DevDiary 5 - World Building
The world of Jagged Alliance 3
I am Radomir Mirchev, Senior Narrative Designer, and I will be your faithful guide to the world of JA3 and the country of Grand Chien - which is a crazy place, but we’ll get to that later.
For those of you who haven't played the previous games back at the time, Jagged Alliance isn’t just another turn-based tactical game. It also features certain RPG elements that are its heart and soul. The player takes command of a weird company of mercs with all their differences, peculiarities, likes and dislikes, and not just a squad of replaceable carbon-copied soldiers.
That defined our approach to world building. We wanted to create a game that responds to your actions, characters that have their own agenda, and events that follow their own logic. You can try things, fool around and see what comes out of it.
Freedom of exploration
We decided we shouldn’t hold the player’s hand or force them down one path or another. Travel on the satellite map, talk to anyone you like, be naughty or nice - or just fight your way to the end of the game without giving a damn. The player freedom of exploration is the core of the Jagged Alliance experience.
This approach however can easily lead to confusion. So we did our best to provide hints where the main content is - while we took care not to actually guide the player to “go there and do that”.
The quest notes can be picked in a variety of ways - you could find a clue to a story by interacting with an object, talking to a civilian or even overhearing the enemy. For example, a civilian may tell you about a “demon from hell” that is murdering poachers in the savanna and nailing horns on their heads in evil mockery; or you can just stumble upon one of the bodies. In both cases you will be gently encouraged to visit the Poacher camp where you will learn that indeed there is some psycho who enjoys hunting the hunters. You will be promised payment if you find this person and do something about him.
The game tracks the development of the story and provides little cues about the sectors it leads to, but you can act upon them at your own pace. In this case, asking around will give you the name of the culprit and possibly the list of the locations where the poachers practiced their not-that-noble craft. If you explore these maps and search the bodies, you may track, or perhaps be tracked by the hunter of hunters.
Notice that a gang of bad guys happens to be making a diamond delivery just at one of the sectors you were looking for. This is not scripted, it’s a coincidence - but it surely sounds like two birds with one stone!
And when you eventually find that guy, what will you do? Start shooting, or have a chat first? You may don’t like the poachers very much, but what if this person isn’t any better?
It’s up to you.
We have more than 150 beautiful hand-crafted maps to explore, above ground and underground.
It would be pity if they existed only as tactical background to battles, so we made sure to provide lots of little things to discover. Having a diverse mercenary team will open up possibilities - from just salvaging parts of wrecked equipment that can be used to improve the mercs’ weapons, to the whole complexity of a crime investigation.
Freedom of choice
We wanted to give players as much explicit and implicit choice as possible. But what is choice without a consequence? Ideally, the game would react to every decision you do and reward you with narrative or mechanical consequences - though this is not quite possible to guarantee. Freedom of choice comes with a price: the more branches a conversation or a mission provides, the less content we would be able to create in general. We solved this conundrum by weighing up the content case by case: there are minor encounters that just tell you a story - if you care to look closer; and there are huge quests that span across the map and involve multiple characters and sectors.
In total, there are dozens of side quests in JA3, of which no two are alike. We refrained from creating simple “kill” and “fetch” quests. There is usually some kind of a twist or a trap, so watch your step.
How the story unfolds depends on your actions and you should expect to pay the price for your choices.
Killed characters will stay dead, and by dispensing frontier justice you may gain or lose Loyalty with the local population. Your own mercs may agree or disagree with certain decisions, resulting in a Morale boost or loss, and they will sometimes even take things in their own hands. Secret playable characters may decide to join you if they like the choices you have made.
And ultimately, by the end of the game the way in which you resolved the main quests and certain side quests will determine the fate of your mercs - and the future of the country of Grand Chien.
The country of Grand Chien
The wide Adjani river is flowing through barrens, jungles, marshes, savanna and slums. It is a country where ancient traditions are tangled with the somewhat more modern way of life, landmarks from times immemorial lay side by side with gaudy statues and wild gangs fight over the hastily dug diamond quarries.
The names of people and places reflect the turbulent colonial history of the country. Although there are settlements with names that indicate their German origin - such as Landsbach and the ill-fated Wassergrab, - the most of the Adjani province is speaking French. That’s why at the foot of the Gargantuan mountains lies the small city of Pantagruel, and the map is dotted by Legion military camps with names like Camp Savane, Camp du Crocodile, Camp Chien Sauvage, etc.
And since the name of the country itself has already raised some eyebrows, let me present to you the imposing, if not aesthetically pleasing, statue of its founder - the benevolent dictator Généralissime Chien.
Some of your mercenaries may express their confusion as to which of the two is the actual Generalissimus, but like I said, Grand Chien is a crazy place. Some mercs fit in naturally, others just try their best.
As for the people of Grand Chien, there is no wonder that they do strange things while trying somehow to make a living. We refrained from going into mysticism, but we can’t promise that our characters don’t believe in weird stuff and act accordingly. So if they tell you there is a ghost in the abandoned mansion, or a witch is performing bizarre sexual rituals to the poor mine workers, just take it with a grain of salt, will you?
...Unless it is teddy bears.
Be always on your guard against teddy bears.
While building the world of Jagged Alliance 3, we aimed to deliver a realistic experience - and generally avoid fiction. However, time and again we had to go back to the confines of Mark Twain’s famous quote: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.”
With regards to good old Mr. Twain, at times we allowed ourselves a bit of fun.
Soon enough it will be your turn as well to explore Grand Chien and see for yourself!
Senior narrative designer & writer of Jagged Alliance 3
PS: If you have any further questions, or simply wish to chat about Jagged Alliance 3, feel free to join us in our DevStream on Thursday, 20th of April on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic
Until then, commander!
By THQN Roger