Manifest Destiny - State of the Game Address (2007-2008 version)
The newest, and final, incarnation of Manifest Destiny was begun on July 1st, 2007. It's been nearly a year, so it's time to reflect on the last year and examine where we are going for the second year.
Let's look at where we've been first. I'm not going to spend time talking about specifics on where we are at with the current milestone. It would be meaningless in a month anyway. If you want that, check out the current milestone thread. Instead I want to look at the overview of the entire year.
Since we started with exactly nothing, quite a lot has changed! The design document, which started at 37 pages (verson 1) increased over the year to 61 pages, and is still going strong. The initial 3 weeks of the project were spent putting together the first draft, which generally just went over the various interface screens in as much detail as I could manage at the time. Since then it has gotten a facelift in between each of the milestone releases and subsequent work on the next milestone. But its major upgrade came in between milestones 3 and 4, when most of the information on world building went into the document, and over a month was spent just on research for that.
Giving away 2 months of the year to the design doc, the other ~10 months was spent in coding time. I've completed 4 milestones (of 25 in total) and am 2/3rds of the way complete with the 5th. Needless to say, this is not as far along as I was hoping to be after a year, but then again, that would be true no matter how far along we were!
Milestones 1 and 4 were the big ones, weighing in at about 3 months each. Not too surprising for the first one, since putting together the structure of a project is pretty time consuming work, and I was coding in an area I had never touched before (DirectShow, which amounted to getting the AVI player working). Sound systems, fonts, logging systems, texture managing systems, various UI systems (like buttons) all needed to be coded before we could even see the first screen come up.
Milestone 4 was a bit of a surprise to me, I actually expected it to be pretty quick. But a good deal of time was spent trying to implement the race habitibility stuff. Even though the design document got it's biggest boost since it's creation right before M4, in retrospect probably a bit more time should have been spent with the DD prior to starting the coding for M4, which may have saved me some time in the long run. Sometimes you can't always predict how these things will go.
Milestones 2 and 3 each took up less than a month. Nevertheless, they were far from unimportant. They just happened to go very smoothly. Milestone 2, in fact, got us our main screen, complete with skeletons of both the world and globe maps, and the message box, which will be central to playing the game. Milestone 3 was our utility build, giving us things like the credits screen, the options screen, and configuration files. I actually expected M3 to take a lot longer than it did, since it delves into pretty arcane areas of DirectX. But generally it seemed to have gone pretty well (though there is a bug stemming from M3 that doesn't change the screen resolution correctly under certian cases, I'm going to have to dig back into that one at some point).
The goal of the first few milestones was to get through the preliminary and ultilitary stuff, so that the later coding could focus on the game. I'll be the first to admit most of this initial stuff hasn't been all that exciting. What we have now, after one year, are a few mildly interesting screens and the ability to create races. But no real game to speak of.
Which brings us to part 2 of the State of the Game Address. Looking forward.
I think we're on the verge of some quite interesting releases. Presuming I keep up the same pace (and I see no reason at the moment why that wouldn't be the case), that would put us around Milestone 10 by the time we hit the second year. So let's look at those milestones and see what we ought to have by then.
By the end of Milestone 5 and 6 (M5 being mostly done at the time I write this), we will have a fully realized world sitting inside the master file and parcelled out to the players as appropriate. Again, these things border on utilitarian rather than play elements, but they're among the most interesting utilitarian areas.
Milestone 7 puts that data on the screen in the form of a map, along with the player stacks and world resource nodes, and Milestone 8 will allow you to click on parts of the map and get useful information. It is at this point, in my opinion, that the game is going to start to feel a lot more game-like.
Milestone 9 is going to be all about techs and the tech page, which will be a huge focus of the game, and Milestone 10 will be all about blueprint designs, where you will take all your unit templates and unit items and put them together into blueprints which your cities will use to churn out your units.
What we'll have at the end of all that is 3 of the major play screens working with the file system in place to actually allow you (as the player) to open up a game.
What we won't have (unless I get farther along than Milestone 10) is any sort of pathing system (Milestone 11), so you won't be able to move your stacks, or the ability to advance the game's turn (Milestones 12-14), or cities (Milestone 15-16), or combat (Milestone 17-18). All of which we need to have even a very basic game, not to mention all the niceties that come along later (Milestones 19-25).
So, at the end of another year, I expect what we will have is not yet a playable game (beyond test playing), but certianly something that is a lot more gamelike than what we have at the moment. I personally think it's going to be among the most interesting programming and development of the game as a whole.
"They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian ... They're not laughing now." - Bob Monkhouse