We started this project about 6 years ago on a community website called “BZ3Genesis.com” That was a great website because it gathered all the Battlezone enthusiasts together for discussion and networking. I got involved about one year after its launch and was made the site admin about 4 months after that. During the time that BZ3Genesis was up I met a lot of people, some with good intentions, some with bad intentions. It took some time, but I was able to find a dedicated group of guys that were willing to do the work (and not just focus on getting paid).
The project started out with a lot of people and great ideas. We all agreed that the focus of our efforts should be a spiritual successor to BattleZone 98. For anyone that isn’t familiar with that game, it was developed by Pandemic in 1998. The Pandemic version of Battlezone was based on the 1980’s arcade game that was the first 3D video game ever made. I am old enough to have been able to play the 1980’s version, but didn’t really get hooked on the game until the 1998 release for the PC.
I loved the 1998 version of the game because it was a great game at the time. Being an avid chess player, I really liked the RTS elements and how they blended with the first person view. After finding BZ98, I saw the possibility of video games that were more like war simulations and not just “run and gun”. I think that people can learn a great deal about how to strategize and manage resources, even if its just a simulation. In my opinion, when combined with FPS elements, the BZ-style RTS elements greatly enhanced the gaming experience. I can remember spending hours and hours playing BZ98 and BZ2 one vs. one against my cousin (BaddAss). He always kicked my ass, but it was a ton of fun.
We started the Development of Bionite back in 2011. At the time, I had no experience in making games and very little experience as a coder (I did my first project on a Commodore64). In late 2011, I came across a website / forum called “BZ3-Genesis”. This site was dedicated to developing a new, modern version of the game Battlezone that was published by Activision in 1998. I was very lucky, in that, after becoming one of the admins for BZ3-Genesis, I was able to meet and recruit people that were serious about completing a project. Once we had the core team together; Hotshot, Nostromo, Driving Park, Cpt Tony, and myself, we were able to move forward in producing an alpha. In 2012 we had our Kickstarter Campaign that was successful (notwithstanding running simultaneously with Star Citizen on Kickstarter). Despite not crying on our pitch video, we were able to raise over 21k$ from backers on Kickstarter, which jump-started the development into high gear.
It took us about a year of working full-time to produce our first playable alpha of Bionite. In late 2013 we released the Siege version of the game that was multiplayer. This version was released to the public mostly for testing the multiplayer code stability with a full network load. It was a successful test and had some of the elements that would be needed in a full Action-strategy game.
It was about this time that we had some serious problems with the team. Apparently not everyone on the team was working towards the same goal. We had a huge problem with people on the team either “rage-quitting” or just being plain assholes, which created issues in production. After I rooted out the bad elements within the team (for example: we had a production manager that was stealing our content for use in his own game, a marketing manager that did nothing but steal our Facebook page, etc, etc). I can recall the team getting emails from these jerks (on several occasions) explaining to them why they need to quit the team. It took a lot of convincing on my part that the people sending those emails do not want this game to see the light of day. Once I figured out that picking up random people that we meet on the internet was NOT the way to recruit new talent, we were able to stabilize production.
Now, by all reasoning, the project should have died in 2012 – 2013. We had gone from about 50 people “working” on the project, to about 5 people. We had several articles printed that claimed the project was dead, or near dead. Only through sheer will was I able to keep the project going. I had to learn how to model, texture, code, use the UDK editor, create part systems, SFX, just about everything to keep the project alive. I got very lucky that our lead modeler (Nostromo) or our Landscaper (Hotshot) didn’t quit. What we were able to accomplish as just a 5 man crew (in my opinion) was astonishing and inspiring. It is amazing what just a handful of people can accomplish that understand: anything worth creating takes time. It was very difficult to find people that understood this concept: good games take time to make, they are not just “created overnight out of thin air”.
Unfortunately, in the indie game development world, funding is a huge problem. I cant imagine anyone would put up with the sheer amount of crap I have had to deal with, just to make a game. But for me, this isn’t just a game, it is my opus magnum.
After about 8,000 hours of work (just on my part – not including the hours of the other 4 members of the team) we had a playable alpha of our Action-strategy version of Bionite. When we first got started I had no idea how difficult it would be to develop the Action-strategy version of the game. Turns out, it was almost impossible to finish the game. Working with UDK made things even more difficult because of the lack of documentation for advanced coding in Uscript and that the editor is generally unstable. It took many, many hours of trial and error and searching the internet to get the game to function at a playable level that could be distributed commercially.
Now that the beta revision of the action-strategy version of the game has been released, we have a very clear path ahead of us. We were Greenlit back in 2014, and are working vigorously getting the game ready for our release on Early Access. We could have published the game on Steam at any point after we were Greenlit, but in the team’s opinion, we weren’t ready. Our goal on Steam has always been to release a BETA of the Action-strategy version of the game with very few bugs and with most of the content intended for a final release.
to be continued….