The Perth Games Festival has come a long way since the first time I attended, and the dev community that’s grown up around it in Perth has a lot to show for itself. One game that I’ve seen at PGF before was Final Days, and, being a sucker for SHMUP’s, I had to stop to give it a whirl. Final Days drops players into an urban environment to mow down wave after wave of zombies that pile in seemingly forever. After I was done establishing my dominance over anyone present, I had a chat with Michael De Piazzi, who was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the game’s development.
There’s a pretty big “Crimson Land” vibe to this game, was that among your influences when designing Final Days?
Crimson Land has definitely had some influence on me. But funnily enough, I only discovered it by chance after I’d been working on Final Days for about a year. I picked it up in a Steam sale and just loved it! So it’s definitely served as a source of inspiration.
Some other influences are classic retro titles like Smash TV and Gauntlet. But even some more modern titles like Killing Floor and Left 4 Dead have influenced the design of Final Days.
Right now you’ve got the four-player co-op survival mode, are you planning on adding anything more to the game?
That’s right. And I’ve also got to mention that you can play with up to 16 players online or over LAN. People playing local split-screen can even join online games. So there’s the potential for “couch vs couch” games!
But yes, I am most definitely planning on adding more to the game. It will mostly be in regards to content (e.g. new maps, ammo types, explosives, enemies, etc). But another major plan is to do more work on different game modes. For example: objectives, challenges, and maybe even some team based modes.
If anyone would like to know more about what I’ve got planned, then they can find more on the Final Days website.
Zombie survival shooters are fairly common, what do you think sets Final Days apart from what’s already out there?
I feel the main thing that sets Final Days apart is the large number of players and enemies that are possible. With up to 16 players and hundreds of enemies on screen, it makes for a much more intense experience than usual!
Also I’ve implemented some features which are rarely seen in the top-down shooter genre. e.g. Restricted field of view, dynamic lighting, sonar radar, and destructible environments. I feel these type of features add a lot more to the tense atmosphere of the game.
Is this a solo project, or have you worked in a team to make Final Days?
Final Days is a solo project. I’ve created it pretty much by myself, but have had help from others.
My mate Nick (a.k.a. The Groove Foundry – http://thegroovefoundry.com) has made the music in Final Days. My sister Meagan’s helped me out a bit with the business related stuff. Also Final Days uses a lot of art and sound assets made available by people online. Of course I can’t forget about my playtesters who’ve been giving me plenty of feedback. And there have been many others who’ve helped me out with support and advice!
Is this the first game you’ve developed?
I guess this is the first serious game I’ve worked on with the intention of putting it out there (and hopefully even having some success with it). But I’ve been messing around with making my own games for a long time. I taught myself to code when I was about 8 years old on my family’s Commodore 64 so that I could make my own games!
What has been the biggest challenge in creating Final Days?
I have faced quite a few big challenges in creating Final Days. But definitely working by myself has been one of the greatest!
It can be a battle at times keeping myself motivated and on track. Also “cabin fever” is another potential issue I’m wary of. It can be easy to spend long periods of time working in isolation, and I find it can get to me at times.
These are issues I’ve learnt to manage though. It’s definitely not impossible to make a game by yourself. But it is hard work!
You’ve released in Early Access already, what’s that process like and what do you hope to achieve before final release?
It was a fair amount of work getting set up and approved on Steam. In particular, some of the Steam integration with Final Days was a little tricky. But I found the entire process to be generally straight forward though.
And I have quite a bit I’d like to achieve before full launch. But my main goal with doing Early Access is to engage more with the community. I’m looking to gather more feedback and find out what people like / don’t like. I want to provide the best experience I can at full launch. And I believe listening to community feedback is an important part to this.
What’s your experience with developing in Perth been like?
It’s been pretty positive actually. It surprised me to find that there was such a great community here in Perth. As I’ve become more involved, I’ve met some fantastic people and made a lot of new friends. This has definitely helped me a lot in regards to my struggles working solo!
In fact, if it wasn’t for the community I’m not sure if I could have made it on my own. Especially given that government support is almost non-existent for the games industry here now.
How was your time at PGF, and what kind of feedback did you receive?
I had a great time at PGF this year! I got a great response to Final Days, and generally people really seemed to enjoy it. Quite a few people even added it to their Steam wishlist on the day, which was awesome to see!
I didn’t get a lot of direct feedback, but for me it was just a great feeling to see people enjoying themselves. To me, PGF is more about people getting to see and play your game. While feedback is definitely appreciated, generally I find the day to be a bit too hectic to seek it. Instead, I find other events like Playup to be much more suitable for getting direct feedback.
Is there any advice you’d impart to people wanting to start out as indie developers?
Making games is hard work. And going into it, I knew it would be. But it was definitely much harder than I imagined! Marketing in particular is something I think a lot of indies (including me) underestimate. But if you’re passionate about it, then stick to it and don’t give up!
Also, get involved in your local community. Here in Perth, we have some fantastic organisations and people supporting local game developers. I encourage you to visit the Level One co-working space and check out the Playup events in particular. And to keep in the loop with what’s happening in Perth, be sure to follow Let’s Make Games!
If you would like to follow the development of Final Days, you can either visit +7 Software website for updates (http://plus7software.com/) or follow the game’s progress on Twitter (http://twitter.com/plus7software).