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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deserk

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Now we need some proper Middle Eastern (Oman, Yemen, Persian dynasties, Hedjaz) and East Asian (Korea, Chinese dynasties, Japan, Indonesian kingdoms) unit pack DLCs imo.

And also we still urgently need the release of Evangelicals Major pack. :p
 

adlerchen

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I've loved your guys' work on EU4 and Stellaris! Especially the EU4 great powers pack and the other tier 3 and 4 modals, as someone with an interest in early modern military history. I hope you can convince the higher ups to finally OK the evangelical majors unit pack. It's cruel and unusual to have the modding banner up on the forums with those awesome prussian line infantry and french napoleonic fusiliers taunting us. :p
 
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Hunter XLR8

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Hopefully they release the Catholic and Evangelical Majors as paid DLC. While I was able to get the Catholic majors, I won't be able to use my computer for most of the summer, so a timed download will not work for me.
 

Bobby555nc

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Total waste of a dev diary?! come on guys....the bureaucratic process is not new, interesting, or helpful.

I thought this was going to be about NEW units, not about over charging people for nice looking unit skins.
 
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OBRkenobi

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What happened with the Mare Nostrum content pack?

Sorry if it's already been answered in this thread.
 
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Axe99

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Cheers for the DD Catalack, very interesting to see how it all happens behind the scenes :D. I wonder what you did in a past life to get stuck working with the Steam backend? Thanks for your and all the artists work on the various models, they're a very nice touch and I enjoy the immersion and 'vibe' they add to the game :).
 

Wagonlitz

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What happened with the Mare Nostrum content pack?

Sorry if it's has already been answered in this thread.
The Tunesian part of it used to be dark as sub saharans and stereotypically African---with getting more stereotypical as the game progressed.
 

SnowHawkKiller

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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.
And yet somehow that mess of a patch with all its inaccurate historical depictions still came out
 
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ramius3443

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And yet somehow that mess of a patch with all its inaccurate historical depictions still came out
At least they try, as opposed to some games like Company of Heroes 2 where the Russians are essentially portrayed as fatalistic idiots running around with Commissar Warcrime at their backs.



Great dev diary by the way! Always fun to read about how work is actually done around Paradox and hear from the devs we dont see very often
 

Sredit

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I'm glad the skin tones for the North African unit pack were updated, but I find the decision to replace the third tier model from the Italian unit pack very disappointing. I read the disparaging comments about them on this forum, but I think paradox made a huge mistake by changing the product based on a few complaints. They completely ignored many people, such as myself, who were completely satisfied with the original product and felt no need to complain. I now have a product that is not the one I payed for and differs significantly from the one advertised.

Are there any pictures out there of the new ones? Or a comparison to demonstrate what changed?
 

Catalack

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Fair enough - in that case who should we be asking? Also - would they be the same person who determines how content should be released?
Hm, well that would be the marketing department. Not sure who in particular. The decision of how it's released is up to the Brand Team. I can bring it up there and see if we can get the ball rolling, although likely there are already some plan in place that I don't know about x)

They completely ignored many people, such as myself, who were completely satisfied with the original product and felt no need to complain. I now have a product that is not the one I payed for and differs significantly from the one advertised.
I personally loved the original tier 3 Italian unit models. The new ones are still good, but they are not what I payed for and not what currently appear in the steam and paradox store pages.
We've got some questions about this, I'll see what I can do to make both available.

I assume, based on one of your replies, that you aren't on Twitter?
I am but I'm not all that active -> @sparrhult

This Dev Diary is now filed in my brain alongside the Stellaris sountrack one under "didn't expect to find this interesting at all but it was the most interesting thing I read that day".
Happy to contribute!

I wonder what you did in a past life to get stuck working with the Steam backend?
Probably butchered kittens or something ):

And yet somehow that mess of a patch with all its inaccurate historical depictions still came out
Spr7hbQ.gif
 
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sparta105

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Nice DD! Also, I can't resist...

SSV NORMANDY AND NORMANDY SR-2! MASS EFFECT GRAND STRATEGY FROM PDS CONFIRMED! :p
 

Emre Yigit

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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…

I'm impressed by the fact that four people are the creative equivalent of the forum.