Interview: 2Dawn Games on its upcoming shooter 'Ravaged' and life as an indie studio
Earth is dying. Devastated by a pole shift, the planet's oceans have evaporated and its cities reduced to rubble. In its struggle to survive, mankind has split between two warring factions: the Scavengers, savage marauders hell-bent on claiming the world's remaining resources, and the Resistance, freedom fighters working to restore civilization. With humanity undergoing its greatest test, where will your loyalties lie?
Currently in beta (keys given away at the end of the interview), Ravaged is the brainchild of Boris Ustaev and his crew at 2Dawn Games, who have spent the last few years toiling away on a fast-paced post-apocalyptic multiplayer shooter with a strong focus on skills, teamwork, vehicular combat and most importantly, fun. In other words, it's everything the folks at 2Dawn have wanted in a modern PC shooter, but have been unable to find.
We recently had a chance to chat with 2Dawn about its upcoming title, its experience with Kickstarter and what it's like developing a PC game as an independent studio today.
Note: Although Boris said Ravaged was without a publisher during our discussion, the game has since been picked up by Reverb Publishing which will aid 2Dawn in promoting its game without breathing down the developer's neck.
Hey guys, let's start out with a background on 2Dawn, your team size, how you started, your expertise and so on.
Boris: Hi, my name is Boris and I guess I'm the cofounder of the studio 2Dawn and the designer of Ravaged the game. 2Dawn is a company founded about three years ago. It consisted of a two-man team at first and we've grown to about 10 or 15 people back and forth because we have contractors working with us. Ravaged is our first title.
Ken: I'm the lead programmer and gameplay programmer.
Do either of you have a background in the game industry prior to this?
Ken: Well, I did some mods. I did Desert Conflict, a mod for Battlefield 2, so I learned a little bit about tweaking modern game engines. I've always programmed games since I was really young, I've always had an interest in graphics and all that. But I haven’t really been in the industry so to speak.
Not to take away from the game or anything, but the general premise of a post-apocalyptic shooter seems relatively played out, many people would say. I can think of at least six games that are either coming out soon or have come out in the last year or so with the theme of the end of the world, if you will. What would you say is the difference between Ravaged and other such titles?
Boris: Well, I have to say that there really isn't a game like this. When people say post-apocalyptic has been played out, none of those games are similar to what we're doing. I find it hard to believe people say it's kind of played out.
Ken: Probably a little less so than Modern Warfare games.
Well, that's the thing, to a degree, this is kind of a combination of the two: a post-apocalyptic multiplayer shooter, so I'm looking to understand what's different here.
Boris: I guess one of the biggest differences is how the post-apocalyptic world happened. Ours is just based off Mother Nature. You know, the Earth is getting old and dying and it's taking mankind down with it, causing mankind to fight over whatever resources are left. And that's what I'm saying by different. I haven't seen a post-apocalyptic game where it didn't involve aliens or some other species or race or zombies. I mean this isn't zombies versus aliens, it's just humans, like The Book of Eli or Mad Max or The Road, where it's humanity fighting to survive.
What would you say is different between Ravaged and other multiplayer shooters gameplay-wise?
Ken: Getting back to the Modern Warfare genre, you know, where everything's hyper realistic, we're trying to get away from that and just make Ravaged fun, which is the foremost objective. We're just keeping it fast-paced and as fun as possible. Our graphics are pretty good, I think, but the main goal isn't to make everything look perfect or to have exact fire rates for a gun or whatever.
Boris: Although, we are working on correct fire rates and stuff like that as well. We're taking advice from the beta testers, but like Ken was saying, the fun is more important than anything else. If you're having fun, then we did our job.
Why multiplayer only?
Boris: Well, single player is actually very, very costly. It takes a lot of resources and a lot of time to develop, so we decided not to go that route. We wanted to do something where you can just jump in, have fun, play your 20 minutes, get your frustration out and then go back to your normal everyday life. Counter-Strike comes to mind. When that first came out I was addicted to it and it was only multiplayer but so much fun.
Ken: I think we all have a multiplayer background. I don't think any of us are huge single player fans. I mean, I'm not saying we don't like them, but I think we're more multiplayer gamers in general so that was just our real focus.
Your Kickstarter page says that Ravaged requires tactics and teamwork and so on. Do you guys see this is as a competitive shooter?
Boris: Well, we are adding some elements that would definitely help if you're working together. I mean you get a lot more points if you work as a team, as a unit than if you’re just a lone gunman.
Ken: We're trying to keep things balanced in certain ways, not as in a mirrored balance but as a rock paper scissor kind of balance, and I think it works out pretty well. We're adding squads right now and we want to have a lot of points and achievements and all that based off team play instead of the lone wolf kind of achievements where people just sit in a corner and rank up. We’re trying to get away from that.
You describe Ravaged as a somewhat of a vehicular shooter, which makes me think of older console games like Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8. Have you guys drawn influence from those at all?
Boris: Not Twisted Metal per se, but I can see where that's coming from. The great thing about doing post apocalyptic is you can be very creative in terms of what characters drive. You know you're not stuck to modern day military or whatever, we can make it as creative as we want. For example, we have this huge dump truck that's this massive base that carries a helicopter, quads in the back of it and just guns all around it. The influences we've drawn are honestly from our mod Desert Combat. We haven't found a modern game like that and we wanted to bring it back.
Many people prefer to play driving games with controllers, and although Ravaged isn't exactly a driving game, with such an emphasis on vehicles, are you doing anything special to accommodate the keyboard and mouse?
Ken: Yeah, well there's been a lot of tweaking on the vehicles to make them keyboard-friendly and that's been going on for a long time, so I'd say it's adapted pretty well. I don't think there's any need for an analog controller.
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