Time for our first Q&A and a team spotlight with our programmers.
Welcome to our second DevBlog, meant for everyone who wants a peek behind the curtain of the development of Iron Harvest.
For the first time, we asked supporters in our Backers Discord channel to submit questions for a Q&A session. Our Game Director Jan has answered the Top-10 questions that received the most up-votes.
We also talked to all 10 programmers – our biggest team ever – working on Iron Harvest at the moment.
We had originally planned to include another gameplay spotlight in our 2nd blog. Since we received a lot of interesting Q&A questions and we wanted to answer them as soon as possible, we swapped the Gameplay Spotlight for the Q&A in this month’s post.
We will talk about “Mechs & Destruction” in DevBlog #3.
Apart from these appointments, Julian is looking forward to finding out if there will be announcements of other exciting RTS games that Iron Harvest might be measured up against at a later point. Always know your competition, right?! We’ll see what E3 brings us this year.
If you haven‘t backed/pre-ordered Iron Harvest yet, be sure to join our mailing list to receive a notification as soon as a new DevBlog is available.
In the Team Spotlight section we‘re highlighting the work of one of our departments to give you guys a broad overview of who is working on the game and what they are doing.
Whenever people think about game development, they probably think of programmers. Without them, there wouldn’t be any video games. They are at the core of it all, making everything tick, providing the backbone that runs it all.
This is what each of our programmers is working on.
Philipp (Head of Coding)
These days, I am mainly focusing on coordinating our team of programmers, the biggest we have ever had working on a project. A topic I am working on myself is the architecture that allows introducing new units with their own abilities and traits into the game easily.
Also, all of us spend a lot of time working on the upcoming alpha build as well as the feedback that is coming in.
Thomas J. (Technical Director)
One of my main programming tasks is the setup and integration of unit avoidance. So far, we had mechs and squads just clipping through each other and this will obviously have to change. The first iteration is already integrated in the current pre-alpha build and we are now testing and tweaking it all.
Here is a short clip to give you an idea of how it looks right now:
I am working on the most exciting feature of them all! Sorry, not really, but at least I can say that it is a really crucial part of such a project and its importance shall not be underestimated: I am taking care of everything that is related to memory handling and availability. In order to get our goal of roundabout 120 or more different unit/building types on a map without having your machine explode, a lot of careful work and preparation has to be done.
Another feature that is on my desk, of which I can even provide an early mockup preview below, is the selection of building construction and their rotation, among other things.
My current priority is to visualize memory usage – the work that Lukas is focussing on. Put simply, this way the artists and level designers can find out, directly on-screen while editing maps, how much memory they are using and how much is still at their disposal.
Chris (AI Programmer)
Chris is our newest team member! Welcome to the club!
After spending some time to get to know the project well, I started working on patrol intelligence, meaning the way that the A.I. handles sending squads and mechs on patrol routes.
My other priority that I will jump on very soon is the general Skirmish A.I. behaviour. This will be a complex and challenging task and I am looking forward to that a lot.
Valentin (VFX & UI Programmer)
UI improvement is my biggest task these days. This includes bug-fixing, polishing and programming those aspects that haven’t been done yet. For instance, personal customization options are very important to us. We will give players the ability to easily change the default game interface to something they can play better with. Positions of UI elements can be changed and it will even be possible to split up elements and position them elsewhere.
Here are very early, basic previews of UI customization in Iron Harvest:
Thomas B. (Programmer)
My tasks have been pretty varied over the past few weeks: one is developing effect prefabs, for example for particle effects showing the impact of bullets on a mech or a building. I am creating a tool that will make it possible for level designers and artists to use and assign effects to certain actions without touching a single line of code.
Statistics are also in preparation. The game tracks a lot of info and we will use several for the level statistics, achievements and so on. Another task is the integration of in-game notifications.
I am basically in charge of almost everything that is being programmed outside of the game itself. KING Art’s website, our own store, payments and everything else that concerns the Kickstarter campaign is in my hands. At the moment, I’m working on the new landing page and game info website for Iron Harvest.
One of the things I’m proud of is the way we have made it extremely easy to access your Kickstarter pledges. Just open our announcement email and use a direct link to register and claim your pledge. Alpha and Beta versions of Iron Harvest prior to release will also be accessible with one click from the game library of your account. Wherever I can, I am doing my best to make our fans’ lives as easy as possible.
Patrick (Programming intern)
Indicators for various actions in the game is what I am mostly working on. For instance, players need to see shooting ranges and areas of effect like the curtain fire you can see on the screenshot below. We want to provide clear, very easy-to-register visual indicators for all important functions in Iron Harvest. Of course, hills and other irregularities are taken into account.
Apart from that, I am constantly enhancing the game editor in order to make the lives of our level designers easier and more fun.
Kevin (Programming intern)
I’m primarily working on a basic tactical map that allows players to play the game from a more detailed and enlarged mini map.
This is a very early draft:
We received many questions from Iron Harvest supporters in our Backer’s Discord channel. Here are the ten most up-voted questions. Special thanks to our moderators who compiled the list!
Will there be official map making / modding tools?
(asked by DFYX)
This has been the most-asked question, not only in our Discord channel, but also during the Kickstarter. We understand it’s very important for some of you and I can honestly state that we will do our very best to have at least a map editing tool available at a certain point. Unfortunately, it is really not easy to develop modding tools for games that are being developed with the Unity engine.
There are examples of that, like City: Skylines or Sudden Strike 4. City: Skylines (the game itself) is basically a big level-editor, so a lot of the necessary work has been done already. The Sudden Strike 4 editor is a Unity editor expansion, but pretty difficult to use (or even to get up and running).
Thomas, Lukas and Arne will be at the Unite (Unity developer conference) in Berlin next week and talk to the Unity guys about how to tackle the problem. I’m not sure if we will be able to deliver something on release but, as said, we heard you loud and clear and it became one of our top priorities.
How do you plan to integrate the AI, both in singleplayer and multiplayer games (vs AI)? Will the AI be entirely scripted or will it be able to "learn" during a single match and adapt to human players units composition?
(asked by imback)
We are able to script any behaviour for any unit in certain situations, but the backbone of the game is a fully independent A.I. The A.I. operates on two levels. The lower level deals with individual units, squads and small groups of units. In combat, this A.I. decides things like what unit to attack next or if it makes sense to change cover.
On top of that, a more strategic A.I. plans and executes bigger manoeuvres like “attack over the right flank to conquer these two resource buildings” or “split units into two groups, so one group can defend position A while the second group can scout out the map”. This “strategic A.I.” also handles production and resources. The A.I. only knows what a human player would know, meaning it won’t cheat and, for example, observe “through the fog of war” what the player is doing.
At the moment, we do not plan to develop a learning A.I. that evolves. We haven’t started working on the strategic part yet and want to see how strong the A.I. is before thinking about how to make it even stronger.
How exactly will you handle melee combat? Will it be similar to Dawn of War, were most units have a ranged attack as well as a melee attack? Will you be able to force them to go melee like in DoW?
(asked by Weirdo with a Speedo) (which color is your speedo?) ;)
When you have a situation where, as an example, a rifle squad is being overrun by an enemy squad, they will switch to their available melee weapon to fight back automatically.
Many heroes and mechs/exo-skeletons on the other hand have one or more melee attacks at their disposal and you control these skills/actions directly. For example, the recon mech has a charge attack that you can aim and activate. The mech will then run towards the enemy and attack using its bayonet.
Due to the destructive environment there could be a time during a match where the battleground is "flat" due to the total destruction of everything. How will you manage keeping battlefields "interesting" during such long fights?
(asked by Pavlo Alieinikov)
It is very unlikely you’ll see an entirely flattened battlefield without any remaining cover. During our countless testing sessions so far we never had a situation where everything was blown to pieces, not even close. There were always parts of buildings and other structures still standing, that, even if they were broken, would still be useable as cover.
Also, we are having some elements like trenches that won’t be destructible. Also, you or your opponents could always construct new fortifications by building up their base and/or using engineers to construct fences, barriers and so on. Lastly, you can also use mechs as cover for your infantry ;-)
Can you build freely on the map or are you limited to an area around your HQ?
(asked by ArmorDonio)
Big buildings like your HQ or a workshop can only be built within certain areas. These provide plenty of room to build your base in any way you want and these areas are not necessarily limited to just one per map.
Smaller structures like fortifications, mine fields etc., can be built freely everywhere on a map. Everything that has to do with resources is, obviously, linked to the resource field.
Are you going for a full asymmetric faction design where each has its strengths and weaknesses at various stages of the games (regarding both infantry and mechs)? The three basic infantry squads clearly excel at different ranges so my question is more related to other units: for example, could we expect a faction missing HMGs entirely, or with more mech types but lacking a specific unit type?
(another one from imback)
The infantry troops are rather similar, as infantry units can pick up and use equipment found on maps. Independently of the faction, an infantry unit can equip tools and become and engineer unit. These units look different for each faction, but play the same.
However, it is another story when it comes to mechs, exo-skeletons and heroes. Those are unique for each faction and will feel very different from each other. Each unit and each faction has its own character, feel and tactical options.
The factions are not as different from one another as the factions in StarCraft, for example. But there are certain characteristics that might favour certain tactics or playstyles. We’re going to dive deeper into that topic in one of the upcoming DevBlogs.
As recently shown, a standard infantry unit can be tremendously flexible and adaptable by equipping them with different weaponry. Are there plans to allow the approx. planned 30 types of mech-like units to be loaded out with different weapon sets on the same chassis, similarly to infantry, and if so, will those differently equipped mechs count separately towards that intended goal of 30?
(asked by Cruton)
We are not going to have selectable equipment for mechs and exo-skeletons. We want each mech to have its own, unique characteristics and we want players to know what to expect when such a mech is coming at them. They are not easy to fight, so it would be unnecessarily tough to change their behaviour based on selected weapons or equipment. We will have around 30 unique mech/exo-skeleton units in the game and we want to make it easy for players to assess the situation so that they can come up with their own plan.
How will each campaign play out? Will there be choices (both tactical and those that affect the outcome of the story) or is it strictly linear?
(asked by TheSilentKing)
The campaign itself will be linear, as we are telling an epic story with a beginning, a middle and an end over three campaigns. Proper pacing is important and we want to keep control over the character development and all the secrets and surprises. All of that is challenging enough without adding the extra complexity of a dynamic storyline. As we said before, our big reference when it comes to campaign design and progression is WarCraft III.
Now, for the “but”: within each mission, we want to give players as much freedom as possible, so do not expect scripted sequence after scripted sequence, but more open “sandbox levels” where there are many ways to win (and lose).
Can you get your hero to pet their animal when they are a good boy?
(asked by Overlord Jebus)
Now you can, man, now you can!
Will there be fully customizable multiplayer rules (adding AI to the matches - pop cap limit - resources etc) ?
(asked by Domingo)
Yes, absolutely. We will introduce many options to customize both multiplayer rules and skirmish A.I. matches.
Besides population cap, start resources and so on, you can configure the overall skill level of the A.I. and its behaviour: is it an aggressive or a rather defensive enemy you are playing against? Does the A.I. prefer certain playstyles or unit types?
We’re also working on a system of “Bonus Challenges” (previously “handicaps”). These are basically bonus goals players can set for themselves in order to earn more XP. You think you can win with your units only having 75% HP or within a set time limit, or without losing more than 10 units? Then you can set these challenges for yourself and customize the match (and your goals) even more.
Thanks for your interest and all the questions! We will do more of these Q&A rounds, so keep your questions coming.
The team is growing and the game is getting bigger and better every day. We will continue making Iron Harvest the best RTS you have played in a looong time.
For our next month‘s DevBlog #3 we are planning the following topics: Gameplay Spotlight „Mechs & Destruction“ (for real this time), Team Spotlight: „3D Character/Unit Artists“.
That’s a wrap for DevBlog #2! We hope you enjoyed it. Please let us know what you think and tell us how to improve it!