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Annie Mitsoda's (nee Carlson's) Zombie Baby
Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 12 July 2010, 15:56:04Tags: Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda; DoubleBear Productions
a) Who is Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda (formerly Carlson).
1. So, who the fuck are you and why should we care? Give us the run down on everything you've been involved with over the years. What projects have you worked on, how did you get involved in those projects and what did you do for them?
Aside from wanting to make games from pretty much the moment I was old enough to play them, the genesis of my getting into the game industry is that I worked at GameStop. Somehow, through some blessed coincidence, the store where I worked played host to tons of devs who would stop by on their lunch breaks - dudes from Blizzard, Interplay, Point of View, The Collective, etc. It was one of those guys bringing up that they had a design position open and that I should apply for it that made me go "oh shit, no way, I could make games?!" It sounds retarded now, yes, but I'd no idea how to get into the industry, and didn't even really know what designers did. I applied, and although I didn't get the job, the seed had been planted in my brain to become a game designer, and heck if I didn't go and do it as quickly as I could.
What I've worked on since my salad days hocking used GBA games: the ill-fated Taxi Driver game, the beautiful-but-killed-before-its-time "Project New Jersey," Neverwinter Nights 2, NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer, an early version of Alpha Protocol, NWN2: Storm of Zehir, a little time on Aliens RPG, and most recently DoubleBear's "ZRPG" and ArenaNet's Guild Wars 2.
You should care because I love the hell out of games, and making games that hopefully you too will like.
2. What made you get into the games industry and what is it that keeps you in the games industry? Why not become a prostitute Executive Assistant. I hear there's good money in that. No really. Bachelor of English, what's up with that?
Wanting to get into the games industry was kind of a persistent wish since I'd been a kid, but it was the kind of wish that, for the longest time, I'd put into the category of "having a pet griffin would be pretty cool." As in it was something I dreamed about, but never really thought could happen for me, mostly because I'd no idea how the hell to get into the industry. So I was like "hey, I know, I'll be an actress, and a writer" (I didn't say I was practical about it, I was 18, for crying out loud, who is practical at that age anyway) and I ended up studying English. A theater professor told my class "don't bother trying to get into film unless you're extremely beautiful or extremely ugly," and I thought "nope, not me" - and I had a friend who was actually in LA at the time trying to make it as an actress, and it sounded like the most soul-searing process that exists, so that was out for good.
So I'm post college, with an English degree that guaranteed me precisely no jobs at all, thinking "Well, shit. I should get into grad school so maybe I can teach about games - er - interactive narrative." And my only choice at the time was the University of California: Irvine, who promptly turned me down for their grad program. So to pay the bills, I took that aforementioned job at GameStop. And my life was changed forever. And huzzah for that, because I don't think I would have been a very awesome professor.
RE: "Executive Assistant" - man, when I was a kid we had a medical dictionary in my house which my brother and I used to gross each other out, until we came across something so shattering that we hid the book as if by hiding it we could cause that horrible thing to not exist anymore. I don't remember what that horrible thing was, but I'd bet you it had something to do with a sexually transmitted disease, and I'll also bet you there are people on the internet who use pictures of it to get off. Because the internet is fucked as a rule, that's why. Anyhow.
I remain in the game industry because despite its flaws, I love making games. I love the hell out of making games. Even the really annoying parts of making games, like bugfixing or polishing something until you think your eyes are going to melt out of your head - I love those too. I have old friends who are in really noble professions like teaching, and nearly everyone in my extended family is either a doctor, a lawyer, or has their doctorate - and while that's intimidating and at times I feel like I cheated at life somewhere down the line because my job involves making virtual people kill each other with swords, I still love it. Also, I don't know if anyone would hire me to do anything else at this point, so yay for me making games!
3. What was working for Obsidian like? Obviously you've left (or they kicked you out), so it must've been pretty crap. What things did you learn there? Any lessons that still apply? Is there anyone who inspired you or who you have the most respect for, or learned the most from?
I had some good times at Obsidian, and met some really amazingly talented people (and NO, they didn't kick me out - I had different ideas about what I wanted to do with my career, and I'd begun to seriously hate the devil hell out of Southern California, so it was time for me to leave). There were some difficult moments, but Obsidian was really where I came up as a designer, so it did influence me a great deal. I saw how the company as a whole dealt with the struggles of growling much larger in a small amount of time, and experienced different approaches to issues and team sizes (from the huge size of Alpha Protocol's team to the miniscule Storm of Zehir one).
A lot of the things I learned dealt with the importance of being quick to learn things (the quicker you learn that toolset, the faster you can actually start making useful and interesting stuff), of documenting what you do (in reproducing a bug, in writing down a process, even just saying what the hell you did each day so you can keep track of where you are in a task), and how to properly iterate on designs. I think with the exception of some specifics, everything you deal with as a designer should teach you something, and it's up to you to remember that and incorporate that knowledge into your mental arsenal. Not many design positions in the industry let you deal with visuals the way I got to when I was making armor and weapons for NWN2, for example - but holy shit guess what, that's knowledge I can take to my work on the ZRPG. Even bad experiences as a designer should teach you something - even if that thing is just "my god, I don't wanna work with that guy again, he can't take constructive criticism to save his life."
People I learned from... hm. I'm gonna specify my direct leads here, so I don't tangent off too much. It's sort of a no-brainer that I'd give props to Brian Mitsoda, but well, there you go. Also I need to give a shout-out to Kevin Saunders, who was the first lead I'd worked with at Obsidian, and showed a lot of trust in my skills early on - when I was this shy little hide-my-face-in-my-hair production design assistant - and helped me really take charge of my early work. Josh Sawyer was a lot of fun to work with in NWN2, and his matter-of-fact nature for keeping an overall design up to its proper pace is absolutely impressive (plus, the man knows him some system design). I met some of my best friends at Obsidian as well, and I've been eagerly watching their machinations in the industry.
It's no secret I want them to move up to Seattle so we can hang out more and design stuff together again, because they know what the hell they're doing. OH SHIT, that could be misconstrued as active recruiting rather than passive "I miss my friends (sadfacepoutytimez)." Poaching personnel isn't exactly looked on as being good form, so yeah. I best not wish such things out loud.
4. There's a rumour going around the industry that Josh Sawyer is cursed and that he will never be able to release a game until his Icewind Dale demons have been exorcised. Did working with him involve daily "Hail Mary's" and throwing salt over your shoulder?
I've heard that rumor, and actually I know multiple excellent designers who have the sad luck of having multiple good projects get canned out from underneath them. I'd chalk that one up to the difficult nature of the industry more than anything else. Also he's a pretty non-superstitious dude. I'm super hoping that Fallout: New Vegas is precisely as badass a J.E. Sawyer joint as he wishes it to be, cuz Aliens RPG was shaping up to be rad (and yes that is yet another game I will talk only a little bit except to assure you it was awesome and that you should be very sad that it is gone).
5. For a triple word score, tell us your: favourite RPG; favourite game ever; worst RPG you've seen; worst game you've played; best game you've worked on; game you would've liked to have worked on; game you've played the most?
Favorite RPG - probably Fallout. Runners-up would be Persona 4 (because there's something compelling about its characters and systems that I usually don't get from JRPGs, plus a unique setting), and, despite the bugs and the sewer levels and Brian looking sheepish every time I mention it, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines.
Favorite Game EVER - Aw hell, I dunno. I love a ton of games, but categorically I have favorites. For platformers I love Ratchet and Clank and Metroid, for puzzles it's Picross or Tetris, for fuck-you-I-just-wanna-kill-shit RPGs I still like the flava of Diablo 2 (for how often I loaded that fucker up in college just for murderous stress relief), for adventure games I adore The Dig, and I still wish someone would make a modern version of Eye of the Beholder 2. And Shining Force 2, dammit.
Worst RPG - I recall being fantastically pissed-off at Dark Cloud - not only because at the time I had no money for games and my computer would play basically nothing at all, but because you could get trapped in an attack combo that could break your weapon right in the middle of it. Since you didn't really gain levels but your weapon did, that meant you were suddenly fucked. Also you had to eat and drink, which was implemented particularly shittily. It's not that I can't handle food in an RPG, it was just really terrible in that game. It was poo topping on a crap sundae.
Worst Game I Ever Played - Deadly Towers is shit in a basket. I remember hating it fiercely when I was a kid, and I think I played it a couple years ago on emulator to see if it was as assy as I remembered, and sure enough, it WAS. Fuck that game.
Best Game I Worked On - Although I miss working with my peeps from OEI, I can tell you I like ArenaNet a ton and I'm really enjoying what I'm doing there, so Guild Wars 2 it is.
Game I Would Have Liked To Have Worked On - I had dreams of working on VanBuren, i.e. Fallout 3 back at Black Isle. Although by the time I was out of college, that studio was basically no more, so that was not to be. Alas.
Game I've Played the Most - Oh snap. I played Fallout 2 a ton of time - it's a long game to begin with, and I wanted to get a perfect run-through (also it was Winter Break from college, I was unemployed, and it was like GAME GAME GAME GAME - I did the same for Breath of Fire 4 the following summer). Eye of the Beholder 2 I put a ton of time into when I was a kid, I play Picross 3D every night before bed to get at least some game time in on busy days... huh. I think the one I spent the most time on that I can directly get an hour count for is the 200+ I put into Persona 4. Yes, I know that's a scary amount of time. I try not to think about it too much myself. I'm not entirely positive that's the most I've ever played any game ever, but it's the most I can recall in games that tracked it.
BONUS QUESTION: You've been through a few name changes through-out your career. What's up with that? Has anything happened recently that you might like to talk about maybe babies i dunno lol.
All right, Commander Subtle. I went from using a changed name to incorporating my given name, VanderMeer aroundabout Storm of Zehir time. Then I swapped to "Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda" recently because yes, Brian Mitsoda and I got married at the beginning of June, but I wanted to keep the "VanderMeer" part in there because it sounds resplendent. Also my lead on GW2, Eric Flannum, says that "VanderMeer Mitsoda" sounds like a character name from Shadowrun, and I don't think he's wrong.
As for babies - NO. Babies scare the shit out of me. That is all.
b) The trials and tribulations of (Indie) Game Development.
6. Tell us a bit about "how" you actually went about getting shit done in a game at a large developer like Obsidian. Take us through a typical task from start to finish.
Things are generally handled different ways at different companies, and when you're put on a project you're told at the beginning what you've been assigned to do in a general fashion: you can have some input in this if you have a particular strength, or the company is willing to be flexible - maybe you're in systems design but you want to try your hand at levels. A key part of game development is communication, and you'll be assigned tasks by your lead (or appropriate sub-lead: like if you're a systems dude, you'll take orders from the lead system designer, who'll answer to the lead designer, who will most often answer to the project lead) and you'll communicate back on the expected time that task will take, and if there are any impediments to your progress.
We'll run with that systems example - I wanted to revamp the loot system for Storm of Zehir, so the first thing that I did was write up a proposal for how I wanted the system to work (in my example, I also had to argue why the initial system was balls and needed fixing). The design team would review the proposal and make suggestions, I'd go back and tweak anything that needed tweaking, and when I had approval from the lead, I went ahead and wrote up the guts of the system - the actual spreadsheets and files that would make the system work. Since it was a chance to the way the game itself processed and distributed loot, I had to bug some programmers for help getting it implemented smoothly. Once it was in the game, I did a few test runs to catch the major bugs before handing it over to QA. QA basically grabs the system you've given them and slams it around as much as possible, trying to break it in every conceivable way, and sends bug reports about what's going wrong with it so you can fix them on a case-by-case basis.
For designing a level, this runs in a similar fashion: high-level concept proposal --> review and approval --> basic implementation --> review and approval --> more polished implementation (programming is likely involved at this point if you're trying to do anything special-case) --> review and approval --> final polished implementation (where you swap out that ugly designer placeholder art and get artists to make your area look rad) --> pass to QA for testing --> bugfixing and final polish.
You'll notice I said "review and approval" a helluva lot of times in there. Ideally departments should have weekly meetings, and often subgroups (pods, strike teams, whatever they're called) are formed that have quick daily meetings. The higher you go in game development, often the less it's about putting together the nuts and bolts of the game and the more it is about managing people, making sure that what they create is working, of good quality, and matches the larger look and feel of the game (the exception to this rule is tiny game development teams, where you tackle a multiplicity of tasks because there are too few things to do and too few people to specialize - it should be no surprise that working on Guild Wars 2 is way different than working on the ZRPG).
7. All right, DoubleBear. WTF? What is DoubleBear and why was it founded? What do you intend to do with it? Where are you physically based or are you physically based somewhere? How many people are involved?
DoubleBear is really Brian's brainchild - I'm a part of it, but I must admit the real impetus was Brian's own experiences in the industry, and reaching a point where he really didn't want to work on something he either wasn't passionate about or something he was passionate about that stood a chance of getting cancelled. It's something I've been through as well, and it's demoralizing to have happen to you, and it's actually happened to two games that Brian and I have worked on together. When Vince proposed working on a game with us, at first we thought we'd just become part of Iron Tower - then when Brian brought up making his own company, I was absolutely all for it. It seemed to make the kind of sense that is made when people propose combining two things that are delicious, like chocolate and peanut butter or rum and anything that might be fruit or fruit-related.
We're physically based in Seattle (insofar as DoubleBear is Brian and I at the moment) and although right now it's just Brian and I, we're working with multiple folks from Iron Tower Studios and other peeps who are spread out around the world. We'd like to grow DoubleBear, and definitely we intend to keep making more games, but that's something we're not focusing on yet - ZRPG will get finished first before we figure that madness out.
8. Obviously you're pretty cashed up to be paying above award rates to these people so you can finish the game by Friday. Do you holiday in the Bahamas often? My Uncle has a place there, so we could catch up sometime. How are you funding this? Are you taking a wage, or how are you paying yourselves / what are you doing for cash? Are you working on it in your spare time? How do you get people to help? How do you intend to reward all these people (including yourselves) for their efforts?
Brian's working on ZRPG full-time, while I'm working on it part-time. My full-time job is as a designer at ArenaNet, who very kindly are totally cool with me working on DoubleBear stuff. So I'm bringing in the outside cash, while - like most start-ups - our savings are keeping DoubleBear running. We're not paying wages, but we're doing a profit-sharing split with the key people working on the game - while others have volunteered their time and work simply for credit and out of the goodness of their hearts, which is so awesome and kind and rad that it knocks me right on my ass.
9. You're obviously trying to attract a bunch of free-loaders whom you don't have to pay in order to get ZRPG finished. What sort of things do you need, what skills are you looking for, where can people who are interested apply and how should they apply?
Well, we've got many applications from people looking to submit level or writing ideas, and we have to kindly nod and turn them away since Brian and I have design covered, and our programmer, Nick, is not only awesome, but he knows Torque 3D and the AoD engine backwards and forwards. I'd say what we could likely use the most help with is the creation of art assets - props, character models, textures, etc. We've got a great team going right now, but I don't imagine we'd turn down any other offers for assistance if the work is of high quality, and - this is important - if they could handle turning out assets on a reliable schedule. The best thing to do is mail info (insert that little at symbol here) doublebearproductions dot com with something like "Looking to Help" and what you can do in the subject line, and if we like your stuff, we'll bounce it over to Oscar, our art lead, for approval.
Do not take it personally if we don't select your stuff. We may well be full up for help at the moment, and we're leaving it to Oscar's discretion as to how many additional artists he'll be able to wrangle. Also, remember that we can't offer an actual job or pay, that this would be for name credit, but that if we do use your stuff, your name will definitely be in the game, because we are not work-stealing dickholes. We want to give an opportunity for people who would be eager to get their work in an indie project that they're excited about, and have an eventual release that they can cite in their portfolios that will earn them mad street cred.
10. You and Brian have worked for a lot of poorly run projects that ended up getting cancelled, why think you can do any better on your own, without any money? Tell us about project management, what kind of things you're doing to stay on task. What kind of support are you getting from Mr. Vincent Derpderp "D" Weller?
Actually, all the projects that I've worked on that have been cancelled were at the behest of the publisher - Majesco ran out of money to fund Taxi Driver, and Project New Jersey's publisher kept focus testing the game so early in development (pre-production acutally) they couldn't figure out what they wanted to do with it and thus axed it. One of the reasons we think we can do better is because DoubleBear's intellectual properties are ours, and we control them completely - nobody else can tell us what to do with them, and thus they are ours to market and distribute as we see fit. We're free from the need to get boxed copies on shelves, and the fear of not being a AAA title. A good relationship between a publisher and a developer can result in some excellent collaborations, don't get me wrong - I'm not damning the relationship between the two altogether. I'm fortunate to be in a good situation at ArenaNet, most definitely - but the major cancellations I dealt with were from the publisher's end.
Absolutely things can go wrong on the developer side as well, and I've been through that too. The key points I can say we're doing to prevent things going wrong are 1) savagely managing our scope (cut early, cut often - once you've got the key elements in and an enjoyable game going, then add stuff back, and not before!), 2) keeping lines of communication open (especially key when your team is spread out all over the world - knowing what everyone else is working on and being available for questions and course corrections are critical), and 3) prioritizing systems testing before anything else (you find the fun first and then you make a game with it, not the other way around).
Vince, of course, provided the initial impetus to getting the project started, and thus the inspiration to found DoubleBear. Beyond that, he's helped us get in touch with the other members of Iron Tower, and giving feedback on our systems and overviews. He's had his hands full with AoD stuff lately, and he's deliberately stepped back from a design role for a while, but the man is a master at marketing a title, and I don't doubt once AoD wraps he'll be in the thick of things, helping us out with stuff again.
11. Tell us more of this Project New Jersey which was going to be beautiful but was killed before its time. What was it, why was it going to be so beautiful, who was working on it? Any plans to resurrect it one day, in some form or another?
It was a console action RPG that used the Unreal 3 engine (which was in its super-infancy at the time, as Gears of War wasn't even out yet),and it was basically an original IP. Kevin Saunders was the lead designer, Brian Heins (who's now a senior designer over at Carbine) and Josh Sawyer were on systems, Travis Stout and Matt MacLean were designers, Brian Mitsoda was doing level design in addition to writing it, and Brian Menze was the concept artist. When it was canned, the team was split between NWN2 and Alpha Protocol, the latter of which was quickly moved into pre-production.
As for the design of the game itself... it was the sort of project I dreamed about working on when I first got into the industry. Something that I looked at and went "holy crap, this is something that could appeal to a ton of markets without feeling like it was pandering to them," and there was a lot going on in its proposed level and system design that felt really exciting.
I wish I could say it'd come back but sadly - I think it's dead for good. I can't bring it back on my own, and with the original dev team scattered throughout both Obsidian and elsewhere, what it once was is snuffed out. It's one of the saddest parts of the industry. I have to actually challenge you with this question, though - is it harder to find out what a game was like and know you still can't have it?
12. What are you doing at ArenaNet and what's working for them been like so far, pretty crap and you're looking forward to quitting? No really.
I must be demure and not give much info (they have a whole PR team for that sort of thing, and they've been doing a pretty damn good job from what I've seen), but I can say I'm a designer on Guild Wars 2, and things are rad. People at ArenaNet are generally far more cheery and less jaded than your average clowder of game devs, which requires some adjustment for me (chief among them has been using words like "fuckwit" and "shitpile" a lot less frequently) but has been, on the whole, a very pleasant place to work. So stuff is great, and I'm eager to show the game. Soon. It will be sooooooon.
BONUS QUESTION: You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, Annie, it’s crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back, Annie. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t, not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that, Annie?
Because that tortoise has done me wrong. The executive who was responsible for cancelling Project New Jersey - which would have been awesome and beautiful - died from one too many seven-martini-lunches, and has now been reincarnated as a tortoise. I can tell this is the case because karma whispers in my ear that this executive has been made into his current form and brought here, to me, specifically so I may have my revenge. So I flipped it, and thus do I watch it bake in the sun with a cold and satisfied gleam in my eyes, savoring my vengeance, and thinking of interesting things to do with its cold, empty shell. I barely restrain a little chuckle at its pathetic fate.
c) Let's talk about Zombies.
13. Obviously the game is a platform shooter where the goal is to collect enough stars so you can open the next door and eventually save the princess. Hasn't that been done before? What's ZRPG all about? What sort of things are you trying to add to the game? What are the core features and game-play?
Shootin' zombies has been done, and done, and done to death. Surviving the zombie apocalypse, day-to-day, finding enough food to feed yourself and your allies and trying to keep people sane and alive and maybe, just maybeattempting to build a tiny working society - yeah, that there hasn't, and it seemed a pretty rad thing to attempt to create. Sure, there's combat in there, but we wanted to make that a part of the game itself and not the whole point. I can't go into super-duper detail on everything, but keeping a shelter working (which will focus on dealing with your fellow survivors, and keeping your place secure) and exploring in able to gain supplies and find survivors (while not getting in over your head with zombies and hostile humans) are the two key parts of the game. Specifics within that... I'm going to be a dick and either leave that until another time or point you over to our forums, because there is a shitload of stuff to explain.
14. What spawned the idea of a role-playing game involving the living dead? Where any other ideas on the cards for your first game? Why not make Barbie's RPG Adventures? What lead to you finally settling on the ZRPG? What inspired the game? What sort of themes are you exploring and why?
There were other ideas, and once Brian and I decided we were going to work with Vince and co, I looked at Brian and was like "well, what do you think would work best in the AoD engine?" and he said - with a great intense look in his eyes - "A zombie survival RPG." And I closed my Big Book O' RPG Ideas and went "OK. Convince me." And by God he did. (And by that I don't mean naughty things, I mean that he actually convinced me it was a good idea by using words.)
So these other ideas still exist - and we've got other ideas that have come up since - but we're holding onto them until ZRPG is in the can, as it were. We don't want to pull a Molyneux and get neck deep in one idea before we see something shiny and go galumphing after it elsewhere.
Brian has always loved the hell out of zombie movies, and while I was sort of like "meh" on them at first, this was admittedly because I had not seen the original Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead or Day of the Dead, although I'd loved Shawn of the Dead and read The Zombie Survival Guide until its accuracy started to wig me out a little (although its awesomeness was not to be denied, and I actually ended up giving a copy of it to my brother). And the concept of zombies as a force of nature as well as something individually terrifying is really compelling to me - as Max Brooks said in an interview once, "Zombies are also scary because they come to you. " There's something particularly creepy and invasive about zombies that touches on really deep fears of unbecoming ourselves, of being infected with something, of being helpless against a far greater power.
Brian's mentioned as well being inspired by living through Hurricane Andrew as a kid, and the stories he tells about it are the kind of vivid you get when you've really been shocked by something. I tease him about being super paranoid about always locking the door or closing the windows even though we live in a nice neighborhood, but I've lived the comfortable kind of life that involves never having my house broken into or living through a major natural disaster. There's documented evidence about how completely people fall apart during disasters - not in hysterics but more being totally frozen and stunned - and it's a terrifying thing to think about.
What would you do if your world was suddenly populated with monsters, and not only are they outside, but one of them is someone you love? Zombies and zombie fiction doesn't have the neat little trappings of most horror stories - where the world as a whole is still functioning and fine and dandy, and it's only your particular sphere of reality that is being immediately fucked - it's about the breakdown of society, and confronting a whole big basketload of fears all at once and over an extended period of time. You're not trying to survive until morning so that freaky vampire goes away - it's survival of the fittest from now on, because zombies don't give a shit what time it is.
15. The game is using the Age of Decadence engine, which looks pretty shitty and is out-dated. Why not use Unreal Engine 3? Can you talk about some of the technical challenges involved and how you're addressing them?
Well, to be entirely precise, the game is using AoD's toolset and trappings, while the engine has actually been upgraded to Torque 3D, which is pretty awesome. We hit up T3D because Iron Tower's programmer, Nick, gave it a look-over and said he could transfer stuff pretty easily, and the Garage Games guys were selling Torque 3D at a discount to indie devs that made it a perfect choice. T3D is making stuff look really great right now, and is has been burly enough to handle everything we've thrown at it. It was also important to us to get an engine that had a great deal of support behind it, and in addition to having a lot of other studios using T3D who could offer advice, Garage Games has had a good support track record (which is rarer than you'd think when it comes to game engines...)
Thankfully, we haven't been running into many technical challenges, I'd suspect largely because we knew what our limits were as we began designing the game and not during implementation (which is a goddamn nightmare when it happens). We shot for things we knew that AoD's engine could do immediately (or with a little work and a few tweaks), which put the onus on Brian and I as designers to make systems that were simple to implement, easy to understand, rewarding to master, and meshed well with one another. I know some people have heard some details about one of our systems and whined that it's too simple - individually they might seem simpler than another single-player indie RPG, but at the same time, ZRPG will have other complex systems (like survivor Morale, managing food supplies, and handling shelter upgrades) that other RPGs don't have. This'll help us test and balance systems early in development, and spend the polish phase tweaking elements of it to add subtleties or remove issues that might have popped up.
16. But no really, how far into development are you? Do you have all the maps yet or just a few models; or are you still very much in the planning stage? Is anything working yet? You said getting something that's fun is the first goal so what's your first focus: the combat or the surviving or a bit of both or something else?
Can't go into details about our stage of development, but that focus question is a good one so I'ma address that. Functionally speaking, I'm going to say we have to get the combat working on a solid model, because it's tied into a lot of basic character creation skills. Also it's a common adage among designers that "if the combat sucks, your game is fucked," so we want to get the basics of that working well before we get the survival/management aspects ironed out. I'd say they're of equal importance, but perfecting the functionality of the combat I think is a little higher priority, but also easier to do at the early stages and will require fundamentally less polish and tweaking than the management aspects will.
BONUS QUESTION: Mark the game's current state on the following development chart:
The Codex would like to thank Annie Carlson Mitsoda for graciously allowing us to pester her with questions.