Dev Diary #99: Vitruvius and How We Work
First of all, I must address how much I love to see all the appetite for upcoming updates here. Merging in as a new team, it means the world to us knowing that we are working on content for a game that people are enthusiastic and care about. As some of you have pointed out, we’ve been at it for about 9 months, so obviously we got something cooking for you that we think will add a new and interesting dimension to I:R. As a matter of fact, what we have in store for you is so far unprecedented in any of our other GSGs, and we think it will be a perfect addition to the I:R setting.
However, we can’t uncover this piece of work just yet, but we’re getting close. What I can reveal though, is that 1.6 Vitruvius will come as an update together with a DLC pack, and that it will come soon. Obviously not soon enough, but soon.
We know you wonder what we are working on, there’s been a few rocks in our path, but we feel confident that it’ll be a great update worth waiting for.
So, with that taken off the agenda, what should we do today then?
What I can take you through is something about the process of working with a parallel development stream to what the team in Stockholm have been doing.
As we showed in the team intro DD last Thursday, our Thalassic team has grown, with 3 new people coming in just the last couple of weeks (and oh boy, those additions are both welcome and needed) but for the main part of this project, we’ve been two coders, one 3D artist, one 2D artist, one content designer, one game designer and one coffee maker.. or producer I mean. We’ve also been supported by our in-house technical artist from time to time, but for the bulk of the project we’ve been 6 people in the production + 1 producer.
The project started with Jamor and Arheo visiting us down in Malmö. This was before Corona times, and people could carelessly travel around the world in trains or airplanes without a second thought about it. It’s not even been a year since, still those times feel so ancient and distant already. Stockholm and Malmö are roughly 4-5 hours apart by train including transfers, or 1-2 hours by plane, so when needed it was really easy for us to meet up in person. In this case, this gave us a great kick off as none of us had worked closely with each other on previous projects before this. We had some pea soup and pancakes, as is tradition in Sweden on Thursdays, then we bounced around ideas on what a suitable project would be for us, that would fit all of the criterias we had set up.
It had to be something that could be worked on in parallel with what the team in Stockholm would be working on, without having us interfering too much with each other’s areas. It had to be something that facilitated the skillset we had down in Malmö, making use of both 2D and 3D art, as well as code and design. It had to be possible to complete within a year, given the small team-size we had available, which in comparison was about a quarter of the size of the Stockholm team. Last, but also most importantly, it had to be something that expanded on I:R in a natural way, something that would fit seamlessly into the existing game. There’s also been an external criteria of utilizing more of the developer competences that can be found in Sweden, and as Malmö have grown into a game dev mecca over the last few years, we saw this as a great opportunity for trying out a new way of bringing more content to I:R without going through some of the hassle required to expand the team in Stockholm.
Soon also on your computer
Given those criteria, we discarded a couple of the more exotic ideas before zooming in on the strongest candidate, one that we in the Thalassic team immediately felt a huge appetite for. The idea itself came from Arheos backlog of features and improvements he would like to have added to the game. While the rest of the team familiarized themselves with the code base and art pipeline, Mårten and I drew up some design fundamentals that I later made a functional prototype out of in Unity. This helped us to efficiently communicate how the feature would work as everyone could see it and fiddle around with it, which gave us a clear and aligned idea of how this feature should be constructed. Arheo could give us the go ahead very early on, as he could see that we headed off in a direction that he was comfortable with.
From that point forward it was business as usual with a steady sprint pacing for us in the Thalassic dev team, each sprint is a two week segment where we break out a number of functions that we add to the feature. Me and Arheo started to have alignments whenever we saw the need for it, sometimes several times a week, but usually at least on a weekly basis. We also got great support from the Stockholm team that answered any of our questions and helped us out as much as needed to get through the initial learning curve for getting up and running independently with working on I:R.
There were a few hiccups on the way of course, which is normal in all types of development. In larger teams there is usually both bandwidth and expertise to tackle these types of challenges in a straightforward way. For our 6 person crew we had to solve it by going outside of our regular proficiencies and comfort zones sometimes. Our 3D artist has worked closely with coders to figure out our specific needs on the rendering pipeline and similar technical requirements on our art setups, which have given her a solid insight into the tech art department. My co-designer who is usually on the game design side of things, has delved into scripting and writing which have evolved him immensely in these areas. The 2D artist who is normally doing concept art and drawings, doubled up with a large amount of UI work to compensate for our lack of an in-house UX/UI artist. Coders have been trucking on like machines through this whole process and have had to juggle both the normal implementation of functions, while also supporting the rest of us with tech issues, script functions support, creating builds and a number of similar details that can normally be spread out on a number of people in larger teams.
We’re currently working hard on carving out the final building blocks of this monumental update
I think these are the kind of things I feel proudest about from working with this team on this project. Having people stepping up, going above and beyond themselves to deliver, taking on challenges that may not always be within their comfort zone. It’s been pretty cool to see each member grow with each and all of these challenges; in many aspects we’re a whole different kind of team now than when we started working on this. I can also say that we’ve been able to achieve all of this without going too crazy on overtime. Maybe we’ve been close to overworking our coders a few times, but Lars has already added two programmers to our team which will be a great relief to spread out some of the responsibilities over. Work-life balance is something we take very seriously at Paradox, and we also have to abide to Swedish law about regulated extra hours. Sometimes this means that we’ll push a deadline forward, but it also makes it possible for us to continue doing this in the long run. I’m probably quite biased of course, but in my opinion it shows so well in the final result how much effort, passion and sheer will my teammates have put into this delivery, now we’re just anxiously looking forward to placing it all in your hands.
A selection of new event images
I know I joked about Lars just making coffee for us in the beginning of this post, but it’s probably worth mentioning that besides driving the producer role, which on its own is a rather large undertaking, he’s also doubling up as studio manager, and as part of that looking at the long term strategy for Paradox Thalassic. During the last couple of months, that strategy has mainly been about scaling us up to a reasonable size, so that we don’t have to go too crazy on any of the work we have ahead of us. This means that he’s been in an insane amount of recruitment interviews for him, to find the right candidates that we want to add to our team. There’s still a couple of open positions you can find on Paradox’s recruitment site, especially for content designers that want to nerd out in the classical era.
Next week we’ll give you a full feature breakdown, going through all the juicy information you’ve been waiting for, we just got a few more details that we need to iron out before pushing the big reveal button.