Adam Cogan Q & A Final Installment

Please note: Information contained herein should be treated as speculative ONLY. Because of the fluid nature of video game development, there is no 100% guarantee that everything discussed by the dev team during this event will necessarily make it into the final game.  Enjoy!

Northtreker: Going back to some of your earlier conversations about the Unity engine, there’s a lot of people that are wondering about planets. When you fly in to the planet, is that still Unity scaling? Will you be able to walk from one community to another, fly from one city to another, on the planet?

Adam Cogan: The planets are not these contiguous sort of locations, where you can just start walking. They are sort of like little islands of activities that you can go and visit. So, no, that’s not the way that it works. But there is a lot of diversity among the different planets. There are different… climates, especially in the main story locations, so you’re going to see a lot of kind of unique places. For most of the basic planets, that are not part of the main story, there are assets that are shared but the towns are also procedurally generated so that you’re not going to see the same layout again and again. It’s always going to be little bit different. There are some things that you can depend on having in a town. Like a Saloon, where you can go and hire crew members, that’s something you can kind of depend on, when you decide ‘oh, I’m going to stop at this planet and go to town’, you’re going to know that there are a few things that you’re going to find in the town that you need to do. You just might know exactly where they are. I think that was another part of that question; how diverse each location is going to be. So there are different environments. We’ve got it all planned out; which is a snowy planet, which is a prairie planet, and there are also different levels of technology. A core world city should look very different from a small rim town. So we are also thinking about that. And there are some places that have not been terraformed yet, or are in the process of being terraformed.

Bella: Awesome.

Rayno: Is that shorthand for terraformed as in patches to the game, or does that mean that there is something that could be going on those planets that we don’t know about?

Adam Cogan: I mean, there are terraformers working on terraforming that planet, and that it’s a little bit hostile (environment). But you can still find towns there and do commerce and that sort of thing.

Rayno: okay. One thing that I’m sure a lot of people are wondering, is there when you talk about the diversity of many planets, obviously a lot of planets were explored in the series, and so there is a lot of things that we already know about some planets; for instance, Paradiso has Bowden’s Malady. Is stuff like that going to work into the game.

Adam Cogan: Stuff as in terms as in maladies?

Rayno: I just mean stuff as in terms of traditions, or the way the way certain towns may have looked in the series, is stuff like that going to translate into the game?

Adam Cogan: Things that appear in the show, locations that appear in the series also appear in the game. The ‘Verse is entirely known to the people who settled it. There are no planets or anything out there that have not been discovered, or that sort of thing. The planets that have not been terraformed, and the planets that are being terraformed, and the planets that are completely terraformed, and a lot of scale is dependent on that. You know, very small towns, planets that have very low population, and planets that are heavily populated, we’re doing all that.

Bella: okay, we’ve heard that the savvies are not going to include cooking, correct, Adam?

Adam Cogan: Yes, that’s true.

Bella: There’s a lot that you guys have alluded to, as far as crew morale, and we’re assuming that you know, having enough food will be one of the things that will be used to at least keep morale somewhat level. What else can we do, or what else can happen to boost morale or will break it?

John O’Neill: I’ve heard that shooting people in the back breaks morale.

Bella: That’s probably not the best way to garner respect, no.

Northtreker: I’ve yet to see a corpse complain about command decisions.

Adam Cogan: Ah, well, it’s a certain kind of respect, yes. *chuckles* So, we have something internally at least, I’m not sure what we’re going to end up calling it, ship management is sort of an all-encompassing term for the stuff that’s going on in your ship. And I can tell you that my goal, my dream, is to have you be able to, sort of tear apart the side of your ship and look inside as if it’s an ant farm or something, and see everyone doing their stuff. Everyone has a job to do, they have needs that need to be met, they get hungry, they interact with each other, and they’re doing things you don’t tell them to do and they’re doing things that you do tell them to do. We obviously can’t do a full-blown “SIMS” game, but there are elements of the design that allude to that. Everyone has crew quarters, they need to sleep, they have job schedules, and that doesn’t always make them happy; they may end up working a little too hard, you may have to intervene. There is kind of an internal DNA with each crew member that makes them more or less able to get along with other people. And if things mesh, they get along, and if it doesn’t, they might not. That’s just how they work in terms of their happiness level, which is a little bit different than their morality, their loyalty. There’s two different things at work: there’s that sort of general happiness, and then there’s their happiness with what you’re doing. And that is really impacted by the decisions you make when you’re out doing jobs. If you’re doing a lot of jobs back-stabbing, you may not be appeasing certain members of your crew took along with you. You can’t please all the people all the time. It’s hard to be the Captain, so you’ll have to deal with that sometimes.

Bella: A-MEN!

John O’Neill: *laughing his head off*

Adam Cogan: and it wouldn’t be that interesting if everyone got along all the time.

Bella: Sure it would!

Rayno: So you guys were just talking about morality, and Bella brought in the idea of food, because it kind of adds along with that, I did have a question come in, is there going to be any kind of component of fuel, whether it be a food for the crew or fuel for the ship?

John O’Neill: That’s a great question.

Adam Cogan: I do think there will be some special things that you can do for your crew that give them sort of buffs of happiness, so that you can sort of intercede.

Bella: and Rayno: warn Blackrock not to say a word here.

Adam Cogan: Strawberries was what I was thinking.

Bella: You don’t know this crew that well. ;)

Adam Cogan: But, yeah, there may be opportunities for things like that. There are things in the design that sort of address that. There’s also, in terms of food consumption, there are meal times, and people are going to the galley and eating, and you can upgrade your galley and people are just happier when they’re eating there and spending time there. You can add a lounge to your ship, that’s really kind of a premium thing to do, you don’t really need it, but it’s a place where they can go and enjoy themselves a little bit more. There’s also things that the Companion and Shepherd do, just by being around that, that can increase or loyalty or a general sense of wellbeing.

Bella: like passive buffs or something?

Adam Cogan: yeah, kind of, just sort of like a buoyant factor by being nearby. So there are nice things to have on the ship. Not essential, but those are the kind of perks they give when they’re around. In terms of having to eat to survive, we decided that it wasn’t going to be fun to starve your crew. You’re not able to go out into space and starve to death. So we decided that was not going to be a factor of the game. Even though that is very realistic, it’s not very Firefly.

John O’Neill: But getting shot in the back is.

Adam Cogan: Yeah, getting shot in the back is just so very Firefly.

John O’Neill: Thank you thank you! Vindication!

Adam Cogan: and Fuel is another question you have with that. There is no… we’re not keeping track of fuel, but we do have another system that works in a very similar way. And that’s our wear and tear system, and I did post something on that on the Cortex, if you guys got a chance to see that. But that works in a very similar way to how you would think about fuel working. What it does is, is it’s sort of a management system. You need scrap to keep your engine more or less working, and it’s probably never working at 100%. These are old machines. But if you keep investing in them, if you keep on top of them, and when I say that, I don’t imagine that you’re going to be toiling in the engine room 24/7 either. You know, it’s nice to have a mechanic on board that makes those repairs so much better and is able to keep it on track, even though you’re not.

John O’Neill: Now, Mr. Wil Wheaton, he’ll be in the engine room with Kaylee all the time. (nod to SDCC panel)

Bella: We heard.

Adam Cogan: To tell you about what this means, when you travel a distance in the ‘Verse, wear and tear happens on your engine. The farther you go, the more wear and tear is going to happen. And you can upgrade your ship to make less wear and tear happen over a longer distance. It’s totally up to you; you may just decide to spend money on or you may not. So keeping your engine in repair is kind of similar to fueling up, and one of the things you can do when you stop in at a dock is repair your ship all the way; which means you will not be breaking down any time soon.

Bella: I do want to mention for everyone that was here during the beginning of the chat, and got to see the cinematic, when your captain starts to speak, you guys don’t hear Wesley Crusher, do you?

*resounding “no” from peanut gallery*

Adam Cogan: That brings up a great point also about that. You know we are just so fortunate to have two very strong player voices. Wil Wheaton is one, and yes, he just really captured the spirit of Firefly. He did such a great job on the script, and then Courtenay Taylor is another one. Fantastic. Fantastic.

Bella: I can’t wait to hear her.

Adam Cogan: You do hear her, in the cinematic. And we should have done a little preface to that, because they were both on the panel, we split the cinematic, so one half is Wil and one half is Courtenay.

Bella: Oh

Adam Cogan: so the first part is Wil, and then when they board Serenity, that’s when it switches over.

John O’Neill: Yeah, that’s when we switched it over.

Adam Cogan: She’s got this wonderful, kind of husky voice. She’s just such a great captain.

Bella: I was actually waiting for “Jack” to come from her, because I’m a huge Mass Effect geek. And I didn’t even hear Jack. I heard her.

Adam Cogan: She is very “‘Verse-y”.

Bella: She is very “‘Verse-y”, you’re right.

John O’Neill: She’ll be at Dragoncon as well. I don’t know if we can get her on any panels for Firefly yet, but I’m working on it.

Adam Cogan: Her performance is outstanding, and both of them together I think, absolutely belong in the Firefly universe. They belong alongside the BDH, they really do. I hope you guys will agree.

Northtreker: There’s a lot of western themes to Firefly and we spend a lot of time talking about the science fiction side of it. Is there anything that you can think of that you guys have done to incorporate the western half of it; the poker, the horseback riding, the Saloons?

Adam Cogan: Well you know, there are a lot of elements that I think that we took from the show that we took from the show, that we love about the show, and certainly the language is something that is, eh, I just love, diving into the language of the ‘Verse. And I’m not talking about Mandarin, necessarily; I’m talking about the “‘Verse-speak”, this Joss Whedon crazy creation. When I’m writing dialogue, I have scripts open, I’m half-watching shows, to get to little parts, I am studying it closely and doing my damnedest to capture some of that, and it’s very tricky, it’s tricky to not get overwhelmed with the language and you start losing the meaning and I want to add things that still feel like they belong, and you may have heard a little of that in that first cinematic. So that’s one aspect that was really important to us. There’s also the nature of the “frontier towns”, is what we described them as. Which is really a lot of the ‘Verse. These kind of troubled, rinky-dink towns where settlers were just left on some dismal planet and expected to survive and they’ve done what they could but they’re really kind of primitive. One of the earliest things I was talking about with the guys when I started to design the game was how important it was to me that there were cows.

John O’Neill: *laughing

Adam Cogan: There will be cows, you guys. There will be cows!

John O’Neill: Yeah.

Adam Cogan: And yes, you will be transporting cows in this game. There will be horses. You know, you go visit a town and there will be free-range chickens wandering around.

Adam Cogan: *reading text comments* Maybe there will be llamas, I don’t know. Monkeys? No comment.

John O’Neill: Yeah, no comment on the monkeys.

Bella: Oh I will own one of those plush terrifying space monkeys that Andy has :)

John O’Neill: About all we have left is the trading commodity. Adam, you should talk a little bit about that.

Bella: I do have a question about that, actually.

John O’Neill: Yeah there’s some neat stuff with the trading system, very deep.

Adam Cogan: But one of the things that I do for research, for the game, is I watch a lot of Westerns. And I read a lot of Western fiction. So that is also on my mind, a lot, in how that kind of works in the larger ‘Verse.  And where people’s motivations are, and where they’re coming from and what their lives were like.

Adam Cogan: before we move on to the next question, I kind of want to double back to the job tool, again. Because something that you said just now (regarding the bounty on Bella’s head placed by Rayno), I think a lot of you already have some fictions before the game has come out; you already have some things that you know about your characters and some things that you want to express and I am really hoping this job tool becomes your way to do that. And we want to give you the space to not only… you know if all you want to do is do another job, and if it’s another player’s job, you can go through that and do it, but we also want to… if you’re a fanfic writer, or if you just have your own ideas that we didn’t give you enough room to describe it, we want to give you extra room. Extra pages to write whatever you want, you know, if you have a deeper narrative that our tools didn’t immediately give you to work on, we want to give you extra pages to do that, and to express yourselves that way.

Rayno: I’m sure someone will be providing you the link to our wiki page where everyone has all their stuff posted.

John O’Neill: Oh, we’ve been reading it. We’ve been reading it. You guys are awesome.

Bella: That is amazing.

John O’Neill: Oh yeah, we love that.

Adam Cogan: and before you guys existed (as a group), I knew that was something that a lot of Browncoats wanted, and they were already doing it, without our help. But we wanted to give you guys some space to actually add that to the ‘Verse. And I actually think that also goes into, some people ask about ‘end game content’, and that’s more of a gamer term, and what that means is, after you reach the level cap, the highest level you can get, what’s next? And I think the answer to ‘what’s next?’ is you’re going to be telling each other stories. You’re going to be growing the ‘Verse yourselves. You’re going to be making it bigger. At least until we can catch up; and give you more content. So you’ll have this job tool to do that. The adventures don’t have to end.

Bella: I do have a question regarding the job tool. How does that exactly work? You’ve said multiple times that players will be able to create their own jobs. We’re going to be allowed to make a ‘wobbly-headed doll caper’ happen. How is that going to work, and actually, Rayno’s question ends ‘why wouldn’t it behoove us to create our own jobs and then fulfill them ourselves?’

Adam Cogan: Well, you’re not eligible to actually play your own jobs. You’re sharing that with others. The way that the job tool works, that’s a great question, how does that actually work, and perhaps more importantly, how in the world are we going to be able to do this and give it to people have never played a game before. How are we going to expect them to use this tool? And I think the bottom line is that we give you templates, so we kind of hold your hand through the process, so it’s kind of like a wizard, that takes you through each step, and we create templates for you, so if you want a caper job, and you have unlocked that already, then you can create caper jobs, and that will give you a certain structure, and you will fill in the details, but a lot of what you’re doing is deciding what kind of job it is, you are writing the dialogue for the job, and in some cases you’re deciding on the rewards for that job too. And those rewards are not coming out of your pocket. They are sort of coming out of the ‘Verse. The way to make jobs is to earn plot points, which are sort of like “job currency” that you use to spend to make jobs.

Rayno: That’s an RPG thing right there.

Adam Cogan: Yeah, this *is* an RPG. Think of it like a different currency that you’re just using to creating jobs. You earn it by playing jobs. When you play a number of caper jobs, you can unlock a caper job. So there are kind of themes you work toward to diversify the choices you have when you’re creating a job. And what I’m hoping to see is that you’ll also be able to create some of the content like the rewards. Like if you’re after the Magoffin (def: a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation), the Magoffin that you’re looking for, the object, if we overlooked something from Firefly that you think needs to go in, or something from your own personal narrative, or what have you, you get to put that in. There will be predetermined characters that you can hang these jobs on, that they will provide for you. They will be the “job giver”, or you can make some characters and then share them with others.

Frey: Sounds ambitious.

Adam Cogan: it’s VERY ambitious.

John O’Neill: it’s pretty awesome too. It’s the kind of thing that Adam and I talked a lot about, making the games that WE want to play as well, which is always dangerous because as game developers, we try to avoid the ‘being complete fanboys about a game that we’re actively developing’ but it’s kind of hard when we’re working a brand that we love so much. So, yeah, a lot of times, if we were sane people, which we’re not, we wouldn’t be thinking about doing this, but we’re not sane. We’re insane. We’re chaotic. And now we have to do this because IT’S AWESOME HAAAH HAAA!!! *maniacal laughter*

Adam Cogan: *agreeing to all the above, especially the insane part*

Bella: I think that’s why we trust you guys so much, because this ‘Verse, and this concept, and this idea, couldn’t be done by anyone other than Browncoats. Nobody else could have made this game.

John O’Neill: I agree completely.

Adam Cogan: Yeah, you really have to understand what it’s all about to make a game about it successfully, and unfortunately in this industry, that doesn’t happen very often. Usually the story is that a publisher has a license, and then they realize there’s a movie coming out in two weeks, maybe we should have a game? And so they look for the cheapest people they can find and they say ‘we’ll give you this amount of money to have this game done in one month’ or something, and that’s the story. And you know, I don’t blame them. I have been on the other side of that, and I don’t blame the developers for creating “unfortunate content” because that’s really on the publisher. You think that they have the plans? They don’t have a plan.

John O’Neill: Well, Adam, we’ve been there, you know. We worked on ‘Flushed Away’ and we were on the other side, on the developer side, dealing with the studio, you know, just the last second demands. It was interesting, you know, when Andy was on earlier, it’s kind of brought up, and some people question how did we start working on Firefly? And quite honestly, it was through the insanity and the chaos of being a small, independent studio here in North Carolina, but still being a very professional studio. You know, we don’t talk about ourselves as being “indie developers”. We’re a small studio, but we’re very experienced, and we’re very passionate and we’re very, very insane. And you know, it took me putting on Kaylee’s dress, flying out to LA, and doing a presentation in front of Fox, and you can think if that’s true or not, I’ll let you figure that part out…

Bella: Adam, I have good money, and I need that picture!!!

John O’Neill: Oh, I’ll send you that picture, I have it on my desktop right now!

Bella: No, I need it!

Rayno: I will pay untold amounts for that picture.

John O’Neill: That is the ultimate reason why we’re working on this game though. It wasn’t a ‘oh yes, we’re Electronic Arts, not that there’s anything wrong with EA or THQ, or any other big corporation, I mean they are giant corporations and they are just building products to make a profit. And don’t get us wrong, we have to make money to stay in business. But we also have to build a game that we believe in doing, because it’s our heart and soul of why we’re game developers.

Adam Cogan: and especially this one. This game. This one is more important to us. That’s why we’re talking about all these crazy things. Because we’re like kids in a candy store and we just know that these are the things that WE want to do.

Frey: that leads actually to my question; on a bit more of the development side, with Haides and I being more on the site management, coming up with ideas for all of the community that we’ve got running at this point. “Is there anything, since you’ve been on our sites, that you’ve seen or haven’t seen that you would like to give some input and say ‘hey, this would be really neat for you to add, or this is something we thing would be a great addition to what you’re offering?”

Adam Cogan: I think you guys have a great site, and you guys are well laid out. I think the only thing I might add is to just, once you learn more about something, a subject, go back in, and if you haven’t already, start talking about it. And if we left a lot of things to the imagination and didn’t intend to, we might come back and address that. I still want there to be a few surprises for you as well, but we do talk about a lot of different things. You guys are going to know a lot about the game before you start. You won’t know much about the main story, but you’ll know…. you’ll have expectations and we hope that we meet them. But part of meeting those expectations is kind of understanding how you’re processing this information. So please, talk freely about the stuff you know about. And if corrections have been made, and disseminate them, and then chat up. Let me know what you think!

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