Conducted By Adam Ames
The arena FPS, Nexuiz, is winding down on their development as the release date of May 3rd quickly approaches. Kedhrin Gonzalez (pictured above), the Creative Director of Illfonic, broke away from the polishing work to discuss Nexuiz and other topics surrounding the PC gaming industry. Here is a preview:
How did you get started in developing PC games?
It started as a kid when I watched my brother get a copy of Worldcraft in a demo disc and start making maps for Quake with it. I would watch him play around with it every day. He didn’t really get too much into it though. Whenever he stopped, I knew I had to get in on it. It’s been an obsession of mine ever since.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Nexuiz.
My name is Kedhrin Gonzalez, I’m the Creative Director on Nexuiz. I oversee the game and what is put in it. I’m addicted to working and enjoy trolling on the internets.
Where did the idea for Nexuiz come from?
Nexuiz was originally a game created by AlienTrap and released as a GPL game. The game kicked off well in the open source community and was regarded as one of the top GPL games. We were fans of the original game and contacted them about remaking the game with modern graphics, modern gameplay and intense feedback. AlienTrap was thrilled and joined on quickly.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Nexuiz?
The biggest accomplish with Nexuiz was the game itself. We’re only 10 guys. Making a CryENGINE 3 title with little resources was a huge hurdle. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished with the game. At the same time it was also part of the failure. A lot of my original design had to be removed because of time restrictions and lack of resources. However, the game is still an absolute blast!
In its current form, how close is Nexuiz to your initial vision?
There was a lot of stuff cut from the menu and community side. However, the core game was absolutely critical. We didn’t just do our initial vision, we went above and beyond it. The Dynamic Mutators in Nexuiz brought a huge challenge to our creative mind.
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 Nexuiz and if you faced a similar challenge.
We know that Arena FPS has a large barrier for a good amount of casual players. We wanted to make sure we kept ourselves as open-minded to the game as possible. We don’t want to just cater to hardcore gamers. Part of that is trying to distance yourself from your own opinion and put yourself in the shoes of a new gamer. It’s not an easy task. It also requires a lot of empathy.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Nexuiz would run on the various PC system configurations? Also tell us about your experience using CryENGINE 3.
CryENGINE 3 comes with a lot of settings that allow for some flexibility. When we made the game for Xbox 360, it was like making the game for computers in 2004. With that in mind, we did crank up the graphics a bit for PC. We believe PC Game Developers should be pushing graphics as it helps the entire industry. CryENGINE 3 is an absolute beast and helped us achieve our vision of Nexuiz.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Nexuiz.
We wanted to do something different for the art of Nexuiz. We wanted slick, clean, elegant and beautiful environments. We referenced games like Final Fantasy and Mass Effect a lot. With that said, our environments do change a lot through the Kavussari, Forsellian and Atavirta sets. We intentionally wanted to keep the levels open and made for 4v4 play. They also needed to be versatile enough to deal with Dynamic Mutators. We also wanted to do something different with the music in Nexuiz. The music is important for driving the emotion. However, we also had the ability to make some really awesome menu music. Various artists came to the board to make the music!
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
An unfortunate side is how the industry looks at you. If you’re an indie, people expect you to be making 2D games or art piece style games. As soon as you make a game that has AAA quality, people move you out of that category. Even though we go through the same, if not often tougher, battles within industry politics.
How did you go about funding Nexuiz and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
We’re privately funded through numerous resources, but mostly friends and family. Our family has been really strong for all of us. We’re really happy to have them!
Please talk about developing the multiplayer component for Nexuiz and what you hope to accomplish in an online environment.
The key to Nexuiz is the multiplayer aspect of it. The game is all about multiplayer. Netcode, balance, and a strong community mean everything to the game. We worked closely with Crytek and made sure we try to get the game where it needs to be. Nexuiz features 4v4 multiplayer gameplay and has ranking, tracked stats, medals and a ton of leaderboards. We balanced everything around 4v4 gameplay. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own custom matches with all sorts of settings!
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?
We worked closely with THQ and Machinima to discuss what we felt the game should be. To us, we want as many players playing as possible. The quality and amount of content you get in Nexuiz is fantastic. We wanted to do a game for as cheap as possible.
Will we see a demo for Nexuiz at or near launch?
There is a Trial for Nexuiz on XBLA but I do not have anything to announce about a demo for PC at this time.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Nexuiz from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
This kind of stuff is absolutely critical to us. I’m constantly on our IRC room, forums, Facebook and more taking players feedback and talking to them. It’s made it a lot easier to listen to the customers.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Nexuiz professionally?
I read most reviews that come in for Nexuiz, even the ones where someone may rip into us. Sometimes, I feel they may have completely missed the mark about the game. Sometimes, they have some really good feedback. A reviewer is on the same level as a e-Sports, Hardcore, Average and Casual gamer. I believe all players’ opinions are equal.
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?
Those kinds of models really only work if you are raising money as you go, or if you invest the money yourself. When you raise money from investors, you have to promise a return. Pay What You Want doesn’t really allow investors to have a clear path. It just isn’t a viable path for everyone.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
I think piracy is always going to be a problem. However, I think gamers still need to be educated properly on the damage it does to developers. Gamers think of publishers or retailers, not developers. People who support piracy are usually pretty selfish. However, they bring up very valid and compelling letters that can win over the masses more than guys in suits can. It’s a battle that will go on for a long time… but in the end, it will always be the developers that suffer. Not the publisher or consumer.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos of Nexuiz?
Love it! Bring it on, let me see what you have!
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
Expansion packs have existed for a long time and they’re basically the same thing. However, DLC is in smaller bites. When you take average DLC and add a few DLC packs together, you will usually land upon about the same price of an expansion pack. Some companies do ruthless DLC though. The problem is that DLC is a separate budget. Separate budgets have to have separate income because the money isn’t usually from the same source. It’s a new concept to PC gaming, but I think it’ll stick. Remember when digital, no box games hit PC? No one was having it. Now, everyone is cool with it and most people prefer it. Consoles treat Downloadable games like that right now. It’s really just a blending of the markets.
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 Nexuiz?
I was raised in the MOD Community. Quake, Quake 2, Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Dungeon Keeper, Custom Ultima Online Servers, Team Fortress Classic, the list goes on. These are games I modded from and I 100% support the drive and intention of the MOD Community. It not only trains the next generation of game developers, it also helps a game’s community survive the times.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Stay focused and push yourself as hard as you can. You have to stand out from the crowd. It’s not easy, but it’s a fun challenge. Most importantly, do what you love, but don’t let your love block you from reality. – End
We would like to thank Kedhrin for his frank and detailed answers. Nexuiz is available via Steam for pre-order with a 10% discount to those who purchase before April 17th. A 4-Pack is also offered for $26.97.