Metacore - Interview with Don - Posted Friday, 25th August 2006 by Liam

An interview with CCSF coordinator Don concerning the late Metacore Development, part of the Metacore series of articles.

How did you become involved in Metacore?

It was April 2004, Creature Labs had become a division of Gameware Development, the old websites, developer tools and downloads were back online and the Creatures series was just about to be re-released for Windows XP. In fact the whole community was beginning to once again buzz with new promise. So, whilst everything seemed to be in order, I had taken the opportunity to try my hand at producing a 3D game that had been on my mind.

It must have been about this time that I was approached by Metacore - a rather hush-hush yet close-knit developer group working on some breath taking metarooms and Norn breeds for Creatures 3 and Docking Station - and as such I was delighted to share in the adventure with them.

Why did you decide to bring ‘The Habitat’ to Metacore?

It was a major project for me at the time. I had been experimenting with writing my own artificial life game in the style of Creatures and there was such a lot to do. The coding side of things was well underway and I had some low-quality creature balls moving around the world and interacting, but the graphics really needed boosting to the next level to keep everything moving.

I was therefore more than happy, and in fact greatly relieved, to gain some additional help from the rest of the Metacore team. This support was initially to take the form of Creature design (and possibly background vegetation), whilst I concentrated on the programming, game-play and world graphics, and later the team hoped to assist with marketing and promotion as well. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to Kim (aka BLG), a sensational artist, and with her support I soon managed to get stage where we were ready for an in-house alpha release.

Unfortunately for me Kim was soon called back to assist elsewhere within the group and thus I opted to put The Habitat on the backburner for a while. I felt that the graphics were just as important as they playability of the game, so it would be worth waiting and seeing what 3D plant-life or trees could be added before the launch, to give it more ‘atmosphere’. Sadly Metacore disbanded before The Habitat could be completed.

Was there anything you really liked about Metacore?

I would have to say the people. The team wasn’t just made up of some of my closest friends in the CC, both old and new, they were also each extremely talented individuals. We had artists, cobblers, designers, concept artists, ideas people and more; everything you could have wanted for a solid foundation to the venture. Metacore certainly had the potential to go far; if only luck had been with us.

Was there anything you particularly disliked about Metacore?

Not really. I started out at Metacore working mostly on my own projects whilst joining in on the discussion for others. I had hoped to share my knowledge of the series and of games development, and to later on take on a more active role in the group. I believe that because I wasn’t involved in the development side when things began to slow down and turn sour that I missed out on the negative backlash.

Do you think letting the projects die was the best way to go, or do you believe we could have solved the problem differently? If so, please elaborate.

I would say that it was the right thing to do at the time to preserve what had already been accomplished and the friendships that had been made. By stopping the project then there was always the option of reopening it later should the circumstances have changed.

Which was your favourite Metacore project?

I really couldn’t say. Each and every one came with an abundance of concept art, 3D metarooms models and background stories that got you hooked straight away. I wanted to see each idea finished and each metaroom released as they all seemed destined to be made. As you look through the ‘Metacore History’ articles I am certain you will agree with me that we *need* each and every one of those projects; they are just too good to forget about.

What advice do you have for upcoming development groups?

The two main problems that new projects face is a lack of focus or a loss of collective motivation. If you can master these early on then you’ve got a good shot at doing well.

In terms of the former issue, you want to avoid reaching a stage whereby no-one really knows what they’re doing and either sets themselves random tasks each week or just wonders off in the hopes that things will improve next time they check in. Therefore, as with any project, you need to have a clear managerial structure, with a head of each department from graphics to audio. This way tasks can be delegated evenly and everyone will always know what they are working on, what is left to do and by when, and who to talk to if they have any questions or feedback. Organising the project doesn’t make the members any less equal, but it will really help people to gain a sense of being part of something big.

To tackle the latter issue, loss of enthusiasm and drive, work should be split into small and manageable stages with rough or specific deadlines. One of the first things you learn about computer games is that you need a reward system to ensure players stay involved with the action and don’t loose interest. When you are working on a community project and are putting in a lot of effort then you equally need some form of positive reinforcement to keep you motivated. This can take the form of encouraging feedback from your colleagues but completing a milestone in the project that you can sit back and look at can be especially inspiring. If you’re designing a new metaroom and at the completion of stage one you’re looking at the initial concept sketch, scanned in and set as a room backdrop with a ChiChi Norn or two walking through it, then you feel like you have accomplished something, and you find yourself more than eager start adding in the background colour and shading. Incremental internal releases are very useful.

So if you have a group of friends in mind that you would like to start a project with then do give it a go. It’s a fun way to spend your summer holidays and you will have something concrete to remember your time by in years to come!
Go on, get involved!

Related links: Metacore - Part 5: Projects & Interviews

[English] [Français] [Deutsch]