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  • DevDiary 14 - A look back

    A Double Interview and a Look Back

    Hello and welcome to our last DevDiary before release! We thought it would be best to do something special this time, so you are getting not just one one, but two Boi(y)ans interviewed, as we are celebrating our upcoming release by taking a fond retrospective look at the great games that started it all. We are Boian Spasov and Boyan Ivanov, co-creative directors of Jagged Alliance 3 and today we will be talking about our fond memories of Jagged Alliance 1 and Jagged Alliance 2 and the way these memories impacted the development of the sequel!

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    Question: Let’s start with an easy one – for how long have you wanted to make a Jagged Alliance game?
     

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: I’ve been fascinated with Jagged Alliance ever since I chanced upon JA2 in the early 2000s. I played it constantly for an entire summer. I’ve been wanting to try to make a game inspired by Jagged Alliance ever since my junior designer days more than a decade ago.

    I’ve reached out to Jagged Alliance for inspiration multiple times over the years while working on other projects. Now having the chance to actually make the third installment of the series is still a bit unbelievable and overwhelming at times. The series is very near and dear to my heart.

    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: There is a story that my colleagues love telling around but it bears repeating. When I applied for a game designer position at Haemimont Games way back in 2006 I was asked during my job interview to name any three existing games that I would love to work on if I ever get the chance. That question turned out oddly prophetic – one of the three was Tropico, a game series that Haemimont Games successfully revived and is famous for right now and another was Jagged Alliance - our most ambitious project yet.

    So, for me quite literally Jagged Alliance 3 is a dream come true! I am incredibly grateful and humbled to have this opportunity not only because I always wanted to work on a sequel as a developer, but also because for many years I really wanted this game to exist as a fan of the series.

    And no, I am not telling you what the third game I named on the interview was just yet – I might jinx it!

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    Question: What do you remember about Jagged Alliance 1, the game that started it all?
     

     

    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: I remember that in my eyes there was no other game quite like it. There were not many tactical games back then in 1995, but Jagged Alliance was not just a tactical game but an unique genre hybrid – there was a strategic element to it, an RPG element, as well as a humongous cast of fully voiced player characters, something unseen at the times!

    Jagged Alliance 1 was not the expansive and refined beast of a game that Jagged Alliance 2 turned out to be few years later, but it was a special, quirky game with its own charm identity. One thing I particularly liked was how distinctive each merc was – all of them had hidden traits and distinct personalities and hidden mini-mechanics. For example, the old mercs lost stats instead of gaining them with experience, the native guides often reveled useful information for each particular area, some mercs couldn’t swim well, others were kleptomaniac, struggled with phobias or had hidden abilities and interactions...

    It was unpredictable, at times even chaotic and I loved every minute of it - the game felt very different on each playthrough just depending on whoever you picked on the team.

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: I became a fan of Jagged Alliance mostly through the second game but I do have some fond memories of playing JA1. Mostly of Tex and Ivan and their voice lines, mercs bantering with each other, but also of the whole team management aspect. Hiring mercs, managing their equipment finding new nifty items to use like the extended ear or the metal detector.

    On the other hand I loved the strategic aspect. Going through the island sector by sector and claiming all the fallow trees (your source of income). Advancing time day by day and managing your mercs over a long period of time.

    There were a lot of experimental games back in the 90s and JA1 felt like a very unique blend of genres. It didn’t fully click with me until Jagged Alliance 2 but I definitely have some fond and not so fond memories of the original title. Oh my god it’s full of eels!

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    Question: Did any of these JA1 quirks and features find their way into Jagged Alliance 3?
     

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: Definitely not the eels. The cast of unique mercs is of course the most important aspect to carry over. However, I think our approach to building the world, narrative and open world nature has its origins in JA1. We carried on with the tradition of setting the game in a fictional war torn country. A world map divided into sectors and the freedom to move through this world as you wish. Managing time and money as you pick which merc contracts to extend, when to hire new mercs and if you should let go of someone that’s too expensive to keep.

    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: One important aspect that was inspired from JA1 was the uniqueness of the mercs and the sense that each of them brings something distinct and irreplaceable to the team, enough to perhaps prompt you to start a new game just to explore new player characters.

    Of course, as 25 years have passed, this couldn’t work exactly as it did in Jagged Alliance 1 but it was an important design goal and the main drive to iterate on character personalities and relationships as well as their Quirks and unique personal perks.

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    Question: Let’s move on to the most emblematic game in the series - Jagged Alliance 2. How would you describe it to a person that hasn’t seen it yet?
     

    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: JA2 is a turn-based tactical game and one of the most realistic and entertaining combat sims at the time, but also so much more! It has this big and immersive sandbox world, rich with surprises and moral choices to make that I associated with RPG titles. Despite being primarily a tactical game, in my eyes JA2 often felt closer to the early Fallout games than to XCom.

    The strategy/money management component was deepened and more developed as well – it was almost like an entire other game on top of the tactical battles.

    I always had a soft spot in my heart for games that try to do things in their own way, breaking genre barriers and pushing the boundaries of game development ever further and to me JA2 is a prime example of this!

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: *epic trailer voice improv* In a world ruled by a tyrannical queen, one man - Enrico, will come to you to free the people of Arulco from his angry wife. Form a team of unlikely heroes.  Hear them quip, cheer and bicker with each other as they mow down an entire army of red shirts.

    Join the vastly outgunned rebels and hear Ira complain as she misses every goddamn shot. Capture and operate gold mines to fund your small private army and don’t forget to do some online shopping. You need that extra scope for your M14 after all.

    Paint the map green as you capture sector after sector until you give up in Meduna as those tanks and rocket rifles are just too annoying. Also don’t forget the aliens – genetically engineered insects – slay their queen and smear her jelly to make your armor stronger – yuck!


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    Screenshot courtesy of Lilura1, cRPG blog


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    Question: What is your favorite feature or piece of content from JA2?
     

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: *slap* Elliot! You Idiot! Definitely the “meanwhile…” cut-scenes make me chuckle every time I play JA2 again. And the fact that Elliot’s face gets worse and worse it really shows the attention to detail.

    I love many of the side quests – the chalice of chance/hope, the one with the American tourists even the hicks near Cambria.

    There are also many memorable locations like the military base at Alma, Tixa prison, San Mona. All of them presented a different challenge to get through and had enough interesting characters to be memorable and unique.

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    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: Oh, so hard to pick… If I have to settle on just one, it would be the custom merc character and the I.M.P. webpage/test used to create it. It was such a silly, yet entertaining way to create a character and I never once skipped it in all my years of re-playing the game.

    Honorable mention goes to sending flowers to Deidranna – this little moment always manages to make me smile and remind me that the primary product of game development is simply “fun”.

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    Question: You guys worked on many games through the years. Is there a Jagged Alliance trace or homage in any of these titles?
     

    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: One game in particular comes to mind – Omerta: City of Gangsters. It was a small tactical game we released just before the resurgence of the genre with the new XCom series. Although the core gameplay was very different, our approach to creating the characters was very Jagged Alliance inspired, even if limited by the small budget of the game

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: Oh yeah, do you remember that Omerta even had a test for creating the main character loosely based on the I.M.P. test?

    Even if Omerta was a small and humble title, we learned a lot from it and in a way it was our pilot title within the tactical genre. In a way it paved the road for our current, much more demanding, work on Jagged Alliance 3.

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    Question: How did the legacy of Jagged Alliance impacted the development of JA3 specifically?
     

    Boyan.png.e97fa711e3a4fa0e1a4f0e6bae30119f.pngBoyan Ivanov: It was a bit nerve-racking initially. There have been many that tried to take on the Jagged Alliance series and none have succeeded so far. Being fans of the series, we knew that we wanted to keep the third installment close to the originals and keep the core intact - the unique blend of open world RPG aspects, tactical combat and strategic team management.

    We also wanted to capture the unique atmosphere – the light hearted and fun band of misfits that have been hired to do a seemingly impossible task. The more somber and unpredictable aspect of chaotic firefights with bullets flying everywhere. The feeling that you can explore the world as you see fit and that every playthrough can offer something new.

    Boian.png.59cb0f125b73594cd639a03929896910.pngBoian Spasov: The most dramatic impact was simply setting our ambition for the title. One thing was certain for day one – we wanted to create a true sequel and not just another game in the same franchise and that immediately set very demanding expectations for our scope and features.

    The pillars of Jagged Alliance 3 represent our interpretation on what made Jagged Alliance 1 and especially Jagged Alliance 2 special – deep and realistic turn-based combat, a large cast of unique characters and strategic gameplay in a sandbox open world.

    Have we succeeded in doing justice to this legacy? The players will be the ultimate judges of that, but God knows that we tried!

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    The above image is now also available as wallpaper, you can download our wallpapers here.

    Thank you for reading today’s DevDiary and for your interest in the game. We are looking forward to your follow-up questions in the upcoming DevStream, this Thursday, July 13th at 17:00 CEST / 11:00 AM EDT on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic

    And we are also doing the Launch Stream on July 14th starting early at 14:15 CEST / 8:15 AM EDT also on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic


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    You guys have so much passion for this project, it's so great to see. Can't wait till Friday to see what you have in store for us!!

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    Thank you so much to the whole team at Haemimont Games for creating the successor to Jagged Alliance 2! Thanks and see you in the game! 🙂

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    Thank you very much guys for all the dev diaries and of course this so promising truly JA game. I more and more eager to play it.

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    Quote

    Join the vastly outgunned rebels and hear Ira complain as she misses every goddamn shot.

    🤣

    Thank you for making your dream come true, and I hope, ours too!!
     

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    It was really very interesting following your "dev diaries" guys on the official forum, in the start our curiosity and  patience was boiling how the game will be, but with time as we got more informations and footages we get more calm and finally only few days missing for the launch so am very excited to play it finally after a quarter century.

    Very excited already for the editing mode, if some of us can come with great ideas and creativity am sure there will be coming some mods that will make the game even tastier.

     

     

    Thanks Haemimont Games for bringing us Jagged Alliance 3 🔥🔥🔥

     

    This news could not have come better for me as 2 years ago i played JA RAGE a lot and when i saw the Jagged Alliance 3 news the very first time, around August - September 2021, i though it was a joke which i didnt took very seriously so am kinda impressed it came along this way.

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    Just now, OhiMark said:

    So we just don't talk about Back in Action? I quite liked it 😞 Had a handful of nice mods, too

    Much like Bethesda Fallouts: It's a good game, but a bad Fallout Jagged Alliance.

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    17 minutes ago, OhiMark said:

    So we just don't talk about Back in Action? I quite liked it 😞 Had a handful of nice mods, too

    I liked Back in Action for the fact it was a Turn-Based Squad Tactics game, just like Brigade E5/7,62 High Calibre. But...

    16 minutes ago, Jaywalker said:

    Much like Bethesda Fallouts: It's a good game, but a bad Fallout Jagged Alliance.

    That ^

     

    I also really liked Bethesda Fallouts, but not for the "Fallout" part (mostly lacks the humour and "darker" side of old Fallouts). 😅

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    Congratulation guys for the upcoming release. We all made it through the finish line! We waited over 20 years for this moment so let us celebrate the release day with all the Jagged Alliance fans out there.

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    The sequences with Elliot and sending Deidranna flowers is amazing.

    The passion for the games are clearly in your minds, and that's why JA3 is the only preorder I've done (outside of those damn fifa-iterations). That and JA2 being an all time favourite.

    Didn't know you made Omerta: City of Gangsters. I loved the original Gangsters so much, and it really does have a lot of the same elements (map control, recruitment, resource management) that makes JA shine.

     

    Well done!

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    Poor Elliot.  Even when they recapture a town, he still gets whacked.  "Elliot, you idiot!" is still a family catchphrase, and his final appearances almost made me feel sorry for him.  As for Ira, she can get to be reasonably competent without too much effort.  My favorite was training Flo up to the point where she could start taking out redshirts.  It was worth the time.  And Biff was always great in a firefight.  I really enjoyed the MERC choices, for the most part, although the cost becomes a bit steep at the end of the list; very worth it, though.

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    Is this really happening? Is this real life?  A legit JA3 from fans of the games and a real studio, with a real budget?!    Will lightning strike twice? Can JA3 equal or even surpass it's predecessor?  After Deadly Games, Wildfire, Unfinished Business, Back in Action and Flashback, my reflex was X to doubt, however... It kinda looks like an emphatic YES. All preview media on steam looks really good and dev diaries sound like the words of serious fans.  If not dreaming, big thanks to the devs this looks amazing! Even pre-ordered. 

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    Great timing on the interview, gets me even more excited about what's coming up on Friday!

    Quite a trip down memory lane .. remind me some of my best and worst moments with these games.
    I would certainly add to the worst (beside eels) it was where in JA1 you changed the sector and immediately you got grenade falling on your whole squad. That killed my idea of ironman playthrough right there 😐

    Finally, I have to concur what others have said, we often forget that behind company there are people which pour all the hard work and passion into the projects that we get to enjoy.
    We get to know all the boys (even if just a bit) during the diaries and streams which I really appreciate.
    I had a lot of fun going through this process alone and looking forward to finally get my hands on the proper JA3.

    PS1 Perfect opportunity to finally show some new footage this Thu whilst boys are recollecting the past?? Or Boi/yan coop ???

    PS2 New wallpaper is cool, my new desktop now! I assume that we going to get new splash screens on title screen once we progress through the game, great stuff.

    See you on Thu and Fri!

    Edited by Claypl
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    This was a great little article. Had fun reliving some of my JA1 memories while reading it. Only 2 more days to go before the wait is over and we finally get to play your game. Been waiting for one worthy of the title for over 20 years and even if the game ends up not being everything I wished for (though it looks extremely promising!) I'm sure I'm going to have fun with it regardless.

    At least the impression from all the dev diaries, streams and what not paints a picture of people who truly love the games and did their best to make a worthy successor. The later release of mod tools will only make the game better in the long run too. I can't even imagine a situation where this game doesn't get tons of really cool, new mods to spice it up with once all the original content has run dry for the fans.

    Can't wait for friday!

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    5 hours ago, MrToad said:

    Poor Elliot.  Even when they recapture a town, he still gets whacked.  "Elliot, you idiot!" is still a family catchphrase, and his final appearances almost made me feel sorry for him.  As for Ira, she can get to be reasonably competent without too much effort.  My favorite was training Flo up to the point where she could start taking out redshirts.  It was worth the time.  And Biff was always great in a firefight.  I really enjoyed the MERC choices, for the most part, although the cost becomes a bit steep at the end of the list; very worth it, though.

    Ian said during the dev diaries that Ira was unfortunately one of the most hated mercs because of her southern accent and such.

    It seems that people in the US disliked her while we had no clue in EU since in my version of the game she speaks german and one of her most commonly used phrases is "I learn Fast!"

    I hope to be able to create her for the community after we got the mod tools since many people want to have her back. 🙂

    Also loved Flo! She was a very fast learned aswell and a funny one too!

    The whole roster was very man heavy after all so it was fun having at  least a couple of women in there(hope to change that through the mod tools aswell 😛 ).

    All in all I'm very excited about friday and can't wait to play and enjoy the game for sure! :)

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    O.K.

    Let me, for once, start with a positive note in here..
    It's clear you guys at Haemimont have great passion about the JA franchise and did your best in recapturing the nostalgia of the classic JA games, although bound to limitations of the engine. You guys obviously spend a lot of time in creating a lively environment and side quests.

    Unfortunately (I know I can't let go of this self made up title) it feels to much "Tropico Alliance 3" to me in all honesty. Since I maintain my view that the whole Merc section have gotten to little love. Not just the way in which you interpreted most of the Merc's looks (which really is a big let down to me - RIP Shadow, Magic, Scully e.g.) but I find their behaviour over the top in most cases and it's a real shame the interactions are so wooden. Voice acting is so/so; it's more like reading lines of text instead of a lively convo. To me, in JA the Mercs should have gotten top priority.

    Some choices like not having the interrupting mechanic but overwatch instead, is something I personally also dislike. To top it off the inventory system and especially the shared inventory feature just don't feel JA-ish. 

    That is just my honest opinion and that is fine; you can't cater to every single fan out there. I might just have to wait another x years for a follow up that does have those classic features.


    Nevertheless, I wish you all the best with upcoming release. But I'll let this one pass.
     

    Edited by ShadowMagic
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    3 hours ago, ShadowMagic said:

    O.K.

    Let me, for once, start with a positive note in here..
    It's clear you guys at Haemimont have great passion about the JA franchise and did your best in recapturing the nostalgia of the classic JA games, although bound to limitations of the engine. You guys obviously spend a lot of time in creating a lively environment and side quests.

    Unfortunately (I know I can't let go of this self made up title) it feels to much "Tropico Alliance 3" to me in all honesty. Since I maintain my view that the whole Merc section have gotten to little love. Not just the way in which you interpreted most of the Merc's looks (which really is a big let down to me - RIP Shadow, Magic, Scully e.g.) but I find their behaviour over the top in most cases and it's a real shame the interactions are so wooden. Voice acting is so/so; it's more like reading lines of text instead of a lively convo. To me, in JA the Mercs should have gotten top priority.

    Some choices like not having the interrupting mechanic but overwatch instead, is something I personally also dislike. To top it off the inventory system and especially the shared inventory feature just don't feel JA-ish. 

    That is just my honest opinion and that is fine; you can't cater to every single fan out there. I might just have to wait another x years for a follow up that does have those classic features.


    Nevertheless, I wish you all the best with upcoming release. But I'll let this one pass.
     

     

    You might sometime understand that gamer do not progress. A new new generation of gamer does have another point of view how games should look and feel. The old JA2 design leaves MUCH for personal interpretation and imagination. You wish to have that old feeling again, witch is just not possible, because no one knows your personal interpreation. It is not possible to make a modern design out off an ugly (but great) design without destroying someones imaginations. I love the old look, but i would hate it as a new gamer generation. You can not combine both worlds without make someone angry. But i do agree a more adult style of portraits and MERC would have been better.

    Edited by Steini
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    9 hours ago, ShadowMagic said:

    O.K.

    Let me, for once, start with a positive note in here..
    It's clear you guys at Haemimont have great passion about the JA franchise and did your best in recapturing the nostalgia of the classic JA games, although bound to limitations of the engine. You guys obviously spend a lot of time in creating a lively environment and side quests.

    Unfortunately (I know I can't let go of this self made up title) it feels to much "Tropico Alliance 3" to me in all honesty. Since I maintain my view that the whole Merc section have gotten to little love. Not just the way in which you interpreted most of the Merc's looks (which really is a big let down to me - RIP Shadow, Magic, Scully e.g.) but I find their behaviour over the top in most cases and it's a real shame the interactions are so wooden. Voice acting is so/so; it's more like reading lines of text instead of a lively convo. To me, in JA the Mercs should have gotten top priority.

    Some choices like not having the interrupting mechanic but overwatch instead, is something I personally also dislike. To top it off the inventory system and especially the shared inventory feature just don't feel JA-ish. 

    That is just my honest opinion and that is fine; you can't cater to every single fan out there. I might just have to wait another x years for a follow up that does have those classic features.


    Nevertheless, I wish you all the best with upcoming release. But I'll let this one pass.

    I share this feeling as well, unfortunately. I'm divided on how I feel about it...

    But I would still suggest trying it. You know, there might be some things in the game that are a let down, or won't feel right.. but there might also be a few things that after a few hours of play, might compensate or feel good enough to balance out. I'm also a little bit more "hardcore" in that I want Jagged Alliance 2.5 with 1.13 influences. My own expectations are either the right standard I've set for myself and where my money should be spent, or they are a hindrance at how I perceive this game.


    The way I'm seeing Jagged Alliance 3 at the moment: Jagged Alliance 1.85 (somewhere in between 1 and 2) in a modern engine.

    The characters and lines they say (so far) feel a little more in line with the comical nature of the characters in JA1. JA1 had a way more "cartoon-like" nature, many names were word-play, many lines were over-the-top and either satirical or goofy. JA2 toned down that aspect and toned-up the "seriousness" and grim nature of the business. 2 got it's comedy through other interactions in a very subtle way. It's writing was VERY different from JA1.

    The inventory feels closer to a tweak of the one in JA1 and base JA2. (I would have wanted more of the 1.13 influence in this department. While I understand I don't need hardcore "pouches", we aren't all military gear buffs!! I would have liked the idea of basic backpacks, leg pouches, belts. Something that translates well, regardless your knowledge.. because this adds to the progression of the game as well. To me, that is as basic as progression with armor and gun. As the game progresses, you make choices of the type of gun, type of armor... and type of gear. Do you want large bags to carry many many things but be weighed down, or do you want to have minimal equipment to be as agile as possible?)

    The dialogue options & "questing" (as long as questing doesn't distract too much from the main game) feel like a slight tweak to the system in JA2 (not being insulting to HG, I know that kind of thing requires incredible amount of work, writing and testing).

    Then some of the mechanics is where it's a little blurry for me. Until I play it and get a feel for it; that kind of thing doesn't translate well in video-gameplay. I must experience it myself; see if it flows, feels fluid and well integrated within the gameplay.


    But I also have a side of my that likes to weigh things as unbiased as I can try to be. I like to view things from the perspective of another, and in this case, especially from the one of the devs.

    Afterall, the hours and energy spent building a world and the detail in it is something I have extreme amounts of respect for. The amount of time taken to "record" the audio from the gun range; there is something that I truly appreciate! As a comparison, I have incredible memories of Battlefield 3... not for the gameplay, not for any memorable experiences (because I find it paled in comparison to BF2), but because the soundstage was absolutely incredible!! I clearly remember playing it and being blown away at the sounds. It was INCREDIBLY immersive. EA had doen the same thing too... recorded sounds from actual ranges and the weaponry.

    Also, JA2, while I love it to death... the landscapes are.. let's not hide it.. bland. Yes, some mods really add much needed detail and atmosphere, but I mean it's a game showing its age right? If JA3 can live up to the level of detail they seem to have put into the atmosphere, lighting, weather and various tones for different locales. Wow!!



    Look, sorry for the book I just wrote, I tend to write alot if you haven't noticed 🤣, but all that to say.. give it a try!

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    Thank you, developers, for this report. I really enjoyed to read it.

    Im really looking forward to your game. 😊
    I suposse your Jagged Alliance 3 wont be Jagged 2.5 and im hoping it will be an enjoyable brand new experience and i'll think i will see nice innovations and also having good memories and some déjà-vus, when playing🤞.

    (Before i'll play a bit Jagged 1, so i'll have a good timeskip comparence and a "Back to the Future" Feeling, when i can compare, what happend in the meantime 😆).

     

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    I just wanted to say Thank You for the creators of Jagged Alliance 2. Back in the times I was drinking and getting high after every heartbreak. But then after one heartbreak I've installed JA2 and replayed the game again. It was 2 weeks taken from life but that resets the brain better than any drug. After that whenever I had hard times in life I've just was escaping to Arulco. Now I have wife and kids and JA2 was the most important game in my life for sure. First time I've played the game for 6 month at the age of 12 without internet the SciFi mode was hard. So hard but so satisfying!

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    13 hours ago, GODSPEED said:

    The amount of time taken to "record" the audio from the gun range; there is something that I truly appreciate!

    As far as I can remember the first to do that on a large scale was Pterodon in the game called Vietcong (1).
    Might try looking up footage of that; there is videos show casing the sounds of the M16, AK47, SKS, Degtarev and other weapons from the Vietnam war era. Pure eargasm and indeed something to appreciate since most of the times it's lame MIDI sounds these days.

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    Yes, think youre right with that remberance.

    I enjoyed playing Vietcong. It wasnt an openWorld experience (like Operation Flashpoint f.e.), but i liked the athmosphere in it, maybe the weaponsounds helped it for that.

    Edited by 5Cents
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