Bassmaster Fishing 2022

Bass Bulletin - JUN.02.2021

Behind each great game is a great team – and as we develop Bassmaster® Fishing 2022, we want to lift the lid on what we’re up to, and how we’re getting on.
So, we recently had a chat with our Executive Producer, Ben Gunstone to give us an update on how Bassmaster® Fishing 2022 is coming along. Ben is new to the team at Dovetail Games and is a hobbyist angler. Ben has 25 years of experience in the games industry, starting off at Nintendo, then working on multiple sports games, and eventually moving his way through the industry on lots of great titles, including: Virtua Tennis, Magic: The Gathering, Carmageddon, and many more.

So, how is development on Bassmaster® Fishing 2022 coming along?

We are sleeves up, heads down. Everyone is super focused on making sure that we try and get all the features in that we have been trying to get in. We are at that stage now where there are multiple different focuses on the game. So, at the moment we are working on multiplayer and getting that working, we're also tackling the career mode, so the single-player structure is in and working. We're making sure that the fishing gameplay experience is both different, fun, and better than previous games. It’s really important that the core of the game is based around the high-octane sport of bass fishing.
We're making a sports game and the sport just happens to be fishing, we want the competitive element to be in there from the get-go, as you’d find in any bass fishing real-life tournament. We saw that at the Sabine River event 40,000 people went to see that live. Last year’s Bassmaster® Elite series in New York drew in 7.2 million viewers.

What are the challenges with game development?

I've told anyone that I’ve made a game for that give me enough time and money and I can make anything, I mean literally anything. Effectively development is a classic triangle of time, cost, and quality, and if you pull on one it pulls on the others. If you increase the quality of something it will take more time, or if you reduce the time it's going to reduce the cost, but it also reduces the quality at the same time. They are all intrinsically linked together, and that compromise is finding that balance between those three points continually. You balance and make decisions on that triangle all the way through development and those decisions have more pressure and more consequences the closer you get towards the end, because you’re running out of time!
Every game is the sum of the compromises you've had to make to get it out the door. You can take that as a negative or a positive, I think every single game I've ever worked on everyone has wild and wonderful dreams at the start of it. The best part of making a game is the first month when you are just deep in design, and you just come up with all these great ideas and it is just such fun. Then you spend the next number of months or years, depending how big the game is, slowly whittling that down until you find the core experience that you really want, that grips players and provides that enjoyment we all hope to achieve from a game.

A lot of work is going into the multiplayer side of the game, can you tell us about it?

First up, it’s all completely new! We used to use a peer-to-peer system which is a multi-player system where when you set up a game, you become the host on your console or pc, and you invite players to join you.
This meant that you were the host, data goes backwards and forwards. Then we have something called ‘host migration’, so if you dropped out, another connected player would turn into the host but when everyone quits, that session ends.
Bassmaster® Fishing 2022 will have a dedicated server system, so there will always be a server. So, no one will be the host, everyone connects as a client to the dedicated server. That means we can control what hardware it is running on for starters, we can tune that hardware to meet the requirements that we need and balance that against the cost.
The advantages are we'll be having a lot more players. We've tested so far up to 59 players, we intend to see where that limit lies, it might be higher than that, it might be lower than that. We just need to balance that against all sorts of different options, so there’s the cost of how much it takes the hardware to allow 50 to 60 players onto a server at one time, versus the playability and corresponding performance as well – we also need to ask questions like: ‘will 60 players on one of our lakes feel crowded?’ We have not got to testing that, but it’s on our to do list!

How is the single player part of the game progressing?

We are working on that right now because it’s really important alongside the multiplayer that the single-player career mode feels solid. It needs to feel like you can progress through the Bassmaster® tournament series up to and including the weigh-in celebration sequence that you see at the end of an Elite series and the Classic in the stadium. We are recreating both of those and I’ve got a team working on it right now. I can't show you any screenshots because the animation’s a bit wonky at the moment, we have got one guy without a head, and great big, long arms wandering around the scene, but yeah, it will look lovely by the time it’s finished.

How has it been working from home for the team?

It has both positive and negative effects on the team, and potentially the game as well. The positives are that it gives people the opportunity to be able to get their head down in a comfortable environment and remove themselves from office distractions. Not having a commute means you can use that time usefully; I don't necessarily mean do more work. I go to the gym in the morning twice a week which I’d never have had the time to do beforehand and that makes me feel better, it makes me feel more energized and it’s a far better way to start the day off than sat in a car in traffic.
The flip side of that is with creative meetings that are online, they become a little bit more stilted. As soon as you have more than three people in an online meeting you must be very careful about who's talking, everyone's quite used to it now too so if someone else is talking, you stay quiet and let them do the talking.
Let’s say you’re designing a new feature. You want that spontaneity, and you want that creativity that comes from bouncing ideas off of each other, which doesn’t necessarily happen in online meetings. You might find that some people feel like they don't have an opportunity to talk because someone else is talking, they don't feel comfortable in interjecting because of you online meeting rules. It makes me wonder what could have happened to the design of a specific feature if we were actually sat in a room together, versus sat in our own rooms at home during the meeting online.
Overall, I think it’s a positive thing that allows Dovetail to have access to a more diverse pool of people to employ. I’m saying that personally because I would never have applied for this job if it didn't have the opportunity to work from home. I think I found a great job working for a great company who supported me and I’m supporting them.
Thank you, Ben, for this first insight into what’s going on behind the scenes at Bassmaster® Fishing 2022. We’ll be inviting him back soon to provide you with an update on our progress as we get closer to release!
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Bassmaster Fishing 2022
2 Jun
Bass Bulletin - JUN.02.2021
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