Two weeks ago, I posted my impressions of an indie game by the name of Rogue Survivor, a roguelike taking place during the zombie apocalypse. Graciously, the one man behind the whole title agreed to an interview, and I jumped on the occasion to ask some questions. Without further ado, here we go:
Me: When going through the conceptual design of Rogue Survivor, what inspirations and influences did you draw from?
Roguedjack: I wanted to mix aspects I like in some games and combine them into something different and fresh.
From roguelikes I took the procedural content generation, tactical turn-based gameplay, and the player as an actor.
The sandox aspect (open-ended dynamic world) comes from strategy/sim games, where you are put against enemies, friends and competitors in a starting setting and the game world evolves from there.
The zombie apocalypse theme is really a side-effect or an after-thought rather than the primary motive for the game. I could have used any other theme or setting. In fact first I thought about a medieval world in a permanent state of war (think Mount&Blade). Then a space/pirate setting (think Elite, Privateer, Sid Meier's Pirates). Then I thought about a zombie apocalypse and said to myself that was the perfect setting. It is a setting people can relate too (your house, your town, your life) with a widely popular theme (zombies!).
Me: What's in store for the fans of Rogue Survivor? Any huge ideas or plans for the next releases?
Roguedjack: Playing as an undead will be the major new feature. This will offer a very different gameplay.
And various improvements such as expanding the plot, demolition weapons and attacking other survivors directly.
Me: What's the most difficult part about developing an AI for a game of this complexity?
Roguedjack: Doing the survivor npc AI.
There are a number of conflicting features to balance, respective to the player.
Survivors must be able to survive on their own, but they must not be too good at it as to leave some resources for the player own survival.
I guess I could make survivors AI much better at self-preservation. But then it would be a nightmare for the human player, like a multiplayer cooperative game with players who don't really cooperate with you, only worse. Plus a proper goal-driven AI with planning would cost too much CPU cycles.
When adding new items or features I have to think about the impact on AIs and gameplay. For instance if I add a new powerful weapon meant for the player, what if the biker gang gets hold of one and start using it against the player? I don't want to fordib some items or actions for AIs so I have to handle that as to not make it game breaking.
Then of course there are the usal constraints of maintening suspension of disbelief when the player directly interacts with the livings AIs, and performance tuning which is more of a factor than in usual roguelikes because of the high number of actors active at all time.
Me: What sort of games do you enjoy playing?
Roguedjack: Mostly tactical fps, strategy/wargames, football(soccer) management and the occasional relaxing casual game (fighting game, puzzle). The only genre of I don't like are racing games.
I like games that puts you with a dynamic evolving world where you are not the only drive for change.
Me: Given the subject matter of your game, is it safe to say you're a huge zombie film or game fan? If so, what are some of your favorites?
Roguedjack: Well in fact not really, I don't like the gore in zombie movies. I like the setting a lot though and I think its potential is not used properly in games.
Me: What sort of experience have you had as an indie developer?
Roguedjack: I have made a bunch of other games over the years at various stages of completion, but kept them for me or my relatives. This has always been a hobby of mine.
My first completed game was a text adventure on Amstrad CPC 6128. "Interactive fiction" they call it nowadays. I've written games for Amstrad CPC, PC and a Texas Instrument calculator; in Basic, Pascal, C, C++, Java, C#; arcade, sims, adventure, wargames.
Rogue Survivor is the first game I release to the public. Well two, if you count a chess engine in C that played vs humans or other engines on FICS (Free International Chess Server).
Writing games is fun. I mostly like designing the rules, doing the AI and composing the music. Graphics are annoying as I lack the talent but I'm learning.
I would more than happy to do that for a living.
Me: What language was Rogue Survivor developed in?
Roguedjack: C# NET 3.5, with Managed DirectX for graphics & sound. I will try to get rid of managed dx as it seems to be a source of bugs.
I could have done it in Java+OpenGL for more portability. I prefer C# for its lambdas and properties. I also find it less verbose than Java, I kinda view it like C vs Pascal in this respect.
Next game will probably be in Java+OpenGL though, for a change, better portability... and less Microsoft annoyances and oddities.
Me: Thanks again for agreeing to an interview, I really appreciate your time.
Roguedjack: Thanks for your interest!
Roguedjack has released a great roguelike, so please visit his site at http://roguesurvivor.blogspot.com and show him some love for a fantastic game.