0 A.D. - The Vision
THE VISION OF 0 A.D.
0 A.D. is a historical (historically based) real time (non stop action) strategy (decisions affect the outcome, not chance) game (fun and enjoyable). I believe we say it best with the 0 A.D. creed:
It is a moment in time that never was. It is the spring of the world, and the dawn of history. It is a glimpse into an era when the empires of the world are at their zenith. It is but a breath of an age when mighty rulers wield rods of iron and brazen swords; to demonstrate that they are indeed the greatest ancient civilization!
Let's break this creed down piece by piece.
It is a moment in time that never was.
It is important to note that "0 A.D." is a period in time that historically never actually existed. Historians go directly from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. and skip over “0 A.D.” So, what are we saying? We are specifying that this time period is a fictional time period.
It is the spring of the world, and the dawn of history.
History is defined as an account of a chronological chain of events. People started recording history during the time period of our game. It is this history that has been passed down to us, two millennia later. The western world as we know it was birthed during this time.
The Roman historian Tacitus (55 - 120 A.D.) stated: “The principle office of history I take to be this: To prevent virtuous actions from being forgotten...”
This game reflects on the heroes that lived and conquered during the timeframe of our game. It tells their stories in a fun and entertaining way.
It is a glimpse into an era when the empires of the world are at their zenith.
0 A.D. is a slice in time. Imagine if all the ancient worlds (at the peak of their civilizations) were pitted one against another. We are plucking major civilizations out of their linear timeframe and placing them in the slice of time, which is 0 A.D.
It is but a breath of an age when mighty rulers wield rods of iron and brazen swords;
Combat in the game plays the major role. Economic and political roles take a back seat to strategic warfare. Are we glorifying war for entertainment purposes? Uh… Yep.
to demonstrate that they are indeed the greatest ancient civilization!
Out of the 12 civilizations, which is the best? Well, we don't know! That decision is put in the hands of the player. It is up to them to either recreate or rewrite history.
2000 YEARS AGO
The game will draw people back 2000 years. This could be a bit difficult because nobody really knows for sure how things were exactly. Much information was lost during the dark ages. We are therefore basing most everything on what our historians have been able to dig up for us. We are taking a great effort to avoid stereotypical imagery and notions, in an effort to give our players a realistic world.
As far as the look goes, our world will be a heightened representation of reality. Colors will be a bit more saturated, vegetation will be slightly edenic, structures will appear in a liveable state, units will be battle-torn, and the resources will be bountiful. We will try to make it as pleasing to the eye as possible.
Sound will be critical. It will draw the player into the world to give the perception that they are actually there. Music will be epic, voices will hearken back to an ancient time, sound effects will bring the action to your home.
This game will make you (as a player) feel like you are in command of a civilization. You make the decisions that will lead to their ultimate rise or demise.
Heart and Soul of 0 A.D.
If you strip down the project to its very basic core we are left with a 'game'. It all boils down to a competitive activity, with a set of rules in which players are engaged in a challenge that provides entertainment and amusement. Players will also be rewarded by successfully surpassing the challenges set before them.
Competition can occur on two basic levels: Player vs. Player and Player vs. Computer. The Player vs. Player aspect will make it very important for the game to have a set of identities (civilizations) that are both balanced and unique. This will provide a multiplayer experience. Player vs. Computer will require us to have a deep and strategic understanding of our own game in order to provide a sufficient level of difficulty for the AI to simulate the actions and reactions of a human player. This will provide a single player experience.
The rules of the game are intended to offer players a wide variety of choices to make. The more choices we allow, the greater the depth of strategy we can offer. It is important that the variety of choices is vast enough to allow the player to choose from an array of actions - each having a unique set of repercussions. The rules of the game will also have a historical basis that will establish it as the historical Real Time Strategy (RTS) game that it is.
Combat will be the focus of the competition. Economic and diplomatic actions will be used to forward militaristic actions. Every entity in the game will have a specific purpose and use. Much like in the game of chess, each piece on the board has a specific role in a game. Also like chess, a player who 'thinks ahead' and can 'set up' an opponent will benefit from such actions.
This interactive/real-time contest should challenge the mind and avoid boring repetitive actions. Hopefully the player will view the following actions as fun:
- A triumphant assault
- Successfully repelling an attack
- Creation of your base
- Setting up your economy
- Outwitting an opponent by using the correct tool for the job
- Advancing your civilization
- A come-from-behind victory
- Proper use of formation in a battle
- Effective raiding
- Acquiring territory
- Recreation of history
- Reversing history's outcome
- Advancing a unit to a higher level of rank
- Creating scenarios for others to play
- Allying with another human player against a common enemy
When a player is given an obstacle to overcome and they accomplish their goal, they should be rewarded. It will be the reward that encourages them to continue playing. The more they play, the more parts of the game they will 'unlock'.
Because we are in a unique position of engaging the minds of young adults, I believe it is our responsibility to portray the game world as true to history as possible. There are going to be many names/places/events that many people are not familiar with from the general education they receive at their schools.
Games in the past have been known to give faulty information that misleads people. I believe this is wrong. We have a duty to properly present the history of our game to our audience. Hopefully this will encourage and supplement their education.
As the philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It is very easy for a game to fall prey to many of the common mistakes that prove disastrous to the games in the RTS genre. We need to keep our guard up and avoid these pitfalls:
- Fastest click wins - In many RTS games, it isn't the player with the most intelligence or the best strategy that wins, it's the player who A] knows the proper order of actions and carries them out the fastest. People that practice a general procedure that is usually rewarding and know keyboard shortcuts should be slightly advantaged, and they will still be required; but, the if the opponent recognizes their 'cookie cutter' gameplay, they should easily be able to outwit them by identifying and countering the unoriginal/over-used tactics with an effective counteractive strategy.
- Single path to victory - It seems to be a trend that games cater to a specific strategy that is frequently used to attain a victory. That could be rushing, turtling, booming, etc. We recognise these are valid ways to win a game, but we will attempt to not favor one over another. Players should be able to successfully use (and adapt/change) any strategy to achieve a victory.
- Sneaky Tricks - Many games overlook some aspects of gameplay that are unintentionally (by the game designers) used to a player's advantage. Through many hours of gameplay testing, we need to identify and eliminate these tricks.
- Frustration of Artificial Intelligence - It is important to minimize frustration when playing the game. I have lost count of the times I've screamed at the computer, “WHY DID ____ DO ____!” Whether its AI pathfinding or suicidal units, we need to minimise player frustration by rigorous AI testing.
- Confusing UI - It is very important to avoid handicapping gameplay by making the user interface so complicated that people are not capable of doing what they want to do, and stop playing the game because they can't figure out how to control it. We need to promote an interface that can be easily picked up by our target audience. It is critical to pay special attention to other games in our genre from which we will be drawing players.
- Repetition - If you find yourself doing the same action over and over without thought, then we need to either eliminate or automate such an action. Linear repetitious procedures are meaningless and boring.
- Overly Ambitious - I think it is very important for us to always remember that this is the first project we have ever done. Much of the knowledge we have gained is based on trial and error. We will probably continue to forge forward in this fashion. We need to understand our limits and avoid getting fixated on them. We should aim high, but not so high that our goals are unattainable.
What is in it for me? Why would someone play our game over another game? I think the largest factor in answering that question would be that the game is FREE. Perhaps not the best reason why people will play our game, but it should not be discredited.
I would love to have people say that the game had stunning graphics, a gripping storyline, and left players with a thirst for the game that could not be quenched, but that probably won't happen. As a realist I have come to grips with the fact that we are not able to compete with the professional game studios.
We can however do our best to include some features that will set us apart from the crowd and make 0 A.D. unique:
- Accurate History - All our content is validated by our History Department to ensure that it is true to source wherever possible (unless it negatively affects gameplay).
- Citizen Soldiers - There will be no standard villager unit. Instead, regular infantry and cavalry have not only military capabilities, but also economic, making them substantially more versatile than in typical RTS games.
- Unit Auto Upgrading - Citizen Soldiers will gain experience and automatically gain promotions. With each rank, they become stronger, and don a unique appearance.
- Units on Structures - Some garrisoned units will be visible on the battlements of structures or the decks of ships, and capable of firing on opponents at range.
- Realistic Ships - Ship gameplay will include a variety of new features, from a much larger scale, to ship capture, to sea rams, to a modular design that allows catapults to be stationed on the decks, and units to fire from the bows.
- Excellent Moddability - Our aim is to make the game as data-driven as possible, and allow end-users to override that data, using custom independent mod packs, to have as much control over adding assets and editing existing content as our own scriptors. Savvy modders could potentially have all the necessary tools to program an entirely different game using our engine.
- More Multiplayer modes - The host will have a wide variety of game types and features to tweak when creating a game session, permitting the kind of gameplay that he most enjoys.
- Provinces and Territories - In some game types, the map is subdivided into Provinces that must be captured and annexed into a player's territory in order to reap their valuable resources and construct forward bases in these areas. If the host wishes, a player's starting Territory can also be surrounded by attrition borders to reduce early rushes.
- Real World Map Realism - Random Maps based upon geographical regions where the civilizations of the ancient world lived and 'died'. These will be generated with biome specific-to-location features that replicate (as best we have researched) the look and feel of the world as it existed 2,000 years ago. This provides for further player immersion into the game.
You're probably thinking, "Why is someone creating another RTS game?" Since we converted the 0 A.D. project from an Age of Kings modification project to a complete stand-alone game, we have grappled with this same question. If it is just another clone, what is the point? Hasn't the RTS genre reached its pinnacle? Isn't it time to move on?
We are well aware of the issue of setting our project apart from being just 'another RTS clone' and are doing our best to define ourselves.
The genre itself is moving in a different direction since its redefinition a few years ago with the newly discovered capabilities of 3D. Some have headed towards RPG (Role playing games), some towards FPS (First person shooter), and some towards TBS (Turn based strategy), and others towards RTT (Real time tactical).
Developers do not seem to be content to further the traditional RTS in the same vein as Age of Empires, Command and Conquer, Red Alert, and Warcraft II. Though some are fleeing, we are going to stake a claim in the RTS genre. There is still so much innovation to be made. This for us means:
- Less tedious/mindless micro-management
- More strategic thinking
- Greater stress on planning, formations, and tactics
- Choices, Choices, and more Choices
- Enhancing the multiplayer experience
Innovation (nowadays) is not “amazing 3D graphics” or “hundreds of units”. Those are now merely the standard by which an RTS is measured; a rite of passage. If that is all we can hope to attain, then it won't do us any good that the game is free; we would probably have to pay people to play it.
So we set out to create our own game… It is a large task, but I am confident that our team is up to it. Are we worried that the game will not be original enough? Yes, we are. But, we are doing our best to ensure that it will be a product worthy of being called a 'game' and not just a clone.
If you were to compare our game to other games, how would it stack up? What would be familiar? Here is a rundown of commonalities with other games.
- Age of Empires - Historical era
- Age of Kings - Basic combat system
- Rise of Nations - Territories
- Generals - Ranks
- Warcraft III - Heroes
- Praetorians - Units in trees
- Knights of Honor - Units on structures
- Civilization - Technology 'tree'
The players we are targeting will likely have one of the following traits:
- An interest in our time period and/or civilizations
- Ancient warfare
- “Age of” gamers
- RTS buffs
- Map Makers
- Mod Makers
- Single Player campaign players
- Online Multiplayers
- LAN Partiers
The Wildfire Games team is an assembly of individuals with a large variance of location, experience, skills, and personalities. Together, as a team, we have united to partake in an experience that very few have successfully completed.
There are many obstacles we must overcome if this game is to be completed:
- Virtual - We are a virtual team with no central office. All our communication is done via the internet.
- Hobbyist - None of us are doing this as a full time job. We are not paid. This project comes secondary to work, school, and family.
- Inexperience - Very few of us have done this for a living. There are so many things we have to learn by trial and error.
- Expansive - RTS games are complex. The sheer volume of art, music, scripts, and code that needs to be created is a huge task, even for a professional development studio.
- Reward - The payoff for developing this game is not a salary. Many prospective staff members are turned off by the fact that we cannot offer monetary compensation.
For our team, it will be an uphill battle. Though it will be difficult I am sure our team can rise to the challenge. Talent attracts talent, and we certainly have a lot of it. If we continue to surround ourselves with the best and the brightest, we will surely maintain our potential for quality and excellence.