Design: How a tiny team makes an epic game

In this update I want to give you a little visibility on our design process. More specifially:

How are we, a 20-ish person team, going to achieve a game as epic and rich as Oort Online?

We’re not Ubisoft, we can’t throw hundreds of artists and programmers at problems to solve them. In order for Wonderstruck, a small studio to deliver something so big, we need lots of clever techniques and shortcuts. And that’s more fun anyway :grinning:.

On this site there’s lots of discussion about features, both planned and unplanned, and how those features could work. The community speculation fuels us and it really does help us make decisions. But sometimes the the thread steers towards “hundreds of stats”, “infinite creature generation”, “thousands of weapons” and whilst sounds really cool, they’re not necessarily things we can do from the outset. But we don’t want to just say “cool idea but we can’t do that” all the time, we still want to achieve the feeling, so let’s design those features smarter… :sunglasses:

First things first: think about why you’d want to do those things . What are you trying to achieve? Then should you do them? Is it more important than spending time on [other feature]? Finally, how could we achieve that feature in the purest, simplest way that’s still fun and exciting.

For example, we get asked “give us 1000s of weapons to pick from!”. We could get our art team to design and model 1000 weapons. If we asked them to do that it’s unlikely we’d get any characters, creatures or props :sob: . I know this is an extreme example, but we really do face challenges like this when we’re trying to weigh up what we spend time on.

What do we want from 1000 weapons? What it sounds like we want is extreme weapon variability! :smiley: In order for us to make a decision, we have to decide what counts as the right amount of variability. It might be that a player only sees 100 weapons on an average play of the game, so then we’d have essentially made 900 unnecessary weapons :astonished:.

Assume we need 100 weapons. How varied do they need to be? Could it be just the name of the weapon? A different colour? A single stat modifier? How else could we achieve variability? What are the simplest ways that give players the most expression? One or a few of these things could be a lot more scalable, cheaper to deliver and give us the same feeling as a lot more expensive version of this feature :laughing:.

How you can help

Here’s how you can help: be the design team as well as the ideas team :sunglasses: . When you think of, or read about a cool feature that could be included in Oort Online think about how we, a 20-ish person team, could deliver it. What techniques or shortcuts could we use to deliver it whilst retaining the feeling of the original suggestion?

With 99% of these ideas there’s usually a really cool, simple and expressive way to do it. Finding what those things are is the exciting challenge we face.

Tiny team, epic game! :smile:


Are we allowed to model weapons and stuff and send them to you? :slight_smile:


Well! Question is, would that be a smart thing to do? Would doing that enable us to add more weapons? I guess this boils down to saving us time? I’m not sure it really would (we’d have to review them, probably tweak them, make sure they fit the style, reject a load etc). They we need to get them into the game, which is code and design, not just art. I’m not sure it would be great for building the core game, but for mods in the future I think this is something that would be awesome!


I think it is also important to have in mind that the game is not in a final state if it is finished. Of cause it should have a good variety of weopons, creatures and possibilities, but you don’t have to max out everything right on release. At first it should focus 3 priorities: …

  • Get enough variety to satisfiy the players and to give them room to explore and experience the game

  • Let the game “feel” finished, so that you don’t have the feeling that you are missing an aspect which you would normaly expect.

  • Make it as bugfree and stable as possible, cuz nothing is more annoying then a crashing or unpolished game.

There are many realy many good ideas for content and features already in the forums. Many of them are even so fantastic that they make our hopes and dreams flying high. But some of that ideas are not essencial and may lead to a lot of work and time while realising them - work and time that should first be invested in the main priorities.

But the ideas don’t have to get lost or forgotten, because if there is the day of the magical v1.0 (wooohoooo!) the development will not stop (at least im sure it wouldnt :wink: ) but go on. On that point the time will come to work on on the content and features, so that our experience with the game will never stop to grow and our hopes and dreams of fantastic new abilities or possibilities may come true.

That dont meen that we have to stop dreaming and telling our ideas, because sometimes to have those idea in mind let the developer implement functions, which may help later to realise them later with a much lesser effort, but keep in mind that there are first the main priorities. The time for our “special dream” may have to came later on :wink:


Sorry. we are trying >.<

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Then there would be the necessary copyright contracts and legal things to keep such things from biting you down the line

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I fully understand your perspective on this. You have to keep the proper scope and know what you can and cannot make. Honestly for me the choice of weapons and how the weapons look isnt as important to me as a variation of what the weapons add to the players - both abilities and possibly stats or skills. IE - give me 5 sword skins with 5 varying colors each.
the colors dont change anything other than aesthetic, obviously the bigger more impressive ones will have better stats and possibly give other skills to players.
In the early going, I care far less about aesthetics and honestly, everything you all have done to this point has been AMAZING aesthetically.
I think it would also be really cool to go back at a later date and give players the options to transmogrify items and get different skins. It could also be something else players need to use OORT shards on.

As always, thanks @ben and all of Wonderstruck for being awesome and amazingly transparent during your process! :smiley:


Maybe all of the weapons and armor below rare could be procedurally made, With drops in an area having a certain level which correlates to a certain amount of total stats that the piece can have, based on rarity.

When crafting a piece of armor or a weapon, you would be able to direct to a certain extent what the stats of the weapon will be. Higher skilled smiths will be able to choose more of the stats, or would have a higher chance of making a rarer item with more total stats on it.

Rare, unique, and legendary items could be hand made, with specific lore and special abilities.

This would cut down on the amount of work needed and would add to the search for an amazing set of armor for whatever build you want to do. You could get whatever weird combination of stats on your equipment that you want, and this would also lead to a better economy with each piece of armor and weapon being different.


How can we hear what you saying: “This is a beautiful idea, we want to do it. Of course if they represent, how they see it can be made”?

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Ironic I was just thinking to myself last night how many of the ideas I see suggested are expansively awesome but a little out of bounds for the game and its engine we are currently playing in. Sure, I would love this to be the next insert every awesome game here with the best features from every one but its also a bit unrealistic.

The selection of weapons and armor should be diverse but not overwhelming. In my opinion, there only need to be a handful of skins while the attributes of the weapon can greatly vary or perhaps be nearly endless by using random variables. This leaves room/time for having a wide variety of weapons to pick from. Elder Scrolls did an injustice by removing pole arm combat and throwing weapons; I also liked being able to use my staff as a weapon, instead of just a catalyst for spell casting.

My suggesting for adding large amounts of item content would be releasing them in expansions along with skins and textures. Adding basic gear to start with the future excitement of what cool weapons and style could be released giving the team time to make new stuff after the game is launched. I appreciated how Terraria took my money and was done with me but has still continues to release content updates.

My question would be how involved is the team going to be after launch?

Thank you for your hard work!!!


I have been somewhat reluctant to say this in other threads fo fear it would be misunderstood. But I feel it is important to keep a good direction. Naturally, I am not an expert on the matter.

If I had a small but epic team, I could not think of a finer title to make than this one. It is the smallest details like performance, a large variety of blocks, decent mobs, and angles in a real multi player setting that is going to win the fans over. Having massive immersive lore and complicated skill systems is not going to pay off for all the hassles they create, although nice. This is a bigger and better mine craft.

At least that is my worthless humble opinion . If I was out for a pure MMO, I would not even consider this. This is about creativity + friends to share it with.

Minecraft set a pretty low expectations bar and hopefully profitable one to meet.


This makes sense, gonna do some revisions to my project…

To preface this post and explain why I’m necroing this, I’m a relatively new backer trying to catch up on the forums. To answer Ben’s question, I actually would second the approach below.

According to the home page, at least one of the small, epic team worked on Spore. Spore’s creature creator tools, applied to Oort, would be a very clever technique to add weapons, armor, and creatures. It would, of course, take time to program a creature creator, but if you gave us the basic tools to build creatures or models, apply skins, make things large or smaller where we want, etc…

In short, if you truly want us to be the design team and ideas team, provide us with the tools you’re working with and let us design! One of your original counterpoints was:

But a lot of this could be avoided if you allowed the community to vote on certain styles or models that they liked best. It would certainly crop out a lot of the content you would have to shift through.

Again, I completely understand that doing this would take a lot of hours, effort, headaches :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:, etc. , but the accumulation of the hours you put into building a creature/model designer similar to Spore would be paid back by the community, I’m sure of it.

Just one possible solution to helping us help you! :heart_eyes:


Could even make it a contest to make tools, weapons, furniture, and other things

When the community votes you could also have questions to vote with each one like

Do you like this (yes or no)
this would show what people have made that others really like possibly to inspire others to make something similar but more oort like

Do you think it would fit in the world of oort online? (yes or no)
This would help see if it fits XD

On a scale 1 to 10 what would you rate it
and a rating system would allow you to take the top 5 or 10 instead of having to deal with hundreds or thousands

And if it was something like world builder or some software you make it should help with the coding idk lol

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Exactly. Releasing a creature/model builder program that produces models that can be directly transferred into Oort would relieve some of the coding. It would essentially be scaffolding, like in Spore, that players use to generate content that the public then approves of. And building off of the voting idea we’ve started laying out, there could be different submission periods in order to not swamp the devs :smile:


I think that it was already said by the team that a creature editor like in spore would be a to big project for such a small team (spore had millions for development, a big team and the editor was one of their main feature for the game)

But think about (already mentioned) a sub editor in the world builder where you can recolor the creatures, may be add some skins, alter the skills, stats and behavior and then release them to the game through your own worlds or even further if the devs want to add them to the main game.

It would be good to know which software the devs are using for modelling and animating the creatures and equipment in the game. On this way people can add new stuff though Mods which also may be worthy enough to be carried over to the main game.

Just keep in mind that Wonderstruck is not a big player with hundreds of programmers and designers, but a smart team which seems to know how make the best out of their possibilities :wink:

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Yes, I indeed have that in mind as per Ben’s post :wink: . However, they clearly have some sort of means of making creatures, as is evidenced by our new little goat deer thing friend :heart_eyes: . Putting at least a taste of this tech in the hands of the player base could be a nice way for a 22 person team to turn into a 5,000 person team, at least when it comes to design. The tech and details are for the devs to worry about. I’m simply providing the idea in response to Ben’s original question. :smile:

Something as thorough as Spore’s creature generator would be difficult indeed to make and, as I pointed out, would take a considerable amount of time. But the idea of something like Spore’s creature generator is worth exploring, or at least mentioning, I believe. :blush:


are any of you guys familiar with the one man dev team kickstarted game Limit Theory? It’s a procedurally generated space sim. You can watch the dev updates on YouTube. Anyways, Josh Parnell the developer, has done some awesome stuff with procedural generation of assets. Very different from a voxel based game, but maybe the code gifted amongst you can make it useful?

And I agree with those above when they say not everything has to be hand modeled. We admire that your putting a lot of hand crafted care into the game. It’s awesome :smiley: but variety is awesome too. I hope you guys find a balance! But hell, I played minecraft for years and it only had one sword model in different colors… Oort already has so much more to offer in so many aspects! As long as you allow players to socialize and have a creative impact on the beautiful world you’re creating, things are gonna be just fine.


Just thought since I was reading this that I would put in my two cents on how I think more options for weapons is having weapons be customisable like in Cube World. In Cube World there is only so many varieties of weapons but they can all be customised with the material they are made from, this creates personalised weapons etc. and can make your character seem original without hundreds of different weapons.

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I think this was already mentioned before and I was wondering if such a system would be possible to make with more detailed weapons… I do hope so because it would be awesome! @ben @james could you enlighten us please (again)? :slight_smile: :lester: