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Author Topic: Original Dark Omen Developer - interesting insight story  (Read 3843 times)
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olly
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« on: October 26, 2014, 11:03:38 PM »

Original DO Developer insight story - posted on a forum discussing Creative Assembly (Total War) with Warhammer Licence

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?11486-What-we-want-to-see-from-the-Creative-Assembly-Warhammer-game/page3

Snowfire:

" Hi everyone,

 I was one of the two first designers on Dark Omen and thought I would add a little here.

 As a sequel to Shadow of the Horned Rat we were very much constrained by the original framework in making Dark Omen which clearly limited what we could do. We had also compiled a thorough product post mortem of SotHR (which was definitely the more rogue-like of the 2 games).

 I think one of the reasons Dark Omen is still held fondly in some peoples memories is that we really made an attempt to tell a story that a warhammer fantasy fan (and also a warhammer fantasy roleplay RPG fan) would appreciate and sprinkle nods to this throughout the story mode. I came from a pen and paper RPG background myself and wanted the campiagn game to capture some of the feel of what Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had been like.

 Things like: Kramer & Krell, Bogenhafen, von Liebowtiz etc. We were also very lucky to have a very good working relationship with Games Workshop who essentially took the time to just kick around ideas and most importantly actually enjoy the creative process with us. Thus is many ways Dark Omen was a tour of old favourites and inclusion of as much varied content as we could cram into the story itself, every twist and turn was approved by GW and having such a good working knowledge of the Warhammer Fantasy background helped us greatly.

 We felt SotHR was a bit dry (fighting dwarves again? etc) so we brought as much variety to the battlefield as we could.

 We also tried to create some non-linearity into the campaign game allowing the choice of the 3 middle chapters to be played in any order with decision trees branching further within them. Not all of that made it into the final cut due to the usual management feature cutting that goes on, but I think a little of that flavour remains. The idea was that if you consistently made the wrong decisions then when you got to the final battle you would very little chance of success. However there were also non-critical decisions where you could forego a little time (making the end battle force stronger) in order to gather up some extra units or reinforcements.

 The dialog scenes (also a little cut from original plans) were also there to provide some fun moments rather than the usual clickthru kind of stuff (again intended to be with more options). Although fairly a simple mechanic it did alot to raise the game from SotHR and were generally well received especially the differences that were included via decision options. We had a hard time getting these approved by mgt because so much would effectively be unseen by the player on a single playthrough.

 The video sequences were also pretty drastically cut down by management due to the usual time saving etc (I think we took a 40% hit) but we really wanted them to assist the storytelling with the 'talking heads' mode.

 Anyway I just thought I would add my thoughts about it, GW told us for a long time afterwards that Dark Omen remained their most successful game (I think that was probably pre-Dawn of War 'Dark' Crusade though). The One thing we could never decide on was the name for Dark Omen as we had about 20 short listed, eventually we ran round every department (Marketing etc) to get a vote and Dark Omen won.

 Sadly Marketing turned down our deal of getting Christopher Lee to narrate the game as when presented with this replied to us 'Who is Christopher Lee?'

 I believe that despite the cuts to the game features that enough of the fun we had in the design of the game shines through in enough places to be remembered fondly by those that played it. Of course very much a product of its time and restricted by SotHR technologically. I personally look back at those design meetings and GW approval sessions (where we even snuck a few things past them) with a big smile on my face.

 Going forward I hope the new game will be more than 'Total Warhammer' - CA relationship with GW will be key of course and I can only say it really pays to get an excellent working dynamic together with designers and GW liaison. I am a firm believer with regards to the computer games biz 'if it's fun making the game, it's fun playing the game'.


Sadly the cuts to Dark Omen came during a difficult time for the first publisher and then moved to another and that mgt philosophy of cutting out about 40% out of any game design is still with us today (for the worst).

 I would like to add that I think the modding community did some great work on Dawn of War series I (particularly Dark Crusade) - when I mentioned some of these mods to GW they were totally unaware of them. Theres an historical reluctance to go too full on with computer gaming due to the potential detraction to their own sales - hence GW computer games not sold in their own stores etc. I would think though that the combined modding community enthusiasm from both franchises should be something to embrace.

 Although I found the DoW series II games quite fun, they werent what I was expecting at all and lost the sense of epic.

 I think we all saw the trailer for Mark of Chaos and went 'wow' but that's where it ended.

 And I wont even mention Space Marine.

 GW / Warhammer is a tricky license to work with for sure which is why I mention that getting the relationship right there is essential. Certainly the Creative Assembly Warhammer game has every reason to be something amazing that fans of both franchises will love. So long as it's not knocked out quick and Sega dont let anyone 'do a Gearbox' on them again."

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and back in Nuln, the ageing Graf Berhardt smiled his secret smile of pride whenever he heard the latest tales of his eldest son's ever growing chain of glorious victories -(sothr manual)
hari8
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2014, 12:11:41 AM »

Smiley
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Jeronimo
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 10:10:00 AM »

Interesting. Cheesy
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DMPumuki
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« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2014, 11:22:49 AM »

:O

For me, Dark Omen was my first real time strategy game and this really sounds interesting Smiley
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thelastarmada
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2015, 12:07:51 PM »

I do hope CA give us a quality Warhammer game.

something like Dark Omen story wise, just with next gen graphics and physics.

I think thats all we want, is someone to do the Warhammer license justice.
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olly
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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2016, 12:07:26 AM »

PC Zone Magazine Issue 060 1998 ->

DARK OMEN. YOU MAY RECALL. IS A 3D-a-licious real-time military strategy game based on Games Workshop's ever-popular Warhammer tabletop series. And it's from Mindscape. Er, not. No, the entire project (complete with programming team) is now under the wing of the gargantuan Electronic Arts. Just to confuse the matter further, it's actually being worked on at the Bullfrog building in Guildford. With a spinning head and growing sense of confused disorientation, your faithful correspondent arrived in said sunny location, met project leader Nick Goldsworthy, and sat down for a bit of a natter and that...

PC Zone: So what's going on then? Dark Omen used to be a Mindscape project. What's it doing here? Nick Goldsworthy: Well, we [Electronic Arts] had a new director of development joining us - he'd previously been head of R&D at Mindscape. He came over here and took over UK development. We were looking for a new project, when we got an offer from Mindscape to sign up Dark Omen and publish it as an EA game. We were also given the chance to buy their development team from them. They were on a strict deadline to get the game out, so we thought, 'let's buy the project and the team, then we can bring them here and give them more lime to get the game finished'. We've got a strong publishing record here, a better distribution network, we've got in-house audio and video artists, so we can put a lot more polish on this product.

PCZ: Sounds a bit like a football transfer really. Were the team relieved to suddenly find themselves with more time to complete the game?

NG: Well, yeah. They were pleased about it. Mindscape were looking to close down some areas, so I think the team was quite happy to still have jobs.

For the uninitiated, a brief history lesson: Dark Omen is actually the second game to be based on the Games WorkshopWarhammer licence. The first release, Shadow of the Homed Rat, was extremely faithful - some might say too faithful - to the official Warhommer rulebook. Many elements - such as cannons which randomly backfire, killing half your troops - work well in a tabletop battle involving painted figurines, dice, rulers and a couple of your most bearded mates, yet simply serve as an irritant in the context of a fast-moving computer game. For Dark Omen, the team have been given permission to bend the rules in the interests of smooth, immediate and much more satisfying gameplay.

And when Nick mentions polish, he isn't kidding. Since PCZone last had a gander at the game, Dark Omen has been
given a full-on presentational makeover. The result: a once good-looking title now looks absolutely great, as you can see. Aside from some truly incredible FMV sequences (which for once actually hold the attention of the viewer rather than have them reaching for the 'skip' button), the game oozes quality from every pore. Even the menus are pretty The game itself is even better.

What we have here is a very slick-looking piece of Tolkien-esque armed conflict, with immense battles played out on a sumptuous 3D landscape (there's a wide variety of different terrain) which the player can zoom and rotate throughout the game. The troops are faithful recreations of the original Warhammer figurines, there are plenty of pyrotechnics (courtesy of an unusual particle effect system) and more nail-biting strategic manoeuvres than you'll find in the back row of a cinema during a weekend midnight performance. All in real-time.

Zone sat and watched as Nick and a colleague indulged in a brief two-player skirmish to demonstrate some of the game's finer points. It's clear that besides using a complex strategy title. Dark Omen is also refreshingly bizarre. Aside from hulking great Tree-men (they don't live in the trees - they are trees) and loopy magical spells (one of which features a decidedly Monty Python-esque gigantic green foot, which suddenly looms into view and stomps upon all and sundry), there are laughs-a-plenty to be had with the living dead (entire armies of rotting corpses scrambling out of the ground then lining up in formation to do your bidding), a magic sword which causes an enemy's brain to explode, and the occasional innocent civilian running round on fire. There's also true line-of-sight (a la Total Annihilation] an unfolding storyline in single-player mode. Yum! Yum!.


Smack my pitch up

PC Zone: Let's say our readers have the attention span of a gnat, and are flipping through the magazine with an air of slack-jawed detachment. What soundbite could you give in order to convince them to pay attention to Dark Omen?

NG: Well, for one thing, we're all real games players here. When we took on this project we said: 'Okay, we've got an
extra six months - let's not rush it, let's play-test all the levels and make sure we get it right'. A good sign is that even though they've been working on it for a while, people here are playing it in their lunchbreaks and in the evening. The
Bullfrog testers came down and asked for a copy so they could play too. You know you're onto a good thing if you've got people actually wanting to play it in their spare time.

PCZ: That's it? Come on, give us a real
sales pitch.

NG: A sales pitch from a development person? Okay... If you want something that looks beautiful, with great graphics and audio, and that's also extremely addictive, then Dark Omen is for you. Developers always say that sort of thing. Except this time it's, you know, true. I don't think there's anything else quite like this. You've got the adventure in there, it's very easy to pick up and play We spent three months fine-tuning the control interface, trying out different combinations until we got it just right. We're trying to focus not just on the hobbyists, we want the game to have a wide appeal. We've put a lot of effort into it. It's good.



Website:http://www.ea.com
Release Date: February 98

« Last Edit: February 05, 2016, 12:21:21 AM by olly » Logged

and back in Nuln, the ageing Graf Berhardt smiled his secret smile of pride whenever he heard the latest tales of his eldest son's ever growing chain of glorious victories -(sothr manual)
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