Just recently I had the chance to do a Q and A interview with Robert Targosz (Founder and CEO of Bent Vector Studios Inc). So we talked about everything from Bent Vector´s upcoming Multi-player Stealth action game “Oxygen” (which is set for a 2016 release to Windows, MAC, PS4 and Xbox One), Half-Life 3, old-school Gaming memories to advice for people who are having thoughts about starting their own indie studio. So I hope that you guys (and girls) will enjoy our interview with Bent Vector Studios =)
I’m quite interested in your project “Oxygen” As the game reminds me a bit of a “System Shock” that takes place in an atmospheric environment. So could you tell me bit more what the game is all about, and how the “forces players to face off against each other for sole survival” will play out?
Oxygen is definitely influenced by games like the System Shock series, Dead Space and even the recent Alien Isolation game. I’m not striving for as much of a horror feel as Dead Space, but I’d love for players to jump out of their seats once in a while.
I’m not building a story-based single-player game for Oxygen. Players will either compete online against others or play locally using AI bots as opponents (or a combination). The levels are fairly small, so players will encounter each other fairly frequently.
The objective of the game is to be the last person alive in each round – basically a death-match style of play. The twist is that there is no combat – melee or otherwise – in the game. Instead, players must explore their environment to find tools and resources they can use to build traps or change the environment. For example, some of the catwalk platforms can be loosened so that the next person who walks over falls to their doom. I like to call this “wits over weapons.”
So far, the hardest parts of designing this game are level balancing ensuring players are forced to act. For example, it would be “unfair” for a player to hide while the other three eliminate each other and only emerge at the end of a round. To prevent this, I have some scripted environment changes that force players to move around. This includes things like losing Oxygen in one part of the level, a fire starting, gas leaks, etc.
I read that Bent Vector Studios were officially incorporated back in 2014, so that you could make games to more platforms like PC and Playstation. That´s also why I’m quite curious to find out which platforms that you are most excited to develop games to?
That’s correct, both Sony and Microsoft require game studios to incorporate before being allowed to join their standard developer programs for – I believe – liability reasons. I’m currently working only on Windows desktop builds, but are very excited to start testing on both PS4 and Xbox One later this year.
That being said, I think developing for PC through Steam and Windows Store will be the most fun. I’m making Oxygen a PC-first game while continuing to make design decisions that don’t break console gaming. As a hard-core PC gamer myself, I know exactly how frustrating it is to play a poorly ported console game on PC.
You seem to make a lot of games to a wide range of different genres. But which genre would you say is your specialty? (your favorite genre).
I personally love science fiction and enjoy playing games in that genre. Oxygen is the first game I’m making that fits the SciFi genre but I hope I can make many more like it.
I’ve always loved games that let you play in a stealthy mode, so long as it is well done. The Thief series is one of my favorites, along with the Splinter Cell series and similar games. That’s why Oxygen has no weapons and depends quite a bit on stealth.
Like I wrote earlier, you make games to many different genres, but you have also created games to many different platforms uptil now. So is that something which you intend to keep on doing in the future as well?
I started out in mobile for a variety of reasons – it was easy, relatively cheap and didn’t need a special distribution channel. Since then PC and console systems have also started to provide distribution channels for indie studios, Steam on PC, [email protected] from Microsoft and PSN from Sony.
The flexibility of PC and console game development is really quite freeing after being in mobile for a few years. It’s so nice to be able to create content and code that I don’t have to worry will completely bog down frame rates due to the extremely low processing power on mobile.
It must have been a long and an educational journey to start at the age of 10 developing games. What exactly made you in such young age to head down this road?
I was always curious about how things work. I suspect that the TVs, radios and other electronics in my house spent as much time taken apart as they did actually in a properly assembled and functioning state. I guess that’s also why my father got a friend at the University of Waterloo to give me access to their UNIX lab: it got me out of the house and destroying somebody else’s systems. The good news for me was that I had a chance to start playing around with scripting and C programming at a really young age. I used to get some really odd looks from the real students though…at least until I showed them how to connect to the printers!
It´s said that making games is a never-ending journey when it comes knowledge and skills. As there always comes new generations of games, hardware and consoles. So naturally you have to learn brand new things in-order to keep up with the market. Something of which leads me to the following question. As you started with platforms such as Commodore VIC-20 and TRS-80 systems, and you´ve been working your way up to OpenGL and so on. So do you see yourself on this never-ending journey of learning? In which you´re developing new-generation games?
This is definitely a life-long journey and despite the hard work and long hours, it’s really a lot of fun. I try to enjoy every day of it because you never know what’s going to change. My primary goal right now isn’t to create anything incredibly new or ground-breaking. Despite many years of working on games, in the last 5 years I’ve had to learn so many different things in order to keep up with the changes in-game development and founding a start-up studio that it’s impossible to take on an innovation role as well.
That being said, I think Oxygen brings some new elements to existing 3D games and I think it’ll be a lot of fun to play. My hope is that Oxygen will be successful enough that I can expand the studio to take on a few more people and do this as my only job. Once that happens I can take some of the hundreds of ideas I’ve stockpiled, combine that with whatever is happening in-game development at the time and start creating something truly innovative.
What do you think will be the next big “thing” in gaming? Maybe Advanced first-person perspective gaming? Or what about virtual reality gaming?
I think the next big thing is going to be the evolution of display and input systems. These are the two biggest limiting factors for consumer content right now: the limitations of the screen display and the limitations of input systems. I cringe when I see people craning their necks to stare at their smart phone or tablets while they walk or sit. People are suffering from repetitive motion injuries from working or gaming due to the design of input systems.
I believe the gaming industry on the cusp of another major revolution in these two areas and that they’re tied together quite tightly. You can’t get rid of the current display systems without also evolving their respective input systems. This may be VR; pick your favorite vendor, who knows who’ll win that battle, if anyone? Or it could be something like Magic Leap’s technology (with CCO Graeme Devine).
Which upcoming games are you most hyped about? In my case, it’s Fallout 4 all the way.
That’s a tough one…can I say Half-Life 3? Just kidding! I agree that Fallout 4 looks amazing. I’m also looking forward to Star Wars Battlefront, Gears of War Ultimate and the un-named Splinter Cell game being worked on by Ubisoft Toronto.
Are there any games you wish you could have taken part in creating or some game that’s currently under development?
There are so many great games that I’d have loved to be part of making: anything in the Half-Life series, the Thief series or Splinter Cell series would be amazing to work on. Hey Valve, if you need a design lead for HL3 give me a call!
Do you have any good tips and advice for people who are having thoughts on making their own game? Or those who want to start up an indie game studio?
First: learn to code. Unless you’re a really talented artist, learn to code in one of the modern game development languages C++ or C#. Unity3D requires some knowledge of C# as Unreal does for C++. While there are engines that can be used without coding (and Unity3D has PlayFab and Unreal BluePrints), and some great games have been made in them (like Ridiculous Fishing in Yoyo’s Game Maker), you will be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run by learning to code as well.
Second: start small. Don’t start into game development hoping to create the next version of Destiny or GTA V. This is impossible. Games like that take hundreds of millions of dollars and huge teams to make, not to mention a lot of special technology, knowledge and experience. My first game was a simple ball-drop game that shipped on a single platform (Plummet for Windows Phone). It was really simple and frankly kind of stupid, but I made it to learn.
Third: get into the habit of finishing and shipping. I know a lot of indie developers who have never shipped anything. Their games have literally only ever been played themselves and – perhaps – a very small group of close friends. There’s a lot of momentum behind “fail fast” but in my opinion that doesn’t apply to indie game development, at least not as much.
Finally: I’ve found that the amount of work needed to make a game can be fairly evenly broken into 3 parts: 1/3 making the game (level design, game-play, characters, etc.), 1/3 making all of the pieces that go around the game (icons, menus, loading/saving, web pages, etc.) and 1/3 sales, marketing and support activities. Plan appropriately if you want to be successful and don’t expect to simply publish your game and immediately get 10,000 downloads an hour.
Jonas “O.J” Ek
The Gaming Ground
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