DevDiary 2 - Legacy and Writing
Legacy and Writing
Hey everyone, my name is Ian Currie and I’m happy to welcome you to another Jagged Alliance 3 DevDiary. I am one of the original creators of the Jagged Alliance series and have been working with THQ Nordic and Haemimont on Jagged Alliance 3 for a couple of years now. I’m excited to share some of my thoughts with you!
The original Jagged Alliance games
Jagged Alliance dates back to the latter half of the 1990s where the first game was released somewhat under the radar but was considered a critical success. It was quite ambitious—a strategy game with tactical combat, a large cast of colorful characters, role-playing elements, and a storyline with multiple outcomes. It was unique in allowing players to form a party of characters but using pre-existing individuals who had distinct personalities who had both strengths and weaknesses. It was further unique in that these individuals didn’t always get along with each other and could sometimes, to the surprise of players, act out. Like a lot of entertainment, it also sprinkled in a good dose of humor.
While it was followed by a small mission-based sequel that introduced multi-player gameplay (titled ‘Deadly Games’), the original game was preferred for its more open-world feel. This, along with many other aspects, was expanded upon in what became a more appropriate sequel to Jagged Alliance.
And that brings me to Jagged Alliance 2, which was certainly one of the most ambitious projects I’ve ever worked on and a true labor of love for myself and the team that developed it. It expanded upon the first Jagged Alliance in almost every aspect. Players could employ multiple squads and create their own merc, experience side-quests along with a variable storyline, taunt the main antagonist by sending them flowers.
They generally experienced a game that played out differently each time, including more in-depth tactical combat and many easter eggs that we delighted in creating. Many of the characters that players grew to love from the previous games returned along with many new characters. One of the goals of the Jagged Alliance series was to create tension between the attachment to characters and the need to acquire more skilled team members.
While Jagged Alliance 2 was very successful, the owners of the development studio decided to focus on other business opportunities and the studio closed down. The intellectual property was sold and my teammates and I all moved on to other gaming studios.
Jagged Alliance 3
A couple of years ago I was contacted by THQ Nordic to see if I’d be interested in helping a team of developers to create a new Jagged Alliance game. I was initially skeptical as there had been some Jagged Alliance games released over the years and none of them impressed me. Making something I could call a ‘true’ Jagged Alliance game would be a complex and daunting task. THQ Nordic assured me that they were going to take their time and ‘do it right’. I was told that they were boldly calling it Jagged Alliance 3 as it is intended to be the true spiritual successor to Jagged Alliance 2.
To be honest, while I loved the idea of working on a ‘true’ Jagged Alliance game, I didn’t want to let myself get too excited. It wasn’t until THQ Nordic showed me an early prototype and I read the design documentation that I allowed myself to become somewhat optimistic. Then I met with the design and production team and was impressed. OK, I was interested; what did they need me to help with?
The answer was creative writing: the story, the quests, the characters, the mercs, the dialog etc. While I had certainly contributed to the writing, the person who really owned all that work on Jagged Alliance was my partner and good friend, Shaun Lyng, who was no longer available. Hmmm, could I do it? I decided to reach out to a former colleague, Dan McClure, who is a game industry veteran and published author. Luckily, Dan agreed to sign on and the two of us became very good partners.
Working with Haemimont Games
We quickly got to know the developers at Haemimont Games and started working with them on the story and timeline for the game. It was so much fun! It wasn’t long until we were throwing around ideas for quests, discussing which mercs would be ‘back’ and of course, the new mercs – which is always exciting. Many of these personalities are like old friends that I’ve truly missed.
One of my favorite features of the game is the conversation system – the part of the game that allows players to interact with various NPCs (non-player characters) in the world. In Jagged Alliance 2, this feature was very limited – you could only choose a general ‘approach’ (e.g. friendly, direct, threatening).
Jagged Alliance 3 introduces a robust conversation system that allows for a much more engaging role-playing experience and will often include participation from some of your mercs. This can range from simple comments to more helpful observations and plays out differently depending on the situation, adding to the game’s replay-ability. We iterated on the design until we were all happy with it and seeing it all come together was immensely satisfying. I’m very proud of what we’ve done here as it allows for so much more interaction between the player, the NPCs and the mercs, and allows us to tell a much deeper story than in any previous Jagged Alliance game.
Working with Haemimont has been very rewarding. They’re not only a team that has worked together for a long time, but their expertise is evident in everything they do. Watching the game take shape over the past couple of years has been amazing.
Graphically there is so much detail in the game, from how all the mercs in the game have custom avatars, to the carefully crafted environments and of course the combat system is equally rich and rewarding. Jagged Alliance 3 truly is bigger and better. Sometimes it’s just so hard to believe that after all this time, I’m working on another Jagged Alliance game. I consider myself very lucky and can’t wait for you to experience the game.
Thanks for reading!
Director of Jagged Alliance 1 & 2
Writer of Jagged Alliance 3
PS: You might also enjoy the new trailer about my involvement:
By THQN Roger