As y’all know, my favorite game of all freaking time is Freespace 2. The folks that worked on that amazing game had another series of successful games before the best game ever hit shelves in 1999, namely the Descent series. Parallax Software revitalized the shooter genre in the mid-90s after a string of also-ran Doom clones with an amazing six-degrees-of-freedom shooter that is still being played today, thanks to mods and multiplayer. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when many of the same folks who made the original Descent games launched a Kickstater for a spiritual successor their series known as Overload. As I — and hopefully many others — wanted to know more about this exciting game, I reached out to the folks at Revival Productions to learn more. What we ended up doing — since sadly the Podcast calendar was full up — was a written Q&A below, the answers provided by Revival Co-Founder Matt Toschlog. I hope you enjoy the article, and implore you to check out their Kickstarter to back them, as it looks like a fantastic game. Thanks for reading!
Brian Rubin: Thank you for making this project, I’m really excited about it! My first question is, how long have you been working on this, and what was the impetus to kind of “get the gang back together” and create this game?
Matt Toschlog: We’ve been working on Overload for about a year and a half. But we’ve been talking about it a lot longer than that. Every couple years Mike and I would talk about making an updated 6DOF shooter, but with everything else going on in our lives we couldn’t make it happen. Then in 2014 the pieces fell into place: Mike was retired from Volition, I was planning on leaving my job, and Luke Schneider (the load designer on Overload and the creative genius behind Radian Games) was at a good place to work on something new.
BR: The gameplay in the trailers looks really right, how much work is going into both the player controls and the physics of the game?
MT: Most of the early work on the game was focused on getting the look and feel right. We felt pretty strongly that we got it right twenty years ago with respect to controls and movement, so it was a key priority to get the that same feel this time. A lot of the work remaining now is completing the content – creating the robots, writing the AI, making a set of cool weapons.
BR: Which engine are you using to power the game, and what are some of the benefits and pitfalls you’re finding with the engine since you’ve begun working on it?
MT: We’re using Unity and we’ve been really happy with it. We’re especially pleased with the advanced lighting options available in Unity 5 – we’re able to get some awesome effects. The main pitfall of working with someone else’s engine is figuring out the right way to add a new feature. Back in the Descent days I would ask myself, “How do I want to write this system?” Now I find myself asking, “How does Unity want me to implement this feature?”
BR: According to the Kickstarter pages, levels in Overload are going to have quite a bit of room for exploration and discovery, which I REALLY like. What kind of things can one discover if one goes off and explores the levels, and will the danger for the player increase if they go off the beaten path, as they say?
MT: We’ll have plenty of variety in the levels, so that some will have more exploration than others. We’ll definitely make it worth your while to explore – you might find some nasty robots, but you might find some nice upgrades too :)
BR: What kind of varied robots will we encounter in Overload? Will there be a Thiefbot (pleasesayyespleasesayyes)?
MT: We haven’t decided for sure on a thief bot or guide bot. One thing that’s surprised me during the Kickstarter campaign is how passionate people are about those guys. And it goes both ways – some people love the thief, and some hate him. So I guess no matter what we do some people will be unhappy :(
BR: In the weapons trailer, the weapons look really meaty and visceral. What kinds of weapons will we be able to yield, and much work is going into not only their look and feel, but their gameplay effects?
MT: Weapons are one of the systems we’re starting to focus on now. We’re not ready to release details, but we’ll have a variety of weapons that offer different advantages in different situations and against different enemies.
BR: One of the bullet points in the Kickstarter page is, “Story by the writer of Freespace 2.” Freespace 2, in my opinion, has one of the (IF NOT THE) greatest stories in all of video gaming. Since the scope of this game is a bit tighter (as in the tight corridors rather than the expanse of space), does that mean the story is a bit more tightly focused as well, or will it just be as big and expansive as Freespace 2’s story?
MT: Overload is a more focused experience than FreeSpace – instead of an epic confrontation between civilizations, it’s the story of one pilot fighting for his life. So it’s a different kind of story. We’re excited to have Jason Scott on board and he’s already working on some pretty cool stuff.
BR: I apologize if I missed this in reading the Kickstarter page, but will we be able to pilot different types of craft, or will be it one craft that’s modifiable? Besides weapons, regardless of craft, what are other things we can change on our craft? For example, can we somehow improve our engines, power plants and so on?
MT: Right now we’re planning on just one ship. We haven’t made any plays for configuration or customization, but it’s something we’ll think about.
BR: The campaigns for both Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight seem to have behaved differently for you. While Kickstarter is sadly a bit sluggish, you appeared to get Greenlit relatively quickly. What were the approaches you took to the two platforms, and did they differ at all, or were they the same? Follow up, if they were the same, how do you account for the differing results?
MT: It’s hard to say. We actually ended up with roughly the same number of yes voters on Greenlight as contributors on Kickstarter. But there’s a big difference between asking for a vote and asking for cash, so I’m not surprised that Greenlight happened faster.
BR: The Kickstarter campaign isn’t moving as quickly as we would like, and while all of us backers hope it succeeds, do you have a “plan b,” as it were, if the campaign is not successful?
MT: We’re pretty confident that the Kickstarter campaign will succeed; we’ve got some big plans for this week that we think will be exciting for potential backers. But even if we don’t hit our target, we’ll keep going on Overload. We’re excited about the project and we’ve put a lot of our own money into it, so we’re not going to give up now. If we don’t get the Kickstarter money we’ll have to adjust our plans, spend time looking for more funding, an modify the scope and schedule of the project. But we won’t give up.