Hidden away in the back of the mature area, Last DriverZ was one of the few mobile games on show. Aiming for a retro look and an, “I can totally beat my last score,” vibe, the game is intent on keeping you play again and again for more goodies on each run. Last DriverZ is the lovechild of Marc Grabow, who started work on the game after finishing his previous effort, MOK, and boy oh boy, has he learned a lot!
We talked a bit on the day about how you’ve struggled with getting the controls right for the touch screen. What other challenges have you faced while developing the game?
I have faced quite a few challenges; this is only the second game I have ever developed, and it’s the first one using 3D elements. (My first game, MOK, is a hand-drawn 2D space arcade game). With the 3D objects and a continuous driving experience, it was difficult to keep the performance consistently high on mobile devices. I learned plenty of new skills to tackle this challenge, like object pooling, lightmap baking, etc, so it was worth every minute!
As for the controls, I am currently in the process of improving them. After seeing so many people play it at PGF, I have a much better understanding on how to improve the controls to a more user friendly status. Driving and fighting will be much more intuitive with touch/swipe only, and the buttons will disappear in the next version. Hopefully, people will be able to just pick up the user interface intuitively and play it more easily after that improvement!
What made you want to make a game like this?
As I just started my journey into the game development world, I want to learn and improve as quickly as possible. My plan is/was to make a few mobile games as the development time is usually much quicker. Each game has to be at least twice as good as the one I built before : )
My first game, MOK, was hand-drawn and 2D, so I wanted to make a game with 3D components and with more unlockable content (MOK has plenty of levels but not much to unlock apart from rescued friends). That’s when I got the idea of making a driving game with 3D elements in the background and obstacles on the road. The first rough idea of Last DriverZ was born!
How did the idea for Last DriverZ come about?
It kind of evolved over time. I started making that little endless driving game because I was interested in the challenges and aspects of continuous driving. After adding some obstacles and improving the driving gameplay, I added some background objects like buildings and trees. That’s when the question popped in my mind, “why is the car driving on this endless road?” The answer came shortly after: The people in the car search for supplies after a zombie apocalypse (which gave me an excuse to put zombies on the road and drive over them).
Do you work full-time as a games developer, or is this something you do on the side?
I have always been interested in game development but got a bit more seriously into it about a year ago when I decided to finish and publish a game (I had only made prototypes of games before that). That first game was MOK, a hand-drawn tap-and-fly game for mobiles which I published about half a year ago (available on iOS and Android). I made it completely on the side which was very exhausting but also rewarding.
After finishing that I decided to give it a real shot and work on game design full-time for a while. Last DriverZ is my first full-time project and will be finished soon. After its release, I have plenty of other game concepts in preparation that I can’t wait to start on!
What’s your experience been like developing as a Perth studio?
The local community here is awesome and very welcoming! I haven’t been able to spend much time at gatherings lately due to the final stages of the current game I develop. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to be part of the last Playup Perth event, but I will try in the future. The Perth Games Festival taught me the importance of playtesting and I will consider that when the next Playup Perth is around.
As I learned more about the indie community, I realised that it is quite hard for local developers to get global recognition. Most indies can’t just travel and exhibit at all these big events around the globe (like PAX in America). We would need a PAX Perth! However, the guys from Lets Make Games already do an outstanding job at the yearly Perth Games Festival.
What were your biggest challenges while designing and developing Last DriverZ?
One big challenge I mentioned before was keeping the performance stable, even with plenty of fast moving 3D objects on the screen. Feaure creep was also a constant companion during the development. It’s hard to decide during iterative development which feature/improvement really brings the project forward and which one is holding it back. That is probably a problem every game developer can identify with. I just want to get better at predicting which feature is worth developing and which one is not.
What makes Last DriverZ stand out from other games like it?
The change of pace every time the player stops at a warehouse to collect supplies and defend the car against zombies. It is a constant change between driving and avoiding obstacles and shooting zombies at shacks and old general stores.
The art style is quite different with its blocky low-poly approach, as other zombie-driving-games are usually trying to get realistic graphics. Those are (in my opinion) not quite fitting for a casual mobile game and I wanted to bring my own flavour to the market.
There will also be a huge load of upgrade options available in the final release: Plenty of different cars, weapons and drivers to unlock and upgrade. The game will be free and advertisements will be optional, so there will be no overload of ads during gameplay!
Is there anything about the game you wish you could have expanded upon given more time, and is there any one component of the game that you’re especially proud of?
I plan on including social features, like leader boards and screenshot sharing, but I’m not sure if I am able to include it with my tight schedule. I always had this idea in my mind of taking a screenshot whilst driving past the crashed car of a friend. Their highscore would be visible in the game as a crashed car on the side of the road, and you could put that screenshot with a smiley face onto his facebook wall. Let’s see if I can include it before the release date of 1st of November.
The component I am especially proud of is that the player can seamlessly swap between high-speed driving and shooting zombies at a warehouse to collect credits. I also like the object-pooling and endless road creation mechanism I built to have the game running on 60fps even on mobiles. [Editor’s Note: 60fps is the only way to play, baby]
Can we expect to see your games at local playtesting events such as Playup Perth in the future?
Absolutely! The biggest lesson I learned at PGF is how important playtesting is to make the game more fun to play and easier to approach for everyone. I will try to attend and bring my games to upcoming events if I can.
Does the game have a release date as of yet?
The beta version is available now for iOS and Android and people can find the details on my website, www.42bytes.rocks. The full version will be released on the 1st of November.