Earlier this year, we released our first DLC for Distant Worlds 2, adding the first two new factions – the peaceful and utopian Ikkuro and the devious and cunning Dhayut. Creating and testing those first new factions taught us a lot about what adding additional content to DW2 would be like and what our community was looking for from a faction DLC.
In short, although we had significantly expanded the differentiation of factions compared to Distant Worlds 1, players wanted us to go further and make each faction feel more distinct.
We also wanted to use the process of DLC development to also expand the base game and give players some extra free content, whether they play as one of the new factions or not. It was with this in mind that the Quameno and Gizureans were chosen. These were both very popular factions from Distant Worlds 1 and they are both quite specialized in what they do, as well as having some important connections to the story of the Ancient Galaxy in Distant Worlds 2.
This also gave us an excuse to put a little more development into the Pirates and add Pirate Cruisers as well as adding in the long-planned Repeatable Techs that allow the research-oriented Quameno to really ramp up their tech if they so choose. For those who have been following along with the faction stories, we wanted to make sure to put the remaining pieces in place leading up to the next planned expansion, which will include the Shakturi as a major late game crisis and opponent. Adding the Ancient Guardian Vaults and expanding on the Hive and Pirate stories are part of that plan. The Quameno story is connected to the Ancient Guardians and the Hive ties into the Gizurean storyline.
We will be going into more details on the Quameno and Gizureans in our next two dev blogs. Please read those to find out more about exactly how they play. In short, the Quameno are very focused on research and being left along to pursue their research. The Gizureans are extremely focused on growth and feeding their burgeoning populations by consuming whatever is in their way. With the Quameno we also wanted to encourage players to feel like they were incentivized to complete specific research branches instead of just “going wide”, whereas with the Gizureans, we wanted to incentivize a sort of growth/rush playstyle for those who enjoy it.
The rest of this blog will focus on how we make a DLC. The team for Distant Worlds 2 has several sub-teams, the Development Team (two people), the Content Team (two people) and the Art Team (four people). We also have one Producer and an Assistant Producer and a few other freelance members helping as needed with additional art or other areas. Finally, there’s a large group of volunteer testers as well as one paid internal tester who help us make sure that when we’ve made a mistake, we know about it and can fix it quickly.
Members of each team have a contribution to make to the DLC process, which starts with choosing which factions we would like to include. Most DLCs then involve the Content and Art teams in an initial discussion of what those factions are like both from a story, gameplay and art perspective. Concept art and basic story outlines often lead the process, along with initial gameplay and design ideas.
The Art Team usually gets busy first, as our art timelines are long enough that their work has to be well ahead of the other teams. The Content Team typically follows with figuring out more of the detailed narrative around each faction, leading to a fully story structure and game event map. The Producer and Assistant Producer usually act as the coordinators, making sure that the teams stay in sync and that any necessary cross-communications happen in a timely way. As the Content team creates additional story events, those often require additional support from the Art Team and the Art Team’s work often inspires the Content Team to adjust their plans as well.
Once the art is well along towards completion and the story outline is completed, the Development Team, which is usually working on the base game, gets involved. At this point the various design ideas and plans are put into a full design review for each faction, which is discussed by the Development Team and the Producers. Those ideas have to pass the test of being feasible to implement and also have to contribute significantly to making each faction feel distinct and consistent with its theme and concepts.
This part of the process is often quite iterative and a lot of previous plans get adjusted or refined at this point into a final agreed definition which is then implemented by the Development Team so that faction testing can begin. The Content Team, Development Team and the Producers are usually the first testers, after which a combination of veteran and new beta testers are brough into the loop to test and provide feedback.
This testing process can last for weeks or months, depending on the feedback. Our general goal is that any reported bugs are addressed and any design issues where the factions are not meeting player expectations or our own design intentions are resolved. In the case of the Quameno and Gizureans, they each went through many iterative beta builds, with adjustments to several key mechanics until we reached a final form with which all were satisfied. When we ourselves start to really enjoy playing as these factions and beta tester feedback is consistently positive, we then plan our final release date.
In parallel with testing, the gathering of information, screenshots and videos begins to make sure that once we know the exact release date, we have all the materials needed to promote and explain this new DLC to our community.
In this case, we also have another major “Discovery” update for the base game which we have been developing in parallel with this DLC, just as we did with the “Aurora” update for the Ikkuro and Dhayut DLC. All of our teams put some major effort into this new update, in addition to the DLC work. Beyond the usual fixes and improvements, this new “Discovery” update adds on the following new free content to the base Distant Worlds 2 game:
This DLC and major update are the result of many months of work by the entire Distant Worlds 2 team. We have enjoyed creating, refining and testing the Quameno and Gizureans as well as all of the new free content and improvements to the base game. We hope you will join us as our voyage through the Galaxy continues!
Thank you for your continued interest and support!
Elliot, Erik and the entire DW2 Team