Monday, 23 April 2018 07:00

Three For Vroom Kaboom: OPN Dev Talk with Ratloop Games

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Editor's Note: with our latest Dev Talk series, Three For, developers make a case for their upcoming release, gaming history and industry trends considered. Acknowledging the busy market that is Steam and today's abundance in options, our questions invite developers to make a case as to why their labor of love is worth what's in your wallet.

1. Tell us about the team...

...What specifically from the rich world of gaming brought you all together?

Ratloop Games Canada is a small team based out of Montreal consisting of 7 full time developers, and 2 part-time interns. We have 1 producer, 2 programmers, and 4 artists. Some of us have been doing this for decades and others are hot off the press! We’re a mix of old and new blood, from different parts of the world, which we believe is important because of the variety of viewpoints it gives to our projects!

What brought the Ratloop Canada studio together was the fundamental desire to build something new from a game mechanics point of view. There’s never been a better time in the history of video games to develop something for yourself. With all of the easily available tools and technology these days, even a small team can do something really interesting! Due to digital downloads and the exceptional maturity of our modern game engines, the rise of the indies has been amazing to watch over the last decade, and we really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be part of it.

2. Some of us at opnoobs are old enough to have grown up on Twisted Metal...

...and we can argue with some confidence that no studio ever pulled off the fun in that experience again. Pessimists might argue the genre didn't age well, or that gamers somehow moved on to other destructive endeavors. We'd be willing to bet you'd disagree. Then what, when designing Vroom Kaboom, did you consider important to respect from its spiritual ancestor, and what did you think important to leave out when adapting the genre to modern days?

Hey come on now! Driving vehicles is great fun, blowing stuff up is even better!

There’s tons of room for new ideas in the vehicle-based combat genre. Of course, this is just our point of view, but we think part of the ’decline’ is related to the fact that modern online games infuse more than just one core challenge into the player’s experience, in a way they have moved beyond raw reaction and reflex style gameplay.

Battle Royale incorporates aim & shoot, item collection, building, and the tactics of a dynamic play area. A MOBA incorporates character control, attack, ability, item and lane management as well as map domination. As far as car combat games go, they primarily incorporate only the core challenge: driving and shooting.

So as far as why car combat hasn’t evolved as strongly, we think there’s a really good reason behind this. Steering a car at high speed requires a significant amount of brainpower to manage. If you let go of the controls for a second, you crash! What we found when developing VROOM KABOOM is that it is very difficult to do anything else once you’re tasked with driving at high speed.

From the very beginning our goal was to provide a mix of action and strategy simultaneously. Very quickly we found out this was incredibly difficult for the player to manage. To get around this, we experimented with a lane-based driving solution with self-driving cars. It worked really well, as we managed to free up a considerable amount of players’ brainpower from having to precisely control their vehicle at all times, which allowed us to infuse our additional (mental) elements of challenge into the gameplay.

Similarly to Twisted Metal, for the core driving component of our game, we wanted to keep a very fast paced, arcade style feel to our vehicle combat. Something which requires reflexes and timing, enabling a skill-based learning curve. We also have a wide variety of crazy playable vehicles, each with unique stats, abilities and character. Lots of crashing, destruction and explosions! We think these elements are core elements of vehicle combat games that people love, and as far as we can tell, is why Twisted Metal is (still) so popular.

An element which we wanted to distance ourselves from was the concept of being ‘yet another driving game’. It’s really important to us to be innovative and build new gameplay experiences. This is what our studio is all about.

So alternatively, we left behind the concept of single car combat and tried something different. In VROOM KABOOM, you can actually manage a fleet of vehicles during the game. Sure, you can stick with one car at time, like conventional vehicle games, but if you want to compete on a higher level, you need to start launching and switching between multiple vehicles simultaneously, which can become incredibly frantic and challenging to master. The better you are, the more vehicles you can manage at a higher quality, which in turn allows you to inflict more damage faster to your opponent’s towers. You must also decide which vehicle(s) to deploy and when, based on what your opponent is doing and how many resources you have collected.

The game asks you to combine mental and physical skills together simultaneously. It’s not just about reacting to what’s on screen at any given moment, you have to make decisions under pressure, then plan and execute your strategies through physical skill.

Our gameplay is all about skill, decision-making and multi-tasking!

3. Free to Play is...

...the optimal way to go when studios are serious about community and you’re on one of the progressive companies who through Discord offer an instant line of communication with their player base. Why the effort, and what can fans expect?

We think for any studio it’s incredibly important to get to know your community. These are the people who are investing time and effort into your game and have a lot of power collectively. You’ll find most community members are extremely generous, patient and supportive (even when there’s bugs or areas of your game not up to final quality). It’s really amazing to have solutions like Discord which allow us to engage with our players so easily being such a small studio.

You can see how successful online games grow and react to what players like or dislike right? Without a fluent means of communication how do you know if you are moving in good direction or not?

You could take metrics under the hood, by tracking statistics and play sessions, which is invaluable also, but talking live to players is so much cooler! Ultimately it blurs the line a little between developer, tester and player, as we all contribute to building something together no matter how big or small the input. To us as developers and gamers, that’s the allure.

We try to be as responsive as possible when someone has a question or comment, even if it takes away some of our production time (since we’re still a small team). All in all, it’s totally worth it, we love it, and we will continue to be accessible and responsive to the best of our ability!

Thanks a lot! Those were great well thought out questions and I had fun answering them! Thanks for you interest in VROOM KABOOM!

For more info on Vroom Kaboom, check out the official website.

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