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Developer Diary: The Prototype

by Gorath, 2007-04-03

Master Creating´s Creative Director Jan Beuck gives an insight into the development process of their upcoming action-RPG Legend - Hand of God.

The Prototype

Last time I told you about our Master Engine, a result of in-house development, and what can be done with it. Our question today is one which has probably plagued the modders among you at a certain point in your careers: we have an engine – now how do we put together a game?

First of all, you need to build a so-called prototype. A prototype is a small part of the game which basically corresponds to the finished product. Okay, so that’s probably exaggerated: many objects will be represented by placeholders. There are no sounds, no skills, no mini maps… to be exact, a prototype will not contain anything that is not absolutely essential.
A prototype is necessary to test basic game components: by building the prototype you see if engine parts work as expected, or if the intended type of gameplay is fun at all! The first prototype of LEGEND consisted of nothing but a square with a fuzzy grass texture and a half-naked man.

The very first shot of LEGEND - just for testing purposes. It was never intended for publication…

We were overjoyed! At first glance, this might seem rather unimpressive, yet it’s a working render pipeline based on DirectX 9.0c. Okay, nearly so – Normal Maps were inverted. But just fire up your imagination (you need a lot of imagination in this business!), and you will see a clearly better-clad hero wander through sunspeckled woods and meadows…

From there on, we built one prototype after the other; we included new game elements in each version, depending on their importance: animations were added, an enemy, a water shader… until we reached a level that might satisfy a publisher.

Here we tested the newly developed water shader on an object. Mind you, this is not the final version of the object!

It’s the regular modus operandi, by the way: a software studio develops an early version of a game, and then this prototype is presented to interested publishers. This procedure is called ‘the Pitch’. Naturally, the development of a prototype poses a financial risk: the developer must advance money during this phase of development. Only after a contract is signed, the publisher will pay for the development of the game.

We were lucky with dtp who were enthusiastic from the start. After successful negotiations we easily arrived at an agreement with the Hamburg-based publisher. LEGEND should have a substantially higher budget than its predecessor Restricted Area, and even RA had been good enough to convince both gaming journalists and the community.

After we finally convinced our publisher dtp of our LEGENDary concept, the next prototype was scheduled: the Vertical Slice.
A vertical slice is a small part of the game which must – as opposed to earlier prototypes - look and feel like the finished product. The only exception is its limitation to a very small area of the game. In other words: the first vertical slice of LEGEND is a small demo for internal purposes, mainly so the publisher’s press department can get a first impression of the game. This serves as a basis for further, improved versions of the game, one of which will hopefully become a preview for a gaming magazine – and then the public knows about LEGEND… finally!

I hope I was able to give you an impression of the early development stages of LEGEND. Next week I’ll go into further detail…

Once again, for comparative purposes: this is what the finished LEGEND will look like…

Box Art

Information about

Legend: Hand of God

Developer: Master Creating

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Action-RPG
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: 10-20 hours
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2007-09-28
· Publisher: dtp

North America
· Legend - Hand of God
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2008-08-01
· Publisher: THQ

More information

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