The plot quickens

It’s been a busy week. The company has begun a new phase, with the team able to work together at length and often. Once more, we’re seeing focus tighten and momentum build, as we move towards our critical Kickstarter.

At last, we’ve had the chance to discuss issues at length, and resolve unanswered questions. Some of these resolutions have been surprising, with long-held assumptions being challenged and over-turned in the process.

The prime example here is the work we’ve been doing on the main interface, the one which will keep the player informed about the most important aspects of the game.

In the original, this took the form of a spinning 3D globe. As appealing as this was visually (to this day, the author enjoys spinning it like a basketball), it had serious deficiencies as a way of accessing information- most notably, the player’s inability to see all the information icons at one time, positioned as they were on a sphere.

Our initial response on FOTWO was to move back to the classic 2D map of the world, where all countries are visible simultaneously. This, surely, was the right answer to the problem, the tried-and-tested solution.

There is a problem with the 2D map, though, that we as a climate change game encounter particularly. The atlas view of the world is an excellent description of the world in a horizontal plane, but very poor in showing the vertical one.

While the world’s surface is of great interest to us, in terms of the forests, farms, cities, oceans, and ice caps it contains, our game system is primarily oriented on the two main layers of our atmosphere, the troposphere and stratosphere. This is where carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases accumulate, and where excessive solar energy is retained by our planet. As more heat results in warmer global temperatures, this is expressed in results such as more powerful storms, melted ice caps, and rising sea levels. It is the effects up above that influence what goes on down below.

Our very first response to this issue was redundancy; we will have an interface that shows the horizontal, and an interface that shows the vertical. This answer did for a while, but it could not hold up under the close scrutiny we’ve brought to our Minimum Viable Product design. Two interfaces take twice the work to make, a luxury we don’t have when development labour is in such short supply.

Before the break, we’d been working a fresh idea that looked like it was very much on the right lines, reducing the system down to its most succinct fundamentals, and most of this week saw us inching this design ever-closer to an agreed solution. However, niggles just kept on cropping up, and despite innumerable tweaks we just couldn’t get it quite to everyone’s liking.

Friday, we sat down, and spent hours talking it through, laying bare all our concerns and frustrations, until our minds could take no more. Then, after a short lunch break, we resumed, and talked for hours further. It’s an opportunity we’ve been often denied on this project, but the benefits were immediate and obvious: by the end, our visions had merged and synthesised, and we will start the week with a fresh and exciting design to consider.

We anticipate being able to show you visualisations of our latest work very soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back week with another update.

The Fate team