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Update #30: How Stuff is Made

Project Eternity Production Team Making Of

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#1
Adam Brennecke

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Today's update is different from what we've done so far, and is to give you a look at what's going on at the studio. During the making of Project Eternity we want to give you an idea on how our games are made. Making games is not magic - game development just boils down to a lot of work from a lot of talented people. I would like to pull back the curtain, and give you the who (the talent) and the what (the work that they do) to make Project Eternity a reality.


The Stuff

RPGs are large and complex games that have a ton of stuff, and much more stuff compared to most games. Characters, companions, dialogues, areas, monsters, abilities, spells, items, weapons, armor, sound effects, visual effects, interface art, music, crafting recipes, animations, textures, crates and quests are the bits of stuff in Project Eternity... and the list goes on and on. At the time that we finally ship the game, we will have hundreds of thousands of bits of stuff in the game. Managing and creating this stuff is one of our major problem when creating RPGs. Our task is to make all of the stuff as efficiently as possible with a high level of quality.

Right now we are knee deep in pre-production. Pre-production is the period of time at the beginning of development where everything is planned and prototyped, production schedules are made, and pipelines are constructed. I'm not talking about oil pipelines here - I'm talking about asset pipelines. An asset pipeline can be described like an oil pipeline - First the asset is made by a content creator (like an artist), next the asset is processed by a tool so that the game understands what the heck it is, and finally the asset is placed into the game world in its final location. All of the different types of assets (stuff) require a custom pipeline. Pipeline creation is one of the many problems we are tackling right now in pre-production.


The Team

We have many different roles (sometimes called "hats") on the Project Eternity team. Most of the team fall into three categories: content creators (makers of stuff), programmers (making the stuff work), and production (making sure the stuff gets made). Our role percentage breakdown is a bit different than what we typically have on a project. If you look at my fantastic pie-charts below, you can see that we are content focused because we have larger design team, and since our team size is small we don’t have the need for a large production staff.

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All of these roles are equally important and are all vital for making the game great:

Art
  • Animation: Animation adds life and movement to the game. Every moving object in the game requires an animator to be involved.
  • Effects Art: Spell effects, sword swings, fire, smoke, and blood are animated and designed by an effects artist.
  • Character Art: Character artists create the characters, companions, and monsters. They also model and texture all of the weapons and armor.
  • Concept Art: Concept artists paint and illustrate environments and characters that fit within the art and design vision. Their art is used by the rest of the team for reference on style, mood, color, size and proportion. They also paint the 2D portraits and touch up the 2D pre-rendered environment scenes.
  • User Interface Art: All of the buttons that you push, the interfaces that you interact with, and all of the mouse/item/weapon/spell icons in the game are designed and crafted by the UI artist.
Audio
  • Audio Design: Audio design is responsible for any and all of the audio that comes out of your speakers. This includes the creation and production of all of the music and sound effects, and making the character voices sound great.
Design
  • Area Design: All of the cities, towns, dungeons, and wilderness areas that you can explore are designed by area designers. They take the environments and characters made by the artists to construct a rich and believable world. They also fill the game with quests and combat encounters.
  • Narrative Design: RPGs contain thousands of lines of branching dialogue and huge non-linear storylines. The world, story, companions, factions, lore, and themes are created by the narrative designers.
  • System Design: Rules and systems specialists. They like numbers and spreadsheets. Combat, abilities, spells, non-combat skills, and items are designed by the systems designers.
Production
  • Production: The producers organize the team. They make sure everything is running like a well-oiled machine. Producers have the responsibility for making sure the game is delivered on time, on budget, and is awesome when it's shipped.
Programming
  • Engine Programming: The engine programmers deal with system, rendering, and physics code. Unity handles a lot of our engine-level programming for us, so we can focus our programming time and energy on gameplay.
  • Game Programming: The game programmers implement the game design including the rules, combat, and abilities. They also code up gameplay systems like dialogues, quests, stores, and create artificial intelligence for monsters.
  • Tools Programming: Pipelines and tools used by the team are made by the these programmers. Most of their code lives "outside" of the game code.
Quality Assurance
  • Quality Assurance Testing: The QA tester reports in-game problems to the rest of the team. They make sure that all the stuff is working together and functioning properly.
We want to go into more detail on what each person does on the team in future updates. A two sentence description trivializes the responsibilities for each team member, so in the future we will dig deeper and take a closer look into the disciplines.

Next week Josh has an update with lore and other fun worldly things.

Update by Adam Brennecke
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#2
Måndagsbarn

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That seems to be a lot more design than a regular project. I like it already. (As if I didn't like this project before.)
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#3
Luridis

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LOL! After the first paragraph I just had too...


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#4
Archon

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The producers organize the team. They make sure everything is running like a well-oiled machine. Producers have the responsibility for making sure the game is delivered on time, on budget, and is awesome when it's shipped.


So if Project Eternity ends up being awesome, all Obsidian will be praised, and if it fails, the producers / Project Manager will be whipped...
No pressure :D

#5
Muzzle

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I would rather just think you are all the magicians I believe you are but hell yeah.... This game makes me wet! marry me Obsidian!

#6
Oedipus

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This is the type of post that reminds me of how irrating that Roger Ebert's comments about games not being art really is. Link Looking at all the similiarities, and I would say even more work that is invovled in creating a dynamic setting in video games, compared to movies, I just feel like slapping some sense into Roger Ebert.
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#7
Luridis

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So if Project Eternity ends up being awesome, all Obsidian will be praised, and if it fails, the producers / Project Manager will be whipped...
No pressure :D


Cat-o-nine or tawes? :lol:
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#8
Sacred_Path

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can I be a narrative designer, pretty plz? :ban:

#9
KarroK

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Any way to volunteer for a parttime QA under some bitchin NDA for those willing to invest some time into making the game awesome (after just having handed their wallet and 1st born over for the kickstarter) ?

I realize there will be an open alpha and beta, but surely testing can be done by a group of volunteers reporting to the QA leads in-house?

Both coding and QA seem lightly understaffed, but can be quite determental, but at least QA can be done by semi-qualified volunteers.
Let people who are interested send in a resume or something, just so you don't get swarmed with a gazzilion people that just want to try it once.

Edited by KarroK, 09 November 2012 - 04:52 PM.

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#10
Ieo

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Love this stuff. Keepin' it real.

Are writers under the narrative design? How many?

How many team members total?

So curious....

Thanks!


More first-Sagani-art plz!

#11
Knott

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On the kickstarter page the first comments are about the chunk-size of the QA in the chart.

Considering that you are now entirely on your own I would advice you to invest a little more on QA. You won't be able to blame anyone else if the release is horribly bugged.
For the final stages of QA, you should get external, professional, College/University graduate QA to look it over. They'll see things with a fresh eye and they'll be able to speak your lingo so that you'll get the best possible feedback/reports.
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#12
Zeckul

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Nice to see so little effort is going in Programming and Production relative to the other disciplines: I suppose this is largely due to choosing Unity as the game engine.

#13
Tigranes

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On the kickstarter page the first comments are about the chunk-size of the QA in the chart.

Considering that you are now entirely on your own I would advice you to invest a little more on QA. You won't be able to blame anyone else if the release is horribly bugged.
For the final stages of QA, you should get external, professional, College/University graduate QA to look it over. They'll see things with a fresh eye and they'll be able to speak your lingo so that you'll get the best possible feedback/reports.


Well, they're in pre-production. You wouldn't want them to hire 10 people for QA for two years, on their budget. It's not like playing betas.

#14
Chaos Theory

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Interns: These are the people who provide the tears for the rest of the team to feed on. Sometimes an intern is sacrificed to appease a producer, usually in a grim ceremony in which the heart is ripped from the chest and the empty cavity is filled with broken dreams.
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#15
Knott

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On the kickstarter page the first comments are about the chunk-size of the QA in the chart.

Considering that you are now entirely on your own I would advice you to invest a little more on QA. You won't be able to blame anyone else if the release is horribly bugged.
For the final stages of QA, you should get external, professional, College/University graduate QA to look it over. They'll see things with a fresh eye and they'll be able to speak your lingo so that you'll get the best possible feedback/reports.


Well, they're in pre-production. You wouldn't want them to hire 10 people for QA for two years, on their budget. It's not like playing betas.


It seems to me that the charts are for the average of the entire production-run, not just the pre-production.
And while we're on it, pre-production is perhaps just as important as QA. Any defects that QA picks up on can be traced back to a glitch somewhere on the production-pipeline.

#16
KarroK

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Well, they're in pre-production. You wouldn't want them to hire 10 people for QA for two years, on their budget. It's not like playing betas.



You'd like at least some QA as soon as they have something in a workable state though :). The earlier bugs are found the faster and cheaper they can usually be fixed.

#17
Tigranes

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Well, that's the thing. Now that we have a pie chart, people (including myself) who know either nothing or very little about the process are trying to figure out whether this is enough QA, whether they need more QA, what having QA actually means and costs, etc. etc.

Personally, I know the more I overanalyse the more I'll let my own ignorance create wrong assumptions. I'm happy with seeing how there's a smaller emphasis on programming, production and even art in terms of numbers, and seeing the breakdown of roles. (I mean, I could hardly tell them to make sure they have more narrative designers than area designers, right?)

#18
Knott

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As part of the pre-production the entire team could watch all relevant episodes of Extra Credits.

Its entirely free, and the worst that could happen is that noone learned anything.

Well, that's the thing. Now that we have a pie chart, people (including myself) who know either nothing or very little about the process are trying to figure out whether this is enough QA, whether they need more QA, what having QA actually means and costs, etc. etc.


In Obsidian's other games, they've had a publisher. In most cases it is the publisher's responsibility to conduct the final quality assurance.
With PE, the responsibility of QA befalls entirely to themselves.
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#19
rjshae

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Considering that you are now entirely on your own I would advice you to invest a little more on QA. You won't be able to blame anyone else if the release is horribly bugged.

This is clearly a case where the experienced professionals are much better informed about just how much QA to plan for. I just appreciate the fact that they are willing to share this much.

The backup plan for this concern can be covered by the enhancement pack, which can include post-release bug fixes for the game engine (and so forth).

Edited by rjshae, 09 November 2012 - 06:09 PM.


#20
Starglider

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QA is the easiest bit of the team to scale. If you underestimated, you can either draft more testers or just outsource it to the many many global companies who provide contract software QA. I wouldn't be concerned about allocation at this stage.
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