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Hero Sandbox


[2010-Aug-03] #1 - A Little Background!

Superheroes Game!Since the personal project I've been working on was revealed recently on the ol' freedomreborn.net forums - I decided to post this to share a little more information about the game development work I've embarked on (embarked on quite a while back, but more on that in a bit).

First a little about me -- obviously, I'm a lifelong comics geek (and guitarist/songwriter, but that's another diary). Essentially growing up with superheroes, I always thought, why doesn't anyone make a great superhero computer game?

Back in the 1980s and 90s, before I even heard of Freedom Force (I first heard about it while it was in development in 2001), I had mapped out the superhero game of my dreams. Inspired by things I'd only read about on the net, like the original Champions and Guardians: Agents of Justice (games which never were completed or released - go ahead, Google 'em), I'd designed my perfect game - complete with basic RPG stats (Strength, Speed, Agility, etc.), Powers (Shields, Energy Blasts, grenades, Flying, etc.), random missions and scenarios (alien invasion, rescue hostages, foil bank robbery, time travel, alien world, robot armies, ancient evil, etc.), and other little goodies (design your team's super HQ, gain "fame" points and add labs, costumes, weapons, more team members).

I am a computer software developer by profession, but on the biz application/database side - definitely not on the game visuals side, so my game was (in my head) a turn-based affair. Basically, a superhero XCOM or Heroes of Might & Magic or D&D Gold Box Series. I started doing things in languages I knew like Visual Basic, Delphi, etc. Probably still have some of that code lying around. I did figure out all the basic RPG mechanics and game flow.

And then I heard about Freedom Force and got very excited about it. Real-time? 3D?, moddable? Wow! As my running this site shows, I think the FF series was a great success and brought lots of fun to me and many others (as I write this, it's almost 10 years since I first heard about it)

Now, I haven't been active in the FF world in recent years (really since 2005) due to personal issues I'd rather not get into. I don't even currently have either of the FF games installed on my PCs. I do, however, keep in touch with a handful of folks I met online during the FF heyday. Funnily enough, I have not yet met any of them in person, but I count them as close friends. We chat on a private forum about all sorts of stuff, only a small part of it FF-related.

The Dream Reborn
And so, back on Jun 3, 2007 (it's handy to have a forum to track the dates for you :) ), I posted this:
I got an email recently from someone re: my hero recipes for FF. It's been a looong time since someone tracked me down about FF. I said I'd check my files and send him what I could (he wanted the list of what meshes/skins I use - I may have it somewhere).

It started me thinking that with Windows Vista already out there - FF (and FFv3R?) may soon no longer be playable. (Anyone know if they work on Vista?)

And it's a shame, as there is no other way to satisfy a real superhero game fix. Sure, the MUA and JL:Heroes of the world are fine, but the FF series had a lot going for it. (customizable, moddable, the silver-agey feel).

I started thinking wouldn't it be great if there was a new project to build a FF-like framework that we could still play around with and it would even improve the FF we all know. Things like more attributes than the usual 5 (10? 20?), more granularity in the stats (1-100 instead of 1-10?), Some of the FFX-like stuff, etc.?

I'm not a good enough C++ programmer to make it happen, but maybe someone will pick this up.

Or maybe a turn-based strategy version (like XCOM which is said to have inspired FF in the first place). I was around when FF was still a rumor and I'm pretty sure going to RTS-type game play was something that was added later. But maybe a tactical strategy version could work (and I'm probably a decent enough programmer for that ).

Anyway, just rambling, but I thought I'd throw it out there for your thoughts.
The other guys on the forum were interested and encouraging, so I spent the next month or so doing some VB prototypes (I still have all this code) - it showed how the new game would be a host for individual "comics" (mods). The initial screen lets you pick what comic you want to play and then you're in that game. I built a rough hero editor (used micro heroes artwork for placeholders and assumed turn-based game). The codename was "FF Tactics" (Yeah I know there's a Final Fantasy Tactics) as it was turn-based. However, I couldn't get my head around how to do the art part of it, so I lost interest and stopped working on it.
Panda 3D Superhero walking
Super 3D Pandas!
I never forgot about the game though and kept googling the net for ideas/tools. Finally, on Mar 29, 2009 (thanks again forum dates), I posted :
After much googling over the past few months, I stumbled across this:

http://panda3d.org

a totally free 3d engine that can be used for commercial purposes
originally developed by Disney and used for their 2 mmo games (pirates and ToonTown)
and best of all - it's programmable in Python!

This may be what could be used to build the new game we were discussing a while back.
Tommyman (one of the folks I met through FF who I consider a good friend), pointed out to me that Bearded had found it a few months before but no one had been able to get the Max importers working. I thought it looked like a great game development tool. Tommy said he'd look at it again.
And then on April 4, 2009 - Tommy had done it! One of his FF meshes converted to Panda ! (see the milestone pic with a blue naked dude on this page!)
With this major step we were off and running!

TO BE CONTINUED ...

* Any Comics characters are TM and of their respective owners.
These are FREE third-party add-ons that claim no license to any of the likenesses contained herein.
We are just lowly fans showing our love for the characters!
Irrational Games (TM) and Freedom Force (R) are trademarks of Irrational Games LLC and/or its affiliates.
Freedom Force is the copyrighted property of Irrational.