighty then, the arena shooter is going to be built on four core pillars, the first being high quality, brutal shooter mechanics, the second being fluid movement and the third, setting it apart from games of its ilk, being the modifiable, destructible voxel environment. This will allow for things like structures being toppled and dynamic cover creation, as well as allow modders to create truly all new arenas with only their imagination as a limit. The fourth pillar takes this game truly out into territory of its own: we are going to build the gameplay completely in LUA to make the experience ENTIRELY moddable! This is something that means a lot to us, and we look forward to seeing the incredible mods you guys make - and look forward to making our own crazy gamemodes too.
There are more details we have been fleshing out, but we will save those for another time. We hope you are all excited by this - we certainly are; a handful of us have been working almost non-stop the last few days on fleshing out the design of the first iteration of the core feature-set to ensure the game will be as good as possible as quick as possible. If you have any questions, I'll be hanging around the forums as always.
Wait, wait, when can I play?
Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot! One of the key things we've realised in developing SoA is that it means a lot to be very careful in creating good milestones of development so that builds can be released without reducing content. As such, we have designed a roadmap - which we will detail fully at a later date - that has as its focus an order of development that gives us many good exit points to provide you all with builds that add content and gameplay on top of the last build.
The first build will be the arena building so that we can all get to building arenas as soon as possible. This particular build is one for which we have done a lot of work already in having developed SoA to where it is now, so we are predicting it shouldn't be long at all before this build is ready for playing!
By the way, if any of you have ideas for a name for the game, let us know! We have one idea right now, but we are looking for alternatives.