Conducted By Adam Ames
TPG was thrilled to get Artur Maksara from Flying Wild Hog, developers of the old school cyberpunk FPS, Hard Reset, to participate in this e-mail interview. You will get his take on DRM, video game difficulty, the lack of PC demos and how Hard Reset came to be.
Where did the idea for Hard Reset come from?
In my opinion cyberpunk is not exploited enough. We wanted to use a totally different setting than all the modern mainstream fps shooters. No world war 2, no Iraq or modern war. Since I’m personally a fan of Phillip K. Dick, cyberpunk was the obvious choice. Thus the idea behind Hard Reset was born.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Hard Reset.
My name is Artur Maksara and I’m the QA Specialist for Hard Reset.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
I was playing video games all my life, so when I got the opportunity to work in games industry I didn’t hesitate, dropped my regular job and started working on video games :).
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Hard Reset?
There are loads of things that we learned, I wouldn’t address them as successes or failures, it’s been all a great experience and possibility for us to learn. We are happy how the game was received and that people do like and that gamers finish the game on each of the difficulty levels.
Hard Reset has been compared to games such as Painkiller (Obviously), Serious Sam and Doom. In its current form, how close is Hard Reset to your initial vision?
It’s pretty much as it was planned. The only difference is that it was meant to be more ‘arcade’ style with no plot or story, and it ended up as a true old-school shooter.
Some PC developers admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Hard Reset and if you faced a similar challenge.
My personal opinion is that games nowadays are becoming more and more casual. There is almost no challenge involved. You don’t see a ‘Game Over’ screen in games nowadays, you don’t have to start from the beginning.
I was brought up on games like Super Mario Brothers or Contra, where failure meant starting the whole game from the beginning. No checkpoints, no saves, pure challenge.
You die you lose. Completing such a game is a challenge, and answer yourself : do you feel rewarded finishing a game that almost plays itself like ‘on rails’. Where you literally cannot die cause you have either an unlimited number of lives, or a repsawn system or a game that will punish you for your mistakes, and will teach you how to cope with difficult situations and will demand skill from you? I prefer the latter option.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Hard Reset would run on the various PC system configurations?
We were testing it on different PCs during the whole process of production, the only challenge here was to set a threshold on what can be done on which machine, and add to appropriate options in the video options menu.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being a PC games developer?
I think that deciding what stays in the game and what has to be abandoned and probably meeting the requests of the gaming community (since we support Hard Reset and we will be supporting it further, willing to improve the game and having our fans getting new content and game improvements on a constant basis).
Tell us about the process of submitting Hard Reset to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
I have to say here that all the digital publishers give loads of support to the developers. They help a lot making the submission process painless and fast.
How much pull do you have when setting sale and regular pricing through digital distribution channels? Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
We had a thorough research on the pricing of other titles. Setting a price is not an easy thing, it’s somewhat like trying to park a car with your eyes blindfolded.
How much play time can users expect to see in Hard Reset?
For a regular player on Normal difficulty the campaign will take about 6-7 hours. After you finish the game you can play the EX Mode where you will have all your gear from your previous playthrough, and will be able to purchase even more weapons and upgrades finally unlocking everything. We strongly recommend finishing the game on ‘Insane’ difficulty
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Hard Reset.
Regarding the gameplay – we wanted to create a game where you eliminate hordes of enemies, using not only interesting weapon modes, but also the environment. There are loads of destructible objects on all levels, such as cars or explosive barrels, that you can blow up dealing damage to your enemies, we also have a spectacular electricity system – destroy a cash machine and you will electrocute all nearby enemies! Hard Reset is pretty unique since there are destructibles that you can and should use to your advantage.
As for the art style – we wanted the players to feel the Megacity around them, a city that is lit by artificial light sources like neon signs, vending machines and other electrical gizmos. We wanted badly to show the contrast between all the dirty and grim slums and brightly lit streets of the metropolis that is Bezoar. Of course we were also inspired by cyberpunk genre’s great artists – for instance Syd Mead. We decided to create three layers of music in HR. First is ambient, slow, electronic with lots of synths for creating atmosphere in deserted streets of future megalopolis. This ambient music was which was mostly inspired by cyberpunk classics, like Vangelis Blade Runner and Carpenter Escape from New York. Second layer is faster electronic music of immediate danger, played only when enemies were nearby, but where there was no actual combat. And third layer was fastest music. We mixed there electronic and progressive hard rock to make fast combat ever more intense and dynamic.
For the most part, big budget studios no longer release PC demos while almost every indie developer does. Why do you think this trend is occurring? Tell us why released a demo for Hard Reset and the difficulties in doing so.
I think that they don’t release demos because they are afraid. Most of the players nowadays are casuals, who play for 15 – 20 minutes a day. This is roughly how long a short demo should last. Probably they think that people will launch the demo, have some fun and then postpone the purchase. We wanted Hard Reset to be oldschool – all the oldschool games had demos, so Hard Reset also got one.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Hard Reset from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
We take it very seriously. We were literally reading all previews, reviews, and all opinions in the commentaries below each and every of the 130 reviews. We want the gamers to have fun with Hard Reset, this is why we change the game in the way the players want it to play and we are adding additional content. Hard Reset is for gamers and we want all of you to have fun while playing it!
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Hard Reset professionally?
It’s all feedback, most of the reviews give us valuable information of what to improve, what to add or change.
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
In my opinion it’s a good idea, encouraging gamers to support the developers. For now I cannot reveal what we are planing in the future.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
In my opinion DRM is nonsense. It’s as if you would buy a book, and after you read it 2 or 3 times, it would self-destruct. I’m a gamer myself and I want to install my game how many times I want – I paid for it and it’s my property. When it comes to piracy – piracy is the act of illegally copying a game/software and then SELLING it to other people making profit on the illegally copied content. Most people who download ‘pirated’ games still buy retail versions. And this has been proved several times.
Bill S.978 was introduced to the Untied States Senate earlier this year which could make it illegal to post unauthorized copyrighted content on YouTube and other video sharing sites. How do you feel about individuals outside of Flying Wild Hog posting videos of Hard Reset?
They bought the game. We don’t mind them playing it and showing to other people. We are happy seeing each fan-made video
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
DLc like additional weapon or a new character skin? These are micro-transactions not a DLC. DLC as a game expansion (as DLCs were called before, when there was no digital distribution) is a great way to enhance the gamers’ experience and the game itself.
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about modding of PC games and the relationship developers have with modders. How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Hard Reset?
There are some modders who started working on mods for hard reset. Kudos to them, they do a great job reverse-engineering the code, and in my opinion they do a great job, helping the game community to grow and develop.
What advice would you give up-and-coming PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Be adamant and consistent with your decisions and always listen to the gamers. Also remember that games are there to bring fun to people. – End
We would like to thank everyone Artur and everyone at Flying Wild Hog and wish them continued success. You can pick up Hard Reset via Steam.
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