Conducted By Adam Ames
Croteam’s Roman Ribaric talks with TPG about their over-the-top FPS, Serious Sam 3: BFE. You will read about how Croteam was established, the development process of Serious Sam 3, their take on DLC and much more. Here is a glimpse:
Where did the idea for Serious Sam 3 come from?
Our team wanted to create a new Serious Sam game using the best elements from previous games and some new concepts we’ve been working on, along with our upgraded Serious Engine tech. There was also this whole backstory to Serious Sam: The First Encounter we wanted to explore and see how our man Serious Sam got to ancient Egypt in the first place.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
Croteam created first PC game called Football Glory way back in 1995. Before that we were working for the Amiga computers and created Football Glory in 1994 for Amiga 500 and Amiga 1200 (and later 5-A-Side Soccer, which was never released as Amiga market died). After that, we were developing the Serious Engine on the PC platform for quite some time. In 1999 we finally managed to get engine and editor going and started using it for a game with a working title “In the Flesh”, which then turned to out be our first AAA title Serious Sam: The First Encounter, back in 2001. Even then, we were a very small group of friends that loved games and simply decided to work together and develop something we could call our own. Since then we’ve been working almost exclusively on our beloved Serious Sam series, while expanding it on Xbox console and now Xbox 360 and PS 3 consoles.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Serious Sam 3?
Well we always take our hardcore fans opinions to heart and try to build around what we think they’ll appreciate most. Our goal was to make a true Serious Sam game with all the trademark elements and integrate some new features and gameplay mechanics. Based on early feedback we think we’ve done very well, but of course want to continue to monitor fan feedback to see where we might want to improve with our next Serious Sam title.
In its current form, how close is Serious Sam 3 to your initial vision?
Well, almost any developer will tell you that there is always something they wished there was more time to polish and expand upon, but we’re very satisfied on how Serious Sam 3 turned out. As I mentioned before, we wanted to make a genuine Serious Sam game full of non-stop action, bizarre hordes of enemies and lighthearted fun throughout. I think we accomplished that, so we’re pretty close to the initial vision we set out to make.
Some 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 Serious Sam 3 and if you faced a similar challenge.
A game’s difficulty can be very tricky and with a true old-school arcade shooter like Serious Sam 3 it becomes a very important element to execute correctly. As with most Serious Sam games, we offer several difficulty settings with very clear differences on how they handle hit damage, a player’s health, number of enemies and strength of those enemies. On top of that, we had to make sure to design levels that would give the player a sense of being overwhelmed by the hordes of enemies the series is known for, without making each sequence impossible to clear. This includes the placement of health and armor pickups, weapon and ammo locations and even where enemy characters spawn. It’s important we create a feeling where the player feels under siege with that glimmer of hope that they can survive the onslaught!
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Serious Sam 3 would run on the various PC system configurations?
There are more variations on PC hardware than ever and we have an entire wing of our office loaded with different graphics cards, sound cards, and PC specifications to test against. Even with that we are still patching the game to make sure it runs nice and smoothly for as many players as possible!
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being a PC developer?
Croteam is a small-sized development studio when compared to other more prominent teams, so we don’t have the resources of some of the more prominent larger developers, but think we still deliver top-tier gaming to our fans. When gamers decide to buy a game, they rarely take into account the size of the team, they just want something that is fun, unique and works well on all levels. We can’t make excuses because we are smaller, we have to deliver a fantastic game and tackle all the obstacles that come with that task.
How much pressure did you feel when developing Serious Sam 3 given the track record of your previous titles?
As I said, we definitely wanted to live up to the fans expectations, while at the same time attracting a whole new generation of Serious Sam fans! There was a lot of pressure to deliver, but we think we reached our goal.
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
Stay tuned, you should see some Serious Sam action in one of the more notable bundles soon!
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Well, that’s a battle that has been going on longer than most people realize, but in this digital age we are facing a more serious issue. We definitely implemented traditional DRM elements into Serious Sam 3: BFE, but also we added more unusual security measures like the so-called Immortal Scorpion. A quick search on YouTube for that will give you a good idea of our thoughts on DRM and piracy…
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
I think the teams that purposely pull content out of the original release just to sell it as DLC two weeks later are leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of their fans. That said, it’s up to each team and if the market will bear it, then I guess it might be a valid implementation. With a team our size we make sure to polish the main content first before ever-moving onto DLC addition.
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 specificall if mods were created for Serious Sam 3?
Serious Sam 3, like other games in the series, launched with a game editor, so we clearly encourage modding. Right away our fans were making cosmetic, audio and other crazy mods for Serious Sam 3: BFE, so we definitely encourage experimentation.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Perfect your concept and focus on making sure it becomes everything you wanted it to be. Take that one main idea and make it the best you can. When you try to make something that appeals to everyone, sometimes you can end up with something that is no fun for anyone! -End
TPG send its thanks to everyone at Croteam for taking the time to interview with us. You can pick up Serious Sam 3 via Steam.
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