It’s been so long since I wrote a blog post that I’ve almost forgotten all the WordPress processes and tricks to make it work. Now that the reigns have passed on, I’ve got more time for art which is a definite plus, but we’re so excited about the way things are going at the moment that I had to give you at least a small heads up.

So. Where are we? Well Crisis in Command, the platform, has had a major overhaul both technically and with the production processes of graphics. I’ll leave the tech side to the developers but the art creation process is now far more efficient. Producing sequels and updates will be done faster and to a higher standard than Bulge and I’ve settled on a much more harmonious look for the CiC series and learned many lessons from our first release and input from our players.

The original plan was to make each new release theatre specific with lots of special touches to emphasise their individuality (such as the sand and dust on the previous El Alamein interface samples – the jpg compression doesn’t do them justice).

mainMenu concept skin AI Concept Skin History Background Concept

But, while I’d also got that process down with really quick turn around times, it was still extra effort being spent on elements that 99% of our users really didn’t care about. That’s time that would have been better spent elsewhere especially as there was only one of me to create the assets. That’s not to say the quality could drop or the over-all user experience could be adversely affected as I still had to maintain my own and Shenandoah’s standards, but I needed to be sensible and resourceful.

So as you can see from the images below I’ve standardised the interface elements as much as possible.

New Online gameplay_blackNew_AI_black
These will essentially be the same across the entire range of CiC games going forward, barring game specific tweaks. There are aspects I had to consider and compromise on. Originally, I wanted to at least suggest a Ww2 radio while avoiding some of the clich√©’s you find in so many other games, but, as CiC requirements have increased and we’ve learned from our players expectations, it’s clear that there simply isn’t the right interface elements in WW2 radios for all the elements we need…the selectable lists is one obvious one but there’re others. So, there’s a certain amount of artistic license being taken with the metaphor.

Anyway, as you can see, the only thing that needs to change is the national colours and text, and they’re subjectively better than the previous designs. I’m now free to spend my time on the more important areas such as the maps.

This was also applied to the iPhone implementation which will again have a standardised interface that can be repurposed for every game in the CiC series. It’s taken a serious amount of effort to get it all to work on such a small platform, but work it does, and playable and enjoyable it most certainly is. You can now play it on the move or against your mates on their iPads.

iPhone 5 Menu iPhone 3GS Japanese Info Menu iPhone 5 Calendar
iPhone 5 briefing iPhone 5 new game iPhone 5 ingame Bulge
When we first announced the iPhone release we got a number of concerned mails about whether it would detract from or negatively impact the iPad version. The answer to that is a resounding no. iPad is currently our leading platform so we design for that first, but from Moscow onwards it only has a short lead time over the iPhone with 70% of the artwork being created simultaneously. Yes, a lot of things had to adapt simply because of the reduced screen size and the two supported aspect ratios. There has been some cross-pollination between iPhone and iPad, and they have both benefitted from new technologies, workflows, and game flow.

In short, the goal has been to streamline the process so I could art direct other projects and create content for more CiC games on multiple platforms yet focus on the most important areas without dropping the quality. If anything the quality has increased.

El Alamein.

Multi-Language Bulge.

The CiC Platform.

Drive on Moscow.

iPhone Bulge.

Gettysburg…

… We’ve been busy

We’re working on: initial El Alamein pre-production, production and extended testing; the new CiC platform for iPad and iPhone; multi-language support and implementation; pre-production and production of Moscow; pre-production of a number of other sequels to be announced sometime in the not too distant future and the pre-production for Gettysburg.

Ah yes. Gettysburg. Some of you may have heard of and backed our Kickstarter so you’ll also be aware that we recently hired another artist, Rob Shields, who has been brought on to form part of a new team to take Gettysburg forward. So while I’m Art Directing it and will most likely have a hand in some asset creation, Rob will be the main artist.

Without giving too much away, Gettysburg will visually be very different to Bulge. I settled on a period look at an early stage, a very different visual style to CiC, because it’s coming from an entirely different place emotionally and narratively. While the starting point, or at least the common thread, of the CiC series is the environment, with Gettysburg it’s very much about the impact on the people.

When Eric asked me to start pre-production many, many months ago, I knew nothing about the subject but it wasn’t long before I began to get a real feel for what the war means and it’s impact down the generations. I knew wanted to make the experience as intimate as I could given the scale. It’s not going to be like Total War, with tens of thousands of modeled individual soldiers and it’s not a first or third person shooter. It’s a brigade level wargame that has a lot of unique twists while following in the foot steps of many traditional wargames, and I hope it will provide an opportunity for the player to dig down through historical layers to really get an understanding of the bigger picture and the effect on the individuals. It’s still early days and we’ve still only got a tentative thread but it’s starting to solidify, and we’re very excited.

I’ll let Rob fill you in on our ideas but we recently returned from a recce trip to Gettysburg itself (I’ll write more about that in a future post). Standing at the Angle, looking out to the starting lines of Pickett’s Charge, it was really quite emotional, and I couldn’t help but feel that, as well as creating a fantastic game, I really wanted to tell their story to a wider audience. From my perspective, growing up in the UK, the ACW is barely known about, and I’m sure we’re not unique. I’d like to think we can go some way to improve that and ensure that the people who made the ultimate sacrifice in a war that played no small part in shaping the world we know today, are as well known and honoured around the world such as, for example, the men who marched with bayonets across no mans land towards the enemy machine guns. Somewhat ambitious but it’s something to aim for.

Pat Matthew Jeff and Rob

Myself, my son Matthew, Jeff and Rob at Gettysburg

So that’s roughly where we are now and a very abridged version of how we got here. I’ll try to go a little deeper in future posts. In the mean time the team is extremely busy ensuring these games are the best they can be, so stay with us.

It’s going to be one heck of a ride.

(NB. All game images in this post are considered works in progress and are subject to change)

Please feel free to leave any comments, suggestions or opinions either below or on our forum. You’re all welcome.

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(Note: Originally Published on the Shenandoah Studio Blog)