Disciples II: Dark Prophecy Designer Diary #14

Producer Pro Sotos signs off in this final entry of our long-running series of designer diaries for Disciples II.

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Entry #14 - 01/21/02

By Pro Sotos
Producer, Strategy First

As I write this last designer diary, I have to first thank not only each and every member of the Disciples II team and each and everyone of the extended team, but also their wives, husbands, children, parents, and friends. Every one of us has had to break prior engagements and limit the amount of time we could spend with our friends and family during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, and for that, I and everyone else at Strategy First are very grateful. No matter how much planning is involved in the development of a game, during the last few months of a project, we are always faced with an insane amount of overtime, which translates into an average working day of 14 to 18 hours. I actually threatened to have the lead programmer physically removed if he didn't go home because he had been sleeping four hours a night, several days in a row. Fred responded with a smile and said, "I'm OK, Pro, I want to do this, and the bags under my eyes really make me look more tired than I am."

After several long years in development, Disciples II is finally done.
After several long years in development, Disciples II is finally done.

Everybody has dealt with the long hours in his or her own way. Some have taken up smoking again, a number of them have taken the energy drink route, and others swear by the cola wars. The reason we do this is that we all take pride in what we do and will sacrifice as much as we can--sometimes till it literally hurts, because we want this to be the best game possible.

As I write this, it's 1:34am, and all is well. It's mostly finishing touches and minor bug fixes that are being attended to. As I walk through the offices, I see the programming team, both of them, making sure that every last insignificant bug has been addressed. The art team is looking at each and every animation, image, icon, and portrait and making each and every one of them just a little bit better than it was before. The sound team is reviewing every "oooh," "aahh," and "clank" to make sure it sounds like it should. The scenario designers are replaying their maps for the umpteenth time to make sure that each story is told in the way they want. The quality assurance department keeps rolling along, reviewing all of this wonderful mess to make sure that everything is as it should be.

The unavoidable last night of a project is an all-night party filled with rock anthems from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, potato chips, caffeine beverages, laughing, and, quite often, expletives when someone loses a battle, which I call the sound of "fun." Even though every one of us wants to desperately go home, at the same time, everyone is determined to make sure that he or she has done everything possible to make this game the best it can be.

It's now 1:50am and I've just received an e-mail announcing a new build, and the process begins again. For those of you not familiar with the term, a build translates into the latest version of the game. With each new build, everything is retested to make sure that nothing has been affected. And this process will continue each and every time we have a new one--until it's as perfect as time permits.

Though not classified as a bug, this dragon is nonetheless blue.
Though not classified as a bug, this dragon is nonetheless blue.

Throughout the night I walk through the office and ask the various leads how things are coming, and each time, I hold my breath and patiently wait for the phrase "Everything is good." At the beginning of the night I thought it would be funny to walk around the artists and tell them that I think there's not enough blue in the game and that they should put in at least 5 percent more blue. That hilarious remark garnered exactly zero laughs. About an hour ago I walked into the QA department and gave them direct orders to report any trace of blue as a bug and that blue is no longer tolerated in Disciples II--the response to that bit was exactly the same as the first.

At around 2:23am, the sound guys proclaim the sounds are perfect. They're off to the hotel down the street to catch a few hours of sleep before they return to increase the number of eyes we have looking for bugs in the game.

At 2:27am, Fred asks me if I'm tired. I respond "No" as slowly as possible and he quickly responds "Me neither, I don't get it, I slept an hour and a half last night and I've done 17 hours today and I don't feel tired," and that little comment starts a short discussion about the effects of adrenaline on the end of a project rush.

As I begin the conclusion to this designer diary, I think about all the young artists and programmers I met at a multimedia exposition a few months ago, who excitedly asked me to describe what it's like to make big bucks and work in the glamorous field of game development. I remember telling them that it's a lot of work and that they'd probably make more money working almost any place else. From their expression I knew they thought I was putting them on. Well, I can tell you it's not glamorous and it really doesn't pay as much as I'd wish, but I love what I do and so do the other people who are working here this Tuesday night.

I'm off to take another walk through the office to see how things are going and find out when I can expect the next build, and I can't wait.

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