Hi, my name is Fabian and I’m a programmer at Zedalos.
Now that we have the Zedalos project, I can’t help myself, to dedicate an own article to the Espadon Online project, where we worked before Zedalos.
I worked on Espadon Online for about 5 years and it would be too much to go into detail, what this project was like and what development it went through. So I only give a quick and probably subjective review with some aspects that come to my mind, which led to Zedalos.
Espadon Online (EO) was a hobby project with the main goal to create an own medieval MMORPG. Besides this, everybody working on the project was given the chance to develope his or her skills. In some time periodes we even had team members, who already had a job related to their section. Furthermore, we stayed in contact to other projects, mainly developing their games and engines with Ogre3D, so the transfer of knowledge was one of the great benefits of the project.
I joined EO as one of the first programmers, around June 2008, when the project was still in its childhood. I heard about it on one of the forums I was around back then and was very interested in the idea of producing an own game. So far I only had made some smaller private projects, mainly to learn C (not even C++; yes, back then, the requirements were much lower). As all applicants I had to go through a personal conversation with the leading programmers and had to show some of my code, so that they could tell, if I would be suited.
Espadon Online team structure
Like all projects, we had different sections and two team leaders, but each section had its own leaders. Every half year we had elections, in which the whole team was able to vote for the team leaders and the section leaders / viceleaders. The team size varied from about 15 – 30 members in total, assigned to the sections: webdesign, marketing, 2D graphics and artworks, 3D graphics, gamedesign, programming and music. Our “official” language was german, so the team consists of people from Germany, Swiss, Austria and Luxembourg.
The member fluctuation was very high. The main reason we had to kick people out of the team was inactivity. Of course there were other reasons too, like members not working properly, or they left on their own, because of private reasons. Some of the latter ones came back, after they could find the time again to work. On the other hand, we had periods of many applicants, mostly, when we posted an update on the different forums, we advertised on, or when there were school holidays and people had freetime to spent.
Our main communication went via ICQ or the forums. We had IRC team meetings and separate leader meetings regularly, organized by the team leaders. Those meetings took a few hours every time, discussing roadmaps, current works or other current topics. Looking back now, they were pretty helpful, not only because the whole team got up to date, but also, because of the social aspect, forming the team feeling, which is very important.
Of course, like in other bigger groups of people joining and quitting, a “core team” formed, which had the various leader positions most of the time. This core team was the most important thing (I will come back to that, later in this article), I would say, what held EO together in the last year of the project.
My time in the programmers section
Later on, when I was (vice-) lead of the programmers section, I kept this procedure. In the nearly 5 years at EO there were many applicants who over estimated themselves, tried to fool us, just to take a look at the code, or just to “test” their skills by completing the trial task, everybody had to solve. Most of them copy pasted, or were just too inexperienced.
When I think about EO taking me in, without a single understanding of OOP and C++, it might seem contradictory, but as time went by our standards rose and so did our requirements on new team members. That was probably why we only had a handful programmers. It didn’t really matter to me, how many we were, as long as we made progress in both work and quality. That’s an important factor, to keep in mind, when evaluating a team.
To manage the code, the 3D models and the textures we were using SVN and are using it till now. At first it was just a usb stick, plugged into a router with the required firmware, of our programming lead back then. As time went by, we got a small vServer, where SVN was running; sounds and artworks where managed on the webspace.
Why we founded Zedalos
As pointed out before, the most important thing is the core team. After all, Espadon Online was a hobby project, worked on mainly by pupils and students. The greatest good we had was and still is: our motivation. The core team always managed to pull the project forward. But more and more the core teams motivation decreased, because when we didn’t pull, nobody else did, even so we had many members. We kept working, but in the last months of EO even some of the core members had to leave the project due to a lack of time. We had to throw out more and more members, because of inactivity and so the team kept shrinking.
Of course, there were many hard times with less members, less activity, where we had to get through. However this time, we realized that it wouldn’t be possible.
The few of us, who stayed, wanted to keep working, but in a different way.
We didn’t want to go through the same situations we went before: Finding new members and sorting out the few to grow into the project fast and good enough, to stay with it etc. So we decided to lay down Espadon Online and found a new project, with a different orientation, a different working atmosphere; just something new?
Not completly new of course, instead on focussing on an medieval MMORPG, which only covers one setting and one game genre, we wanted more freedom in both ways. We are free to develop a game engine which is capable of other genres and of course other settings as well. We had to find a name, got us a new homepage and forums, so it felt like a new start, although we took the code and some other things into the new project. The few members who remained from the core team had the same idea, how this new project should be. Thats why we founded Zedalos, to keep going on with the work, we had so much fun with, for so many years.
Conclusion – The same mistakes again?
Definitely not! We learned a lot in our time at Espadon Online. Not only rose the quality of our work, but we also got more experience in managing and planning our work. I must admit, in the past we sometimes overestimated ourselves, considering the amount of progress, we could make in a given time. But this won’t happen again, as the last months at EO and the time, we already spent on Zedalos, showed us.
All aspects of EO, the good and the bad ones, were necessary to come to this point. To all former members of Espadon Online, who might read this article, no matter, if we seperated in consensus or not, we’d like to thank you, for participating and spending your time with us. We just want to let you know that we’re taking the idea to the next level and will keep on working hard, to achieve our new formed goals at Zedalos.