All posts by Sooth Sayer

Open to Discussion

There’s been plenty going on since the last devblog, with one of the most prominent events being the launch of our Facebook discussion group. It’s given us a place to talk through with the community some of the points being raised by the current stage of development.

If you want to see what’s been discussed, and maybe even join in, then just click here.

With the main front-end screen hitting its milestone, we’ve moved onto the first functional iteration of the conference screen. As we’ve mentioned before, this is the main new feature we’re adding to FOTWO: the chance to interact diplomatically with other nations, and try to form a consensus on how best to address the looming perils of climate change.

Many thanks to all of you who have participated in discussions so far: your input on subjects from the colour of national panels to the phrasing on conference agenda points has all been very welcome, and we look forward to more of the same over the coming weeks.

Alongside the conference screen, we’re pressing on with core development tasks, like filling out the data model, and readying the specification for the next development sprint – the events screen.

We’ll be back with a fresh update soon to tell you all about that – in the meantime, if you’d like to know more, just come find us on the discussion forums, and join the debate.

The Fate team

Beginning of the Front End

Last week saw us hard at work, trying to complete the current development “sprint” on schedule. We have only a few weeks to pull together the first working game code if we’re to make the September launch date for our Kickstarter.

The main focus of the sprint has been on what we call the Main screen, the top-level of the interface, which summarises all the economic, demographic, political, and environmental data of the player nation into a single place.

The goal is an interface that informs the player, clearly and precisely, of the nation’s current situation, allowing them to assess with a single glance what the key issues are that the country faces.

Which economic sector is emitting the most greenhouse gases? How capable is the local environment of absorbing these emissions via vegetation? How are you doing in meeting your climate conference obligations?

Is the nation politically stable? If not, what might be the reason? What is the state of healthcare, and education? Do people have enough work, and is that work well enough rewarded?

How does your nation power itself? How does its technology compare to the rest of the world? How much wealth does it have, and what is its GDP? What does that mean in terms of your budget?

The data set we are implementing into the game is vast in scope, and made all the more engaging by the fact that it is as close the the real-world data as we can make it. We have a wealth of statistics, data, and research to draw upon in every field we touch upon, drawn from many of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

Making this data accessible and understandable to people, structuring interrelationships so that hard facts and numbers become dynamic game elements, is at the very heart of Fate of the World. What we aspire to is a game that explores what it means to be a member of humanity in the 21st Century.

As always, thanks for reading. We’ll be back with more news very soon.

The Fate team

Forging ahead

First, here’s the most recent piece from concept artist Joe Knight, and subject of our most recent Newsletter competition.

We wanted an image showing the despoliation of the Amazon rainforest by tree-felling robots, and the reaction of the people whose homelands are being destroyed.

It has all the haunting beauty we’ve come to expect from Joe’s work, and we think it’s a fitting endpiece to his current sequence.

Many thanks to everyone who sent in entries. After much deliberation, we’ve picked  five winners, so well done Lucas, Travis, Charilaos, Mart, and Andrew: we’ve sent you all a Steam key via e-mail. Our commiserations to the losers,

Meanwhile, Unreal development is going well, as we transform our plans from pre-production into working reality. With many issues already discussed at length and well-understood, we’ve been quick to implement them into the game.

Of course, there are still occasions where our assumptions have been proved wrong – some elements have turned out to be under- or over-sized, for example, and there have been several occasions where we’ve implemented an element only to immediately think of how it can be improved.

Fortunately, the team is experienced at agile development, allowing our work to be rapidly iterated and improved upon. Progress is reviewed at least once a day, and we’ve been able to identify and resolve problems the moment they arise.

Nevertheless, there have still been teething problems on the way. We crashed Unreal earlier in the week while importing a transparency-heavy art asset, and lost several hours of work, but fortunately the damage was minimal and easily repaired.

Overall, though, progress has been very promising and the mood within the team is highly optimistic. We seem to be well on schedule to achieve our goals in time for a September Kickstarter launch; it’s likely we’ll be able to share some in-game screenshots with you before then too.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with another update.

The Fate team

 

Fresh developments

Last week was not quite what we’d been expecting. We were anticipating a hectic schedule of finalising the Kickstarter materials, making the project live, and then readying for weeks of marketing and PR activity to support it.

Following the difficult decision to postpone the campaign, though, we found ourselves unexpectedly calm and thoughtful, as the pre-deadline adrenaline and stress receded.

The key factor in us calling the delay was a consultation we’d made with Thomas Bidaux of Ico Partners, a PR consultancy who specialise in the gaming sector.

Thomas is one of the world’s foremost experts on using Kickstarter to fund video games, and gives presentations on the subject at conferences all over the world. His opinion is worth heeding.

His assessment was frank – despite many strong points, our campaign lacked important elements needed to achieve our intended goals. Most critically, we didn’t have any gameplay footage for the new game in our video – something essential in the current crowdfunding climate.

As we reflected on Thomas’ words, we assessed what the impact would be. Turning the current designs into working gameplay would take several months, time we hadn’t budgeted for in our plans. It would push the current team to the very limits of what they could contribute in terms of time and effort. There was a lot to think about.

Over the next few days, we returned to our plans and designs, and worked out what was possible. The more we thought about it, the more positive we got. Games development is a lot easier now than it was when Fate of the World was first made back in 2011 – a huge wealth of sophisticated and robust middleware is now cheaply available that simply didn’t exist six years ago.

Despite the lack of a dedicated programmer in the team (one of the most important reasons for our Kickstarter), we do have some experience working with Unreal. While we might not be able to implement all the network code the Online version will need, we definitely possess the ability to make working versions of the core interfaces and gameflow.

With that resolved, we pressed on. We’re now a week into development, and already have got many of the most important features working on-screen. It’s also very refreshing to be out of pre-production and into development – there’s only so far you can take design discussions without actually seeing things working.

With development moving forward, we’ve found ourselves with time to tackle other long-awaited tasks as well. For example, we’ve long wanted to include a forum on our website, as a hub for discussion on the latest climate change science and analysis, and how it might impact the game design. Early experiments have been very promising, so we hope to unveil it very soon.

We’ll be back early next week with another update – including the reveal for Joe’s last piece of concept art, and the results of Competition 3.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Fate team

Reality Check

Dear supporters, there’s going to be a change of plan. We’re going to have to delay the launch of our Kickstarter campaign.

This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly. We’re very focused on bringing Fate of the World up to date for you, with important new features that we think you’ll love; and we’ve spent our own money and put in months of hard work to get to this point.

However, as part of our process we’ve consulted several experts on the subject including Ico Partners who specialise in crowdfunding. Their advice has been unanimous: our campaign is not ready for launch. A critical factor is that we haven’t done enough to graphically illustrate our new gameplay for you, including in our video.

As a result, we’ve decided to delay launch and fix that problem. The delay will give us a chance to address other minor issues too, and give the best possible chance of successfully funding the new game. our commitment to the project remains strong, and we’ll be sharing more with you as we proceed into the first stages of development, to bring our designs and proposals to life.

Our goal remains unaltered: to bring you Earth’s clearest, deepest, most accessible climate change simulation game.

 

Date night

We’re excited to announce that our Kickstarter will launch on the Wednesday the 21st of June!

It’s not been an easy decision to make. Launching the Kickstarter is not just a matter of preparing all the assets and pressing “Go”. The core team will need to be highly active throughout the weeks that the Kickstarter is running, responding to issues as they arise, and giving our campaign the best chance of success.

This morning, we eventually came to a decision. We’ve opted for Wednesday 21st June. It was only some time after we’d all agreed on it that we realised it’s also the summer solstice. Hopefully it will prove an auspicious choice.

There’s certainly no shortage of things to do beforehand. We’ll be back next week to let you know how it’s going.

The Fate team

All hands on deck

The pressure is ratcheting up as we get ever closer to our deadline. An announcement on the launch date of our Kickstarter campaign will be made next week; in the meanwhile, the team is in high gear working its way through a long check-list of assets.

Fortunately, things seem to be going quite well. We’ve added two new faces to the team this week, ramping up our graphic design capabilities. There’s an awful lot of interface design and layout work to do, but already we’ve been impressed by the attitude and ability of both new members.

Elsewhere, our concept artist Joe has completed work on his third piece. It’s an illustration of a emergency climate conference, set some time in the future, and called in response to a crisis of rising sea levels and inundated cities.

Its purpose is to illustrate our main new gameplay feature, which is the Conference mini-game. This has been specifically designed to model negotiations between a large number of participants, such as the summit which gave us 2016’s Paris Agreement. This sort of diplomatic gameplay was practically absent from the original, and we’re very excited to explore this direction further.

The Conference artwork is another very strong piece from Joe, and we hope that those of you on our mailing list enjoyed the first look at it earlier. Meanwhile, Joe’s now at work on a fourth artwork. The subject of this new illustration is currently shrouded in mystery, and forms the basis for the competition in today’s newsletter.

Incidentally, if you’re not already on the mailing list, you can sign up using the red widget at the top right of this page – you’ll not only get first look at all our latest news, but also have the chance to win Steam keys for the Tipping Point bundle.

That pretty much wraps it up for this week. Next week we’ll be doing some filming, which is going to be an interesting departure from the norm. Whatever happens, we’ll be back with another Dev Blog to make sure you’re kept up to date with what’s going on.

As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend.

The Fate team

Online discussion

Writing the dev blog is the last task of the working week, usually completed in the final hours of Friday night with a beer glass to hand. Sadly, external events intervened on this occasion, so please forgive the slight tardiness.

It was a typically busy week, with progress along the three main strands: concept art, interface design, and Kickstarter video. Each group has a different mix of core team members and external contributors, presenting a wide range of tasks to manage.

On concept art, Joe has completed a third work, which will go out on the Newsletter sometime in the coming week, along with a new competition. There will be five Steam keys up for grabs this time, so if you’re not already on the list, please use the red widget at the top right of this screen to sign yourself up.

Video and interface work are also moving along, and offering a host of fresh challenges. Alongside design, production and copywriting work, the core team have been trying their hand at scriptwriting, voice acting, and test filming performances. It is safe to say there have been a few teething issues on that front, and more than a little hilarity.

Of course, there’s still plenty of design discussion going on. One of the main topics this week has been something that arose from the video script: what does the Online in Fate of the World Online actually stand for?

For us, the fundamental difference that FOTWO has from the original is that the game will be based on a central server, so it doesn’t have to be fully installed the user’s machine. This means that people can play it on a much wider variety of platforms than before – Fate required a then-powerful PC or Macintosh to perform the substantial amount of processing the game needed, but FOTWO will do all the end-of-turn calculations in the cloud, before sending the results to the player’s computer, tablet, phone, and every other platform we can port the client too.

Online is also a statement of commitment from Soothsayer, to keep the game up to date with the latest scientific research, and stay on top of any bugs or balancing issues that emerged. The original game proved very hard to patch or add features to, and this is an area we want to get right this time around.

Finally, Online means that a multiplayer version of the game is enabled for the first time. To begin with, we’ll be solely focusing on getting the single player game right, but the architecture of the game – from the online server to the player role as national leader – should make incorporating multiplayer later a relatively simple proposition.

With the start of the next working week just a few hours away, it’s probably best to leave things there. We’ll be back next week with the afore-mentioned Newsletter, not to mention another blog update.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Fate team

A brighter prospect

This week, we concluded work on our latest concept art, and it turned out so well we wanted to share it with you straight away.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, Utopia1 is the sister piece to the previous work we posted last week.

It’s a vision of the same city shown as before, but how things might like if humanity actually manages to get things right.

It’s a captivating and alluring image, which emphasises the crossroads at which we as a species currently stand: this is a future we may attain, but it is far from guaranteed.

Those mindful of history cannot ignore that the current social and environmental conditions we are experiencing mirror some of the direst times in our planet’s history.

Nevertheless, it is also true that no species in the history of the Earth has ever evolved to the point we’ve currently attained. The pace at which our technologies progress seems to ever-accelerate, with dirty and problematic behaviours vanishing as a result of sheer technological obsolescence. It may yet well be sapience that preserves us as hominids.

Many outcomes are foreseeable, and despite the seriousness of our times it is not unreasonable to hold an optimistic view for the future. A primary reason we work on Fate of the World is just to understand the immensity of the issue for ourselves; we can report that the day-to-day mood in the office remains cheery.

Work resumes promptly on Monday morning, with a major creative meeting happening. The outcome should be very exciting, and a major step towards the launch of our Kickstarter campaign.

We’ll be back next week to let you know how everything’s gone. In the meantime, thanks for reading.

The Fate team

Crunch time

The last newsletter contained a rather pernicious competition: could you guess the identity of the artist behind the Dystopia1 concept art, knowing only the first letter of their username?

It turned out that no-one was capable of doing this, so earlier in the week we provided another clue: the last letter of their username.

That was all it took for a winner to emerge, with Matthijs Krijger swiftly calculating that GutsBerserk (aka Joe Knight) was the talent at play. Well done, Thijs, a Steam key for Tipping Point is headed your way

For those of you not subscribed to the newsletter (something easily rectified using the red widget on the top-right of this page), we promised we’d share the Dystopia1 concept art with you, so here it is:

Joe’s been working on two other pieces also. Utopia1, the sister piece to the work above, will be signed off shortly – once it is, we’ll be sharing the first look with the mailing list. The final work in the series is only at preliminary sketch stage, so expect to hear more about that in due course.

Alongside Joe’s work, there’s a plethora of other activities underway, with the video and graphic design briefs both progressing nicely.

It’s been something of a change for the core team: previously, we’ve concocted visions and proposals that have gained agreement internally, but now we have to find out if they inspire others also, so they can provide us with the skills and expertise we need.

With mere weeks before the Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to launch, there is more than a little tension in the air. Even so, our work is never less than compelling: every day, the news and research we read gives us conviction in our goals.

The data shows that climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. To contemplate it, study it, and share those observations with others, is an undertaking we find very fulfilling indeed.

As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with our latest news.

The Fate team