It was middle of the autumn 2013 when we had another talk about starting something new. How come?
Keep uncovering new horizons
In its core – KaM Remake is an educational project. It was started 6 years ago (in March 2008) from grounds up. Back then we had very little knowledge about gamedev. Now we have spent 6 years on it and it taught us a lot. We even tackled things that don’t have ready-made algorithmic solutions (e.g. AI). Now there are not so many things left to do without hitting hard KaM bounds. Big features are likely to change the game too much, so we are left with a small ones. Sure, adding minor features is fun, but that lacks a thrill of exploration, sense of achievement. On the other hand, gamedev itself has changed a lot since 1998 – new visualization technologies have appeared (3D acceleration, shaders, skeletal-animation, tablets, etc.). All these are essential parts of modern games.
Bringing it up to date
There are factual numbers – how popular KaM is. Each day hundreds of players clash in multiplayer games. Since multiplayer was first launched in 2011 we had a almost 90 years of gameplay. Coupled with other numbers we can see (kamremake.com visits, Facebook likes), that is clear that games like KaM have many fans. Being available at GOG.com, and now appearing on Steam in October 2013 must mean that it’s far from being forgotten. On the other hand, KaM is 16 years old now, with pixelated paletted 2D graphics, very slow pace, unresponsive controls and many other inherent properties that were okay in 1998, but now are just too “old”. KaM is not friendly to newcomers either. Majority of players played KaM back in 2000s and return to it now. Coupling that with lack of similar games on the market shows us that there might be much more players that would like to play such a game if it was more modern.
KaM Remake itself is inherently stiff by its nature. Any noticeable modification to a game immediately hits 2 bumps: KaM legacy and art creation. KaM Remake is as close remake as it’s possible, with just a few experimental ideas alike Market. Being legacy means that we can’t change the game without upsetting many of its fans, who will readily defend the games spiritual purity and split community in half (Market discussions alone went for pages after pages in forums). Art creation is a problem as well, since KaM used sprites for graphics, that means every single animation step has to be constructed and drawn somehow. E.g. to add a new unit it would require someone to make 300-500 sprites that would need to perfectly match KaM art style to blend in.
KaM Remake is not only an educational project, but also our showcase. What is the first thing that a stranger notices when he sees KaM Remake? .. 100`000 lines of code .. 6 years in work .. well-developed scripting .. Unicode .. no. It’s graphics. Graphics which is colorful and nice, but 1,5 decades old. Two-dimensional view from top, twitchy animations, jaggy fonts. Internal code beauty matters less, since games are traditionally judged by their looks and gameplay. Latter has flaws too. GUI is old-fashioned and unit controls feel unresponsive. Units walk in straights and diagonals, constantly bumping into one another. Guess we can do better and show something up to date.
At the moment KaM Remake is completely dependent on original KaM. So far we were avoiding risks for as much as possible. Installer checks for original game installed. We encourage players to buy the game from official stores. Our mod does not interferes with the original games installation files. We try hard to keep KaM Remake spirit close to original. However if by any bad chance copyright owners see us threatening KaM … at best they can demand removal of any copyright KaM material from our site and installer, leaving us with a mod that we can’t advertise. Worse alternative – issue us “Cease and Desist” letter, by which we would be required to stop any development and completely remove any download materials. We have looked into similar “Remakes” and some of them were in fact shut down in such a way. KaM Remake has shaky grounds, that’s a fact.
TL;DR: Combined with other reasons, it was always a moving force to make something own, something to be proud of, with a “I made it” sticker on it. Back in the days KaM Remake was an attempt to make “a game”. Now having achieved that, we might look into making “the game”.
First of all – let me tell you that I’m honoured to be part of the “close group of people” who you shared this with, as you put it in the F.A.Q.
I must say I did not expect this; I did notice very little updates on the castlesand update page, but I thought it was because of something else. Something way less insignificant.
I have made maps for Knights and Merchants as you know. But in the past I also made maps for Settlers: Heritage of Kings, Age of Empires, Rollercoaster Tycoon II and I even tried to make some for Red Alert II and Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth. Of course, to compare this to the Remake would be folly, but I know how it feels to lose interest in old projects. Though you have done a great job with the Remake so far, I feel like it is not yet ‘completed’ and as such not a project that should be abandoned, no matter how tempting a new, fresh start may seem. I too am thrilled by this new project, but I hope the Remake will still receive some attention now and then. I still need siege weapons for my campaign, for example. 😉
A new Knights and Merchants-like game would be welcomed by anyone who loves the old game. To put it in stronger words: it may be the dream of many. You are now still at a stage where you could stop and turn back – but once you’re past that, I believe you will be able to finish such a big project. I believe it was Krom himself who, somewhere on the forum, made a post about Banished, a game created by a single person. You have twice as much brains! Literally, at least. 😛
I have faith in the two of you.
The Dark Lord
Thanks for your encouraging comment! 🙂
We have split our duties since autumn, I’m working on NG and Lewin keeps an eye on KMR.
I figure Remake will receive at least one big release before we even publicly announce the NG.
KaM Remake is certainly not abandoned, I am very keen to get the next release out the door, and I imagine we’ll continue bug fixing and adding minor features/changes after that. I actually haven’t been working on any KaM projects for the past few months because I’ve been too busy with university and other things. But I do plan to get back to it before too long, and I’ll be focusing on KaM Remake at least until the next release is out.
However, KaM Remake doesn’t have any major features missing (from a programming point of view). There’s basically no big new features for us to work on, and since r5503 we’ve just been bug fixing, adding minor features/improvements, and refactoring. All of these things are enjoyable, but it’s nice to have new challenges to work on too.
Think of KaM Remake as one of your maps like Paradise Island that is released and being played/enjoyed every day. Sure you can keep polishing and balancing it, fixing tiny mistakes and making minor improvements, but if that was the only thing you were working on you would start thinking about making a new map, right? But that doesn’t mean Paradise Island is abandoned and will never be improved in the future, especially if someone pointed out a balance issue or mistake. Think of KaM Remake like that but on a much bigger scale.
Also, because KaM Remake is open source there’s also always the possibility for other programmers to work on it.
There are just a couple of big features left (accounts, AI), but these are still “patches” when looking at the big picture.
Wow…didn’t see this coming. It’s all really exciting though! Current Tournament Version of KaM Remake seems almost as developed as the Remake ever needs to be, so you certainly have my blessing; not that you needed it 😉
A new KaM…I always thought that if we were to have a “new” KaM it would just be a heavy mod of KaM Remake –with more modern layout and more control over economy– essentially deviating completely from the “legacy” but keeping the original idea and animations in tact. This, though, is something of a whole new realm of exciting.
I’ll continue reading this blog. Best wishes!