January, 2011

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project update and pre-alpha milestone

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Dear friends and supporters,

Happy new year to you all! We have been working hard, and the Meriwether project just hit a major milestone: pre-alpha! That means that all major features of the game have been designed and implemented. Now the lion’s share of the work will be devoted to content-creation, art production, and playtesting.

Specifically, perhaps our single greatest advance has been the creation of “Expedition” mode. This part of the game emphasizes the arduousness of the journey by forcing players to make difficult decisions about how fast to travel; how often to hunt, trade, scout, and rest; and how best to maintain morale. The gameplay, as opposed to the roleplaying that occurs in “Discovery” mode, is more abstract and boardgame-like. Expedition mode will be ready for large-scale playtesting in the near future.

The game also now has three major “Discovery” mode levels in a playable state: The President’s House, Fish Camp, and the Great Falls Portage. Currently, we are working on the Fort Mandan level, which features some of the journey’s greatest moments, including Charbonneau and Sacagawea joining the Expedition. Coming up for 2011: Fort Clatsop, The Lolo Trail, and encounters with the Blackfeet and Teton Sioux.

Art production is further behind than we’d like it to be, due to lack of funding: art is perhaps the single most expensive part of creating this game. However, 2010 saw some major bounds forward on the art front. George is now in the final process of texturing and animating our 3D infantry model. The wireframe for this model will become the basis for many members of the Corps of Discovery, including Lewis himself.

We continue to meet weekly in New York, and keep in touch with the remote team members through a weekly check-in conference call. Barb is meticulously researching every aspect of the game and ensuring that it remains historically accurate and culturally sensitive.

Our team has grown to 8 diligent developers! Here’s what we’re up to on the Fort Mandan level:
Joshua DeBonis, game designer, is creating the Fort Mandan level map.
Barb Kubik, historian, is researching the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.
George Lambrakis, art director, is creating 3D character models.
Carlos Hernandez, Ph.D., writer and game designer, is writing dialogue
between Lewis and Toussaint Charbonneau.
Kyle Staves, programmer, is implementing “Expedition” mode.
Carol Bronson, grant manager, is looking for partnership and funding
Justin Jordan, 3d modeler, is about to finish up his 3D model of the
President’s House.
Eric Budo, level designer, is creating terrain tiles for “Expedition” mode.

Thanks as always to Humanities Montana and Humanities Iowa for the funding they have provided for this project, and thanks to our advisory board, and the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation for their support. Furthermore, The Institute of Play has agreed to be our fiscal agent as we apply for more grants. And speaking of grants, we should hear back shortly about significant NEH funding. Wish us luck!

In 2011, we will continue to seek much-needed funding opportunities and, more importantly, continue to design levels, create art, playtest, and in short do the work of making a great game. Once more, let me thank you all for the time and support you have lent this project. Have a great 2011!

Joshua DeBonis and the Meriwether Team