We’re at EGX!

We’re very excited to meet so many people at EGX. We’re extremely grateful for all the great feedback we’ve been getting and everyone’s input. It’s great that our little game is fun not just for us but for you, too. Billy’s been quite busy chatting with the press – when articles are up we’ll share them with you. We just hope that @ABigHead’s head doesn’t get any bigger (yes, that is his twitter handle, what can we say?)… Here’s a few pics from the past 3 days.

If you’re around and haven’t come to play, say hi, and grab your teabag… Well, what are you waiting for?

We’ve loved meeting the brains behind games like Bomber Crew and Sunless Skies who sensibilities are close to ours. Who else should we look for?

Countdown to EGX: Merch and last minute prep

The busy bees at The Grand Mission HQ are figuring out the last details before we all head out to Birmingham – decaying empires be damned, we wish we could get our serfs to do everything for us! We are just putting the finishing touches to our gorgeous game, which is nearly ready to demo.

We are very excited to share the lovely goodies will be bringing out with us – collectible postcards with 2 different designs, stickers (who doesn’t like stickers?!) and, perhaps most exciting of all, our very own teabags, the  #TGMCuppa. Be sure to come visit us at the NFTS booth in the Rezzed section, play our game and pick up some merch!

On tea and conflict

Sugar? Milk? Chai… if you thought that arguments about tea never degenerate into great conflicts, think again…

The Grand Mission is centered around one’s man fight for his right to partea (with apologies to the Beastie Boys) – which may sound relatively preposterous, but, actually, for such an innocuous crop, tea has been a harbinger of conflict :

  • Before becoming the moniker for a puzzling group of conservative American troglodytes, the Tea Party was a protest movement originating in Boston, Massachusetts in 1773, where a group of people, led by Samuel Adams (for whom the beer is named), dumped several hundred chests of tea into the harbour to protest extortionate British taxes on tea. As retaliation, the British introduced the Coercive Acts 1774 to punish the colony, especially Boston… America gained its independence a mere 2 years later…


  • The Opium Wars can be traced back to tea… The British quickly became addicted to the brew, and became highly dependent on the Chinese for supply.. Chinese who didn’t really reciprocate because they didn’t really want any British goods in return… Until the East India Company found their weak spot. The Company, which had exclusive trades right with the East seized control of opium production in Bengal and began flooding the Chinese market with the herb. After China made opium illegal and seized shipments, the British retaliated, and the situation quickly devolved into war.

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Dev Blog update 3: Artificial Unintelligence.

Hello! Me Again. It has been over a month since the last dev blog so my target (writing one once a fortnight) has unfortunately not been hit.

I wasn’t really sure what to write about next: I could go into more depth about our universe, but that was the topic last time so I don’t think that would be right, I could talk about the art style, but I think I would rather leave that to Ian (our fabulous production designer). Eventually I decided to talk a bit about the artificial intelligence we are using in the Grand Mission. Compared to the previous dev blogs, this may come across as a bit dry, there aren’t and space-faring sheep here, but I hope you find my programming trial by fire somewhat interesting.

The first thing to note is that I hadn’t touched code until about a year ago… I am developing The Grand Mission using Unity3D, so the language I am using is C#, which is a really nice language to learn the principles of programming. Anyway, I knew that in making TGM (The Grand Mission), I would have to implement some form of artificial intelligence. We have lots of autonomous agents in the game: weapons need to target and fire autonomously; enemy ships need to move, fire and track autonomously; crew members need to make decisions about how to interact with rooms, weapons, engines, ammo storage, shield capacitors and more. I decided to start with the last of these three, as I knew it would be the most complex. Commence months of wailing horror.

To tackle the crew AI, I had to think like a crew member of a science-fantasy Victorian spaceship. The space ship is made up of rooms, which themselves consist of modules, which the crew can interact with. I initially thought that the best way to approach their behaviour was on a room-by-room basis. That is, when a crew member enters a room, they look around the room, check to see which modules (weapons, engines etc.) require the most immediate help: they rank them all using some algorithm, and then choose the highest ranked module to “interact” with. The “interact” function is context-specific, so interact for a weapon may mean fire, whereas interact for a wall may mean repair. Seems simple enough. However, there were two immediate problems, the first being that modules require different types of interaction. For example, weapons can be repaired, fired once, reloaded, fired on player command or fired automatically. The second problem was efficiency related. If every time a crew member needs to rank the modules they need to create new lists in the heads of every module, and run a load of functions for each one to count its allocation points up, AND if we have over a hundred crew members, things start to get slow very quickly. I needed a new soluition, and this one involved me ceasing to think like the crew member, and beginning to think like…


This is the section of the blog where I try to pawn off my couple of weeks programming AI as a profound epistemological exploration into what artificial intelligence is, and where the line between mimicry and authenticity can be drawn, whether group intelligence is a thing, and something about an ant colony.

The truth is, it’s really not as interesting as all that, I actually just wrote some very basic principles for the crewmembers, such as [go to module] >> [on arrival, if weapon is ready to fire & Has ammo, FIRE!]. It really is that easy. My crew members are incredibly dull and they spend most of their time milling around in throngs making ad hoc virtual mosh pits.

Anyway, our solution to the problems outlined a whole tangential segment ago was to attach an “allocation point counter” to every ship module, so that it dealt with its allocation points whenever its state changed: so every time it fired a bullet, it’s “reload” points would increase, increasing the likelihood of a crew member being assigned to reload it. This was an interesting change in thinking for me. Previously, I had been thinking of the crew members as unitary agents, who could make decisions about what to do wherever you plonked them. This approach more cultivated an illusion of intelligence, really some of the thinking was done by the ship modules, not the agents. SPOOKY. Alas, this system added unnecessary complexity, as the modules needed their own specific point system which would have needed to be accounted for by the crew members anyway.

The third and final iteration of our AI combined both systems. The algorithm I developed to rank modules contained different behaviours, and is calculated from very basic variables within the modules’ information, such as the amount of ammo they have vs their ammo cap, whether they have people assigned to them etc. This does not allow for the amount of flexibility that I would have hoped – for example, you cannot have one crew member reloading and one firing simultaneously, but it does simplify the system and make it a bit more palatable. Now the AI is divided into various room behaviours, which once activated, choose a job module to work on, and a behaviour, and get to work on that. It also allows flexibility and a catcher function, so if there is a problem and the crew member has got such for some reason, the catcher function should catch it and reset its behaviour – hopefully.


Well that is it for our incredibly dry AI dev blog. Next one will leave a smaller gap, I hope!


– Billy

Dev Blog update 2: The Universe

Hello again! Billy here for our second dev update.

This week I’ll be diving into the universe of The Grand Mission, specifically the Welbian System: the star system that our characters come from, and the only system they have ever known. The invention of light-speed travel has made intrastellar travel easy enough, but nobody has ever returned from the many foolhardy trips into deep-space.

Our aristocratic protagonist Tobias grew up in Albia, the now faltering center of a once great empire spanning the entire system. It is a gleaming jewel set amidst the void, a planet entirely covered by vast glowing meadows, rolling green hills and tediously picturesque landscapes. The Albians are fiercely protective of their naturally green and pleasant lands. What they won’t tell you is that the greenness and pleasantness is more to do with the vast terraforming efforts facilitated by the ruthless exploitation of the outer worlds’ resources, than it is due to any native bounty.

After a period of rapid decolonisation, Albia lies an insignificant shell of its former self: the outer planets of Deccai and Fusthura have overtaken it in terms of output, and are too busy managing their own dangerously rapid economic development to pay Albia any notice.

Deccai is home to the Rahmer Malliocracy, a civilisation of monocular woolly mammals in which social standing within a rather stratified heirarchy is determined by the volume of one’s fleece. The leader of the Rahmer, the Majarahmer, currently occupies the imperial palace. As in, he fills the entire structure with his wool. Every year, new wings and annexes have to be constructed to contain his ever-growing fleece, and he is tended to by an army of robots whose job it is to maintain the beautiful coat of their leader. It is these robots that relay information from the Majarahmer to the rest of their empire. Nobody has actually seen him up close in decades. The Rahmer are expanding rapidly, and require vast amounts of food to satiate their appetite. They are dangerously close to expending the natural usefulness of Deccai. Their main export is tea.

The story of the Isthuri is a tragic one, according to everyone but the Isthuri. They are a race of phosphorescent crystalline rock-people. Their metabolism is interesting in that they can process basic materials into more complex composites through their normal digestive processes. They were thus ruthlessly exploited by the Albians, and their homeworld was turned into a planet-farm, churning out rare materials for the Albians to use in the terraformation of their own planet. After gaining their freedom from Albia, in an event the isthuri refer to as “The Great Liberation”, the unthinkable happened. After generations of selective breeding, the Isthuri enjoyed their docile lifestyle, and when faced with a reality devoid of purpose, they decided that it would be better to no longer exist. The Isthuri civilisation decided to collectively commit mass civilisational suicide. Anyone that disagreed moved to the Fusthura colony, a resettled colony of Isthuri set up by the Albians.  They left their homeworld behind as a vast tomb-world, but is has since become a verdant tropical paradise, full of life sprung out of the civilisational vacuum.

This is the start system our characters are familiar with, but they are in control of the first starship capable of interstellar travel fast enough to be practical. There are many other worlds out there in “The Spinward Shelf”, full of other peoples, civilisations and wonders (probably).

That is it for this week! oh and here is some concept for Tobias & Crew’s space ship.


– Billy

It’s a Traves-tea! Introducing our main characters and their mission

Albia, former centre of the Universe and epicentre of the now broken up Albian Grand Empire is in a dire situation. A very dire sit-tea-ation. One of its former colonies, a great provider of tea, has decided to close its trading routes, thus depriving the idle and not-so idle ruling classes of their favourite brew! Inconceivable…

It is thus up to our hero, Tobias Jamar-Thicklewit, the maligned illegitimate son of Albia’s great Chieftain, Augustus Thicklewhit, and third in line to become the next great leader of the planet to rectify this Traves-tea!

steampunk mug

His objective is to converse with the tea withholding, dirty rotten rebel peasant populations, disperse the animosity, get them to re-open the trading lanes and get back to to  Albia in time for, well, tea.


Tobias being Tobias, however, and thus near useless, he is not embarking on this Grand Mission alone. To help him, he has assembled a crew with varying ages, skills, and ethics.


Chief Officer Clarence Regard – First Mate:  Mentor and ally throughout the game. Loathes Tobias.

Officer Roy Cooper – Pilot:  Attractive, precise and efficient young male. Very textbook and professional. You can rely on him to get the job done.

Officer Edmund Bennett  – Head of Engineering: A man’s man. His allegiance is always with the highest bidder. Bit of a scientific inventor – will happily use his knowledge to take calculated risks.

 Officer Philis Ardon – Head of Gunnery:  Attractive 50 year old woman, Strong, jolly and fair, she has good command of her station. She wears horn-rimmed glasses and turns everything about targets and missiles into innuendos.

Officer Francis Warrington – Head of Navigation: Older. Believes he is psychic, he isn’t. Often gets Lucky.

Officer Agatha Green – Head of HR: A hated team player, a jobsworth who preaches political correctness in the workplace but is the most offensive person on board.

Dev Blog Update 1: Initial Commit


I am the lead designer for The Grand Mission, Billy. When I say “lead designer”, what I really mean is “only designer”. Poor me.

The Grand Mission is my postgraduate project at the National Film and Television School. It is a humourous top-down strategy management game where the player takes control of the crew of a space ship adventuring through a far away galaxy.

We will hopefully be publishing updates on Tuesday (today is the exception). With these updates we hope to accomplish two things: we hope to update you with information on our universe and our different characters, species and civilisations; and also give you some insight into the specific trials and tribulations of developing an indie strategy game.

I thought to start this off I would this week just talk a little bit about the concept and idea behind The Grand Mission, along with some of our design goals.

In its amoebic conceptual phase, The Grand Mission was at one point a naval adventure game and even a naval trading game. The old trope of “space as the sea” has a strong allure, though, and for no particular reason I decided to set it in space. I say no reason… but thinking about it, I was watching The Expanse at the time. That scene where the martians get their ship shot by railguns and end up floating around in a vacuum trying to seal off a room was pretty cool. I’m not saying that the entire concept for the game came from that one scene: there are also space sheep in it, which The Expanse didn’t have.

The idea of having a game combining the deep attachment to your crew, from games like Xcom: Enemy Unknown, with the strategy of ship-based tactical combat greatly appealed to me. The game is planned to have a few different “modules” or sections of gameplay: an exploration/travel module, a resource/crew-management module and a combat module. We aim to have the combat system finished by the end of this year.

The game takes a 2.5D zoomable top-down view, and the player can see into the different ship rooms and assign crew around, managing their priorities and jobs.

To round up this update I will give an example of the sort of experience I want people to have when they play this game:

You’ve been fighting the incoming Rahmer horde for literally… a few minutes and you have just been hit by a swarm of enemy warheads! Sirens whirr discordantly across the ship and a warning light pulses ominously in the engineering department. As your camera pans over the engineering room, you see sparks flying from the shield capacitors. They have overloaded and the shields are down! Bob and Jess, your best mechanics, already in there working on getting the shields up and running, but a menacing red dot in your radar is approaching quickly, accelerating even. It seems to be heading towards your point defence battery. Sam is in there: your best gunnery sergeant and a crew member you have trained up from a wee young lass (okay, this is unlikely). You know that your best chance of shooting the incoming Exacerbator-Class torpedo is to leave poor Sam in there. But you also know it will take you a long time to find someone as talented as Sam again… what do you do?

Do you bail her out and replace her with some clueless lackey?

What will you do when the torpedo breaches your armour and throws everyone in the starboard point defence room into the cold void before blast doors kick in?

The next update will go into more detail about our universe. It will possibly include space sheep that devour entire worlds, tea-instigated thermonuclear war and a civilisation that committed mass suicide because, well… what’s the point?

Until then, have some concept art of a space sheepship.