By the Sword

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By the Sword (BTS) will be a graphical point-and-click adventure game, and will run at 640x400 letterbox resolution (for more of a movie feel), with 32-bit pixel depth. BTS' will be madeusing AGS and is tentatively set to be a commercial release. (The honor of being the very first goes to The Adventures of Fatman.)

BTS-2007-Logo.png

Features

BTS will feature a deep, somewhat non-linear, original plot, with fully animated pre-rendered 3D characters, retouched in post-production. The entire game will have over 250 original, fully-functional screens, and will be divided into six chapters (all in one game). BTS will also feature over 50 interesting, original, speaking characters that you could converse with, and whom you could ask questions regarding any number of subjects that you have learned about along the way. There will be a wide range of puzzles involved in reaching the end of the game, a diverse variety sure to please any type of gamer. The game will feature music available freely on the web under the Creative Commons license, as well as plenty of custom recorded sound effects and ambient sounds.

BTS will feature voice acting as well. Every single character that has at least one line in the game will be voiced by a talented actor or actress. And Richard Brum, creator of BTS, will even play the main character, Lieutenant Ronald Ganon.

Interesting Facts

Some people, upon playing the demo, had asked TerranRich where the title "By the Sword" came from. There didn't appear to be any swords in the game. Well, the answer is simple. The Castorians are an alien race in the game whose government has had unsteady relations with the United Earth government. Their symbol features an upright sword standing in front of a stylized alien design. "By the Sword" is a metaphorical allusion to somebody standing by the sword of the Castorian emblem, i.e. on their side.

DAZ Bryce 6.1 is being used for graphics in conjunction with Poser Pro, Poser 7, DAZ Studio, and finally Photoshop CS3 for post-production retouching of backgrounds and character graphics.

Characters is the game include Lieutenant Ronald Ganon (the player character and hero), Commander Nathaniel Hathaway, H.S.C. CEO Phil Bates, Jolana Vetaru, Zelina Loki'tolanu (a Castorian female), Brenda Jameson, Ensign Timothy Ladue, Jenna Marques, Captain Jonathan Perlin, Ensign Sandra Carey, and dozens more.

The Concept

...as told by TerranRich:

How It All Began

It all began at the age of 11, when I accompanied my mother to her hair salon. I was sitting in the waiting area, and as always I had my notebook and pen with me, just doodling away. Suddenly, an idea entered my head, one that was inspired by my recent playing of Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. What if I made my OWN science-fiction comedy adventure game? Yeah!

Little did I know how difficult a task it would be, and that I wouldn't fully realize that dream until 8 years later, when I finally discovered Adventure Game Studio.

Ronald Ganon is: The Spatial Disturbance

As I said before, BTS was originally supposed to be a sci-fi comedy game, following in the footsteps of SQ4. The original concept had Ronald Ganon, a Star Force lieutenant, traveling back to his home planet, Earth, only to find that things aren't as they seem. (There's that old story again, eh?)

Eventually, Ronald figures out that his hometown of... whatever it was... is merely an illusion and manages to escape. He then travels through caves, mazes, and other things, finally reaching a bus depot (of all places), where he meets another Star Force officer named Joanna Kala. Ronald isn't sure whether she's an illusion or not, having been confused by his prior adventure on Faux-Earth, but still strikes up a conversation with her. She agrees to contact her captain and allow him passage on their ship. We then see a cutscene where Ron meets his new shipmates.

The New By the Sword

I decided that the original story wasn't good for whatever reason, and scrapped it. I set it aside for later as a possible prequel game (By the Sword 0 anybody?).

I later renamed the title to By the Sword: Ronald Ganon is / The Spatial Disturbance. The game was then changed so that it would start off with Ron's new ship, the F.S. Beta-3, being attacked by Axtorian (instead of the current Castorian) battle cruisers. (This would have made the entire first concept a "prequel", so to speak.)

The ship and her crew are then left for dead, adrift in space, with the automatic self-destruct sequence activated. As Ronald, the player would wake up on the floor of one of the hallways of the Beta-3 and find that the ship had 20 minutes left before it would self-destruct. There were two other people left alive on the ship. Ronald would have to find his now-girlfriend Joanna Kala and Captain Jonathan Perlin (instead of the current name, Perseus) and escape the ship through the hangar bay.

Many of the details from the original BTS storyline have been kept in tact: for example, the captain character, the idea of waking up on board a derelict ship about to be destroyed, and escaping on a shuttle. However, once off the ship, the ship would self-destruct and cause a spatial vortex to appear, sending the shuttle hundreds of light-years onto Castor III, the Castorian homeworld. In this original concept of BTS, Castorians were an offshoot race of the Saigonians (the English bastardization of their own term for themselves, Esel'ganni) and were allies of the Star Force. The Axtorians were instead the enemy race. Instead of just unsteady relations, Earth had been at war with the Axtorians before.

More Designing

So, work began on this "new" version of BTS. During one vacation to the Azores, I took along a scrapbook and put in detailed maps and plans for BTS that seemed to just come out of the blue. There were still six levels, like the chapters in the new and current BTS; however, the puzzles were illogical, ridiculous, and reminiscent of every badly designed sci-fi comedy adventure game you've ever played. I will go into more detail on the Bonus Disc of the Bonus Edition of BTS (a tentative plan).

A Little Help From My Friends

At this time, I conferred with several members of the AGS forums, and the main plot was tweaked and several details redone. The F.S. Beta-3 was changed to a more appropriate ship name (USS Merrimack). The girlfriend was eliminated completely and the captain was not to be discovered on the ship — this eliminated a three-person team walking around everywhere, and made Ronald the lone player character.

A new subtext was added to the plot, hinting at treason, a new enemy in the Castorians, and subterfuge. The game was made to be darker, more ominous, and not so comedic (where it was becoming goofy). The locations throughout the game were given purpose and were changed accordingly. New characters were introduced, and old characters eliminated. The roles of other characters were altered and switched around.

The end result was a masterpiece that I could not wait to create.

The Right Engine

My only problem in the beginning was how to create the actual game. At first, BTS was going to be a text adventure. Yes, a text adventure game. Around 1997, this was the only method I could feasibly go with, given the availability of game engines at the time, as well as my modest age of 15. Yeah, I know the age isn't an excuse (anymore), but it felt like it at the time. Nowadays, you could have a 10-year-old making a video game, for crying out loud!

I hadn't even started working on a test game before I discovered the magic and ease-of-use of Microsoft Visual Basic. I decided to try to use it to create a graphical BTS. I used Paint Shop Pro 3 — yes, 3 — for the graphics. They were shadeless, gradient-less, and detail-less. In fact, I wish I still had screenshots for a good laugh.

Walls were rectangles and used sharp, bright colors and even sharper corners. There were "InfoPanels" along the way to use as status displays and information panels on the ship. There was hardly any detail in the backgrounds. It was a first-person game, for crying out loud; I didn't want to bother programming an ego to walk around.

Suffice it to say, I finally discovered Adventure Game Studio around 2001 after a conversation with m0ds, whom I discovered on the Internet while searching for music for my game. I have followed AGS's evolution to the awesome, legendary tool it is today.

The Story

The Premise

You play Ronald Frederick Ganon, a lieutenant in the Star Force — an interstellar exploration/military organization with its base located on Earth. The year is 2197. You serve on board the U.S.S. Merrimack under Captain Jonathan Perseus and his first officer, Commander Nathaniel Hathaway. In the few months you've been on board the Merrimack, you've made a few acquaintances (not really friends, per se) including Chief Engineer Garrett Lemieux and Ensigns Timothy Ladue and Cassandra Carey.

Among your shipmates, you are generally thought of as a friendly person, a team player, and an excellent officer overall. But Commander Hathaway doesn't agree; in fact, you could swear that he has it in for you. He has picked on you several times since you've been on board, choosing you for menial tasks and almost holding you back in your Star Force career. You've tried talking to the captain about this, but due to the chain of command in place you'd have to go through Commander Hathaway first.

The Intro

One day, the Star Force orders your ship to the uninhabited planet Jel-ek IV, to collect soil and mineral samples and perform a geological survey of the land. Your landing party splits up, each going their own way to explore the area and learn all they can. You and Commander Hathaway stay together in the arrival site. As you pull out your scanner to perform some scans (without being ordered to), Hathaway scolds you, but you find something interesting: humanoid-sized life forms are approaching. Knowing that preliminary scans showed nothing threatening in the area, Hathaway tells you to put away the scanner, commenting on your jumpiness.

And then, out of nowhere, an ambush! You hear plasma weapons firing off to the west, and then suddenly, from behind a nearby boulder, a Castorian officer charges. Luckily, you are a quick fire with the phase pistol (set to stun, of course) and dispatch of the Castorian easily.

Hathaway makes contact with the Merrimack and asks to teleport the landing party back up to the ship, but the other two officers in the party (Ensigns Ladue and Carey) are out of range and cannot be targeted. Hathaway orders the teleporter operator to beam the two of you up anyway. But you disagree and make the hasty decision to run off in search of the other two officers. Hathaway beams himself up alone.

You eventually find Ladue off to the west, Carey unconscious beside him, with an injured ankle. Then, out of nowhere come two Castorian officers. You turn around and dispatch of them as well. Carey, impressed by your quick shooting, thanks you and you all beam back aboard the ship.

Big Trouble

Back aboard the Merrimack, the captain immediately orders you and Hathaway to his office, and he asks Hathaway was happened. He explains that you disobeyed a direct order and put yourself and Hathaway in danger by running off to find Ladue and Carey. You then explain that it was the humane thing to do, and the captain seems to agree. Angered that his point is now made moot, Hathaway argues that you cannot go unpunished, and Captain Perseus makes it clear to the commander that he understands everything and dismisses Hathaway rather harshly after he continues to argue with the captain. Captain Perseus then has a private talk with you, saying that he has no choice but to put you into suspended animation until you arrive at Earth for a formal hearing. The captain is confident that you will not be found guilty of anything, and in return for this inconvenience, the captain will re-assign your hull inspection duty to Hathaway — a very tedious task that you're glad to be rid of.

You head for the CryoStasis Holding Area and prepare to be "put under" for seven weeks until the Merrimack reaches Earth.

Even More Trouble

But something goes wrong. Deep from your unconscious, you can make out the sounds of plasma weapons fire and screaming. Suddenly, a computer malfunction triggers your cryo-stasis booth to revive you and open. You walk out of the stasis area and find nobody manning the controls. The ship is eerily empty. Something is wrong...

Very wrong.

Murky Waters

Basically, a number of factors contributed to the temporary abandonment of BTS. First, my hard drive crashed — the hard drive that had everything for the game: source code, 3D model files, even all six chapters of the game, planned out in Microsoft Word... all GONE.

I nearly gave up. I nearly put BTS to sleep for good. But the drive was still in me. Despite the major setback, I desperately wanted to complete BTS and release it to the general public for all to see and play. So, a few months later, I contacted Lil Gryph Master (Andrew Edmark) regarding possibly helping me to re-do the game from scratch with an improved storyline, puzzles, and character development. I even found the last three chapters of the game in some saved emails I had sent to Gravator to have them reviewed. Thanks, Yahoo!

However, things popped up. Andrew and I both found ourselves too busy to work on the game. I went back to college (for web design) and was working whenever I was not at school. For nearly two years I was consumed with my own life and tasks.

Now that I'm out of school, I have a new job doing both web design and graphical design for a company dealing with cross-branding golf merchandise, and I love it. However, web design has also become my primary hobby. I've created many web sites, including a highly successful wrestling themes website called Xylot Themes.

It wasn't until around January of 2006 that I got the urge again to create adventure games. I got it after playing Out Of Order, made by the guys who made SLUDGE. It inspired me to once again make an adventure game. Instead of tackling BTS, however, I started working on a new game. A game that was to be kept a secret until I was well enough along to be able to brag about it. It was a game based on the successful TV series Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula. I had most of Sam Beckett's character and the game's plot done. BTS was a large-scale project that I didn't think I was ready to tackle again just yet.

My web design then career took hold yet again and my wrestling themes website really took off and became moderately successful. I was very busy with my web development career, both professionally and personally, and it consumed nearly all of my free time.

The (Bright) Future of BTS

Then, in August of 2008, I played Runaway 2: The Dream of the Turtle, and I got that itch again. I wanted to work on By the Sword so bad that I could taste it. And this time, things were going to be different. And so far, they are. I am never one to count my chickens before they hatch, but I am confident that this time around, I have everything I need in place to create my game.

I have developed a new method of creating graphics, which combines DAZ Studio, Poser Pro, Poser 7, DAZ Bryce, and Photoshop CS3. I will create the graphics using a combination of the 3D programs, and then retouch the graphics in Photoshop as part of a newly developed post-production system. This was inspired in part by Runaway 2, which used a combination of 2D and 3D graphics, as well as post-render retouching.

By the Sword is definitely back on track. It's all just a matter of when it will be released.

About damn time, no?

Related links

For more information on By the Sword, please click here for the old home page (new home page coming soon).