Dex is a game which we feel will be discovered as a “hidden gem within a sea of rocks”. At this point in time, it’s still up in the air as to how successful crowd funding will prove to be as a business model for up and coming Indie Developers. However, in saying that, the development studio behind Dex, Dreadlocks Ltd, are arguably one of the finest examples as to how it can be done right. It was with this knowledge that Joeseph set out to organise an exclusive interview with this talented team of developers, and as it happens, he was fortunate enough to get in touch with Jan Jirkovsky, who is the Lead Designer of the game. Here is what he had to tell us about the game:
What made you decide to use Kickstarter as a way to get your game funded?
Jan: When we started with the development, we knew we can cover our own living expenses from external contracts, allowing the core of the team (three people) to work on the game. However, to create the whole game in desired quality, we needed additional funds to cover payments to external contractors for voice acting, music, sound, editing, proofreading and many other fees and expenses.
Technically, we had two options – private investment or crowdfunding. For our scale of the game, crowdfunding is a good way to go. Plus, it has one great benefit over private investment: it helps you to build the community. Gamers can participate in the development through their feedback and suggestions. Also, many of our fans help us spreading the word on forums, blogs, reddit etc. All in all, crowdfunding is very well suited for indies.
Among the crowdfunding services, Kickstarter is the most prestigious one and with the largest community of backers, so it was a sure choice.
How do you feel being put up against the likes of other Sci-Fi RPG games such as Deus Ex?
Jan: It is quite ok, actually. We haven’t faced any comparison in the negative sense of the word, rather in the positive way, which is good for us. I think the key to stand out of the crowd is either by having something absolutely unique (in the sense that the game is hard to compare with anything at all and draws attention for this reason) – or – to have a nice and fresh take on an already existing topic or genre. For the fans of RPGs, cyberpunk or metroidvania games, we offer something familiar, yet in a new way, with very specific atmosphere and several innovative concepts.
What inspired “Dex”, and who thought of the name?
Jan: Dex is mainly inspired by Neuromancer as for the story, atmosphere and because of our devotion to W. Gibson’s work. Dex as a name comes from his novel Neuromancer. The second most important inspiration is the Deus Ex series, myself and other team members being its avid fans since the first installment from 2000.
How would you explain “Dex” to someone unfamiliar with the game?
Jan: I would refer to one of our trailers as it is likely the fastest way to get a glimpse of everything!
In my own words, Dex is a sidescrolling RPG, in a cyberpunk setting, with focus on exploration and player choices. The game is story-driven, however, there are numerous side missions for you to undertake and the whole city for you to explore. You can improve your skills and get yourself augmented with various implants that either boost your abilities or offer whole new abilities. And, last but not the least, the gameplay (as well as the storyline) takes place both in physical world and in cyberspace. In cyberspace, you do all the hacking and infiltration. Plus, many NPCs are there, both hackers as well as advanced AIs, whom you can fight or talk to (or learn something from).
What has been the greatest challenge since you began working on “Dex”?
Jan: Kickstarter. Although it is not the game itself, it required us to implement many of the features and polish many of the locations and art to offer a representative showcase of the game. This “representative version” to take trailers and screenshots from has to look as polished and final as possible, while being just somewhere over half of the whole project in the time of Kickstarter preparation (September, October 2013). And whoever worked on any project (not just game, but I would say any kind of media) would probably agree that achieving an “almost final appearance” while being somewhere in the middle of the project is a hard task to accomplish.
We expect one bigger challenge yet to come and that is the finalization and release of the game. Continued development and adding features/content is one thing, but putting it all together, balancing the difficulty and dealing with feedback from the community, fixing all the bugs prior to release, etc., that is going to be our final challenge. It is said that last 20% of the project is actually 80% of the whole work. It may not be that cruel, but speaking from experience with previous game projects, the closer the game is to completion, the slower the (visible) progression is.
Have there been any ideas or mechanics that you wanted to include in the game, but have had to be cut during development? If so, have they truly been cut or just postponed?
Jan: Not up to now. We’ll almost certainly have to cut ideas for features and content in the final phase of development, but up to now, we did not cut anything just because of time reasons. There have been many ideas and concepts we discarded, but that is the nature of game development process – not everything fits well together, some features tend to overcomplicate the game or controls etc., plus you have to prioritize (importance vs. development time required to implement given feature or content).
The art style in the game is fantastic! Can you tell us some of the methods you used to achieve such a dynamic world?
Jan: Thank you for appreciation! The game uses Unity 3D engine with features for 2D rendering. It takes a lot of hard work and attention to detail. We use almost every trick that can make 2D games more lively, such as dynamic parallaxes, animated sprites and particles.
Finally, when will our readers be able to go hands on with the game?
Jan: The first playable alpha build is in development right now and should be ready in February 2014 for our community of Early Alpha backers on Kickstarter. From that moment, we intend to offer a new game build about every one or two months until the final release, which is expected in summer 2014.