Conducted By Adam Ames
Dini, Damir and Nickia from Gamepires talk to TPG about their combat racing game, Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage. You will read about how Gas Guzzlers was made, the success and failures in doing so, their thoughts on the PC gaming industry and much more. Here is a glimpse:
Where did the idea for Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage come from?
Dini: Gamepires studio was started in 2010. In the first month, we were drafting various game design documents for games we might work on. Since we are all huge fans of Death Rally, a thought of racing and shooting using a modern game technologies was motivating. We quickly decided to start working on Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage.
Dini: I am a lead programmer and I spend most of my time on game code working on vehicle physics, AI, data, sound programming, etc. My second duty is our pride, our own PranaEngine where I contribute from time to time with some features .
Damir: I am a lead environment artist and my job is to envision and create tracks that are fun to play, and on the other side hard enough to keep player tied to the steering wheel.
Nikica: Like Damir, I am also an environment artist. I work on tracks and create various track objects.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
Nikica: All of us are gamers since we took PC in our hands. I had the opportunity to formally enter the gaming world throughout my university education at Gamemaker in Sweden. There, I was mainly focused on 3D graphics and level design. In the meantime I moved to Croatia and joined Croteam where I intensively worked on globally popular game Serious Sam. Couple of years after when Gamepires Studio was to be formed I joined the guys and since then, I work on Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage: Combat Carnage.
Damir: My story is almost similar to Nikica’s one, the only thing that is missing is my Swedish passport (laugh). I fell in love with game development long time ago and decided to play with tools like Lightwave, Photoshop, etc. I started my game development career at Croteam and worked there for 9 years especially on the Serious Sam series of games.When Gamepires was to be formed I decided to join in order to try myself in other game genres besides first-person shooters.
Dini: I am a bit younger than them so I did not have opportunity to be the pioneer in the industry. My interest in-game development can be traced even back to elementary school when I got my first PC. I was and I am a passionate gamer and at some point I decided to step into the amazing world of game development. When I got an offer to join Gamepires, that was big opportunity to combine passion, gaming and my knowledge.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage?
Damir: Well it is hard to sum that up in a couple of sentences. We definitely learned that many features in the game should have been better documented. That would save up a lot of time later in the development process. On the other hand, many things change and features are added that were not planned initially. It is hard to draw conclusions because if the feature does not feels right in a game, it does not matter if it was planned ahead or not. But eventually we also learned is that when you have a team of excellent people, all the problems can be solved.
In its current form, how close is Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage to your initial vision?
Nikica: We were initially planning to build a smaller game and as the interest was rising we saw that we can push for a real stuff. That is maybe the main difference. The rest of the logic or let’s say skeleton behind the game remained almost the same.
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 Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage and if you faced a similar challenge.
Damir: We all play Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage on a regular basis so it is hard to tell. The thorough game testing is yet to come so we’ll see. Many aspects of the gameplay can be easily tuned so after we gather a response from testers we’ll tweak the difficulty.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage would run on the various PC system configurations?
Dini: We are still working on this part as this is usually the last portion of development. This will surely not be a game that an office PC with integrated video card could run. But what we tested so far, we will surely hit medium and up PC configurations. Also, we have defined pretty wide options for reducing all the features that can burden the PC and cause some stalls in lower configurations.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Nikica: We are not pure Indie developers because many of us have big and commercially successful projects behind our backs but Gamepires is a new team and not that present on the market as some big guys are. So maybe the crucial challenges are on how to break the ice and hit the vast majority of your target customers. That’s why we push highest quality standards and aggressive PR (we have taken e.g. Tom Ohle’s Evolve PR for promotion and Greg Hill for sounds). As your first title is the most important one you cannot let anything go by chance – you have very few silver bullets and you have to use them wisely.
How did you create funding for the development of Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage and did you receive emotional support from your family and friends during this time?
Damir: Well family deserted us long time ago so we did not have problems with that J. I am joking of course – it is really hard to achieve even bearable work life balance when pushing a relatively small studio to get his part under the sun with all these big and old guys around. Regarding funding we have partners who are investing in the company – ours business angels and regarding finances we are settled. But, when you are entering into long and heavy development cycle it would be a good advice to settle things at home cause it basically looks like you have taken a job on an oil platform somewhere in the middle of Pacific ocean and you are coming home every six months.
Tell us about the process of submitting Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
Dini: We are submitting the game intensively to the various digital distribution platforms and so far we did not reach a negative answer. So I must admit things are so far rolling good. But we still have some platforms that we did not enter – they are still testing the game so we will see the end result. What we got so far reassure us that everything will be good in the end.
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?
Nikica: Well we are just about to start selling our first title so it is hard to talk about pull for the time being. But, when we were deciding about the price we have taken all the niche players prices and compare it with all the relevant factors describing us, niche and of course, our game. So I believe we will make a good point with the price.
How do you feel about the digital distribution platform as a whole?
Damir: There is nothing special to think about them – they are taking over or you can better say they already took over the gaming business. If you had e.g. 5 years ago 80-20 split in favor of classic retail, today you have just the opposite in favor of digital. That is just an evolutional step so it is completely logical for us although I myself am a fan of a full shelve of PC games J
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage.
Nikica: The art style differs depending on the motif for a particular track. The tracks are split between various motifs like desert, winter, forest, red-rock, etc. We think this could provide a better gameplay experience because each motif introduces some elements that affect the final gameplay experience. The layouts of the levels are original while some level locations are inspired by the real-life locations. Regarding the music, we needed something that goes well with the fast-paced and aggressive gameplay. Most of the tracks are metal and some of them have electronic music elements.
Will there be a demo for Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage at or near launch?
Damir: There are ideas around that but we still did not finally align this with Tom Ohle. This week you can expect first teaser and the official trailer. We will push aggressive campaign all the way to the game release so limited demo is also an option.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Dini: We are picking that up constantly e.g. we have our page on Facebook, our Twitter account, trailers on Gametrailers and definitely social marketing is ruling these days and gives you immediate feedback on what you are doing good and what is not that good and needs improvement. Gamers form a dedicated community and do not share “all the usual things”, but are more oriented to 100% gaming portal so the biggest part of feedback we get is from there.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage professionally?
Nikica: We do a lot, especially from the experienced professionals in the industry – this is the valuable feedback you can get because they’re not only telling you how good is your product, but also on how do you stand against your peers and market pulse or what the players really want to play today.
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?
Dini: Well mainly social media is pushing things that way. We are not closed to that way of doing things but as you know real game projects are very expensive to develop and you aim at least to cover part of the costs before you put a product for an auction. We will see on how will this market develop and as most things that don’t have financial interest behind fall I believe everyone will eventually have use of that.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Damir: Piracy is a problem but strict measures that are trying to “solve” it, as the infamous DRM, are not a real solution. Indeed, they only worsen the situation because that so-called solution mostly affects legitimate buyers who otherwise support the developers. The developers should persist in creating high-quality products that will attract gamers. The gamers that recognize this will support the developers because they know that the development is not cheap.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos of Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage?
Nikica: The imposition of strict control has never led to anything good. In this case, the prohibition of uploading a Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage video by some individuals is really meaningless because it is a free promotion of our game. We are definitely not against it.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
Damir: DLC is not a bad idea as long as it is not being abused. Developing a high-quality title has become a much bigger task today because the limits and requirements are constantly being pushed, while budget and deadlines are staying the same. On many occasions, developers do not incorporate all the originally envisioned features into the game because of all the problems mentioned above. In such cases, DLC can supplement the game content and extend entertainment for a small amount of money.
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 if mods were created for Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage?
Dini: We definitely support the modding community. This is one reason why the PC platform is still the number one gaming platform. The ability to create and play mods is the reason that some gamers will never give up using a PC as a gaming platform. Modding the game extends its life-span, attracts new users and in some way, gives the developers a direction the project might develop that is in the interests of the gamers. In the future, we will put our efforts into developing better tools that can enable easy modding.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Gamepires: Game development is not an easy path but if you persist and work hard you will make it. The world is in niches – find one for yourself and be best over there. Never give up! – End
We would like to thank everyone at Gamepires for taking time out of their busy production schedule to provide this great interview. You can read more about Gas Guzzlers: Combat Carnage on their official site. You can also view the teaser trailer below: