Warside Interview12 May 2014
Warside is offering a unique and interesting take on traditional shooter gameplay by focusing on team combat, and by putting everything into a 2.5D side-scrolling setting. Intrigued to find out more, we sent off a load of questions to Russian developer Kraken Games to find out a little bit more about how the game functions, how they’re balancing the free-to-play aspects, what sort of non-competitive content there’ll be, and maybe even a little about whether or not it’s tricky to be a Russian developer trying to get a game released in the west.
First off, an easy one: your name, job title, and what that means in terms of what you do on Warside!
My name is Leonid Rastorguev, I work as CEO and Project Manager in Kraken Games. This basically means that I do everything that cannot be done by someone else on the team. In the last couple of years I’ve done some modeling, animations, video composing, program scripting and lots of minor supplementary tasks. But my main responsibilities are to settle tasks, sort priorities, check results, listen to team opinions and make all major decisions within the company.
For the unaware, can you quickly sum up what Warside is and why people should be excited about it?
Warside is quite an unusual game; it is a mix of platformer, shooter and RPG. While creating the game we took the simple gameplay of a side-scrolling shooter and added the depth and variety that only an RPG can offer. As a result we have a game with intuitive gameplay but also a vast variety of tactics, skills and equipment to explore.
What were your inspirations when developing Warside, and what made you want to create a game like this in the first place? On the surface it looks a lot like old-school side-on shooters, but there’s also some resemblance to FPS deathmatches, and the focus on team combat makes me think of MOBAs, amongst other things.
You almost nailed our original intention right there! We had three major focuses while developing Warside. First was the pace of the battle; we wanted to create a game where combat is fast and brutal, while simple to comprehend. The side-scrolling shooter gives you the ability to be fully aware of the situation around you and plan your actions accordingly even in the heat of the battle. Our second focus was character development versatility; it is always great when you have multiple choices in how to progress your character and it gives players multiple tactical options in battle. And last but not least was the focus on the team play and team tactics. Good co-ordination usually prevails in any multiplayer game, but we have also added multiple in-game mechanics to support your team-mates, from shield-recharging weapons to special interface indicators that help you coordinate your efforts.
One thing I can’t find much about (in English, at least) is the setting. Do you have a back-story for the game, or are you rather more focused on just making it fun and not worrying about that sort of thing?
Yes, we have a back-story for Warside and it is quite big and detailed actually. We just do not have ways to tell the story at the moment, because making the game fun, polished and balanced is our major priority for the moment. The purpose of the story behind the world of Warside is to give some logical basis to what’s happening. What are those people fighting for? We hope to get players more involved in the story later on.
Can you tell me a little bit about how the art style came about? From what I’ve seen it’s cohesive, but there’s an interesting mix of things in there – from space marines to cyborg ninjas.
For the art-style we initially decided not to be over-creative or innovative. We mostly play on established genre stereotypes. We want players to understand what we’re showing without any confusion. But you can pretty much see from the trailers and screenshots that actually anything that fits within a sci-fi setting – from cyber-ninjas and heavy armored troopers, to mutants and alien-worshipping cultists – is in the game and everything has its own story carved into the world.
So, the gameplay: how heavily do the classes differ from each other? Do they all have access to different weapons, for instance?
The classes are recommended roles depending on your preferred playing style. Classes give bonuses to certain weapons and gadgets, and have preferred gear, but they do not restrict the player from using other weapons or armour types. Simply speaking, there are always several recommended paths to take, but if you want to play around with skills, gear and weapon combinations there are multiple things to experiment with.
How are you balancing out the persistent leveling? Will a high-level player have a huge advantage over one who has only completed a few battles?
Balance is always important for multiplayer games, and it all gets much more difficult when you try to combine shooter gameplay with RPG progression. We have decided to break players in leagues by levels. While playing within your league you will never encounter a player too powerful for you to kill. Advancing to the next league gives you access to new skills and equipment and makes your character more powerful overall.
Can you reset the choices you make when leveling your character? If I put points into one stat but change my mind later, is there a way to re-spec to a different stat?
Yes, you can re-spec your character. You will get free re-spec tokens for some particular actions (i.e reaching level 10) and you will be able to buy more in the cash-shop. But re-spec may not be necessary to adjust your character. For example, if you feel an urge to trade some armour for damage output, you can usually do it by replacing some gear.
With that in mind, how have you balanced the free-to-play aspects? It looks like you’ve been careful not to make it pay-to-win, but if higher-level players have any real advantage then even faster leveling will offer some sort of advantage.
Higher-level players will not have that significant advantage over newcomers, because even if they get to play in the starter league their stats will be adjusted so that they will become no more powerful than the highest player in the starter league. But they will still have access to a wider variety of skills.
Can you talk a bit about level design? Are they fairly open or constrained; do they have multiple routes, or are they generally pretty linear? Are there environmental hazards and elements for players to interact with?
We have several battle-arenas at the moment and they are all quite different; some of them have tight linear underground corridors, some are fairly open. But on every level we have tried to avoid tight spots where you can easily defend against an enemy. Every level has a few different routes between major points, so you can always get behind the enemy’s lines. The levels do not have many interactive objects at the moment, but we plan to work on that aspect of the game later on.
What changes have you made to the game based on beta feedback?
Actually, we are currently working on a huge update with lots of changes based on players’ feedback from the open beta in Russian speaking countries. We will implement major changes in the leveling system, rework class skills, recalculate the balancing and game economy, add a new PvE mode and much more. So the European and American players will see a much-improved version of Warside.
How are you planning on expanding Warside in future? I saw on the blog that you’ve started incorporating PvE, but I’d guess you’ve got a lot of plans.
We added our first PvE dungeon in the Open Beta Test launch last November. So technically PvE already exists in Warside, but we have plans to expand it of course. The new battle-mode – Survival – is close to release. In this mode your team will have to defend various locations from incoming waves of enemies. The rules will actually be different from zone to zone; in some of them you will have multiple objects to defend simultaneously, in others you will have environmental objects such as energy shields or even automatic turrets to help you. And we have a new PvE dungeon incoming as well.
Apart from PvE we have plans on expanding PvP aspects of the game. A new battle arena will appear in one of the upcoming updates. And we have some ideas for new battle modes.
How has the response been to Warside so far? Indie games that focus on pure multiplayer occasionally have problems reaching a large number of players.
We have not had a full-scale launch yet, even in Russia. We launched Open Beta testing and we got enough players onboard to suit our testing needs. I can’t say that it would be enough for a launch, but we have not done much PR or advertising yet. For the moment we have over 30,000 players who have tried the game during the beta.
Along that train of thought, what gives you confidence that Warside can succeed?
We have not had too many players during the beta testing, but we have had a lot of positive feedback from those that have played. And we have already received lots of positive comments on Greenlight applications. So I expect the game to find its niche.
How much trouble do independent Russian developers have reaching western players? From what I can gather there’s a large Russian indie community, but it’s not something too many people are aware of in the west.
I wouldn’t say there was any trouble for us reaching western players. We can do from Russia everything a company can do from the UK: contact press, write blogs, interact with the community through social media, etc. The only thing that proves difficult is localizing everything in to English.
Is it problematic to get Russian games localized into English?
Can’t say yet. We will start localization only after we get Greenlit on Steam.
Do you think that there’s a big difference in tone and setting between games made in Russia and in other countries?
Well, of course there are some games based on national folklore or traditions, but they are a minority. I would not say that Warside, for example, has some particular Russian tone. We have a Galactic Commune faction in the game, but it’s just another stereotype to play with. I doubt that it will be hard to understand outside ex-USSR countries.
Finally: what’s your favourite thing about Warside, right now?
Personally, I always like games where you can overcome all challenges side-by-side with your friends. In Warside there are plenty of opportunities to support your teammates. A well-coordinated team usually prevails.
Another thing I like is the variety of settings you encounter in the game. The battle arenas are located on different planets with very different architecture and topography. You can fight in a weapons factory hanging between two giant trees, or defend a military bunker in an underground frozen cave, capture points on the melting ruins of a former capital city or gather resources in the halls of an abandoned cathedral in the middle of a mafia-controlled megalopolis.
We hope to show you all that sometime soon, so if you want to check the game for yourself, you can support us by voting for Warside on Steam Greenlight.