Transitioning from 4x to campaign Project X Development Diary: Part 4

Author: Matthew Aebersold
Posted On: 04-24-17
Project X

Project X Development Diary: Part 4

This is a pivotal point in the development of Project X. From it's inception, I thought of it as a sandbox-style 4x game experience. You take it out of the box, set it up, play with friends, and at the end of the night, pack it up and put it away. These types of games absolutely have their place, and I plan on making one still (within the X universe). But, thinking about the initial offering for Project X, and talking with my co-developers, we decided to go down the campaign route.

The driving decision behind this is simply for the fact that we want to tell an amazing story. A campaign game is the perfect canvas to tell such a tale. We want it to be a grand heroes journey combined with epic space opera themes. Having a multi-session, legacy style game is the perfect engine to drive this story forward. The hope is that this campaign will establish the story, characters, races, and universe.

I've been playing a lot of Imperial Assault, which offers a similar experience. Some of the ideas here are born from my frustrations with certain aspects of that game. Also, Gloomhaven is now backed, so when that arrives I'm sure inspiration will kick into overdrive. I'm almost certain that Gloomhaven will be the biggest source of inspiration for Project X's development.


Clearly, Dune is heavily inspiring this universe. The grand scale of the story, the political intrigue, the great houses, and the heroes journey are all things we want to create and incorporate into Project X. Alliances, traitors, hail-mary espionage, intrigue, and warring houses are all themes we love, and would love to see incorporated into the playstyle and story of this game.


Ultimately what's going to be created here is a semi-legacy game with tactical encounters. I say semi-legacy because I don't want to fit directly into that mold. In a true legacy game, you only have one play-through, and then the game is un-playable due to the finite and destructive aspects of the rules and components. I want this game to be legacy-style in the way that you discover the unfolding story for the first time on your first play-through, but I don't want the experience to be destructive to the game itself. Think of it more like the first time you played Dark Souls (if you haven't, there's your PRO TIP for today). The first time you play it is wondrous. You discover the world, you get to explore every nook and cranny, and you get to unravel the world bit by bit. You can technically play the game again, as many people do, but it will never be as special as the first time. This is the emotion I want to capture with the campaign.


In terms of the missions themselves, we are heavily leaning on Starcraft for inspiration. The way they tell a story in-between the lines, and offer unique, objective-based missions is the perfect example of what we're trying to create here. There's an over-arching story here, and you enter into each encounter to duke it out with foes, learn the mechanics, and discover the story.

The diversity of the missions in Starcraft are also something we're looking at closely. Some missions are just build bases and attack, where other ones are more micro-management style where you control specific heroes and have very specific objectives.

Ultimately this post represents a paradigm shift in Project X's history. The 4x experience is now shelved in favor of a narrative mission-based story. Stay tuned for more.