Sorry for the lack of updates on the site as of recent. Just wanted to let everybody know that the project is going smoothly and that we are closing in on an Alpha release. Most of the coding on the engine is done and we are mostly focusing on the user interface before releasing 1.1 to the play testers.
We are at the point now where we are trying to figure out how to create characters for the game. The plan from the start has been to create our own original 3D characters but also allow for other people to create and add their own characters whether it be something they created or something that they are borrowing from another game. This has been a key feature for us but has also been one of the biggest question marks that I’ve had in this project since we began. How do we make it easy for people (with little or no 3D modeling experience) to create and import a custom character. If you are familiar at all with 3D modeling you know that it can be a strenuous and daunting task. The learning curve is fairly steep and can be very frustrating for a novice. Daniel and I have dealt with this very issue while developing the game.
From the beginning Daniel has been in charge of engine structure and coding, and I have been tasked with creating everything else needed outside of the engine. Having never done any 3D editing it took me a solid week of playing with Blender before I was even able to construct anything recognizable as a characters or terrain (see some of my first attempts). So along with the question of custom user characters, we were also faced with the question of how do we create our own characters. While I was able to construct the hex pieces for the game along with some trees and other random objects, moving into full textures characters is an entirely different level. I think I could probably get there but it would be time consuming and would set the release back quite a bit.
Getting the figures created by a professional is a possibility. I have been quoted anywhere from $450 per character to $1000 per character. This would be a fine option for our own custom characters if we were making any money at this yet (which we aren’t) or if we had 20,000 extra dollars lying around (which we don’t). We could launch a Kickstarter and try to get money that way, but we would rather not do that. We have been trying to avoid that for as long as we can because we are wanting to keep this game free for people (for as long as possible). Plus it still wouldn’t fix our problem of custom user made characters.
So I’ve decided to attack this problem from a different angle. Here is the list I was making in my head of “musts” and “likes”.
1. Players must be able to add custom characters and do it quickly and cheaply without any 3D modeling experience.
2. We need to get the alpha released as soon as possible.
3. Needs to look like a table top game. This has been a goal from the beginning. We know it’s a video game, but we want it to have the “board game” feel as much as possible.
4. Needs to not cost $20,000
1. That it costs $0.00
Ok, so that was about it. I was pondering these tough life questions last week and I thought to myself “it’s too bad I can’t just use the Heroscape characters I already have in the game, that would make things easier”… and then it hit me like a Hulk Rage Smash with 7 damage. Why not back off the original idea of full 3D characters do something more accessible to the average person? For instance… take the game City of Horror. Awesome game with unique characters, but the characters are all just cardboard cutouts.
Why not do this with Build and Battle (at least for now). Why not make a 3D mesh that people can impose their own images on? Why not make it look like the classic cardboard cutout game piece?
I couldn’t really think of a good reason not to do this. First off this would allow for us to make a “character creation” tool in the game eventually which would allow people to create whatever character they wanted as long as they had a .PNG file for it. It would be quick to make a couple dozen characters which would speed up Alpha release. It would look like a real board game and most importantly it would leave us $20,000 richer! Really the only downside I can think of is that it doesn’t look as cool and it changes line of sight rules a little bit. Instead of being able to take line of sight from point to point you would have to change to a base to base kind of rule. I think this is still a manageable problem considering the huge upside that it could have.
Good idea? Bad Idea? Let us know what you think.