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EU4 - Development Diary - 19th of May 2016

Hello all, time for another EU4 dev diary!

I'm Catalack, the producer of all things DLC for all PDS in-house titles. This time I've been invited to talk a bit about the production process of our DLC's - that is; content packs, unit packs, music packs... any type of pack really. These are usually released alongside the expansions and most of the time involves cosmetic content.

Buckle up!

How DLC's are born
First off there is always the brain picking. This is the part where I hunt down the designers for what type of content they actually want to accompany the next expansion. In EU4's case this usually means Johan, Wiz and in more recent times DDRJake. This step has a varying degree of difficulty since some projects have a detailed wish list with ideas already, and some don't. Sometimes it requires making designers sit down and iron out details over an after work beer. EU4 has a well thought out plan for future content packs though, so it's usually no sweat. CK2 on the other hand…

It does also happen that I put together my own suggestions for what should go into the packs. These suggestions still need to be looked at by the designer, but it usually means less work for them.

It can look something like this:
7KtY6yL.png



Brand Team Says Yay or Nay
When the designer or product owner has given their thumbs up on the content, it's off to the Brand Team for a final confirmation before production starts. This is the part of the company where all the different parts of the organisation syncs up. Devs, sales, marketing, production etc, and it's the final threshold for any type of content that will at some point reach our customers and players. The Brand Teams at Paradox are usually very quick to respond to any type of situation and while we agree with each other most of the time, it has happened that some content needs to be cut or altered for various reasons.


Production begins
When a pack has been approved by all relevant instances, it's time to decide who does what. We have a couple of really talented in house artists and composers, as well as third party studios who sometimes help out when our in-house resources are too strained working on main expansions rather than cosmetic DLC.
Usually the work is split between both in house people and outsourcing.

Worth to mention here is that we try to also make use if our dedicated community, as we have several third party content creators who are fans and modders. Collaborating with them gives us both an excuse to pay them for their dedication, as well as opportunities to work with people who actually knows our games, rather than a random outsourcing studio who might have the technical know how, but not be familiar with games such as ours. I'm amazed at what some of them go through for the sake of making our games better. Cudos.


Historical Research
This is a topic I expect many of you are interested in! Content production always begins with extensive research and mock ups. Both me and each content creator put in a lot of time on doing the research for each piece of content created. We have a lot of history buffs both among artists and scripters, so this step usually goes pretty smoothly.

The only problem is when sources lead back to... our own games and wiki.

Here's an example of what a mock up can look like:
PNtYx2T.jpg

One of my personal favorites. The Cossacks was really fun to work with.

Good sources can sometimes be really hard to come by, and can affect the end result negatively, as we saw recently with the Mare Nostrum Content Pack.
We recently hired an artist specifically for the purpose of keeping track of outsourced material and DLC creation. I'm happy @Carlberg has joined the team!


When the art happens
After the mockups are approved, 3D work starts. This is sometimes a challenge since we have to balance the restrictions of Clausewits with a proper level of details to make units quickly recognizable at a distance - since most people play with camera zoomed out.

Example:
1Wwf8VJ.jpg



Final prep and the deep dark depths that is the Steam Backend
When all content is done and delivered, I package it and make sure everything works in game. Then I leave it in our QA departments capable hands, and wait for release to come around.

That is when I must enter the Steam backend jungle. If you ever apply for a job where the job description says "experience with steam backend", turn around and run. Unless the position is at Valve because then I urge you to please take the job and update the steam backend and make it a bit more user friendly!

Anyway, here I set up all relevant depots and give them fake names to prevent data mining/leaks among other things.
Coming up with fake names is one of the highlights of this step:
HV5gQ6V.png


Not to worry, just before release I give them their proper names!

It’s usually around this time that we also post renders on the forums and get some feedback from you guys.
Example:
jNMe0mX.jpg



Rinse Repeat
And after release, the whole process starts all over again! I usually have all of the different projects up and running at the same time, and so I'm always in the beginning, middle or end of any one DLC cycle.


And never once is it boring.


//Catalack
 
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OH MAN, UNIT PACKS.

But.. For what it's worth, a cool-looking unit pack. Too bad you almost never see Zaprozhie.
 
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Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I for one really appreciate seeing inside the sausage machine of pds studios.
 
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Will you add more unit packs for Eastern European nations like Hungary, Georgia, Serbia, Bosnia?
While your last unit packs are great, some older ones are not quite good in my taste: Byzantines are the best example, using a t2 turkish model for their t3 units (t1 and t2 are awesome, btw).
H7sKOo2.jpg
 
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I've just realised from that second to last screenshot that the blue avian portrait in Stellaris is Chirpy from Cities:Skylines.
 
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Interesting 'behind the scenes' to get an idea about PDX's processes, workflows and such.
 
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I absolutely love the work you all do. The unit packs are always my favourite part of new DLC releases.

I also saw that you updated the Mare Nostrum pack based on the fourm's feedback. Thank you so much for that!

Although I have a small request. Could you please add in the old Italian tier 3 models in the DLC for modders to use? They were completely replaced with the new ones.
 

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Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I for one really appreciate seeing inside the sausage machine of pds studios.
I never thought of our games as sausages, but now that you mention it...

Especially the steam backend bit!
It keeps me awake at night :confused:

Will you add more unit packs for Eastern European nations like Hungary, Georgia, Serbia, Bosnia?
If I told you that would be spoiling now wouldn't it :p

I also saw that you updated the Mare Nostrum pack based on the fourm's feedback. Thank you so much for that!
Although I have a small request. Could you please add in the old Italian tier 3 models in the DLC for modders to use? They were completely replaced with the new ones.
We tried to fix most of the things we got feedback on, although we didn't have time enough to fix everything. I'm immensely proud of the artists that put in the extra hours to fix them :)
About adding the old Italian T3 units - might be doable. I'll look in to it, but can't make any promises as usual!

You mean you didn't watch Taras Bulba? :)
Nah, but we did watch With Fire and Sword!

What happened to the Stellaris Chirpy Bonus?!
Look again friend ;)
Or:
I've just realised from that second to last screenshot that the blue avian portrait in Stellaris is Chirpy from Cities:Skylines.
 
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Whats's the reasoning behind having the content packs separate from the expansions? Does the math work out? How many of the people who buy an expansion also buy the content pack?
 
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CK2 on the other hand…
Just how disorganized are they? Or is it just that they've run through their existing lists of ideas?
 
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Whats's the reasoning behind having the content packs separate from the expansions? Does the math work out? How many of the people who buy an expansion also buy the content pack?

I always buy the expansion near release and the content packs in sales. So splitting gives buyers a choice and I suppose also gives paradox as a company meaningful sales data that's specific to the content packs. This way they can tell whether they had an unpopular content pack and a popular content pack or vice versa. Bundling them would make this more opaque.
 
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Will the Evangelical Majors pack ever see the light of day? We know it exists and I'd be really happy for the nations involved to finally get their custom models!
 

WolfAleron

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Would be cool if there was biger chanse to see Cossacks actually. Or more ways to play as them. =P
 

Catalack

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Whats's the reasoning behind having the content packs separate from the expansions? Does the math work out? How many of the people who buy an expansion also buy the content pack?
The math does work out, although I don't have the numbers available to me right now. One of many the reasons is to keep the cost of the expansion down, as more people buy expansions than they do cosmetic DLC. Some people also aren't interested in anything other than new features, and some people might not be able to afford the new expansion, but is interested in modding and playing around with new units.

It's a bit of an effort from our side to try and please as many people as possible, as well as more easily keeping track of what sells and what doesn't.

Or is it just that they've run through their existing lists of ideas?
It's not really all that bad actually, but as you've rightly guessed, the game has had a long life span. We do have some more things to churn out though so stay tuned! :D
 
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Jorlem

Field Marshal
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It's not really all that bad actually, but as you've rightly guessed, the game has had a long life span. We do have some more things to churn out though so stay tuned! :D
Looking forward to it, though this week's death sound dev diary was rather ominous.