Battle Realms Designer Diary #10

Ed Del Castillo gives us a bug report and a status update on the long-awaited Battle Realms.

Entry #10 - 09/12/01

By Ed Del Castillo
President, Liquid Entertainment

Many of you are wondering what the holdup is. First we said it was going to ship around the time of E3, and then we rolled it back to September, and now it's looking like November. It's never good to start anything with an apology, so let me fill in with an explanation.

Lotus and Dragon Clan members clash in a forest.

Battle Realms is Liquid's first game. Although we've done stuff like this in the past, we had a completely new group of people, and we were creating all our own technology from scratch. The bad news is that it takes a longer time for a new team with no inherited technology to finish their first game. The good news though is that now, at the end of this, we have a "jelled" team and a strong code base for the game. We are really happy with the results and chose to delay the game until now because we wanted to make sure that it was the best it could be. Thanks to a cooperative publisher (one of the rarest things in this business), we were able to push out the date to ensure that the game was done the way we envisioned, and that's why we got into this business. Thirty months ago, Mike and I made a pact to make the very best games, and we are still committed to that.

A Lotus Clan raid overpowers a Serpent village.

Right now we're doing a great deal of polishing, and the world of Battle Realms is coming together nicely. The feedback (from the public beta and other sources) is starting to flood in, and so far it's been overwhelmingly positive. A note on this: If you signed up for the beta and didn't get a copy to test, please don't be sad. We had an amazing level of response for the beta at sign-up time, and before we could close down the sign-up, we already had many more people than we were going to be able to properly support. It's really revved the team's engine, and everyone is working day and night trying to get all the feedback into the game.

So what's the straight dope on the ship date? November. No later than Thanksgiving weekend. We have officially requested an extension from Crave until Halloween to get everything polished, and we are ahead of that schedule. If all continues to go well, we might even be able to get it to you by early November!

Bug Hunt

A Wolf Clan sledger stands guard as peasants harvest rice.

The bulk of our work from here on out is slightly different for each department, but it all falls under the heading of "polishing the game." On the design side, we are working on tuning the game balance--getting the units to play and feel right, the maps to be balanced, and the pace of play to be where we want it. The units have so many layers that getting them to feel potent in certain situations and weak in others is the core focus of the design staff right now.

On the art side, we are polishing--forever improving the look of the game with improved animations, textures, and models. For example, right now, the artists are working on adding some special effects to the buildings when a unit is training within, improving a couple of the hero units, creating cool map effects like better waterfalls, and adding more terrain textures.

Finally, on the programming side, we are killing bugs as fast as we can (quite literally, since we just found a huge hive of termites in the programmer's room). The current bug count for the game (both multiplayer and single-player) as of 11:01am on August 28, 2001, is:

Total: 818
A Class: 93
B Class: 250
C Class: 412
S Class: 44

Class A bugs cause the game to crash or otherwise don't allow the player to finish the game. Class B bugs are things that the player will not be able to ignore but that don't prevent the completion of the game. Class C bugs are cosmetic, or bugs that have no effect on gameplay at all but are just little mishaps in art or code that cause minor graphical issues. Class S is reserved for suggestions.

Having received the druidess' blessing, these hurlers gain the ability to fling flaming pitch.

Now just to put this all in perspective, we were at 1113 open bugs yesterday around this time, and just in the time that it's taken me to write this, we are down to 799 open bugs. Of course, the testers probably haven't started entering their bugs for today, but I think you get the idea. When I worked on Command & Conquer and Red Alert, we had three times as many bugs at this point, and the team was able to pull it off, so my confidence is high that we are doing well. Across the board, it's one big whack-a-mole game of smashing the problems as soon as we find them.

The hard times are upon us. Most of us are working seven days a week for a minimum of 12 hours each day. It's hard on all of us to keep that up, but we really love this game and want to see it done right. All of you have been incredibly supportive so far, and I just wanted to say thank you for that, so "Thank you." You have no idea how much the posts about the game, the support of the press both on and offline, and the support of fan sites like buoy up our morale...that, and mega doses of caffeine and sugar.

We are going to continue at this pace from now until we master with little or no break other than the occasional Sunday off. During this time, many of us who have supported the fans and press are going to fall behind due to the amount of work we have to do. Please take up where we left off and keep morale high on your home fronts. This is the last, long push to bring this baby into the world.

Keep the faith. Liquid will bring you an RTS to play this Christmastime.

Thank you for all your support.

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