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  • DevDiary 1 - Game Vision



    Welcome to the first Jagged Alliance 3 DevDiary!

    The DevDiary is a place where we can discuss specifics about the game, share some insights about the development process, and offer perspective on what game-shaping decisions we make and why. We’ll do our best to talk about cool, interesting topics, of which we’d love to hear your feedback! Hearing your suggestions will help us make the best game we can, and also understand what our fans care about. 

    It was really hard for us to keep silent for so long, since there is a lot we want to share about Jagged Alliance 3. It may go without saying, but thank you for all the love and patience, we really appreciate it!

     

    Jagged Alliance 3: Our Vision

    Hello and welcome to the first DevDiary of Jagged Alliance 3 in which we will present our vision for Jagged Alliance 3 !

    Since many of us in the dev team are lifelong Jagged Alliance fans it is easy for us to assume that many readers of this article will also be intimately familiar with JA1 and JA2, however we will try to avoid this trap and present the information in a way that is accessible to newcomers as well.  Overall, our goal is not only to introduce you to our game, but also to the principles that led us through the years-long development journey. We don't plan to focus on details just yet, there will be time enough for this in upcoming DevDiaries down the road.

    Ever since the first pitch document we wrote we were certain about one thing - there was a particular feeling from Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 that made them special and we wanted to recapture it in our sequel - a unique combination of simulative turn-based combat, colorful characters, strategic management and the exploration of an open RPG-inspired sandbox world. A true sequel should rely on all of these pillars in order to recapture the charm of the first two games, so let's visit each of these points in turn.

    Simulative Turn-based Combat

    If we have to describe our combat philosophy in a single sentence, it would be "deep turn-based combat that takes a realistic approach and allows a fine level of control." There's a lot to parse here, so bear with us while we dissect this sentence...

    "Deep" means that our goal is to offer interesting decisions and no single right answer to any given situation. Sid Meier once famously said that good gameplay is a "series of interesting decisions" and this is a statement that we very much get behind. We want to reward mastery and creative thinking, to have many moments that make you stop and wonder how to proceed, weighting pros and cons and visualizing possible outcomes in your mind's eye.

    "Turn-based" should be self-explanatory, but it must be mentioned because it is so central for Jagged Alliance. While historically there have been some experiments with real-time gameplay in the world of JA, this was never a direction we were interested in or considered for this project.

    Combat_01.jpg

    "Realistic approach" doesn't mean that we want to necessarily simulate reality in every minute aspect, but rather that we aim to keep things grounded in reality - both in the visuals and the gameplay aspect. Weapons can jam or break down, simulated bullets can penetrate materials and bodies to cause collateral damage and severe wounds persist for days instead of being magically healed in an instant. We like to think about our approach as "action movie" realism where guns feel like guns but the good guys can still kick ass against seemingly impossible odds.

    Combat_02.thumb.jpg.5491ee805babd9eb02969436d84e4db6.jpg

    While many recent turn-based games have chosen to become more "abstract" and limit each character to 2-3 significant actions per turn, we went the opposite way. Jagged Alliance 3 gives you much more detailed control over every combat decision. Our Action Point system allows this precise management and mechanics like stances, aiming, body part shots and weapon firing modes allow you to customize your approach for every single shot.

    The Heart of the Game - our Mercs

    Jagged Alliance was always about the mercs! No other game from that era has such a humongous cast of fleshed out and detailed main characters as Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 did and we are certain that everyone who played the old games remembers their own favorites. We knew that the heart and charm of Jagged Alliance is closely tied to this ragtag bunch of unlikely heroes that always manage to feel alive, talkative, witty, and full of character, and we tried to bring back as many as we could in Jagged Alliance 3.

    There are around 40 mercs in the new game - most of them are old favorites but there are many newcomers as well! More than just pawns in the player’s hands, the mercs are rarely indifferent to what happens around them - they interject in conversations, form relations, make jokes, hold grudges, react to the combat situation and always tend to find a way to express their personality.

    AIM_Snype_New.thumb.jpg.27b6cc600c462158648e5c9f9d13be66.jpg

    Some of the hardest, but also most rewarding decisions in the project wеre who to keep from the original cast and who to sideline for potential future content, how to make these classic characters feel authentic and how to create new mercs that can stand on their own next to them. There is no single main character in Jagged Alliance, or rather each merc is a potential main character, so all of them should be worthy of this role!

    Other than the character and personality of the mercs we had to consider their mechanical representation as well. We didn't want to put our characters in a narrow box so a classless combat and character development system seemed most appropriate. Even if a particular merc advertises himself as a "Doctor" or "Explosives expert", they can develop in any direction and are not limited by a predefined combat role or an artificial "class".

    Beyond their raw mechanical stats (such as strength, marksmanship, leadership, etc.), mercs are further differentiated by various quirks and perks. Some of these are predefined for the particular merc (such as "psycho" or "claustrophobic") while others are gained as the merc levels up, allowing a degree of customization and specialization as the campaign progresses. We are itching to share more details, however this is a subject worthy of a separate "deep dive" DevDiary later on.

    AIM_Perks.thumb.jpg.3ebdf17d063775ea9581649792840cf1.jpg

    Since our characters are so important, we knew we wanted to get the voiceover and their voice responses as good and authentic as possible. The decision that every line in the game will be voiced was made at the start of the project, but the final recordings are always done closer to the end. After making a proof of concept test with recorded voices just for a few characters, we used a software solution to generate "proxy" voices just to be able to test the game and iterate quickly without recording voice overs at each cycle.

    Strategic Gameplay in an Open World

    "Grand Chien is a hellhole..." - this phrase quickly became a running joke in the dev team since these were the first words from a placeholder introduction we had in our developer build for a long time. The text itself is no longer in the game, but the country of Grand Chien is still very much there.

    Grand Chien is a fictional third world country, facing turmoil during the early 2000s. The time period and the setting itself were carefully crafted to convey a somewhat nostalgic "old action-movie" feel. This is reflected to a point in all aspects of the game, from the gameplay and visual style to the user interface. Beyond timeline considerations and tactical combat gameplay, we needed a world to accommodate the strategic and RPG elements in the game as well.

    Our satellite view map offers a bird's eye view on this world:

    SatView_01.thumb.jpg.b9e3b2cb9468ce07cea55f47e1f19084.jpg

    From here you manage the strategic aspect of the game - organize your mercs in squads, travel around, capture territory, clash with enemy patrols, and intercept convoys with valuables. Time is the most important resource here - even when idle, your mercs can be put to good use in special operations.  Healing wounds, repairing damaged equipment, organizing defenses, and scouting for valuable intel all take time, and since most of your mercs are operating on a contract, time is money!

    After a brief initial sequence, there is no imposed order in which we are expecting you to go through this vast satellite map. The world is meant to be open and not to railroad your experience in any way.

    Each sector in the Sat View map corresponds to a unique handcrafted map where both combat, area exploration and interactions with NPCs happen. A significant part of our gameplay takes place in non-combat situations and focuses on exploration, choice and conversations. Even though Jagged Alliance 3 is not a full-fledged RPG, our goal was to create a persistent world that responds to your actions and is changed by your decisions, much more than in the typical tactical game. This ties nicely with the individuality of our characters that we already talked about, allowing us to offer different content and opportunities depending on which mercs are in the current group.

    Conversation_01.thumb.jpg.65eb8c9fcb5c63f7d1a090897bc54c00.jpg

    In Conclusion

    To recap all of the information above, here are the pillars of Jagged Alliance 3, as our team sees them:

    • Deep turn-based combat that takes a realistic approach and allows a fine level of control
    • A large cast of quirky and unique mercenaries
    • Strategic gameplay on the satellite view map
    • A vast handcrafted open world to explore and shape with your decisions

    We hope this article answered some of your questions about our vision for Jagged Alliance 3 and planted the seeds for many future DevDiaries! What aspect of the game excites you and resonates with you the most? What would you like to read about next?

     

    Boian Spasov

    Lead Designer

    Combat_01_logo.jpg


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    Great start! Well written!

    I think what most of us are very interested in and also which hadn't been quite cleared up is the ballistics calculation.

    In interviews it was mentioned that there is a per bullet realistic calculation, but in trailers that doesn't seem to be the case.
    It looks like each shot (Shotgun, Burst) is only calculated once for all bullets, and then each bullet just gets an additional check whether or not it hits.
    E.g. in all scenes, all shots of a burst hit exactly the same point. Also from the damage, you can see that a bullet which goes "through" one character but doesnt do damage, then hits the character behind it. In the scene with the shotgun on the other hand, you can see a "calculation bullet" traveling first, impacting, and only then, all the rest is happening, and the actual "spread" is just an animation at the end.
    It would be great if this can be cleared up. For example: If 50m away there are 3 people standing side to side (not behind each other): Would it be possible to hit ALL of them with a burst or shotgun (even though you wouldn't be able to specifically aim that way), just because of spread. Or will you only ever (like the videos suggest) hit a single one of them.

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    A second interesting topic for dev diaries would be the characters.

    We already know from Interviews that it's going to be ~40, with about 30 veterans.

    But the only indications about their development were stats by Buns which were 100% the same as before (which could just be temp) and some comments about Tex which seemed to be a bit of a continuation of the story.
    The great thing about JA was also always the characters, and that included their development.

    Ivan only speaking Russian in JA1, but having learnt English until JA2.
    Hamous being introduced in JA1 as native, then having joined AIM in JA DG, then going on his ventures with his Ice Truck, where you then can recruit him as encounter in JA2.
    Lynx and Buzz, where Buzz was introduced in JA DG and they were a couple, and then between JA DG and JA2 they started to hate each other, and now they are enemies.

    So the question is: Do you continue their story from where JA2 left off? (Will their story have developed, their relationships, their stats)
    Do you consider any of the Games since UB as "canon" or do you "ignore" if anything story related happened there?
    Will you have a "Hall of Fame" type of thing, where you can look up the history of the Mercs which are not present in JA3 to see what happened to them?
     

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    Thank you for this first dev diary, I've been waiting for it eagerly, as many other people here!

    This is a clear presentation of the main features of the game, its philosophy, and that's a good starting point!
    But I can't wait to learn about the details, of course. When can we expect the next dev diary, and do you have a plan to release more at a regular basis?

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    This is very promising.  I played most of the other Jagged Alliance games at release, and Jagged Alliance 2 specifically is still on my list of favorite games of all time.  The more recent games with Jagged Alliance in the name (the ones that Sir-Tech had no involvement in) all seemed to miss what made the Jagged Alliance games great.  I'm always hopeful that someone will get it right and I'm encouraged by everything in this shared vision post.  Thank you and best of luck!

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    Hey Korandor!

    Thank you for the many interesting questions and most importantly - for your interest in the game! I am very excited to finally be able to share some more specific info, although I will have to keep some details for later DevDiaries.

    16 hours ago, Kordanor said:

    Great start! Well written!

    I think what most of us are very interested in and also which hadn't been quite cleared up is the ballistics calculation.

    In interviews it was mentioned that there is a per bullet realistic calculation, but in trailers that doesn't seem to be the case.
    It looks like each shot (Shotgun, Burst) is only calculated once for all bullets, and then each bullet just gets an additional check whether or not it hits.
    E.g. in all scenes, all shots of a burst hit exactly the same point. Also from the damage, you can see that a bullet which goes "through" one character but doesnt do damage, then hits the character behind it. In the scene with the shotgun on the other hand, you can see a "calculation bullet" traveling first, impacting, and only then, all the rest is happening, and the actual "spread" is just an animation at the end.
    It would be great if this can be cleared up. For example: If 50m away there are 3 people standing side to side (not behind each other): Would it be possible to hit ALL of them with a burst or shotgun (even though you wouldn't be able to specifically aim that way), just because of spread. Or will you only ever (like the videos suggest) hit a single one of them.

    Trailer shots are sometimes recorded many times over and over, so it is important to guarantee the same outcome for each "take". In the specific trailer that you analyzed this was not done in the best way, resulting in the wrong impression. In addition we were still hammering out some kinks in the bullet simulation, which is one of the more involved and demanding systems in the game.

    Both accurate and inaccurate shots are randomized and follow different trajectories, damaging objects and units on their path, penetrating objects and bodies depending on ammo properties and materials and causing chaos and collateral damage. Without going into further detail (saving this for a combat DevDiary) I will say that barring bugs and trailer fakery, they should behave as you expect them to - e.g. a missed attack might hit another character standing next to the target and an accurate attack does damage to objects on the way before and after the target (if it penetrates its body).

    16 hours ago, Kordanor said:

    A second interesting topic for dev diaries would be the characters.

    We already know from Interviews that it's going to be ~40, with about 30 veterans.

    But the only indications about their development were stats by Buns which were 100% the same as before (which could just be temp) and some comments about Tex which seemed to be a bit of a continuation of the story.
    The great thing about JA was also always the characters, and that included their development.

    Ivan only speaking Russian in JA1, but having learnt English until JA2.
    Hamous being introduced in JA1 as native, then having joined AIM in JA DG, then going on his ventures with his Ice Truck, where you then can recruit him as encounter in JA2.
    Lynx and Buzz, where Buzz was introduced in JA DG and they were a couple, and then between JA DG and JA2 they started to hate each other, and now they are enemies.

    So the question is: Do you continue their story from where JA2 left off? (Will their story have developed, their relationships, their stats)
    Do you consider any of the Games since UB as "canon" or do you "ignore" if anything story related happened there?
    Will you have a "Hall of Fame" type of thing, where you can look up the history of the Mercs which are not present in JA3 to see what happened to them?
     

    JA3 is set very closely after the events in JA2 (there isn't a time gap, like it was the case with JA1 and JA2) so we decided it is best to keep close to the original stats. Their stories and bios are developed as much as you can expect in this short period.

    What do you mean, there were JA games after Sir-Tech😉??? Seriously, we are not considering these titles as canon. In any case, many of them are set after the events in our story.

    Alas, there isn't an Alumni/Hall of Fame page, but you will learn what happened with some familiar characters. The Hamous/Ice Truck encounter is a nice example of our preferred approach.

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    14 hours ago, Grim said:

    Thank you for this first dev diary, I've been waiting for it eagerly, as many other people here!

    This is a clear presentation of the main features of the game, its philosophy, and that's a good starting point!
    But I can't wait to learn about the details, of course. When can we expect the next dev diary, and do you have a plan to release more at a regular basis?

    Thanks for your kind words - they mean a lot both to me and to the Dev team!

    Yup, barring something unexpected, DevDiaries should come on a regular basis from now on. I am not authorized to reveal the schedule, but it exists (!) and you will soon develop a feel for the timing.

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    Awesome to finally get a dev diary! 😃

    Just like @Grim said there is quite a few of us here on the forums that has eagerly been waiting for regular updates, we only been waiting for this since 1999 you know!

    IMHO, you seam to have the right idea of what a true JA game is. For the last 2 decades it is not a IP that been handled with the love, care and understanding of what made it unique. I sincerely hope and wish you good luck at getting all the aspects of the game to work well together so that we once again can experience the magic of a true JA game! 

    Now, the most important question of them all... Will there be mod-support/tools? 😁

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    I very very much agree with Kordanor about the characters.

    There has been some debate on the Discord channel about their number. Is it enough? Will there be all mercs from previous games?
    Honestly, I don't want to play the same old cast, out of fridge as they were. I want interesting story, and characters with their own, like your predecessors did between JA1-JADG-JA2, and as Kordanor pointed out brillantly.

    I'd like continuing stories for the old mercs, playing them or learning how they went away from the job. That last part was the most fun moments in JA2 imho. Hamous and his truck, Mike working for the higher bidder, Speck retiring to create his ows merc agency online with Biff, and lastly the alumni.
    There is so much you can do with old merc stories on the periphery of the game. One may have changed for humanitarian actions and you meet them in a poor village, another might appear in the news for going psycho and killing a bunch of people, another acting as terrorist or freedom fighter, another selling weapons... There is a bunch of non player characters able to come back and offer their services too, weapon/explosive/armor sellers, head hunter, Chilvadori/Amanda sending help/money in good memory of your action, pilot (Skyrider), mechanics, tourists...

    I'd like new ones, with their pwn quirks, personalities, expertise. This is where you can put your own mark, talent and humor.

    I'd like all of them to evolve in the team and as individual during a playthrough.

    And thankfully, you seem to have all of that up to some degree if I read you well. That's great news! Please continue on that path.

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    @Haemimont_Boian I have a technical question regarding the next dev diaries.

    Will there be video materials showing the backstage of work on the game in addition to screenshots from the game? I know that in other productions such film materials were also released.

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    54 minutes ago, Wigen said:

    @Haemimont_Boian I have a technical question regarding the next dev diaries.

    Will there be video materials showing the backstage of work on the game in addition to screenshots from the game? I know that in other productions such film materials were also released.

    There was a camera crew in our office yesterday and the day before. We also have some pretty interesting footage from the months before.

    I will be very disappointed if I don't see video materials, although they sometimes might be released separately from the DevDiary articles.

    Edited by Haemimont_Boian
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    8 minutes ago, Haemimont_Boian said:

    There was a camera crew in our office yesterday and the day before. We've also have some pretty interesting footage from the months before.

    I will be very disappointed if I don't see video materials, although they sometimes might be released separately from the DevDiary articles.

    Why would video developer diaries also be welcome?

    Because it would be nice to see how individual people in the studio worked on the game (artists, designers, music creators, etc.) What was the work on the game like from their perspective 🙂

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    3 minutes ago, Wigen said:

    Why would video developer diaries also be welcome?

    Because it would be nice to see how individual people in the studio worked on the game (artists, designers, music creators, etc.) What was the work on the game like from their perspective 🙂

    Don't forget about hearing our horrendous accents 🙂

    Edit: Also, the dog mascot, I distinctly remember a dog mascot from the videos that we shot...

    Edited by Haemimont_Boian
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    Reading through the comments I only see JA and JA2 veterans. I am also more than happy to see newcomers invited into the world of Jagged Alliance but I fear that in your attempt to find the balance between old and new players, one side will feel that you favoured the other side the most.

    Hoping that this will not be the case, as a veteran JA gamer my self, I am more than happy to compromise in different fields if you only keep atleast one thing from the original games.

    And that's the mercs. I can't stress this enough. The old guard want to see all the original mercs returning. I am trying to forget this one spin off, (which i will not name here), where many original mercs were killed as props to a backstory about the rest. 

    You want to introduce your new merc ideas? Excellent! I am looking forward to them. But leave OUR mercs alone. Yep. Those are ours. We grew up with them. We fought with them. "Shadow" should not have PTSD or recovering from alcoholism. He should still be a badass and as healthy as ever. Respect the old fans by doing just this one thing, and introduce a new cheap merc full with health problems to begin the game with.

    And hoping we will grow so fond of this new merc that we will keep playing with him instead of trading his spot for another badass.

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    What about destructible environment? In JA2, this feature played quite a role, offering different ways to approach combat. For example, you can blow up the entire outer wall of a building and make a path that wasn't mapped out in advance by the level designer. I hope you keep this because the screenshots make me feel like this pretty important part won't be in JA3.

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    Absolutely great that finally, JA 1 & 2 will get a sequel which justifies that name! 
     

    I am thrilled that you will record all voice lines!

    I was the producer of the German Version of JA2, also oversaw the German voice recordings and spoke about five characters myself. I was also honored to be a character in the game, „Frank the bartender“.

    Although not in the games industry anymore, I offer any advice I can possibly give, regarding the German voice recordings.

    Looking SO much forward to play this first true sequel!

    Frank

     

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    Thank you, Haemimont_Boian for finally posting the much awaited start to the Developer Diaries. It has been excellent and reassuring reading!

    Do you often read the General Discussion forum threads? There are plenty of excellent suggestions for JA3 from several posters and myself. Have you had a chance to read through my Weapon Characteristics & Other Suggestions thread? There is a lot of in-depth information in that thread that I hope can be considered for the game. Realistic and believable weapons are a paramount factor in a game such as this. If they are not done right, it will detract from the game. The bottom line there is that arbitrary weapon balancing (or 'game balancing') is never as good as realistic balancing because realism balances itself.

    Edited by Solaris_Wave
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    On 12/2/2022 at 8:30 PM, Ivan Dolvich said:

    What about destructible environment? In JA2, this feature played quite a role, offering different ways to approach combat. For example, you can blow up the entire outer wall of a building and make a path that wasn't mapped out in advance by the level designer. I hope you keep this because the screenshots make me feel like this pretty important part won't be in JA3.

    I will comment more on this in a future Combat focused DevDiary, but I can assure you that the scenario you described is certainly possible in JA3 as well. I think you can see an example of a wall being destroyed in one of the trailers.

     

    Edit (found it!):

    Edited by Haemimont_Boian
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    8 hours ago, Solaris_Wave said:

    Thank you, Haemimont_Boian for finally posting the much awaited start to the Developer Diaries. It has been excellent and reassuring reading!

    Do you often read the General Discussion forum threads? There are plenty of excellent suggestions for JA3 from several posters and myself. Have you had a chance to read through my Weapon Characteristics & Other Suggestions thread? There is a lot of in-depth information in that thread that I hope can be considered for the game. Realistic and believable weapons are a paramount factor in a game such as this. If they are not done right, it will detract from the game. The bottom line there is that arbitrary weapon balancing (or 'game balancing') is never as good as realistic balancing because realism balances itself.

    Hi Solaris_Wave,

    Even if we don't react and reply in all threads, rest assured that we are reading everything! I just want to limit the discussions I engage in a bit in order to get other work done 🙂

    There is a fine line between realism and gameplay demands in every game. For example, while the weapons in JA2 (and even more so in 1.13) felt very realistic, one could argue that their "effective combat ranges" weren't due to the size of the maps. Or that you shouldn't survive a headshot with a firearm as often as you did in JA2... Or that the damage should be more lethal in general...

    As stated in the DevDiary, we want our combat to "feel" as realistic as the combat in JA2 felt and we are always evaluating the design and balance issues from this perspective. That being said, it is not the only possible perspective - individual expectations for realism in specific situation vary and the gameplay demands sometimes present difficult choices before us. You will be surprised how many design discussions we had in which two "gun nuts" on the team didn't quickly agree about which approach will be more realistic or when we had to balance gameplay considerations, realities of development and realism against each other...

    For these reasons, while I think JA3 is more realistic than almost all tactical games out there, even than JA2 in some aspects, I am certain some specifics will clash with individual expectations as well.

    One popular topic of discussion in the design team is "should you be able to miss with a firearm at point-blank range in a turn-based tactical game?" Currently this is possible in JA3, as it was in JA2, however you would be surprised how many people find it unrealistic due to their own expectations. What do you think?

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    On 12/2/2022 at 11:22 AM, Hendrix said:

    Will there be mod-support/tools? 😁

    I can only quote what we said at Gamescom:

    Quote

    We are not talking about mods now. However, we know that JA community is very passionate about modding and the series is alive after all this years because of mods.

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    1 hour ago, Wigen said:

    But is it possible for you to release such tools in the future?

    Possible? Yes. It is possible that we don't release them as well.

    Edit: We do know that such tools are both important and desired and you passion here is appreciated!

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    Loving the content reveal. It takes me back to Arulco and all the hours I spent there!

    anxious to see more on Character Development and gun variety. And I really hope this will be stacked with Quests, Secrets, special bonuses. Could we maybe see some Crepetus spawn?

    I am getting the feel JA3 will be vert balanced, which could indeed result in epic combat, and impossible odds. But as long as there are ‘tons of guns’. I feel it will work.

    Cant wait for another update, and also till we can start gitting Grand Chien’s ass, and finally tell ‘m, “Gotcha, ya nong!!”

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    6 hours ago, Haemimont_Boian said:

    One popular topic of discussion in the design team is "should you be able to miss with a firearm at point-blank range in a turn-based tactical game?" Currently this is possible in JA3, as it was in JA2, however you would be surprised how many people find it unrealistic due to their own expectations. What do you think?

    YES, you should be able to miss at point blank range. Shit happens, people stumble, get surprised, scared, adrenaline spikes and simple fuck ups etc. A Mercs experience should reduce the likelihood of it occurring though.

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