Interview With John From Wolfire Games

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John from Wolfire Games the developers of Lugaru and the upcoming Overgrowth agreed for an interview … and what a great interview it was…

Hey Maxim,
Here are the answers to your questions.  Thanks for your interest in Wolfire.
John

1. Hello John, please tell us about yourself and your team.


Wolfire Games is a motley crew devoted to the pursuit making awesome computer games.  Wolfire’s creator and lead programmer is David Rosen.  He has been making games since he was seven years old.  Because I went to school with him, I had the privilege of looking over his shoulder at recess as he made a choose your own adventure, stick figure war game, in a black and white flip book programming language called Hypercard.  David essentially created and animated brutal war scenarios where stick figures often ended up getting shot or blown to pieces.  David even added his own explosion and gunshot sound effects to the game by recording the distorted feedback you get from blowing on a microphone.  The game was so popular that it spread throughout school and had to be banned by the administration for being too violent.

From there David moved on to other games.  He made pong but realized it was boring so he threw in fireballs and razor blades that you could launch at your enemy to destroy his paddle.  By high school David was already hitting the 3D stuff like GLFighters and Black Shades and finally his first commercial title, a ninja rabbit fighting game called Lugaru.  David was then recruited by big companies like Crytek but turned them down to go to college.  He just graduated last year and decided he wanted to put together a full time team to make a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth.

Aubrey Serr is our lead artist.  Aubrey had already been working with David for a couple of years on various projects before Overgrowth including some initial concept work for a Lugaru sequel, then called Lugaru 2.  From 2D concepts to 3D assets Aubrey is an artistic genius.  He even managed to carve the company logo into a small pumpkin for Halloween (which Jeff, Phillip and I later set on fire with a propane torch).

Jeff Rosen is David’s twin brother and our web guru.  Because we are integrating webkit into our engine with Awesomium, in addition to making sweet web pages for Overgrowth Jeff has also been putting his skills to work designing all the Overgrowth’s graphical user interfaces.

Phillip Isola has been helping us build our editors for Overgrowth.  While David has been building all the hardcore engine features, Phillip has been creating friendly wrappers that allow users to interact with David’s core engine features to make custom maps and levels.

I’m trying to do everything possible to let the other guys just focus on coding.  My main roles are PR, marketing, business development and customer service.  However, I also help out with random tasks like narrating videos and being the man in the field for gaming conventions and developer meetups.

2. You are working on a new game named Overgrowth, is it like Lugaru with better graphics and more races ? please explain…

You’ve got it.  Overgrowth will inherit the core of Lugaru’s tried and true fighting system but since Lugaru’s release,  Wolfire’s Phoenix Engine has been completely overhauled twice.  So Overgrowth is going to be Lugaru on steroids with better graphics, better physics, more species (rabbits, wolves, rats, cats and dogs), more moves, more weapons, huge mod support (fans have already been making cities in our engine) and some coop multiplay.
DogFight

3. Tell us more about the races of Overgrowth, what are the differences between the races ? will you able to play any race outside the campaign mode (like in multi player for example) ?

As I mentioned earlier Aubrey and David have been thinking about the Overgrowth universe for some time.  Therefore, they have created fairly sophisticated cultures for each species.  Granted characters won’t unanimously fall into these cookie cutter shapes but here are the general ideas:

Wolves are barbaric creatures that love to fight lesser beasts.  They prefer not to use weapons or tools because they feel that such devices are an admission of natural inferiority which will make a species grow weak.  Their teeth and claws serve them well enough.

Dogs have a similar affinity for combat as wolves but are a little more orderly about it.  They tend to live in semi-feudalistic societies where rank and prestige is determined by challenging other canines to combat.  Dogs have no qualms about using weapons and are known for building durable, functional tools and weaponry.  You can see hints of the culture in the Overgrowth Web Comic.

Cats tend to be better organizers and bureaucrats than the other species and can be very manipulative.  They prefer flowery and ostentatious weapons, tools and clothes as they would rather impress and intimidate potential rivals than actually get their hands dirty in combat.  They prefer light but sharp weaponry that is easy to carry but still extremely lethal if wielded skillfully.

Rabbits are the best jumpers in the game.  They tend to be fairly peaceful and happy-go-lucky in general.  When forced into combat situations, rabbits like to keep their distance and use predominantly leg attacks.  They don’t have the upper body strength to wield heavy weaponry but have been rumored to put blades on their feet.

Rats are generally the weakest of the creatures and tend to fair poorly in face to face confrontations.  As such they have become very crafty at defending themselves through unconventional means.  They are very good at sneaking about and enjoy experimenting with the environment around them.  As rats tend to be very secretive even towards their own kind, it’s often very hard to tell what they’re up to.

Overgrowth will be a rabbit-centric game.  We will probably have the player play the role of Turner, the protagonist rabbit from Lugaru.  In multiplayer, since all the species are probably going to have unequal stats (wolves will probably be the best characters in the game stat wise), we might want to keep the playing field level by having  all players play as one species.  No matter what though we hope to include a lot of character customization options and who knows what will happen with player-made mods.

4. Lugaru wasn’t built to support mods, yet the community created many excellent modifications and new campaigns for it.
Overgrowth is being developed with much better support and modding tools/editors.
Can you tell us in more detail about those tools ? will they are going to be released with the game ?

We were amazed that despite the fact that David offered no real mod support for Lugaru, beautiful fan-made mods kept showing up.  Many of them rival the quality of David’s original campaign.  We figured if so much could be done with such little support, why not get the fans some awesome tools for Overgrowth.

That is why the editors we use to build the game, will be included in the game.  Mod support has been our focus from day one and we not only want to make modding easy, we plan to have an integrated mod browser that allows for easy sharing of user-created campaigns, levels and structures.  You can see demonstrations of our tools in our YouTube videos.

5. Part of Overgrowth development funding comes from Lugaru sells.
I wonder how are the Lugaru sells went per platform percentage wise ? is there a market for GNU/Linux ?

David was born and raised on Macs and had to suffer through an era where most of the good computer games were pc only.  We don’t want anyone to have to suffer that way to so Wolfire is committed to the prospect of cross-platform development.  That’s part of the reason why we use OpenGL instead of DirectX.

In terms of the benefits of supporting Mac and Linux as platforms Jeff took a look at the numbers in what to date has been our hottest blog post, concluded that supporting Mac and Linux together is at least as beneficial to small developers as supporting PC if not more so.  The Linux gaming market is relatively small but there’s something to be said for being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.  Sometimes smaller communities are the noisiest and are very happy when you make the effort to reach out to them.  We’re very thankful for all the support the Linux community has given us so far.
NewConcept_Blacksmith

6. Lugaru had very few fighting moves, I understand that Overgrowth will add a “grab” button how would it effect the combat ? what “tricks” can we expect to be able to do ?

For a game with one attack button Lugaru actually had a surprising number of moves: the roundhouse kick, the sweep kick, the gut punch, the double punch, the tackle, the rabbit kick, death from above, the spine crusher and the wall kick  plus when you add in reversals, counter reversals and weapons-based attacks those are quite a few combat maneuvers

We’ve brainstormed a few fighting design documents so far and we’re still fleshing out some of the details of the combat system.  We’ve been toying with the idea of making left click an offensive, explosive striking button while right click is more of a defensive Aikido/grapple button.  I can’t reveal many of the specific moves at this time but we probably want to include some species unique moves.  The rabbit kick will definitely return.

7. In terms of weapons and physics, what kind of weapons will there be at Overgrowth ?
Will you able to slice your opponents to pieces if you have the appropriate weapon ? for example, could you cut your opponents leg leaving him jumping on the other one, “Die By The Sword” style ? will weapons have different attacks and bonuses ?

We’ve already revealed a series of weapon concepts.  There will definitely be a few weapons classes each with their own characteristics. There will also be blood.  I’ve heard a few people say that this initial blood technology already makes them a little sick to their stomach.  We’re not sure about dismemberment yet, that would really make people sick.

BunnyArmor

8. From what I understand you are developing Overgrowth on Mac, what software do you use for it’s development ?
You are also building a new game engine named Phoenix, can you tell us more about this engine and your future plans regarding it ?


That’s right we are developing the Phoenix Engine, which powers Overgrowth, simultaneously on Mac and PC.  A Linux build should be in the works fairly soon.  OpenGL makes cross-platform development fairly manageable.  The reason we are putting so much effort into our tools, is that we’ll be able to reuse them for future games.

9. You offer weekly builds for those who preorder Overgrowth.
I really like your open development process, I think it’s revolutionary in the closed source software world.
How successful was it so far ? how the testers influence your development ? can they change/add things to the game ?
And when Overgrowth weekly builds would finally compile on GNU/Linux ? ;)


Thanks, we’re definitely trying to be as open about the process as we can.  That’s why we’ve been doing daily blog posts on the Wolfire Blog, we have a live chat widget on our site, host a public IRC channel and offer weekly alphas to those who preorder.

We’ve been surprised by the activity we’ve seen using our tools this early in the process and getting early feedback is very useful for designing intuitive editing tools.


10. When would Overgrowth finally be released ?

We don’t have an official release date yet because we want to be able to take enough time to get the game done right.  Anyone who’s interested in our progress though should check out our blog and YouTube channel to keep up with our latest development progress.  Thanks very much for the interview.
And thank you for a great Interview !


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2 Comments

  1. SlickMcRunFast September 14, 2009 1:13 am 

    “A Linux build should be in the works fairly soon”, good news. Once this becomes a reality I can join the secret preorder forum.

    Maxim, keep up the good work on the site. I used to enjoy interviews from linuxgames.com, but they just kind of gave up and stopped creating their own content.

  2. Maxim Bardin September 14, 2009 9:23 am 

    Thanks.
    Content creation is very hard, specially if you are doing it alone.

    One the GNU/Linux build will be available they will hopefully tell me (I’ve sent them an email about this) and I’ll let you know.

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