April 24, 2014 11:00 PM | Staff
When Ede Tarsoly started development of Meridian: New World way back in July 2011, he had a main goal in mind: Create the perfect old-school styled real-time strategy game.
Nearly three years later, Meridian has launched on Steam Early Access, and is already turning heads -- and no-one can quite believe that just one guy built this gorgeous beast (although a few friends helped to put certain assets together here and there).
"I'd been working on Meridian's concept long before actual development," Tarsoly notes, "and by the time I started developing the game, I had many ideas in mind. The unit equipment options, the way the story is presented, the RPG elements with the commander profile, the various mission objectives that vary from mission to mission -- these all add up to a rather unique experience in my opinion."
These are the elements that Tarsoly is trying to bring back from the classic era of RTS -- the glory days of Command and Conquer and the like. So how exactly did he get such a detailed, sprawling strategy game built on his own?
"I have a lot of experience designing strategy games," notes the dev. "I had the core systems in place after just six months, and could already provide a playable prototype to Headup Games [Meridian's publisher]."
"What helped after that was purchasing assets online (eg. trees, rocks, some units and buildings)," he adds. "I also had help from friends with cut-scenes, the remaining units and the ship interior."
The idea of working on something by yourself for nearly three years may sound daunting for some devs, but for Tarsoly, it was a blissful situation.
"Every single day I got to choose what I wanted to do next," he muses. "Should I work on a cut-scene? Start composing a new song for the soundtrack? Maybe a little AI improvement? A new GUI element to make user interaction even better? I always tried to mix it up, and because of this, I never really got tired of working on the game and I was always very enthusiastic about the next step."
"I think what most developers don't pay enough attention to, and what I'm always trying to polish even more as well, is unit control."
Since Tarsoly is essentially an RTS designing expert now, I asked him for advice for other RTS developers. What is it that RTS games get wrong in the modern age, that they could learn from past additions to the genre?
"I think what most developers don't pay enough attention to, and what I'm always trying to polish even more as well, is unit control," he answers. "If this doesn't feel dynamic and fluid enough, the game is already a failure."
He adds, "In my opinion, this is the part of a strategy game that just can't be polished enough, there's always room for improvement. Usually the games that get it right are the strategy games that we talk about for years after their release."
Meridian: New World is now available on Steam Early Access.
[Mike Rose wrote this article originally for sister site Gamasutra]