After years of hard work, Dutch indie developer InterWave Studios is preparing to release their first commercial project, Nuclear Dawn. Itís a Source engine-based FPS/RTS that will aim to deliver the best of both genres, without compromising the experience of either one, when itís released next month. In todayís interview with General Manager Igor Raffaele, youíll read about the game and how it manages to blur the line between shooter and strategy, the tough decisions a small studio has to make in managing their resources, and the role Valve plays in making indie games flourish on the PC, among other things. Enjoy!
Part 1 - Overview, history, challenges, porting
FiringSquad: Firstly, can you introduce yourself and tell us about InterWave Studios? How many people are on the team?
Igor Raffaele: Hi! InterWave currently consists of its seven founding members (Michiel, Alan, Ben, Igor, James, Jeroen, Olly), and a core team of an additional four developers. At the height of the gameís asset production madness, the team consisted of up to 24 full time members.
FS: Could you give us a general overview of your upcoming release, Nuclear Dawn, for those that donít know anything about it?
Igor: Nuclear Dawn is an FPS/RTS hybrid that delivers full, brutal tactical first person combat, and involved, frantic strategic gameplay. Itís class based in all the good ways, and gameplay hinges more around knowing your weapons and your enemiesí than it does around landing silly trick headshots across building corners. Or bunny hopping.
FS: There seems to be an interesting history behind this game. It started out as a Source mod, but development was stalled for a long time and the original team has left. Whatís the story there, and when did InterWave come into the picture?
Igor: Shortly after the completion of The Last Stand, our Stargate mod, we started working on Distant Hope, which featured FPS/RTS gameplay. While that project was still in the early stages of design, we had the chance to take over the Nuclear Dawn brand and mod, and combine it with our own (still fledgling) project. That was about two and a half years ago.
FS: What sorts of challenges have you encountered in turning the leftovers of a Source mod into a full-blown commercial release?
Igor: Nuclear Dawn the game uses no assets or code from the original mod. Other than the team names, and logos, and a few weapons that were re-detailed and re-textured (digitally re-mastered in high definition if you will), nothing else survives of those Ďleftoversí.
It was, we felt, the only path to take. The quality and concepts of the original mod materials were inspired and inspiring, but would not have fit, alone, into a game world redesigned from the ground up by other artists and developers. While we pay homage (and give credit) to the original team where possible, the greatest challenge in development was the same that comes with trying to produce commercial-grade art for your game.
FS: Are you handling the Xbox 360 port of Nuclear Dawn yourselves? Did the intention to also release the game on a console have an effect on how you designed the PC version?
Igor: The reason we migrated to the Left 4 Dead 2 engine last year was to facilitate an eventual Xbox 360 conversion. Other than that, no part of the game was altered to any one specific platform.
After the PC/Mac release, once all obligatory last-minute mass-produced bugs are squashed, then we will proceed with the two major upgrades we are planning to complete the game with. Once Nuclear Dawn has reached the level of features we always intended it to have, then weíll look at either converting it ourselves, or packaging it out to a specialized studio; we havenít settled on that issue yet.