The truth is that full-production is where all of the heaviest lifting goes on. It’s not pretty, it’s not exactly glamorous, but it is the time when the bulk of actual development that will see its way into the final product takes place. The team - having fought its way through early growing pains and having learned from various mistakes and successes - presses ahead into the bulk of actual development.
I could bore you with a litany of details here – explanations of arcane collections of spreadsheets and how they make Orcs grunt – but I firmly believe that our fans would rather hear about just how hard it’s going to be for them to make it through the next year, knowing that WAR is coming and that it’s going to be the best thing since cold ale and a sharp axe.
So let’s eschew further discussion of the minutia of day-to-day development in favor of what I hope will be something more entertaining.
Alpha Testing -- Look, Ma! We Made a Game!
It’s been a busy few months around the heavily fortified compound that is EA Mythic headquarters. As the mercury rose here in Northern Virginia, calendars, day planners and white boards all throughout the studio mirrored the creeping progress of the summer heat. As the days fell away, a silent army of red Xs marked the steady motion of the project towards one of our most significant milestones. After a year of development, WAR has entered its "Alpha" stage.
The Alpha stage is an exciting time for any project. On the one hand, your game is taking shape and is finally playable. On the other hand, your game is also… less than stable. Clients crash, monitors explode, developers blink out of sight, only to reappear on the other side of the building, covered in a viscous coat of green slime, muttering quietly to themselves and, occasionally, to programmers or holy men. Obviously, that’s all pretty standard stuff, but it’s a proud time for the team nonetheless.
And now, some facts about Alpha testing that may very well shock you:
Fact: All "Alpha" tests are performed by a secret cabal of industry insiders, political luminaries and various celebrities who have faked their deaths over the years. These tests take place entirely within a dimly lit series of hidden tunnels – first installed during the second administration of President Cleveland for the express purpose of allowing the nation’s most powerful and influential persons to enjoy unfettered access to early, steam-powered video games.
Fact: "Alpha" is one of those key points in a game’s development that is specifically designed to torture the fans. It lets them know that the game (which is awesome and life-affirming and worth canceling all of your plans, dreams and birthday parties for) is playable... yet out of reach. Or at least it’s out of reach until the next convention or Games Day appearance of our intrepid traveling team of WAR evangelists, where all interested parties can get their mitts on the game and experience its excellence first-hand – consult the events calendar for details.
Fact: The previous two facts may – either in whole or in part – have contained exaggerations.
But we are – I assure you – in full Alpha mode.
What that means in a practical sense is that roughly one third of the total game is up and running – full of grim danger, grim humor and all manner of eye candy. We’re wrapping up our Dwarfs and our Greenskins (Squig Herders keep getting weirder and weirder). This third of the Warhammer world is starting to take on its (somewhat) final shape. We just roughed in an early version of Karaz-a-Karak – the Dwarf capital city – and it’s ENORMOUS. Even zipping around with Magical Developer Powers, it takes a fair bit of time to see it all – and you’re going to want to see it all. (Cruel teaser: Just wait until you see where the stunties have visiting High Elves camping out.)
While we’re just getting to enjoy the fruits of the team’s labor in these first areas, we’re also looking ahead to our remaining four races. In many ways, the most exciting tasks – and the most difficult challenges – lie ahead of us. We’ve gotten the early production kinks worked out now and new content will be coming more rapidly for the rest of the development cycle. In the coming months, you’ll start to see elements of both the Empire and Chaos races take shape, followed soon after by High Elves and Dark Elves. I happen to believe that the Dark Elves are being held until later to personally torture me, as it’s obvious to anyone who’s familiar with Warhammer lore that they are absolutely awesome beyond words.
Early next year, the first Beta phase that our players will be allowed into will begin. If you haven’t been doing so already, make sure to watch warhammeronline.com for details on upcoming contests, drawings and other events that will give you a chance to get in early.
Speaking of competitions, regrettably, we’ve been told by our legal staff that our "Eat a Halfling, Get Into the Beta" contest has been cancelled, apparently due to some obscure Virginia law about not being able to hunt anything that can talk for food OR sport. So to any of you that had already entered, we hope you at least enjoyed the tender, juicy goodness of broiled Moot-dweller.
2006 Aug 24 21:09 GMT