As developers and creators, ideas are always flowing through our veins and neural pathways. Once in awhile, something sticks and before you know it, you’re deep in the hostile territory that is the execution of the one idea that actually sticks.
For me, it all goes all the way back to 1989 when I first started thinking about developing games. I was in my late twenties then and didn’t have a clue where to start. But I had some seriously ambitious ideas which I couldn’t possibly pull off back in the day. By the time I had settled on doing the whole space/planetary combat thing after spending a seriously unhealthy amount of time playing lots and lots of games like Elite, Echelon, Star Flight, Star Fleet, Hard Nova, Echelon, Jetfighter etc I was finally convinced that I could actually pull off an all encompassing game which blended all the games that I liked into my vision.
That was Battlecruiser 3000AD (aka BC3K) – game #1. The one that started it all.
So after a few years of toiling away at it, I started making the online rounds, first on Compuserve, Bix, Cix, Usenet and then later AOL and wherever tickled my fancy. Man, those were the days. But it wasn’t until Computer Games Strategy Plus mag ran a preview of my then pipedream on the cover of their May 1992 issue, did my life turn upside down and inside out. My phone was literally ringing off the hook, I was getting tons of emails and such with offers etc. Seemingly overnight, I was a gaming God (in my own mind of course) among mere [gaming] mortals.
That first project was so ambitious that the publishers and press who actually got the chance to see and play it, were completely astonished that doing something of such scope was even possible. And without a full fledged team and lots of money. Nope. Never had that. In fact, it wasn’t until several years later that a few of my long time pals (who of course knew from way back then that I was unapologetically stark raving nuts) joined me on that bandwagon and through the history and annals of the ludicrousness that is game development.
Fast forward past several games to more recent times when I was thinking about taking a break from my niche space/planetary combat genre. I had the idea to do something different (yeah, shocking isn’t it?), but still set within my established world. The reason basically was that I really didn’t have the desire to continue the two year bum rush to do a new game because even my derivative games in each of my IPs, takes quite a bit of work and money to pull off. So instead I retired the Universal Combat franchise back in 2007 with a plan to develop an MMO version of a game that spanned all my IPs but which was set within the Galactic Command franchise which I had started first with an exclusive deal with GameTap, then owned by Turner Networks.
Developing an MMO – now more than ever – is no mean feat; especially for a complex and niche game. So while work on Galactic Command Online (GCO) was going on, I decided to go in a different direction with a different sort of game but again set within my own IP. That’s how the All Aspects games (All Aspect Warfare & Angle Of Attack) came to be. Both were released in Q3 of 2009.
The All Aspects games were a radical departure from what I was doing before and for me it took a bit of guts to actually stray from the norm. But right through the almost two year process of that development, right up to the deployment, I kept wondering if at all I would entertain the thought of doing another game in that IP as I had previously done with my others. The very premise of the game itself, the style of gameplay (it is not your run-of-the-mill fps shooter) etc all screamed MMO.
With that, I started working on some design ideas for how that would play out and with a view to exploring it some more once GCO was done and out of the way. But as with everything else, somewhere along the way, the industry started shifting – again – and having to focus solely on a niche franchise as an MMO was beginning to look a lot risky if it was to have a subscription. But then I think about the EVE space MMO game and I go, “yeah, we’ll be fine with just our niche numbers”.
Of course somewhere along the way, I had decided that maybe GCO needed to be a browser based game; and so we started looking into and protyping with the Unity3D engine. In the end, I literally had to sit on my hands while waiting to see what the latest Unity3 engine would bring and whether or not it was a viable option without having to – once again – reinvent the wheel.
However, with GCO moving along at a somewhat slow pace, it wasn’t until sometime in late 2009, a few months after the All Aspects games were released, that I started taking the idea of actually doing an MMO based on the All Aspects games seriously. By early 2010 the idea had firmly cemented in my mind – and so with my band of merrymen, off we went. Only this time, I wanted a more accessible (go play the All Aspect Warfare game or demo and you will see why this was important) game and that was the first thing that I made clear to the team. I told them flat out, if you guys leave the final word on design decisions up to me, we’d be doing another “Derek Smart” game similar to AAW but with just a new engine and features. 🙂
And so happened, the Line Of Defense, MMO – my game #15. Nearly twenty-two years after that very first idea sparked what was to become an unhealthy dance with fate, destiny and all their crazy friends.