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Mark Ashton of Time of Defiance
By: Robert F. Ludwick | Game Data | 10:46am, August 4, 2003
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Thanks to Gary Wood, we were able to get a small interview with a member of Time of Defiance's development team, Mark Ashton.

OMGN: How did the idea behind Nespanona become reality?

Mark Ashton: Dedication and passion! Nicely Crafted was set up to create virtual worlds and Time of Defiance was the first step in making this a possibility.

OMGN: ToD is very expansion-driven. Was the expansion-driven nature of the game a by-product of the storyline, or was the storyline built around the idea of having an expansion-driven game?

Mark Ashton: When you release an online game it really is in your interest to keep improving it, and adding content to keep it fresh. This was always something that was planned - something we would have to make provision for - and the nature of our server technology means we can add these new units and the like straight into a running game without disconnecting players, restarting the server or any number of other down-time activities. The complete story line and history for the world of Nespanona (the world in which ToD takes place) covers much more than just Time of Defiance - it covers a period of over 1 million years - and so with our expansions we are able to move game time along this history line. In this way the game world does progress, and the story of the world does actually change.

OMGN: How long did it take to build the game, initially?

Mark Ashton: Within 6 months of starting to create ToD a rough alpha version was produced that allowed NiCE to start getting external players involved at a very early date. About 6-10 months after that all planned features were complete and the game was released. The point we are at now, a year after master, ToD looks very different from the initial release and we have yet more enhancements we want to make!

OMGN: Are there any plans to include in-game music, or to distribute the game on CD?

Mark Ashton: We are in the middle of sorting out contracts for publishing a CD version at the moment in fact! As for the music tracks, one of our main aims with the online release was to keep the download size small. We know that some people are happy downloading 1.2Gb of game, but we wanted to make sure we were accessible to players on modems wherever they were in the world. Our client has managed to stay at around 10Mb, but the addition of music would likely double the size and so it is not something we have attached a huge priority to. The CD version though will allow us to break away from the download limits we've imposed on ourselves - just including higher detail textures with multipass techniques like specular mapping will increase the size of the texture files nearly 10x and improves the quality of the visuals.

OMGN: How many are involved with the game itself, like the development team?

Mark Ashton: NiCE has 10 staff working full time and everyone has been involved in ToD at some time. This is a mix of development, support and management staff.

OMGN: How often are users' ideas incorporated into the growing storyline?

Mark Ashton: We aim to produce updates every month or two, but the content of each update is not always new units. Our forums are very active with ideas for new ships, or things to add to the world, and all that material is fed into our internal development. Sometimes an idea from a player will be exactly the same as something we were intending to release anyway and so there is no problem implementing it - sometimes a player idea might be close to something we were making, but adds something cool we hadn't thought of, and so our idea might morph into something closer to the player's idea. Finally we just get some ideas that are so far out there we wonder if the player has actually seen ToD let alone played it :-D

OMGN: Are there any other projects in development by Nicely Crafted Entertainment?

Mark Ashton: Oh yes. We're involved in a number of projects ranging from ToD on a mobile phone/pda to our next big PC release (which I can't tell you anything about).

There is also, of course, Time of Defiance CD version due for release before the end of year ... and Time of Defiance online constantly updating and improving.

OMGN: Is there anything else you would like to add to finish the interview?

Mark Ashton: We look forward to meeting all you new players online, members of the development team can be regularly found playing on the advanced and intemediate servers. We also have a 3rd party develpment external interface that can be used to create a large number of third party utilities to assist you with empire building and management. Enjoy Time of Defiance, and thank-you for your interest - without the feedback we have received to date from our players, the game would not be of the quality that it now is.
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