Sushil Ronghe, head man from RealAxis Software gives us the grand tour of his indie action platformer, Stained. Read on to learn about how Stained went from an idea about stained art into a wonderfully difficult PC game.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Stained.
Hi My name is Sushil Ronghe and I am the President of a small indie game studio Realaxis Software. I founded RealAxis back in 2009 with goal of making fun and innovative games. Prior to Realaxis I worked as a Software consultant for few companies around the globe. Since the inception of RealAxis my focus has been on the development of our own game engine pipeline however being a small team I wear many hats at times. I played the lead of all department in development of Stained.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
During my M.S. I started doing graphics programming. It was my academic project a Molecular Visualization software. Initially I did it in C++ using OpenGL which later got ported to Java using Java3D graphics library. Soon after that I started participating in open source game development projects since then I got this game developer tag.
Where did the idea for Stained come from?
Stained concept is gift of my fear about stained Art. Art inside the stained glass has always fascinated me. The design in stained windows looks so real. I always thought if those windows are broken the figures might come to a life. It was all my childhood fantasies but it turned out real in the form of this game.
While constructing this game we thought about several logical ways to link it all together such as use of tangram puzzle and kingdom taken over by scourge etc. helps to liaison the whole concept together.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Stained?
We developed stained entirely using a open source technology it is out on several distribution portal for purchase which I think is biggest success. We surely lagged in the marketing of this game, it could have been done in a better ways which I think is one of the failure.
In its current form, how close is Stained to your initial vision?
It is almost close to my initial vision. I am just not happy with the way game ends, it could have been a little better but that’s the only incomplete thing I see right now.
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Stained and if you faced a similar challenge.
Yes It is completely true in our case. When the game was released it was just impossible for people to play it. I can show you some videos. Gameplay Video #1 and Gameplay Video #2. Most reviewers said the game is cool but too difficult to play, this was a huge setback for us as the early reviews get most views. Once we added a easier mode in the game it all got resolved. But it has certainly caused some damage. Here is a detailed article about it .
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Stained would run on the various PC system configurations?
We released a demo for stained and followed it through from different forums and emails. This helped to collect the data on different computer. I also take this opportunity to thank everyone who tested stained and provided feedback to us.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Stained.
Art was as challenging as the other aspect of the game. We worked a lot on the look of the stained glass creatures. A special shader was developed to give it a nice stained glass look. Art has evolved during the development very rapidly. It is evident from our first look trailer and launch trailer.
As the story is about scourge taking over the kingdom a haunted look would have been recommended but we went for a more pleasant atmosphere. Stained windows & glass objects are at the center stage in our story so we wanted to show the scourge resides in windows and crystal. Selecting between haunted look and pleasant ambience was bit of a test however most people like the atmosphere of the game which I think is in our favor.
Every level in stained has its unique importance. We designed special fights and puzzle around which the levels are designed. There are total 20 levels in the game and each level has a unique logic.
Sound design was also challenging we needed unique sound for smashing window and hitting the creature made up of glass but our sound designer Raghu B. did a fantastic job. Not only the background scores but every little sound in the game does its job very well. One reviewer writes “Though combat becomes a tad repetitive after a while, it manages to remain enjoyable thanks to the gratifying glass-smashing sound effects when you hit or defeat an enemy.”
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Team Moral is one big challenge! Managing the expectation of your team members is one of the biggest challenge when you don’t have enough cash at your disposal. If someone is not participating in the development with his/her full potential it becomes impossible to meet the deadlines and every delay causes a damage. Being a lead you are constantly under the pressure to deliver the product (as you are spending your own money) at the same time you also have to perform your role in the team which I think is tough test.
How did you go about funding Stained and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
Stained was entirely funded by myself but it would have been impossible without the financial and emotional support of my friends and family.
Tell us about the process of submitting Stained to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
Stained was little unfortunate in that area, I will tell you how. When we were ready to submit stained to steam in July, just few days before that Steam closed its game submission door due to launch of Greenlight. So we had no choice but to wait for the Greenlight launch, In the meantime stained got accepted on Desura, Impulse, Raindg and Green Man Gaming.
When Greenlight was launched on august 30th it got bombarded with tones of titles and we soon realized it is not going to be easy. However we are still hoping to get accepted on Greenlight.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
Yeah, not exactly research but from the experience of playing so many indie game we realized we fall in the $9.99 range.
Can you tell us why you chose to release a demo for Stained?
Publicity and Feedback was main reason behind release of the stained demo. When we released the demo for stained we got huge exposure. Many people played the demo and was kind enough to send us their feedback. It helped a lot to shape the final product.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Stained from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
It helps to fine tune the game and get rid of the defect that we never encountered. Most people have their own preferences of playing the game and we get to know what are those if they provide their feedback to us. So it is always good.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Stained professionally?
I value it most. I have sent a review copies to more than 100 authors since the release of stained in October. I respect every one’s opinion and believe that listening to your audience is the best way to improve the product.
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?
Pay what you want is good method to reach maximum audience, one can achieve a good publicity but once you get into the bundle it is hard to sell the game at your regular price. Sure, I would like to include stained in indie bundles after few months.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Piracy is hard to deal with. You can’t expect a system which is full proof. DRM alone won’t solve the problem, I feel that the DRM clients need to have more social networking feature integrated just as steam did recently.
When I saw the torrent of Stained, I was really disappointed. Here is an article I wrote.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos of Stained?
I like it when someone take a time and do video on stained explaining the gameplay and forming their opinion. There are bunch of gameplay video on YouTube about stained created by our fans and I really appreciate that. It will simply request them to check for the latest build before making new videos as I see some of them are still using the old version of the game and complaining about difficulty.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Stained?
I believe that it is heart and soul of any game community. Keeping that in mind we built our level editing script right inside blender. The script is not out yet but soon we are planning to release a expansion pack and level creation scripts. Video Link
Apart from the level building scripts, are there more configuration options available in the game?
Every monster in the game has its own configuration file. That file decides how many hits requires to kill a monsters, player hitting radius, and damage value. These files can be configured to change the combat experience. These configuration options are not yet available from the game UI however they can be done by directly editing the configuration file.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
I would say go for novelty, take a new concept and build your game around it. The biggest advantage of being an indie developer is you can do things as it pleases you. Take that advantage and bait on yourself just remember clock never stops ticking.
We would like to thank Sushil for allowing us to peek into the world of Stained. You can grab your copy from the official site, Desura and Impulse. Also, be sure to vote for Stained on Steam Greenlight.