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The development of Soldier of Fortune was rife with questions and uncertainties right from the very beginning. Fresh from finishing up Portal of Praevus, the Hexen 2 mission pack, Raven was ready to dig in to a full-fledged stand-alone product. Unfortunately, no one at Raven had a solid idea for our next project and we found ourselves floating in a sea of ideas without a solid direction. With a full team ready and willing to go, we needed a project and we needed one fast. It was then that Activision handed us the Soldier of Fortune license.
In the beginning, what was to become the SoF team was focusing on several different story lines and game ideas. One of these was a somewhat real-world, military-style shooter based in a World War II setting. When we decided not to pursue that game, we began looking for new game ideas. We knew that we still wanted to do a real-world military game, but beyond that we didn't have much of an idea. As soon as we got the Soldier of Fortune license, though, the groundwork for the game immediately began to fall into place.
While the license name itself was met with mixed reactions from the SoF team, at its core was everything that we wanted from the game. Action, intrigue, political turmoil, and firepower were key elements of the design from the very beginning. Now we needed to find a story that would complement the license and turn it into a great game.
The name Soldier of Fortune evokes different images for different people. One thing that we could all agree on was that the title reflected the mercenary life; making money at the risk of death. This was something that we wanted to highlight and focus on dramatically throughout the game. However, focusing on this one aspect tended to blind us to the bigger picture of what we were trying to accomplish, and our first few story attempts failed miserably. We focused too much of the gameplay on making money and not enough on finding something that would truly compel the player throughout the game. Nevertheless, even without a story set in stone we began the production of the game. This was a decision that we would come to regret many times throughout the rest of the development cycle.
The bright side to spending a large portion of development time working on a game without a solid story was that most of it was spent on technology creation. The bad part was that many of the levels that were originally planned and created had to be reworked or removed from the game entirely. On top of that, Activision was getting a little nervous that they had not seen any solid gameplay from us yet after almost a year of development. This uneasiness itself caused major turmoil in the development and it took a while for us to settle into the game that we would eventually create.
Luckily, during this time, all of the core technology was implemented and functioning smoothly. Because of this, once we nailed the story down, we were able to jump head-first into the production and quickly create a solid product. In order to achieve a strong sense of realism, we decided to talk to a published author about the script and also to a real-life "military consultant" about how a soldier of fortune truly lives his life. This was one of the major turning points in the development and we were finally able to focus the game into its final product.
As we settled on an action-movie feel, SoF finally began to take form. We were able to tie together an appealing story line quickly with several twists to keep the player enthralled. Combining this with the extensive amount of information that our military consultant provided us, everyone on the team was excited about the project again and the true development of the game got underway. In less than ten months, the core of SoF was assembled into a fun, viable product. After the game was released this past March, the rest, as they say, is history.