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Book on the Making of Jagged Alliance 2 Published, Excerpt Available

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Book on the Making of Jagged Alliance 2 Published, Excerpt Available

Information - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 27 August 2014, 23:04:48

Tags: Chris Camfield; Darius Kazemi; Ian Currie; Jagged Alliance 2; SirTech

SirTech's strategy-meets-RPG Jagged Alliance 2 gets a lot of love here on the Codex, so some of you may be interested to know that one Darius Kazemi has just published a short book about how the game came to be ($14.95 paperback, $4.95 ebook).

The turn-based tactical role playing series Jagged Alliance has been sequeled, expanded, modded, optioned, multiplayered, and kickstarted, but the series’ many fans usually point to Jagged Alliance 2 as the high water mark, and one of the finest turn-based video games of all time.

Jagged Alliance 2 brings to the table a wicked sense of humor, simulation-driven character design, a combination of strategic overworld and tactical battles reminiscent of the X-COM series, and a surprisingly deep open-world RPG experience reminiscent of the Ultima or Elder Scrolls games.

Focusing on JA2′s development history and basing his book largely on new personal interviews with the game’s developers, game designer and web technology developer Darius Kazemi delves deep into the legacy of a game that still has much to teach gamers and game-makers 14 years after its release.​

There's also a fairly lengthy excerpt available online, from which I'll only quote a short part here, having to do with Ian Currie's lack of RPG experience as contrasted with the game's programmer Chris Camfield's love for PnP RPGs and how that influenced JA2's gun design:

Ian Currie, Co-Designer: "For some reason, and I don’t know why, I sort of latched on to a more military type of situation. I didn’t think of the fantasy thing where you can have magic and the various classes. I think that was my lack of experience, to be honest. I hadn’t played that many RPGs. I’d only played Eye of the Beholder at this time. But I remember thinking, you’ll have grenades for your spells, and you’ll have ranged [attacks], and some melee stuff."

After JA1 was released, the team realized very quickly that the game they had built appealed to a core audience of gun enthusiasts and self-styled survivalists. In the development of JA2, they tried to appeal to this audience by populating the world with a massive roster of “realistically” modeled guns. Programmer Chris Camfield was in charge of implementing the tactical layer battle mechanics. A lifelong player of pencil-and-paper role-playing games as well as strategy board games, Camfield instinctively turned to RPG sourcebooks (tomes of information compiled to assist role players in creating more vibrant worlds) for more detail, taking advantage of the meticulous research published by other designers.

Chris Camfield. Programmer (JA2): "There was a difference between the fan culture and the developer culture. When Shaun and Ian and Alex made JA1, they didn't know a lot about guns. That said, neither did I—just some things I'd read in books. I remember looking at the JA1 code and the way that the gun damage was defined was your basic gun did 10 damage, the next gun did 12, then 14, 16, 18, 20 and so on. [...] Ian and Shaun were really approaching it more from the point of view of trying to translate the experience of an 80s action movie into computer game format.

I used a couple of pen-and-paper RPG books about different guns to make it more realistic: Palladium Books’ The Compendium of Contemporary Weapons [by Maryann Siembieda], and the other one was from R. Talsorian games, called Compendium of Modern Firearms [by Kevin Dockery]. Now that I think about it, there may have been numbers in there that listed rate of fire, cartridge type, and bullet grams. I think I tried initially to estimate the damage value of a gun based on the listed muzzle velocity of the gun and the weight of the bullet. [Compendium of Modern Firearms] also has all these different ranges of probabilities of hitting a target of a certain size or how wide the spread would be for bullets for a particular gun. That probably got factored into accuracy values. But those numbers still had to go through kind of a pass to make the progression better."​

The excerpt as a whole "focuses on the curious relationship between semi-fictional mercenary culture, 'macho adventure' magazine Soldier of Fortune, and gun-toting video games." Read it in full here.

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