As you can probably notice I’ve been very busy with my job as a GNU/Linux and Windows System Administrator in the past month and I didn’t have much time to update my blog.
But this is hopefully about to change now…
I’ve noticed that many people where interested in Dark Salvation from Mangled Eye Studios, so I’ve managed to to interview Thearrel McKinney – the founder and main (and almost only) developer of the game.
1. Hello Thearrel McKinney , please tell us about yourself and your company, when did you start developing Dark Salvation ? is it your first project ? and what made you start a game company ?
I’ve been involved in the game development scene for over a decade. I got started in the mod community, built up a portfolio, got hired professionally where I worked on projects such as Counterstrike: Condition Zero, Star Trek: Elite Force II, and Black Hawk Down: Team Sabre to name a few. I did that from 2001-2004 and in mid 2004 I broke out on my own and formed Mangled Eye Studios.
I had begun the early renditions of Dark Salvation back in 1999 right after Quake 3: Arena was released before I got into the industry professionally. It was an untitled mod project at the time and was only supposed to be an extension of Quake 3: Arena as a new tier. As with a lot of game development projects, ideas get tossed, added, changed etc. and it just eventually got to the point of turning out to be a single player project instead of just a new multiplayer tier for Quake 3: Arena. It took about 8 years from start to finish but not full time since I had to put the project aside a number of times to make sure my work was complete and on time for my actual job at the time.
It isn’t my first professional project since I worked on a number of commercial games already but it is my first project released by my company Mangled Eye Studios where I built the entire game myself with the help of outsourced contractors. I started Mangled Eye Studios so I could pursue some of my own projects I have in mind.
2. What inspired you to start a game studio that specializes on 3D shooters ? there are so many 3D shooters already, what do you think you could add to the genre ?
The 3D shooter genre has always been a favorite of mine. It’s what I developed with back in the day and its what I’ve worked with for years. Yes there’s tons of 3D shooters on the market some unique and a lot are the same. The main goal of this game once I established it to be a full fledged single player game was to just make a fun old school shooter for fans of that type of game. There was no intention to make it look like a modern game nor to be some super never done that type of gameplay before type of game. It’s just something simple and fun to play. We did use id Tech 3 (Quake 3 Engine) for this game with no modifications to the renderer itself so most people should realize
its not going to look on par to something that came out recently using a more modern engine. We did push the engine as far as it could go though so you’re seeing the engine at its limits by default and I think it turned out fairly well for the aged tech we used.
3. Please, tell me in detail about Dark Salvation, how is it different from hundreds of other 3D shooters in the market ?
Dark Salvation isn’t anything new in terms of how the game is played. It is built to be an old school shooter with monsters, puzzles, etc. Some of the unique things about Dark Salvation are the environments and you play as a dead woman who has been brought back to life by the Spirit Crystal and the flesh of her forearms have been eaten away by the power of this crystal. It does speak to you and sometimes it can give you clues on what to do next.
4. In the games description I’ve noticed that there are puzzles in each level, what kind of puzzles can we expect from Dark Salvation ?
There are a lot of different types of puzzles in Dark Salvation. There are breakable objects some you have to destroy them all to open certain doors. Switch puzzles where you have to press them in a certain order based on imagery you’ve seen in that specific level. Platform jump puzzles, timed doors, all kinds of misc. stuff. You can find secrets that lead to armor, health, ammo, weapons etc. There are also a number of secret levels that can be found in the game.
5. What can you tell us about the interesting unique weapons in the game ?
The main weapon is called the Spirit Crystal. It is the object that possessed Talia (main character) and ate away her forearm flesh and ripped her heart out. She throws it and it homes in on nearby enemies. Each weapon uses an alternate magic attack as well. Some things like spikes shooting out of the walls and floors and killing monsters instantly. Another is a vortex portal that will suck in monsters and explode them on impact. You also have a weapon called the Gription where you need to use it to shoot onto latches scattered throughout the levels in order to progress and find secrets. You can even use it to pull objects to you when you normally can’t reach where they are at. There’s a lot more for the rest of the weapons. You can also collect pieces to a magical weapon that you obtain throughout the game by assembling all the pieces.
6. Dark Salvation is using id tech 3 game engine which since have been released under the GPLv2.
I understand from the Wikipedia (under Products using a proprietary license of id tech 3) that you have licensed this engine at the time when it was still closed source.
What is the “open source” status of “your” engine ? have you modified it ?
And if it’s still open source, would it be possible for the community to “convert” the game to use other more modern engines or improve the existing one like it was done before with other games ?
Where did you hear we licensed the engine? (laughs)
There really hasn’t been anything we’ve done to the engines renderer. The only modifications we made to the engine was to enable Dark Salvation to be its own game so we won’t be releasing any source code for that. We will be however releasing the game source once we have the Linux and Mac builds ready to deploy. This way people can use the game source and make some mods for the game as well as using it as a basis to develop their own project.
7. When looking on the hardware system requirements for Dark Salvation they seems very low, are strong PC’s/Mac’s with new videocards could use their power in the game ? to what extent ?
Yeah the system requirements are just about what Quake 3: Arena’s requirements were. The only adjustments that were made higher for graphics card and memory requirements was for using a larger texture budget and particle effects. Really older systems just wouldn’t handle running the game that well or even at all based on those two factors alone. With newer cards of course you’re freeing up system memory and using video card memory so the game will run better no doubt with newer gaming systems. The engine is only capable of so much itself so eventually things cap out. A modern computer would make the game a better experience but it is also not necessary to have to enjoy the game since it does have the lower system requirements.
8. As the Windows version was released first with the Dual Disc edition which includes the great soudtrack, I and many other GNU/Linux user worry about how we could also get the soundtracks with the GNU/Linux version ?
Will there be a download edition for GNU/Linux which will also include the soundtracks as a separate download (maybe as mp3 or ogg) like it was done with the recently released Machinarium ?
I’m not really sure yet on what I’m going to do with the Linux version. In order to provide the game in disc form it will have to be profitable since this is a small indie company with a budget. I’m not 100% sure on how big the Linux gaming community is so I may do preorders for the Linux version to see where it stands if it will be profitable. There’s really no sense in paying to have a bunch of them put into production then only a handful of people purchase the game which just covered the cost of manufacturing resulting in zero profit.
9. When could we expect a GNU/Linux port to be released ? will it be available only as a download or also as a DVD ? what about the dual disc edition for Linux ?
When its done is the usual stance on things. I’ve begun work on a new project so the port isn’t getting my full time but it is coming along. It will be available as a digital download for sure, still not sure on making it available on disc yet.
10. thank you for the interview, is there anything you wish to add to the interview ?
Thanks for the time, I appreciate it. The Linux port is on its way just slowly since I’m a one man crew. I hope everyone enjoys the game when it is ready. If anyone has and other specific questions feel free to email from the website.
Thank you Thearrel McKinney very much for the interview, can’t wait for the GNU/Linux release of Dark Salvation !
And for those of us who want the box edition with the soundtrack CD – preordering is a good option (when the GNU/Linux port will be finished).