Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Michael Lubker shows us how sweet old-school indie gaming can be when it's transferred to the modern age with Steel Storm: Burning Retribution.
What's your game called and what's it about?
Our game's title is Steel Storm: Burning Retribution and it's about an extraterrestrial invasion and the struggle you find yourself drawn into, between staying alive and emancipating the area from the conquest.
What inspired you to make Steel Storm?
There was no particular game that inspired Steel Storm. One could say that an event inspired its creation. We were about to make another game, "The Prophecy: Return of the Blademaster," when we realized that we didn't have the knowledge or resources to implement it. Therefore it was decided to make a smaller-scale game, for training purposes so to speak. We wanted to make an action packed game, yet gameplay had to remain simple enough. During early stages of development, the author of the Darkplaces engine contributed to the design of the game by adding a few gameplay elements to Steel Storm, inspired by the old game Assault by Namco.
How long did it take to create?
It took us three years of part-time development to make both Episode 1 and Burning Retribution. We had two core developers for most of the development period, as well as a few contractors closer to the end of the cycle.
Since we continue supporting our game, the production did not really stop with the release. A few weeks ago we released a pre-alpha of a MOBA mod called Steel Storm: Towers of Doom. It's an internal prototype that was released to get user feedback and grow our user base. If this goal is achieved, players may see a fully fledged MOBA game called Steel Storm: Towers of Doom in the future.
What's the coolest aspect of Steel Storm?
Playing Steel Storm is like driving a muscle car with a lot of raw horsepower under the hood. Simple joy, yet you gotta be smart at what you're doing.
Streamlined, raw, old-school gameplay with a dash of tactics. Playing Steel Storm is like driving a muscle car with a lot of raw horsepower under the hood. Simple joy, yet you gotta be smart at what you're doing.
Anything you'd do differently?
Absolutely. We could have made solid design documents along with concept art before getting into production. Also we have been having second thoughts about the "SandStorm Editor." While it's a cool feature that allows players to re-design existing missions and create new ones, and it was supposed to be a major selling point, it just seems that the modding movement is not as strong nowadays as it used to be when Quake came out. That said, we are starting to see custom levels, though it took a while longer than we expected. Not having to develop the real-time mission editor would have cut down our production time to half, if not more of what we took.
Working on localizations before the project was finished was a waste of time too. We literally were told that the majority of gamers play games in English anyway. So we could have cut production time and headaches associated with localization by leaving our efforts for after the original release.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
Do you like working 80 hours per week? Neither do we. Freedom of choice and great flexibility is why we chose to develop independently. Plus one doesn't have to have shipped titles to get into a position one wants to be in. It's just almost impossible to get hired without industry experience.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
We have found it a challenge to break in and connect with other indies, as we come from the older Quake modding scene. The way things are thought about rapidly changes and we are catching up. Our community around the game so far is small but supportive and their suggestions help with that.
Sell your game in one sentence:
Steel Storm: Burning Retribution is a PC-based third-person arcade shooter with old school spirit, hordes of enemies, destructible worlds, ground-shaking explosions, real-time collaborative online mission editor, the ability to craft your own story as you play with your friends and a MOBA mod.
We are working on a DLC pack for Steel Storm: Burning Retribution, codename Steel Storm: Anomaly, which will feature three new single-player and co-op levels, 2 new weapons, 1 gadget and potentially new enemies.
While we are at work on DLC, we have also begun work on our new project, codename Tomes of Mephistopheles. This project is in the pre-production stage, although we have a working proof-of-concept and performance stress-test. The official announcement for this game will come soon, however I can say that it will be an action-adventure RPG game with emphases on exploration, combat, crafting, trading and building up player's experience within a persistent magical world. The game will feature a solid single-player and co-op experience.
Watch for our early access programs to start!
Steel Storm is available now on Steam for $4.99 -- vote for a new DLC pack right here.
If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.