Perth Games Festival 2014 was this past weekend, and it was a huge success with many great local games shown!
Andrew Down was one of many Perth-developers showing off a prototype build of his new game for the very first time, which was also really encouraging to see! Big Ore is a fresh take on the competitive FPS genre, which is set to deliver procedurally generated maps with fully destructible terrain. The demo we saw was only a small vertical slice of what to expect in the full version, so we organised to catch up with Andrew after the festival to tell us more about his project:
As a Perth-based developer, could you tell us a bit more about Silent Seatbelt Games?
Andrew: Silent Seatbelt Games was born out of a desire to create gaming experiences that are less about rules and structures, and more about play. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be rules: just that the rules should support the play, not restrict it. Big Ore is Silent Seatbelt’s first game, and is expected to be released mid-2015: targeting PC, Mac and Linux. For the 2014 Perth Games Festival, Silent Seatbelt created a mini-game showing some of Big Ore’s core mechanics: terrain destruction, ore collection and weapon upgrading. Players had 3 minutes to collect as much ore as possible.
What would you say has been the driving inspiration behind your new game, Big Ore?
Andrew: Big Ore is inspired by the idea of being able to destroy the game world itself. I think it is a neglected aspect of games. Growing up, whether it was Lego, sandcastles or forts, one of the best parts of a game was destroying what had been created. So, inspired by big explosions, really. That, and giant robots.
How would you best explain your game to someone who hasn’t heard about it before?
Andrew: Big Ore is a first person shooter with fully destructible terrain. Blast ore or your competitors to upgrade and become the biggest, most powerful mining robot in the asteroid belt.
Is it a persistent-world, or is it more so about single-session matches against other players?
Andrew: Single session matches. Ten or fifteen minutes of ground-pounding destructive glee to see who comes out on top.
As we’ve only seen a small preview, could you describe how a typical session would play out?
Andrew: You start out, one of eight robots, each in their own octant of an unfamiliar asteroid. You spy some surface ore a short distance away and rush off to mine it. From there you spy another deposit, and collect that too. You upgrade your main weapon so you can mine faster and look around for more ore. But what’s this? A competitor on yonder hill, intent on mining her own ore deposit! You creep around and catch her unaware, blasting her to slag with your laser. You steal all the ore she had collected and finish off the ore deposit she had discovered. Another couple of upgrades and you are bigger and more powerful than when you started.
However, your previous victim has been downloaded into a fresh new can and is back for revenge. She takes a pot shot or two at you but keeps her distance, outmatched by your guns and shield upgrades. Another robot joins the fray! Keen to steal the ore powering your tanked up new form, the newcomer sides with your foe. A running battle ensues. You take out the newcomer, but it isn’t long before he rejoins the skirmish. They are wearing you down, your recent confidence beginning to slip. Damn these pretenders to your throne!
Then their attacks cease. What is this? Are they retreating to mine more ore? Have they turned on each other? As you survey your surroundings, an explosion shakes the ground somewhere off to your right. Is that one of your tormentors? You raise your laser and prepare to fire, but as you emerge from cover you realise you are no longer their target. While you have been shooting it out, another of your competitors has had the run of the ore veins. A vast pit lies at your feet, a clanking behemoth flailing within. Blasting away at the walls of the pit to free more ore, destroying rivals with single blasts of it’s oversized laser, the mechanical monster destroys all before it. It’s making a run for the big prize: the rich ore vein at the core of the asteroid. Will you and your former enemies be able to stop it in time?
I like that you get to play as a robot, could you tell us about that and how players can upgrade?
Andrew: The premise of the game is that a bunch of mining robots in an asteroid belt have unearthed a mysterious red ore that gives the robots sentience and makes them more powerful. As a result, the robots are fighting to collect the ore. Players will be able to choose from different mining roles to start with. Perhaps you are a fast surveyor drone with the ability to quickly locate ore deposits. Maybe you are a drilling robot who can excavate more effectively. Or a security robot, great at decommissioning malfunctioning robots. During the match you can choose to upgrade attributes such as weapon strength and speed. Upgrades also make you bigger, so, as you become more powerful you also become more of a target.
You mentioned that the game also involves forming alliances, how will that work exactly?
Andrew: A formal alliance mechanism is not planned at this stage, rather, the design of the game will encourage short-term alliances. The bigger, more powerful robots are closer to victory and a rich source of ore, so ganging up on them becomes a viable tactic.
What is it you feel makes your game stand out from other well-known titles in the same genre?
Andrew: Fully destructible terrain is a bit of a rarity in first person shooters, and combined with the size mechanic and the frantic upgrade paths, Big Ore will be a unique gaming experience.
A lot of people played the game at the Perth Games Festival! How will that influence development?
Andrew: It was fantastic to see people playing the mini-game at the festival! There was a lot of positive feedback. Prior to the festival, not many people had seen the game, so it was nice to have the mechanics validated. A lot of players really embraced the concept and offered suggestions for gameplay enhancements that I’ll be looking into later in development.
How can the Perth community support your project, and where can we learn more about it?
Andrew: For me, as an independent game developer, the biggest hurdles are resourcing and visibility. Developing games requires a lot of work and many different skills. For example, Big Ore would benefit from the involvement of a concept artist, and pretty soon will require 3D models, rigging and animation. Do I spend time learning those skills myself? Should I try to find like-minded souls who already have those skills but aren’t already tied up with their own projects? Perth is a relatively small market, so finding people like that is difficult.
Did I mention that Big Ore correspondence can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org?
A lot of independent developers are looking to crowdfund their projects (with some notable recent successes!), but some recent high-profile crowdfunding controversies have cast doubts on the reliability of this approach.
I think visibility is crucial to solving these resourcing issues. Not only for drawing attention to games currently in development but for showing there is a whole community backing the efforts of developers. Organisations such as GameCloud, LetsMakeGames, FTI and AFK are doing fantastic work towards that end, and events like Playup Perth and the Perth Games Festival are invaluable to developers, and just as importantly, a whole heap of fun to gamers.