It’s that time again to pick the brains of developers about their games, experiences and opinions. For this “Talks 2 INDIE” we are lucky enough to be speaking to Survivalist creator Bob The PR Bot (Don’t worry we haven’t gone insane at Indiestry just yet its a persona!). We asked about his time making the game, the influences involved and overall opinion of indie developers!
INDIE: For those who don’t know what is Survivalist?
BOB : Survivalist is a large open world game set in the Sonaran Desert, and it’s about building a community of survivors after the zombie apocalypse. You play as a former hedge fund manager called Joe Wheeler who survived by living in an underground bunker for a year, and you interact with a bunch of different characters from other communities that have sprung up in the area, all of which have their own identities and agendas. You can gain peoples respect by doing quests for them, trading, giving gifts, etc. Or you can just attack them and take their stuff. So there’s a lot of player choice. Gameplay style I’d categorise as an RPG with RTS elements. There’s a focus on story and building relationships, as well as the usual stuff like exploring and shooting zombies in the face.
INDIE: Where did you get the idea for the game?
BOB : There’s a scene in the movie Resident Evil: Extinction where you see a compound in the desert with a barbed wire fence around it, completely surrounded by zombies. Here’s a screenshot, if you are allowed to show it:
I think that was where the initial idea came from. Other movie influences would be Tremors, 28 Days Later and George Romero’s Day of the Dead. Also modern TV shows with morally questionable protagonists like Breaking Bad. Video game influences were Fallout 3, Dragon Age, Command and Conquer, and I guess I’d have to include The Walking Dead (the TV show and Telltale’s game) as I was watching/playing it at the same time as writing the game. But not State of Decay! As I never heard of it until I was quite close to finishing 😉
Real life events were also an influence. For example, the financial crisis and the accompanying popularity of gold as hedge against economic collapse (in the game people use gold as a medium of exchange).
INDIE: What was the best part about making Survivalist?
BOB: Some good moments during development were when I’d just got something working, like the outline rendering system (that people often refer to as “cel-shading”). Or when I first got the combat in where a running zombie leaps at you and you dodge sideways and/or shoot them and they ragdoll. That’s when I was like, “okay, now I know what the game will look like” or “now I know what it will feel like to play”. And of course when the game was finally released and started getting good reviews and feedback (well, mostly good).
INDIE: With the best you also get the worst, what problem did you encounter making the title (if any)?
BOB: It wasn’t until quite late on that I really got to play it as a game and see what it actually felt like to play as a whole. For the longest time (like 3 years) I was designing all these systems with only the vaguest idea of what the end product would be like. For even longer I still didn’t know how the game would be received, whether anyone else would ‘get’ it. Needless to say, this is not how you are supposed to do game development.
INDIE: You value your fans opinions and feedback, how important is this for a developer?
BOB: As it’s a big game with a lot of subtleties I really need people to tell me if there were things they didn’t understand, or that weren’t well balanced, or if they found a bug. I don’t have a QA team to tell me those things. I’m also interested in suggestions for what people would like to see – I’m not planning to make any huge changes to this game, but some small improvements will go in and the bigger suggestions are likely to inform what I do next.
INDIE: Now that its a released title what are your plans for Survivalist?
BOB: I’m porting it to Windows right now, and I may attempt some other platforms too. And I will continue to add those small improvements as I go, and update the XBox 360 build with them. After that’s all done with I’d like to do another project that re-uses the tech and assets of Survivalist but adds a bunch of new features – and takes less time to develop! I’d like to attempt an online multiplayer version but I don’t know how feasible it is. If it looks too difficult, then probably a single player sequel. Sequels get a bad rep but I think every half-decent game should have one sequel, because it’s only the second time round that you actually know what the hell you’re doing.
INDIE: How important are Indie developers to the game industry?
BOB: I should probably say that indie games are the best thing ever here, but to be honest I don’t play that many of them, I like the triple A experience. The only indie games I can think of that have really grabbed me are the mega-obvious ones like Journey and Telltale’s The Walking Dead. The reason for that is probably the sort of games I like. I’m not really into abstract puzzlers, for example. I like games that really make you feel like you are in a world, through their environments and story and characters – and those are pretty much the most expensive things to make in games. So that’s what I tried to do with Survivalist, but on an indie budget. There’s probably plenty more indie games that do that too, that you could tell me about – and as the tools get better I imagine there’ll be more – but traditionally it’s been one of the strengths of AAA.
If I had to pick a game for indie game of the year I would confidently pick Survivalist with no doubt! even though we’re only half way through the year. I know I’ve talked about it in the past but it truly is a great game which would sit comfortably in the Xbox live arcade library. We at Indiestry would like to thank Bob for taking the time to answer our questions and wish him all the best with the game ports and future projects! If your interested in what you’ve read check out the Survivalist’s website on the link below: