I'll Be Back
by Sam Witt
July 4, 2001
It's been around eight months, give or take, since I started working on
this weekly column. I've put quite a few words up that I hope some of yhou
have found interesting, and in doing so I've learned a few things about
games that I otherwise might have ignored.
Having said all that, it's time to (temporarily!) put MetaStatic on
hiatus. I'm getting close to releasing the first stage of Horizon
Station, and I need to focus my creative energies solely on that task.
It's not going to be the finished game, but it will be there to give those
of you that are interested a taste of things to come.
Once the first few runs of Parts, the initial stage for HS, are
over, I'll start writing MetaStatic again. Phase Two of this column will be
much more tightly focused on the problems and challenges encountered in
implementing Horizon Station, and will serve, I hope, as a sort of guidebook
for future storybuilders. Skotos has given us some powerful tools, and I
think a look into the process of their use will be useful for all
That said, I'll give you a short list of the challenges that myself, and
the Horizon volunteers, are going to face. Brace yourself, this could get
There are, at last count, more than eighty types of room in Horizon
Station. This does not include the miles of corridor necessary to link all
those rooms together. Or the fact that each room will have to appear more
than once, and that each time the room will have to be slightly different,
so as not bore the audience.
On average, each type of room will have five elements that can provide
interaction. A well-designed room will also have another ten or
twenty details that are there for only for flavor. So we're up to,
let's see, at least 400 interactive elements, and at least 800 descriptive
elements. But wait, there's more.
Because the entire game environment is built to be repaired (and to break
down) each of the 400 interactive elements I've discussed above will be
constructed out of even smaller pieces. To be conservative, I'd say there
are going to be at least a thousand of these, and perhaps as many as twice
And that's just the core environment.
Into this detailed environment I'm going to have to build the game rules.
Most of this is going to be constructed out of scripts that are embedded
in the various objects of the game. Which means one mistake in a 'parent'
object, can quickly become a thousand mistakes scattered across many 'child'
objects. Kinda spooky.
This is not rocket science, but it is going to involve some fairly tricky
scripting and a lot of planning to make sure things work right. It's going
to be a challenge.
Fortunately, I am planning on deploying the game in a number of phases,
each of which will add another gameplay element to those that have gone
before. The first phase will involve repairing the station, and phases
after that will cover combat, space exploration, and whatever other wacky
ideas cross my mind in the dark of the night.
Putting the game into the environment is the hardest task, and one that
I'm as excited about as I am nervous. Mainly because of all the happy
players that I'm likely to irritate. Which brings me to ...
The environment and the game are difficult, no two ways about that. They
both involve a lot of work, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of
troubleshooting. But these two things are nothing compared to what will
happen when the players appear on the scene.
Players have it easy. They show up and have a good time. And if they
don't, they break out the flamethrowers and start lighting up the screaming
developers. Developers hate flamethrowers, they sting. And I don't have
that much bactine.
Which is why I spend days and nights thinking about what players do, what
kinds of things they look for, and how much they love to break games. It's
an exhausting exercise, but it's the only way to get things done.
And with that said, I leave you for now, to go and put together the first
stage for your enjoyment. See you in a few weeks. I'll still be checking
the forums, of course, so feel free to click that little link below.