Meriwether - All News
Monday - March 02, 2015
Meriwether - Beta Now Released
Sortasoft finally released the beta version of Meriwether last month.
Most Betas are used to help find technical glitches and test compatibility with different systems. We're taking a more active approach: we CRAVE your input about the game design, story, art, and everything else because we know our backers can help us improve every aspect of this game (as you already have!).
You can help us fill in any of our design blind spots, refine mechanics and dialogue and character development, and most importantly, tell us what you like and what you don't. Any feedback you give us will help make the game stronger. The more the better!
That said, if you would rather play a finished game than an early, evolving beta, you may want to hold off on downloading until the game reaches a slightly more refined state. We will update often with new revised builds, and let you know the state of the game, so that you can decide what stage of release is right for you.
Saturday - January 17, 2015
Meriwether - New Beta Announcement
Developer Sortasoft has finally posted news about the Beta version of Meriwether in a new Kickstarter update. I'm happy to see the game is finally making progress.
It's been a cold but busy week here in Brooklyn. We are just finishing a major Meriwether crunch session and we are finally ready to make a major announcement: We will be releasing Beta to our upper-tier backers on January 30th!
Along with the Beta release, on the 30th we will also announce the release date of the final version of the game. We have a pretty good idea now of when that will be, but we want to keep it under our hats until the 30th, when we will be able to make a fully informed decision. The last thing we want to do is miss another deadline!
The initial release, for Kickstarter backers only, will be a soft launch. We will continue polishing, optimizing, and revising the game based on your feedback for a little while longer before we begin widely publicizing it and selling the a general audience.
Tuesday - December 23, 2014
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update # 50
Sortasoft has finally released another post-funding update for Meriwether with information on the games development, and talks about the latest Beta version.
We’re in the home stretch! We’ve extended our internal beta a little longer, to add just a bit more polish on the game before we send it out to our beta-level backers. We’ve been focusing on the nitty gritty details, like fixing bugs, correcting typos, and optimizing gameplay performance.
All that stuff makes for interesting work, but there’s not much else to say about it, except that we are plugging away at it. But we do have two notable features that have solidified or changed lately, and we want to share those with you.
Monday - October 06, 2014
Meriwether - Loose Ends Update
The latest post-funding update from Sortasoft has more information on the current status of Meriwether, and talks about tying up some loose ends before release.
Meri-Making: Loose Ends Edition
Since our last Meri-making, we’ve focused on tying up the few remaining loose ends in the gameplay. There were a couple game mechanics that we have struggled with since the start, but we have now slain those bugbears!
With these out of the way, the game is finally in a state where we are comfortable to have you playing it without our immediate supervision. So, very very soon we will start sharing it with those of you backers who are at the Beta level and higher. We can’t wait to hear your feedback!
Monday - September 01, 2014
Meriwether - Labor Day Twitch Stream
Sortasoft has finally updated the kickstarter page for Meriwether with news the developer will be hosting a new Twitch.TV stream on Labor day.
Back by popular demand, Carlos and Josh will be streaming Meriwether live on Twitch tomorrow at 6pm eastern. Why, you ask? Last month we had some technical problems and our stream never got recorded. We're going to play through the character creation again, but even if you were watching last time, we'll be picking different options to keep it fresh. Because the game is so text-heavy, in order to prevent "dead air", we did our best to act out the parts--Josh (poorly) taking on the role of Lewis, and Carlos (less poorly) playing everyone else. It was pretty fun and we'll do that again. We'll send a reminder tomorrow right before we go live and then send out the recorded link after we're finished.
Friday - June 20, 2014
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update # 44
The latest post-funding update from Sortasoft has more information on Lewis's outfits, and how procedural terrain will work in Meriwether.
Meri-Making: Lewis's Outfits and Procedural Terrain
We’ve been hard at work finishing up the nitty gritty details to get our Beta ready. This month we wanted to get technical and share some of that detail with you. But first we have a brief 19th century fashion show for you!
Meriwether is looking dapper as ever in his new outfits. You can change outfits throughout the game to change up your strategy by gaining different bonuses.
Lewis is quite a dandy in his civilian garb. He's wearing this outfit at the beginning of the game in Philly and during his flashbacks to The President’s House. Later in the game, if you choose to dress in this outfit, you’ll receive additional options while trading.
Captain Lewis has a commanding presence and boundless charisma. When wearing his military uniform, Lewis can lead an extra follower. (Followers are privates, interpreters, or laborers who can carry resources and perform tasks for you.)
Buckskins with Ermine Tippet
While visiting with the Shoshone, their chief Cameahwait gives you a beautiful ermine (weasel) tippet which is a great accessory to his buckskins. While wearing this outfit, Lewis moves faster and gets a bonus while identifying plants and animals.
Tuesday - April 15, 2014
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #43
Sortasoft has finally posted a new post-funding update for Meriwether with news on the making of the games soundtrack , and the developers birthday.
Meriwether Original Soundtrack
We are thrilled to announce our release of the Meriwether soundtrack! The 25-track album is simultaneously beautiful, exciting, and mysterious. We’ve been listening to it on repeat while working on the game, as it sets the atmosphere perfectly. The entire record is composed, arranged, and produced by our very own Jim Welch, with the exception of two period pieces that Jim arranged: Gavotte by Arcangelo Corelli, and Minuet by Alexander Reinagle. We will soon be sending a link out to those of you who backed at the Soundtrack level or higher! If you pledged at a lower level but want to add the soundtrack now, you can raise your pledge to $35 by sending us the difference via paypal at http://bit.ly/1hJRdXY. This additional pledge will continue to support us finishing Meriwether. Take a look at this massive track list! There is such a wide range of sounds, emotions, and styles. The songs all complement each other so well, making the album greater than the sum of its parts.
1. An American Epic
2. On The Plains
3. West Of The Rockies
5. Teton Sioux Confrontation
6. Gavotte by Arcangelo Corelli
7. The Shoshone
8. Lolo Trail
9. The Hunt
10. Off We Go
11. The Columbia
12. Coastal Tribes
13. Ocean In View
14. Plains Tribes
16. The Missouri
17. Drouillard's Theme
18. Minuet by Alexander Reinagle
19. York's Theme
20. The Ohio
21. Clark's Theme
22. Sacagawea's Theme
23. August 20th 1804
24. Journal Entries
25. Pomp's Lullaby
Procedural Music Implementation
Now that we have the mastered soundtrack recordings, we’ve implemented a dynamic music system to play them at opportune moments within the game. Each piece is tied thematically to a “muse,” which is either a person, place, or action. When it seems like the player might be getting ready to interact with a muse, a “submix” of the song begins. This is a sparse, quieter mix of the soundtrack version of the song that hints at the qualities in the background without fully committing. If a player continues to engage with the muse, then the audio fades in to the main mix that you hear on the soundtrack. Our procedural audio engine also allows for extended stretches of silence in between the music tracks. This respite helps you to engage with the environmental audio. For instance if you notice a bird chirping, you might try to locate it and observe it through your spyglass.
Tuesday - March 04, 2014
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #42
Sortasoft posted the next post-funding update for Meriwether that talks about character creation. As usual here is a small part of the update.
Meri-Making: Character Creation
Way back in the day, when I first started playing RPGs, I was mostly playing hack-n-slash games like Wizardry, Bard’s Tale, and NetHack. These games were great, but I found something totally new the moment I played Ultima VI. This game was no longer primarily about min-maxing your way through combat (though it had that). Instead it offered the opportunity to explore and build an entire world and meet characters that inhabited it. It came with a cloth map to help immerse you in that world. It even included a shiny polished “moonstone” to help transport the player into the game world--the same device used in the game’s intro to literally transport the Avatar from the present day into Britannia. This is the style of storytelling we want to emphasize in Meriwether. This game is about the characters you play and meet and the world (and time) in which they live.
I’m sure Meriwether is influenced in many subtle ways by the Ultima series, but one very obvious and deliberate way is through our character creation system. Starting with Ultima IV, the game always began with an encounter with a gypsy who asked you a series of questions which ultimately determine the details of the character you will play. The gypsy would ask you questions like “A local bully pushes for a fight. Dost thou A) Valiantly trounce the rogue, or B) Decline, knowing in thy Spirit that no lasting good will come of it?” Your choice would reflect one of the 8 virtues that were so important in the game, and impact your character in several different ways.
Friday - February 14, 2014
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #41
Sortasoft wil be at Indiecade East according to the latest Meriwether update.
Visit Us At Indiecade East
This weekend we'll be at Indiecade East in Astoria, NY. Friday February 14, at 4:30, Josh is giving a talk about another game he co-designed called Killer Queen Arcade. Then we'll be showing Meriwether at the Show & Tell session on Sunday February 16 from 4 to 6. Come check out the game and give us your feedback! We'll be demoing one of the game's early levels, set at the Falls of the Ohio, in which you meet Clark, and several of the other men, for the first time.
Wednesday - January 08, 2014
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #40
Meriwether has a new post-funding update after going quiet for a month. The update gives a status report on the state of the Kickstarter.
Meri-Making: Anniversary Edition
Today marks exactly one year after the end of our Kickstarter campaign. Since then, it’s been a lot of work, and a hell of a lot of fun. We met up with many of you at PAX East in Boston, the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation meeting in Bismarck, ND, and at various playtesting events around New York City. We are incredibly happy with how the game is turning out. We’re frustrated (though not very surprised) that development is taking us longer than expected. Best of all, we’re excited to be getting close to releasing the game into your hands!
We know you guys are on the edge of your seat to play a preliminary version of the game, and I know we keep pushing back the date, but we do need a little more time for the Beta to be player-ready. Rather than continuing to burst your bubble with every update, since it’s very difficult to anticipate, for now it’s safe to say that it will be fairly soon. Just know that we are working very hard to make the game the best it can be as quickly as we can.
We’re also starting work on the game’s website. In fact, we are looking for a talented website designer to help us with the graphic design for the website, as well as revising the main Sortasoft website (which still has its original design from way back in 2004!) If you know anyone, please have them email their portfolio to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While our effort right now is solely focused on finishing the core game, we are beginning to think about additional work that we intend to do after launch. We are investigating the potential for releasing Meriwether on other platforms, including consoles. We’re also discussing the creation of a guidebook to help assist those who want to use the game in learning environments.
For now, we’re excited to get back to work. This week we’re updating our codebase to work with the latest version of Unity (hopefully this will go smoothly!), which we primarily expect to help improve the game’s performance, particularly the speed at which it renders terrain. We’re also at the point where we are spending a lot of time playtesting it ourselves, with friends, and with other designers. We are creating the artwork for Jefferson and the interior of his office in the President’s House, as well as all Corps’ large equipment like tents, boats, awnings, lanterns, a tipi, and the ubiquitous staple of all expeditions and videogames alike: crates.
Josh & the Meriwether team
Sunday - November 24, 2013
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #39
Meriwether has a new post-funding update that give a behind the scenes look at how the music for the game was made.
Meri-Making: music edition
Normally in our Meri-making updates we cover a little bit about all the various facets of Meriwether’s development. However, this month we wanted to do something a little different and dive deep into the music. Jim Welch joined up with us about a year ago. This is our first project working with him and he instantly fit in with the team, got up to speed with the project and immediately had a feel for the style of music we were looking for. He even bought and learned several new instruments to use in this project like a Native American flute, a fife, and a banjo. We’re continually impressed by the quality of his music and want to feature the work he’s done so far. This is the perfect time to do so since he just had the primary recording sessions.
Now that the bulk of the recording is complete Jim is working together with mixer Adrian Cook to make sure all the live instruments reach their full potential. Dave continues to be involved as well and has really put his heart into this project with us. A few pieces still remain to be composed and recorded but we’re almost there! The final step after all recording and mix is complete is arranging the tracks in a manner that suits implementation into the game. An important stage in marrying music to an interactive experience and something we are all excited for.
Currently, our plan is to start sharing a Beta build with Engage-level backers before the end of this year, and release a finished version of the game by the end of February. We’re a bit behind our original schedule, so we want to be realistic about how much work is left, yet we don’t want to compromise quality. We will continue to keep you updated on our schedule. That said, all aspects of the game have really come together recently and we’re happier than ever about how the game is playing. More about that next month!
Wednesday - October 02, 2013
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #37
Sortasoft has a new post-funding update for Meriwether with a status update on the progress of the game.
Kyle has been all over the place--fixing bugs, implementing content, and finalizing features. One major feature that had been left out until this point was usable canoes. Kyle got them working earlier this month, and they add a lot to the game. Water travel is a critical aspect of the Lewis and Clark story, and being able to pilot a canoe up the Missouri and into a tributary feels great! Getting the controls to feel right was very difficult--we had to find a delicate balance of making the movement feel authentic for an canoe, but still natural for WASD controls.
As with almost every game, things are taking longer than we expected, but the end is in sight. Our new plan is be in Beta by the end of November, and then release Meriwether early next year. We’ll keep you posted as things get closer and we have a clearer understanding of our schedule.
We just received a $1200 grant from the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation’s Burroughs Fund! Many thanks to them for this funding as well as the support and connections they have provided us throughout this process. The money is specifically to be used to pay for honoraria for tribal advisors. We have some of the advisors lined up, but could use more advisors for any of the tribes encountered by the Corps. If you know anyone who may be a good fit for this, please put them in touch with us.
We still have a lot of work to do, including some of the content for the return trip, and the game’s tutorial (starring Thomas Jefferson.), but it feels manageable. Once the final music is mixed, we will implement a dynamic music manager in the game that plays specific tracks (and different mixes of tracks) depending on the context, and in a way that helps keep the music fresh and non-repetitive. Jim is also starting on sound effects soon. On the art front, we are finishing up the major characters and starting on more minor characters, as well as Teton Sioux tipis, Mandan earth lodges, and other items for their villages.
We’re really excited about how the game is taking shape. In our playtesting, comments and critique are now focusing on subtle nuances, rather than glaring errors. The game is really enjoyable to play, and constantly surprising us as we play through it. We’ll have more on that next month, as well as video and details about Jim’s recording session. We can’t wait to get you the Beta!
Saturday - August 31, 2013
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #36
Sortasoft has a new post-funding update for Meriwether. The update talks about music, the save system, and the progress of the project.
Google Hangout & Music
Jim is in Texas and so obviously was unable to join our Brooklyn session in person. But he was right there with us on Google Hangout. It was a great way to work together. Just hearing fragments of the tunes he was writing put us in the right mood and helped us all focus. Before you go any further, scroll down to the bottom of this page, hit play and listen to this draft of "West of the Rockies."
New Dialogue Camera System
Kyle’s focus during our crunch was revising the camera system. Our first step was to identify a number of shots used in cinematography, particularly those used for dialogue. We collected references for various types of shots, such as “full shot,” “mid-shot,” “close-up,” “extreme close-up,” “American two-shot,” “over-the-shoulder,” and others. Based on these references, Kyle extracted a set of rules that could procedurally recreate these shots, given an arbitrary set of relevant characters in a scene. This is going to get technical, but that’s game development. :)
Op-Ed: On Saving Games
Carlos here. One of the first Kickstarter projects I supported was the Shadowrun Returns computer role-playing game. It’s a spiritual successor to the SNES Shadowrun game that came out decades ago, headed by one of the original creators of Shadowrun, Jordan Weisman. The game has received solid reviews from gamers and critics alike (as of this writing it has a Metacritic score of 76), and I personally would rate it much higher. The quality of the writing is excellent--it struck the perfect balance between campy fun and sudden, surprising insight. Without spoiling anything, I believe the dramatic irony in the game’s denouement is one of the most poignant moments I have experienced in a video game in a long time.
Needless to say, after playing Shawdowrun Returns and following the brouhaha around saving, we here at Meriwether have been thinking carefully about how we should implement saving games. We want players not to be frustrated, but we want to have a system that makes sense in terms of the game’s resources and that does not promote an unfun, “scum saving” gameplay style.
It’s all coming together: the writing, the art, the music, the programming, the design. Things are only going to get more exciting from now on. We will continue to work and continue to update you on our progress. Until next month!
Monday - August 12, 2013
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #35
Meriwether has a new post-funding update talking about the developers trip to the annual conference of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.
Walking through the fort confirmed my feeling that we’ve done a remarkable job designing our 3D model. Certainly there are some differences between the actual recreation and our model of Fort Mandan. For instance, notice that the doors on our model below swing inward (nobody knows for sure which way the door swung, but opening inward would make it more defensible.)
The original fort was only built to last a single winter, but the modern reproduction needs to stand the test of time. They also have to take maintenance and safety into consideration, and obviously we don’t need to worry about with our model.
We’ve also been making great headway on the game itself. Next week we are having a mega-crunch session where we plan to work as hard as the Corps while they were crossing the snowy Bitterroots. At the end of that crunch, we’ll send another update with our progress on the game, including our beautiful new 3D models of Clark and different Native American characters. Although we still have plenty of work ahead of us, we’re still more or less on-schedule; we’re planning to release the game by the end of this year. Our initial draft of all the dialogue is almost complete, and Beta is fast-approaching!
Thursday - July 18, 2013
Meriwether - Post-Funding Update #34
The latest post-funding update for Meriwether went unnoticed so to remedy it here it is. The topics include art, music, game design, and July 4th.
Let's start off with a little art. We are moving into high-gear with art production. The highly-detailed and historically accurate concept art Jiyoun has been creating for us is now starting to blossom into 3D models thanks to our 3d artists. Below, watch as Clatsop chief Coboway, whose concept art we included in an earlier update, moves from 3D wireframe to textured asset.
On the sound front, Jim Welch continues to dazzle us with his musical acumen. Lately, he's been working hard on creating a leitmotif for Sacagawea: a piece of music that is directly influenced and inspired by authentic Shoshone music. But as you will see from his paragraph below, it's no easy task, even for a veteran composer such as Jim:
"It's been a very interesting challenge trying to recreate the music of Native Americans. I have previously worked on projects that require tribal music with flavors of Native American sounds and quite a few tracks inspired by African styles. However, due to the attention to historical accuracy in this project, there is a need to create a truly authentic Native American sound, something most composers don't have experience with.
We have spent much of the last month working on the level featuring the Corps' meeting with the Shoshone. This is the moment when the Corps of Discovery discovers that there is indeed no all-water route across the United States: the darn Rocky Mountains stand in the way! But they still need to make it to the Pacific Ocean. So acquiring horses from the Shoshone is of paramount importance: without horses, they may not be able to continue their journey at all.
Kyle is programming, Carlos is writing, Barb is history-ing, Jim is musicing, artists are arting, and Josh is doing everything. In short, we are continuing to make terrific advances on all game-creation fronts. As always, please let us know your comments either by responding below or writing to us directly
Monday - June 17, 2013
RPGWatch Feature: Meriwether - Interview with Joshua DeBonis
GhanBuriGhan had the opportunity to ask Sortasoft's founder and director Joshua DeBonis a few question on “Meriwether: An American Epic”. Like this question on the RPG gameplay elements:
RPGWatch: The historical setting as well as the financial support the project received by various public sources could lead gamers to the conclusion that Meriwether will be more Edutainment than game. What are the central gameplay elements that you think will make Meriwether attractive to RPG players?
Josh: It's been a constant struggle to separate Meriwether from edutainment. Yes, you will learn things playing this game. But we are approaching it first and foremost as a game, in the same way that we approach other games we design. I tend to favor elegant, distilled game mechanics that are easily approachable but have great depth to explore. This philosophy manifests itself in Meriwether in many ways; we wanted a game that won't feel too daunting to a history buff who doesn't play a lot of video games, but also will have lots of difficult choices to offer to hardcore gamers. We have shown and playtested the game at both PAX East and a Lewis and Clark convention, and had a very positive response at each. I think we are well on way to making that difficult balance a reality.
There's two parts that will be especially attractive to CRPG players. The first is our dialogue system. Our writer, Carlos Hernandez, is an incredible storyteller and he is giving a unique voice to all of the amazing characters. The conversations are a pleasure to play, but they also offer an interesting "facet" mechanic. We associate each dialogue choice with one facet of Lewis's personality-leader, soldier, diplomat, scientist, or melancholy. When you choose an option, it increases your level in that facet. Occasionally, you need to choose melancholy to keep balanced, which can often lead to an undesirable situation. The trick is to choose it at the right moment! So the facet system will couple a good story with good gameplay and provides players with a pretty unique dialogue system.
The other mechanic that I think will interest CRPG players is managing the party as a whole. You need to balance all of your resources very carefully. Will you spend your timing hunting or clearing a safe path for your boats? Will you trade your last spare rifle for horses to make your journey across the Rocky Mountains easier? The real Lewis and Clark Expedition had to think about balancing those choices every second of their voyage, and they import beautifully into our game.
Friday - May 24, 2013
Meriwether - Post-funding update #32, Historical Research, Concept Art and Music
Missed the latest update for Meriwether when it became avaialble, so here is the lengthy update number 32 on Historical Research, Concept Art and Music.
In the game they want to add a spyglass, which Lewis has on him, but they want to make this spyglass historically correct.
Hard at work on Meriwether, the team was debating how to include a spyglass (i.e. a little handheld telescope) among the various tools Lewis will have at his disposal. From a gameplay perspective, a spyglass seemed like a cool addition: you could use it to scout ahead and find otherwise hidden parts of the landscape. As we started experimenting with it, however, it became clear that the spyglass would be most useful in the game if you could set it to different levels of magnification: far, farther, and really far. But then Josh asked the question, "Do spyglasses of the period really work that way? Did they have different levels of magnification?"
It was actually two different questions: 1) do spyglasses in general work that way? and 2) did spyglasses of the time work that way? To answer both completely, we'd have to get our hands on a period spyglass--not the easiest thing in the world to do.
Enter Rebecca Mir. You might remember Rebecca from her appearance on our "Meri-thon" at the end of our Kickstarter campaign. Rebecca works as an Educator at the New-York Historical Society, which Josh had visited in the past to research The Lewis and Clark Expedition. So Josh contacted Rebecca and asked her our spyglass questions.
We knew we could count on Rebecca to provide us great information, but she went much, much farther. She invited the team to see the New-York Historical Society’s collection of spyglasses, as well as other Lewis and Clark artifacts in the museum's holdings.
If you happen to know something about 19th century spyglasses you can always help them out.
Friday - March 29, 2013
Meriwether - Update #31, Feedback From PAX
Back from PAX East the Meriwether team provide an update on how that experience worked out for them and they have a video to show.
We are overjoyed by the response we received, and were delighted to meet many of you backers in person. To sum up: almost universally, people who playtested the game enjoyed it and had no trouble seeing the game's potential. Players especially like the writing and dialogue, the melancholy mechanic, the plant discovery mini-game, and the sense of openness and exploration that the level provided. We also received excellent feedback as well, and took tons of notes on what players had to say. On Friday in particular, Carlos would demo the game while Josh and Kyle were editing it on the fly, incorporating the notes from each playtester into a new build to put in front of the next one. Some of our notes will take longer to implement and so we couldn't test those immediately. In all, we feel like, even at this very early, months–away–from–beta stage, the game is shaping up tremendously well.
So what's next? We will be concentrating on nailing down the Travel levels, as well as filling out the part of the game that will feature the Shoshone (Sacagawea's tribe). Jim Welch will continue to work on the game's music, and we will have new art including an improved Lewis model to show you. We also will report on our visit to the New York Historical Society, where we were able to examine spyglasses. Not only will our spyglasses make good mechanical sense in the game, but, as always, we are going to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy — and in this case, we can do both without sacrificing either. But the story of our spyglass research is a story for a future update. Until then, proceeding on!
Monday - March 25, 2013
Meriwether - Update #30, Pax and Development Update
The developers of Meriwether can now be visited in the arcade section of the Kickstarter booth at PAX East. Furthermore there is some development news on the game like the observation feature.
But we couldn't resist showing you the new GUI that pops up when use the Observation feature. The team loves how it plays and looks. We'd love to know what you think!
Here's how the Observation feature works. When you click on a species you haven't identified yet, a GUI like the one above appears. You can choose up to three of the circles on the right, and doing so will fill in the image on the left. Then you're off to find a new example of the species to get more opportunities to fill in more of the image. Once you've completed 80% or more of the image on the left, the image will auto-complete and the species is identified. Our internal tests have found the system to be lightweight and fun, but of course nothing is finalized until our beta-testers and backers agree. Still, we're very excited with it and feel it's pretty close to beta-ready.
Thursday - February 21, 2013
Meriwether - Update #29, Status Update
In a new status update for Meriwether the team brings us a video and an explanation of a recent planning meeting. In addition information on the current status is provided, like the Teton Sioux levels, a new comic book dialogue interface, the design of the level for the Pacific coast and upcoming events.
In video games, it's common to see dialogue handled much like it is in film: every time a character speaks, the camera cuts to the new speaker. That works great in film (and in some games), but after testing dialogue in Meriwether, we found the constantly-jumping camera to be distracting. If we wanted players to immerse themselves in the story, we knew we had to find a better way to present conversations.
That is the thinking that led us to our new style, which we've been called "Comic Book Dialogue." This new way of presenting dialogue displays two or three lines from characters at a time, much in the same way speech balloons work in comics. We're very happy with the results: now, it is much easier to follow the thread of the conversation. Furthermore, we still will be able to control the camera to have the occasional dramatic close-up, and we think big conversations (those featuring more than two characters) will be easier to follow as well.
Ultimately, our playtesters will tell us what they think of this new system, but we're stoked about our early experiments with it. We'll be sure to keep you updated as we further refine it.
Friday - January 04, 2013
Meriwether - Kickstarter Updates #18,19
With less than $2000 to reach their goal and 64 hours on the clock the Meriwether Kickstarter looks like it will get funded. IN the mean time they have added two new updates, the first introduces lead programmer, Kyle Staves.
The second update talks about the Scholarship editions.
We’ve been very clear (we hope!) about the fact that Meriwether isn’t edutainment. And yet, here we are offering “Scholarship” editions. How do those two things fit together?
We begin with a basic premise: almost all educational video games are terrible. Just unplayably bad. For every good game like Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego that exists, thousands of pedantic, transparent, and woefully unfun offerings litter the field of educational video games.
Why should this be? We at Meriwether believe the problem is that edutainment treats the “game” part of “educational game” as secondary. And that’s where they go wrong. That’s why with Meriwether, we’re working hard to create a great game rooted in the amazing history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We are crafting the game based on the team’s collective experience in making games, as well as everything we as a team have learned after a lifetime of playing them. If you happen to learn something along the way, well, that’s your own fault. :)
Seriously though, there’s a reason why games like Mass Effect and Skyrim have such detailed and richly-presented worlds. The settings of those games are what give meaning and power to the actions players take through the gameplay. Would there have been such controversy around Mass Effect 3’s ending if players hadn’t grown to care passionately about the people, places, and events that the game created over a period of years? No way!
That’s what we want to do for Meriwether: we want to offer players a combination of great gameplay and great storytelling that will make them fall in love with this world. The only difference will be that, instead of inventing a history from the ground up, the way fantasy and science fiction games must, we have based our world on the best historical research we can muster about the Corps of Discovery’s journey. When players finish the game, those people, places and events will stay with them, just as much as our fond memories of other game worlds stay with us.
Wednesday - January 02, 2013
Meriwether - Kickstarter Updates #16,17
The Kickstarter for Meriwether is showing two new updates, while they still have 4 days to go to gather an extra $6000 to reach their $35K goal.
In update number 16 an overview of the Lewis levels is given. Here are a few of them:
The President’s House
Lewis begins the game in Washington, D.C. as private secretary to Jefferson, who sends him on a journey across the continent.
Training in Philly
Lewis receives training and buy supplies for the journey; his famous temper is tested by a local.
Ten Young Men from Kentucky
Lewis stops in Clarksville to reunite with his old army friend Clark, York, and others. Lewis must decide if Clark will share equal command or be his Lieutenant.
The Corps encounters the Oto tribe. Lewis is introduced to a number of diplomatic, medical, scientific, and survival challenges he will have to deal with the entire journey. Sgt. Floyd is deathly ill--can you save him?
Standoff with the Teton Sioux
Tensions rise after several misunderstandings with the Teton Sioux. Can you prevent an escalation into an all-out battle?
Update number 17 is about the second part of the story.
Hey folks! It's Carlos again, back to talk about how Meriwether’s story arcs will present some of the major themes of the Corps of Discovery’s voyage. Through these story arcs, you’ll get to know some of the Corps’s most famous members--Clark, John Colter, and Sacagawea--and well as some important but lesser-known members such as Private Willard and Sergeant Gass. For this update, I want to focus on York’s story arc as an example of how we’re using them to relate the history of the Corps, tell a good story, and create meaningful gameplay.
After the Expedition made it back to the U.S., the members of the Corps of Discovery were regarded as national heroes and were granted land allotments as thanks for their service. But not all members: York, Clark’s slave and personal manservant, received no land or payment. He was forced to return to his former life of servitude on Clark’s estate.
York found it difficult to adjust back to life as a slave. Over the years after the Expedition, Clark asked several people, including his brother Jonathan and Meriwether Lewis, for advice on how to handle his increasingly unwilling slave. And then, in 1810 (about four years after the Expedition), Clark writes, “[York] is here but of verry little Service to me ... insolent and Sulky, I gave him a severe trouncing the other Day and he has much mended Sence.” [sic; Clark was a terrible speller.]
Those two words, “severe trouncing,” squeeze my heart.
Sunday - December 30, 2012
Meriwether - Kickstarter Updates #12-15
The Kickstarter for Meriwether ($23K/$35K, 7 days to go) saw a couple of updates in the last days.
Update #12 links to a Reddit interview.
Update #13 shows some badges you can use as a backer.
Update #14 shows a video introducing Jim Welch who is repsonsible for the sound and music.
Update #15 features lead writer Carlos Hernandez who explains how the story ties in with the gameplay
Here’s a breakdown of the philosophical underpinnings behind each facet:
Soldier: Follow orders. Do your duty. The law is the law. Do anything for a fellow soldier. Defeat your enemies. Don’t be afraid to use force. Fight with courage.
Leader: You are in charge because you have special gifts, training and insight. You are valiant, far-seeing, and worthy of respect. It is up to leaders like you to temper the law with good judgment. You should inspire those you lead, but sometimes you must make unpopular decisions. You are personally responsible for the safety of every person under your command.
Diplomat: Peace should always be the first outcome to pursue. Everyone is entitled to decency and courtesy. Generosity will inspire generosity. Sometimes intangibles like goodwill and harmony are the best outcomes of a negotiation. Peace is a national priority, more important than personal feelings.
Scientist: Where can I get more information? How does this work? Is this logical? Do I have enough evidence to support my ideas? How? Why? To what extent?
You’re probably already imagining how these values will come into conflict with one another. Do I make nice with the British trapper who is obviously lying to me in order to try to get better prices on trade goods (diplomat vs. scientist)? Do I follow army regulations to the letter when disciplining my men, or show a little leniency (soldier vs. leader)? But choices won’t always be simple opposed pairings; sometimes you’ll have three or even all four facets to choose from for a single decision.
Thursday - December 27, 2012
Meriwether - Kickstarter Update #11, Stretch Goals
Kickstarter update number 11 of Meriwether brings us information on the stretch goals.
Lewis's Outfits + Girandoni Air Rifle
Our first stretch goal will allow Lewis to don attire that will enhance his stats. Want to impress the men with your authority? You should probably put on your class-A dress uniform. Engaging in a little diplomacy with the Sioux? Dressing in buckskin will make you seem as familiar to them as the French and English traders they know so well. There will be outfits for hunting, soldierly camaraderie, and collecting scientific samples. Each outfit gives you a boost in one or more of the facets.
And then there's the creme de la creme: The Girandoni Air Rifle. This rifle was a marvel for its time. It has an incredibly fast rate-of-fire, and because it was powered by air, there was no gun report and no muzzle flash. If we make this stretch goal, the air rifle will be your silent-killer alternative to your 1803 contract rifle. You may fire when ready!
Saturday - December 22, 2012
Meriwether - Kickstarter Update #10, Meri Christmas
In the 10th update of Meriwether (18K/35K with 15 days to go) they wish us a Meri Christmas (correct, no typo there) and have a story set in the days of Lewis to go with it, of which this is a part:
The Corps of Discovery shared three Christmas’s together, over the course of which they grew as a “band of brothers.” Winters were especially difficult because, aside from the cold, they were cooped up and there was so much downtime. Their first Christmas in 1803 was especially trying, as the fledgling corps encamped outside of St. Louis at Camp Dubois. Several of the men got drunk, and two even got into a fight. More fighting continued throughout this first winter.
However, by Christmas 1804, they had truly solidified as a team. There was no more fighting, and the Captains issued a type of rum called tafia to the men, along with niceties like flour, dried apples, and pepper, “to celebrate Christmas in a proper and social manner.” They danced to Cruzatte's fiddle music and a festive holiday was had by all.
Monday - December 17, 2012
Meriwether - Update #8, Media News
In the most recent Kickstarter update for Meriwether (15K/35K, 20 days to go) a list of all the recent media news for the game is given.
It's been another great week for us here at Meriwether HQ. With three weeks still left in our campaign, we're at 42% of our goal, so we are trucking right along to our magic number of $35,000.
To help us get there, we've been busily trying to get the word out about the game. Last Friday, we had the honor of appearing on Kick-a-Thon. Kick-a-Thon is the brainchild of the Sword of Fargoal team, who ran a nailbiter of a campaign a few months back and successfully were funded for $50,000 to develop Sword of Fargoal 2. They were so chuffed by their success, which happened in part because of the Kick-a-Thon they ran to raise the money to make the Kickstarter a success, that they've decided to pay it forward by hosting Kickstarter projects on future Kick-a-Thons.
We also want to share with you just a little bit of the incredible press Meriwether has been receiving.
- Kill Screen ran two pieces: one is detailed interview about Meriwether and "the new gaming Americana", and a second piece associating us with Assasin's Creed 3 as well as my favorite Chris Farley movie, Almost Heroes.
- TIGSource had an exclusive opportunity to play an early build and described it as "extremely involving."
- Play the Past ran an interview with Barb and I, focusing on our historical process, while Caffeineforge interviewed me about the game mechanic.
- Operation Rainfall gave us a glowing endorsement and jokingly referreded to Meriwether as "Oregon Trail: [Expletive] Just Got Real." We love it!
- And finally, Rock, Paper Shotgun has included us in their weekly Kickstarter Katchup and states "Meriwether is absolutely fascinating."
Tuesday - December 11, 2012
Meriwether - Preview @ IndieStatik
You know how there’s games that just look good sometimes, and then you read into them and then they sound good? Well, Meriweather does both of those things, and then it makes me feel good. That’s because it’s trying to teach me about a history of a country I’ve never cared to look into much, for I am an ignorant Brit who tends to look to the right and below me at my European chums rather than to the left over at that massive place they call ‘Merica (fuck, yeah!). I’m fond of games that want to teach me about history, especially if it’s an actual real place. It will be no surprise to anyone that I know more about fictional locales and their cultures than anything on this real planet. Oh, the shame! Meriweather, please turn me into an educated soul and please do it in a way I can bear – with gratifying gameplay and an immersive verisimilitude.
Trekking across America is a bit of a daunting task, even if it’s upon a virtual field – I don’t know my way around here. On top of that, this Jefferson toff wants me to find an all-water route across the entire north continent, if one should exist, while drawing accurate maps of my journey. Well, bloody hell, mate, there’s only so much one guy can do, you know? Oh, and you think establishing peaceful relations with as many Native American nations as I can is going to help focus things a little. Well, screw you, Jefferson, I’m having none of your orders! Do you know what I’m going to do? I’m heading out there and finding as many animals and plants as I can so that the scientists are kept busy, because science is something I can believe in, and not an idealistic mare of a man.