Jamin Smith, Community Manager on Strike Suit Zero, chats with TPG about things space combat. You will also read how Strike Suit Zero came to see the light of day, bringing back the space combat genre and much more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Strike Suit Zero.
My name’s Jamin Smith; while technically I’m the Community Manager at Born Ready Games, I also look after our digital marketing and numerous other bits and bobs.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
Born Ready Games grew out of doublesix Games; we left our publisher in order to fully commit to Strike Suit Zero and bring space combat back in style.
Where did the idea for Strike Suit Zero come from?
The studio is full of life-long space combat fans who were distressed that the genre had fallen out of fashion somewhat in recent years. As we’re game developers, we decided we could make a space combat game and help bring it back in style. We wanted to give it a twist, however; make it relevant to today’s gamer – so we introduced a mech to the heart of the dogfight.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Strike Suit Zero?
It’s still a bit early to be talking about successes and failures – the game’s only been out a month and we’re still hard at work patching, refining and listening to the comments of our players. The joys of PC and digital distribution means development is ongoing, and never really stops.
In its current form, how close is Strike Suit Zero to your initial vision?
If you’ve seen the original teaser trailer we had for the game, you’ll notice we originally had a timer – a countdown to save Earth. This was intended to give a sense of urgency to the campaign, but this feature was eventually abandoned. Other than this and a few other small changes, I’d say the game is fairly close to our initial vision. Games always change somewhat during their time in the production pipeline, but we’re incredibly happy with the finished game.
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 Strike Suit Zero and if you faced a similar challenge.
We always wanted to target Strike Suit Zero at core space combat fans; we knew from the off that the game would be difficult to the casual crowd. While many of our fans embrace the difficulty – and clearly love the challenge – we’re actually adding 3 difficulty settings in our upcoming third patch to accommodate players who may not have had the same experience with the genre.
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Strike Suit Zero would run on the various PC system configurations?
We had some obstacles to hurdle in ensuring the game was compatible with Windows 8, but this was sorted out very early on. The very nature of PC means there are always setups and configurations you can’t test for. We’ve made sure to listen to feedback from our players, however, and have fixed and accommodated for any issues that come through.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Strike Suit Zero.
Across all facets of the game’s design, we wanted to portray a blend of cultures; east meets west. To that end we brought on board Junji Okubo, who has designed the mecha and craft in our game. Junji has a very functional approach to mecha design – typically a very western trait.
In terms of level design, we were influenced a lot by Homeworld, and haven’t concerned ourselves with realism all too much, instead choosing to bring colour, vibrancy and variation to space – which is otherwise a very dark and featureless expanse.
Our music has been composed by Paul Ruskay (Homeworld), who collaborated with Kokia (Tales of Innocence, Origine) on several tracks – again reinforcing the notion of east meets west.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Getting the exposure the game deserves. With modest budgets, you really need to think carefully about your approach to marketing and PR and ensure that your money goes into making the most noise possible for the game. As Strike Suit Zero welcomes back a genre that’s seen very little representation in recent years, we enjoyed a lot of buzz surrounding the game.
Tell us about the process of submitting Strike Suit Zero to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
Nothing in the way of resistance to report; Valve are incredibly helpful guys, and run a very smooth operation.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
Not particularly. Obviously we had a feel for what similar games were doing, but we had a firm plan in place for our price point more or less from the off.
Can you tell us why you chose not to release a demo for Strike Suit Zero?
Purely a case of time and budget – we had to get the game finished. That said, I’m a huge advocate of demos, and it’s certainly something we’ll be looking to do in the coming months.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Strike Suit Zero from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
For any game – or any medium – feedback is crucial. We listen very closely to our community, who have helped shape our patches, updates and what we decide to do next. The beta we ran pre-launch was incredibly helpful in this respect too, and really helped us bring the game in line with fans expectations. It’s great because 5-10 years ago, adapting to the comments and feedback of your community simply wasn’t possible.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Strike Suit Zero professionally?
A lot. For the most part, journalists know their stuff. They’ve played a lot of games and can spot flaws or pitfalls in design a mile off. That said, there are always some people who simply ‘don’t get’ the genre, and are clearly uninitiated in the ways of space combat. You can immediately see who these people are from the way they talk about the game. It’s much harder to trust the opinions of these people.
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?
Absolutely – projects like the Humble Indie bundle are great, offering consumers fantastic deals and putting indie games under the spotlight.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
I can relate to a lot of the issues people have, but publishers are still working out how best to handle this. There is no magical solution. Trying out all these protection methods has caused friction, but it’s necessary unfortunately. We’ve not concerned ourselves too much with this, however, and have made our game available through GOG.com as well as Steam.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos of Strike Suit Zero?
No issues with that here. If people love the game and want to share videos of them playing the game or doing something cool, that only serves to create more interest in the game. We spend a lot of time watching videos our community have made – it can only be considered a good thing.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
I can understand the gripes people have with Day 1 DLC, but so long as it was never intentionally removed from the main game, I see no real issues with it. On the whole, DLC is handled well, and does a great job of extending the digital shelf life of a game, and keeping fans supplied with new content.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Strike Suit Zero?
We’re about to release our mod tools into the wild very soon, in fact, and can’t wait to see what the community comes up with. On the whole, modding is incredibly interesting, offering innovation and twists to a formula the original studio may not have even considered.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Be transparent. Involve your communities as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to implement their suggestions (providing they’re good!). If you’re game / idea is strong enough, don’t be afraid of crowd-funding – these platforms provide fantastic exposure that you might not otherwise get.