A Multiplayer Slobberknocker: Breaking The Rules Interview

Breaking The Rules is a great brawling/fighting game from the Italian indie developer, BTR Studios.  TPG was lucky enough to get an interview with Ricardo who talks about DRM, piracy, the idea behind Breaking The Rules, indie development and more.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Breaking The Rules.

I started programming relatively late, when i was 23, mainly because it was the late 90s and learning how to do it seemed the only way to find a decent job.  The passion for gaming, however, I’ve always had,  since my father bought me an Intellivision when i was a little child.  So later in the years, putting the 2 things together seemed natural to me.

How did you get started in developing PC games?

It all started by a sort of challenge to myself.  During the years I worked for several IT companies ( doing boring stuff ), then i worked in a major Italian game studio for a while.  During that experience ( 2007/2008 ) all the people who worked with me judged crazy the idea of developing a game by yourself (i mean, with a team of 3 to 5 people maximum)  Then i decided to jump off the cliff and try to make my concept.

Where did the idea for Breaking The Rules come from?

I wanted to develop a game accessible, immediate and understandable by anyone,
the classic game that thrilled the loonies who get drunk at the bar on Friday evening.
But at the same time I wanted it to be fun to play in 3 or 4 side by side.
I do not know if I succeeded in the task, i heard that people have commented “this is not a game for nerds” I take that as a compliment.

What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Breaking The Rules?

Success was definitely in being able to develop a ragdoll-based combat system that (especially with the latest patch 1.3) reached a blending between physic and animations objectively satisfactory, and many have praised the game for this.

The failure was believing that with a small team and largely inexperienced (except me and another guy, the others were at the first game) you could achieve quality standards similar to those of AAA titles in all the sector of the game, of course given that the game was much more small.  Unfortunately we had some problems in some areas, especially regarding the animations content, as many customers let us notice.  This was also due to the difficulty in finding skilled people doing real-time animation for games here in Rome.  Anyway, now we are trying to improve assets working with some more experienced contractors, and all of you fan of the game should expect a massive content update for September!

In its current form, how close is Breaking The Rules to your initial vision?

Well, single player and local multiplayer are about 75% of what i expected ( but it could reach 90% with the new animation content coming after summer ).  Multiplayer online sadly has stopped at 50% because, due to budget constrains we have given to implementation of many features ( plus we are trying to fix some bugs still open ).

Some indie devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game.  Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Breaking The Rules and if you faced a similar challenge.

Well, this was true also for us, unfortunately find the right mix of difficulty and fun is an iterative process.  The more you add things in the game and develop something close to the final product, the more you start to understand what to tweak and how.

Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Breaking The Rules would run on the various PC system configurations?

Fortunately, thanks to the adoption of a third-party rendering engine and especially thanks to the choice to go only with DirectX 9, we solved a lot of problems from this point of view.

Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?

The fact that until your game is not known to the general public (and 99.9% of indie games are not, at least in the first months) you feel like a little boat in the ocean, you never have certainty and you never know what the future holds for you .  In addition, piracy hurts a lot more indie than the majors because even losing few dollars can make a difference for an indie

How did making Breaking The Rules become available via the various digital distribution platforms?

It was relatively easy.  I wrote to 4 major stores, Desura, D2D , Gamersgate and Steam.
They all tried the game and accepted it, except Steam.  They said that, “Actually fighting games do not perform well on Steam”. So for the moment they have to pass on with my game.  Probably, if one has Steam, he has to like games that Steam tells him to like.

How much pull do you have when setting sale and regular pricing through digital distribution channels?  Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?

I don’t care much about other titles, i usually try to make the price that make me sell more copies, independently from the gross revenue. Also this, like gameplay tweaking, is an iterative process. I prefer to sell 5000 copies at 1.99 rather than 500 copies at 19.99.  The more people play the game, the more I’m happy.

How do you feel about the digital distribution platform as a whole?

Well, i think is the only options for little devs like me, without DD there were no BTR Studios at all!

Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Breaking The Rules.

All character concept and models were developed by fellow artist Giovanni Roschini, following my instructions and trying to interpret the feel of a street brawl that I wanted to give to the game. Music is good for a brawl game, but i would like to add something more personalized in the future. Plus we will add the option “fight with your music” ( guess what is it? )

You released a PC demo for Breaking The Rules in an age where demos are becoming scare.  What made you release a demo and was it difficult to develop one?

Developing a demo took some time but i believe that giving a demo to the customers is a sign of respect for them.  With a demo you say “I’m not kidding you with art or screens or CG movies. The game is this. If you like it you buy, otherwise not.”

How important is it to get instant feedback about Breaking The Rules from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?

It is VERY important, we couldn’t have finished the game without moddb and indiedb feedback.

How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Breaking The Rules professionally?

Well i think that all the guys who reviewed it ( i think to indiegamereviewer, outofeight, but also justpressstart ) did so in an impartial manner and without giving us anything.

How do you feel about the Humble Indie Bundle and “Pay What You Want Pricing”? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?

I think “Humble Indie Bundle” is a wonderful idea for all indie devs. We are in contact with  Humble Indie Bundle guys these days and I hope we could find some agreement with them and be in a future bundle together with other fantastic indie games!  Regarding the “Pay What You Want” Pricing model, could be interesting, depends on how it is implemented.

What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?

DRM is bad for legal users.  Piracy is bad too.  But the worst thing is that PC market is full of crap games sold at more than $20 even digital, and all of this just because some “publisher” has to eat.  Anyway with the expansion of Digital Delivery i think many of this “publisher” will close.

How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?

DLC is good if has a fair price. Often we see DLC priced 75-50% of the game giving only 10-20% more.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about modding of PC games and the relationship developers have with modders.  How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically mods created for Breaking The Rules?

We are considering many ideas regarding modding BTR.  We will have a team briefing soon where we will take important decisions for future evolutions of BTR.  Since we want to give to community powerful mod tools, probably this means that we’ll have to change engine because current one lacks of support and they want money for us to give dev tools.  So probably we’ll switch to a custom engine. But it will also depend on how sales will go in the next 6 months.  Switching engine plus releasing dev tools requires a lot of additional hard work, so we could afford it only after we returned to the costs spent for developing BTR.

What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?

A – Remember that, if you want to create an indie game and you are alone (or with no more than 2-3 friends), it is essential that you know the processes of software creation. A game, after all, is (also) software.  Look at the great indie developers. Minecraft creator was, first of all, a great software developer.  I have seen too many guys wanting to create a big game knowing only how to be an artist or (even worse) a “game designer”.  Unfortunately only the big studios can afford paying game designers who know how to do that and nothing else.

B – Never stop trying to achieve your dreams! – End

We would like to thank Ricardo and everyone at BTR Studios.  You can pick up Breaking The Rules via Desura and Direct2Drive.

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