The development team behind the critically acclaimed combat PC racer, Nitronic Rush, have announced their new title, Distance. Kyle Holdwick, Creative Director of the newly founded, Refract Studios, takes on a trip down memory lane by discussing their time at DigiPen Institute of Technology. Kyle also goes into detail about Distance regarding multiplayer, modding tools, opening their own studio and more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Distance.
My name is Kyle Holdwick and I am the Creative Director at Refract Studios. I grew up in the Detroit area and my Dad is an engineer at Chrysler so naturally I’ve been a car person my whole life. I’ve also been passionate about video games ever since I was very young and I’ve always dreamed of making games for a living. My primary role with developing Distance is to help guide the direction we go with the game and experience. I am designing the world and crafting most of the levels for the game. I am also a full time programmer working on general game logic and tools like the level editor.
Were you surprised at the success of Nitronic Rush?
In a lot of ways, Nitronic Rush was an experiment for us and we had no idea if people were going to like it. It was somewhat surprising and really exciting to follow all the posts and videos about the game after it was released. We even still look for new posts and videos about the game today actually. I would say that the thing that surprised us most was how big it got all around the world. The U.S. actually only accounts for about a third of our player base and the game has been played in over 150 different countries. I think this is attributed to the fact that cars are seemingly an innately cool thing and widely accepted by pretty much every culture.
What was the tipping point for you opening an indie company as opposed to jumping on board an already established AAA studio?
It has always been my dream to start a company and work with my friends on our own games someday. With the success of Nitronic Rush and even more importantly the friendship I developed with Jordan and Jason over the past couple years, the decision was an easy one. Working as an indie can be tough and there is a lot of uncertainty at times but I feel it is much more rewarding and fun than working a typical job in the AAA industry.
How did you go about funding Distance and your new studio? In addition, Kickstarter seems to be all the rage lately. Did that ever cross your minds as a viable option?
Since graduating from DigiPen, we’ve been living off of the money we saved up and earned from awards we won with Nitronic Rush. We actually recently launched a Kickstarter to help us get the necessary funding needed to continue development on Distance.
From a development point of view, what were some of the important lessons learned from Nitronic Rush while at DigiPen?
There was a ton of important lessons learned from developing Nitronic Rushand I’ll go over a few of the most important ones. A big one is that multiplayer is important and it’s not an easy task to tackle midway through development. One of the main reasons Nitronic Rushdidn’t have multiplayer is because we didn’t develop the game with that in mind from the beginning. With Distance, we are tackling these problems early and designing the game to work better for multiplayer. Another is that playtesting is essential to making a great game, we playtested almost every week while making Nitronic Rush. Some of the best and most polished features of that game were in place because of playtesting and iterating on what we had all the time. Going forward, we have been playtesting and we’ll continue to playtest Distance vigorously every week. Last is to build powerful and easy to use tools early in development. A lot of systems in Nitronic Rushwere not the most user friendly and slow to work with. With Distance, we are focusing on that right away and we plan on even releasing some of these tools with the game like our level editor.
Talk about the new multiplayer system for Distance and how you plan to present the experience.
We’re working as hard as we can to make the multiplayer experience in Distance as unique and flexible as possible. The game will support both LAN and Online play in several different modes like the Classic Race mode as well as Tag, Capture The Flag, Stunt mode, and many others. We’re planning on experimenting with modes that combine some of the unique mechanics within the game in interesting ways. An example of this is a mode called Speed & Skill where your final result is based both on how fast you got through the track and on how many tricks you performed throughout the race. We’re also planning on experimenting with cooperative play where you’ll have to work together to succeed in someway. We’re targeting to support as many players as is fun for each game mode.
How important is the release of modding tools and a level editor to the financial success of Distance?
We view creating modding and customization tools as a necessary part of making great PC games. This is one of the most exciting parts about PC games in the first place, the fact that the players can take the game and add to it in their own unique way. I can’t say exactly how important it is to the financial success of Distance but I do think it’s important to making the game that much better. I’m actually really looking forward to seeing the creativity of our players when we release the level editor for them to make levels with. I’m sure it won’t take long and they’ll already have cooler levels than anything we make!
Will the modding tools and level editor for Distance be released at launch?
We will be releasing the level editor as soon as we launch Distance, it is a core feature of the game. As far as other modding tools go, we’ll be doing our absolute best to have some tools ready by launch but we may have more that we release later on as well.
Will Distance be available on various digital distribution platforms? If so, can you talk about any plans for particular companies?
We will definitely be doing our best to get the game on Steam whether that means going through them directly or via Greenlight. We’ll also be looking into other digital distribution platforms, but we don’t have anything officially arranged just yet.
Will we see any advanced graphical options for Distance?
Since it’s a PC game we’ll certainly have advanced graphical options but the extent of them is still undetermined since we are so early in development.
Is there an idea of how much you will be charging for Distance?
It’s currently undetermined how much Distance will cost.
Will a demo for Distance be available at or near launch?
We’ll definitely look into having a demo for Distance near launch but it’s currently undetermined.
What type, if any, DRM will be attached to Distance?
We’re not a huge fan of DRM, but it really all depends on what distribution platforms we end up going with.
Are there plans to release DLC for Distance?
We’ll certainly be looking into DLC options as we develop the game, but it’s currently undetermined.
We would like to thank Kyle for taking time to answer our questions. We are looking forward to what Distance and Refract Studios can provide PC racing fans. You can help fund development of Distance via Kickstarter and check out more info on their official site. You can also download Nitronic Rush free of charge.