Buck: the Creation of 2D Post-Apocalyptic Noir Action-Adventure Game
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We should talk more about this, all of us... I work multiple jobs in gaming and entertainment in general so I burn out once or twice a year and I need months to recover. Screw that.

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Buck: the Creation of 2D Post-Apocalyptic Noir Action-Adventure Game
13 July, 2016
Interview

We talked to Gal Kfir from Wave Interactive, the studio behind action-adventure game called Buck. In this Metroidvania-style game you play as Buck, a motorcycle garage mechanic who decides to leave everything behind to find the truth behind the disappearance of a girl. Buck struggles to adjust himself to a world he doesn’t fully understand. Gal Kfir discussed the production process, challenges they’re facing and the reasons for choosing Kickstarter.

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Introduction

The team consists of 3 developers, which includes a programmer (Amir Barak), artist (Adi Katz) and designer (myself, Gal Kfir). We’re all based in Israel and live around different areas in the country.

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Amir worked in a mobile gaming company in Australia and studied gaming programming there, though he’s been programming since his childhood.

Adi still works part-time as a children’s book artist alongside the occasional freelance artist job for apps, logos, websites and more.

I’m by far the least experienced and the youngest. Adi is my older brother and is 44 years old, Amir is 34 and I’m 26.

I’ve studied game design from books and from whatever I could find online, that was reliable. I also learned to edit video and use after effects, so that my freelance work is usually post-production. I actually used to work at Microsoft for post-production, but I convinced our manager there that we should make a video game demo. That was my first-time experience in a professional environment relating to video game development.

It’s important for me to emphasize that Israel has very little experience with AAA game development, or any indie game development for that matter. There are very successful mobile gaming and social media gaming companies here. The academia is focused on teaching about these kind of games, rather than classic game development. That is the main reason our studio was formed. It is, in a sense, my degree.

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I chose to dedicate my time to make an indie game and learn the ropes by actually making a game.

Luckily for me, two weeks after Amir returned from Australia, we ran into each other in a small local gaming event. We both discovered our love for the Witcher games series and books alongside our passion for indie games, or anything that is Cyberpunk or Film-Noir. Amir wanted to work on a proper gaming project after working on mobile games for several years. That night I showed him a small trailer that I made with Adi to showcase Buck‘s world, atmosphere and some mock-up gameplay that I put together in After Effects. Amir started to code for Buck the very next day. A couple of months afterwards, I chose the name “Wave Interactive” and to this day, we all work from home and try to meet at least once a week.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have found two professionals who are this dedicated, talented and patient.

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Art Direction

There are so many different inspirations for Buck’s art, design and direction, but I can try and point to several key influences.

My love for anything that’s apocalyptic and sombre in its design can be traced back to my love for the movie WaterWorld. I grew up on that movie and I view it with the rosiest of tinted glasses, I absolutely love that movie! The set-design, costumes and weapons really appealed to me.

Another key influence was the anime Trigun, set in a post-apocalyptic desert planet with a western twang, and an awesome story. I’d say that the book Roadside Picnic and the movie Stalker by Tarkovsky were also big influences. Our art-style started off with a big emphasis on black, blue and brown, which took some visual references from the Batman animated Series that ran in the late 90’s. We eventually went with a more cartoonish art direction that Adi was more comfortable with while attempting to maintain the same color pallet.

Tools

We use Unity3D as our basic engine tool. Unity’s code is the base for it; the entity framework, rendering and scene graph;the generic stuff for all games. The actual code that makes Buck what it is, which is about 35,000 lines of code is custom code. Collides, items, physics, UI, melee & ranged combat, dialogues and editing tools are all custom.

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Then for our animation, we use Spriter2D, a Kickstarted 2D rigging software. Adapting Spriter’s code to Unity took us at least six months.

Sound

The voice acting is performed mostly by myself, and some friends. All the recordings are done in my bedroom, which is and will probably remain my office until Buck releases. I used to record voice over for documentary films, so I have a good microphone, and some simple editing software to help me clean and compress the recordings. The recording conditions are far less than optimal, so I’m always thrilled to hear when people enjoy the audio production. The soundtrack for the game is the same as the voice acting, it’s both done by myself and close friends.

Forming the Idea

The initial design was written by a 12-year old me, so I’d say that it has changed a ton! Before my time at Microsoft, the game was a lot more silly and over the top. The game was supposed to be a 3D platformer of sorts, with combat taking place in 2D arenas. My experience in Microsoft taught me just how difficult developing a game really is, even within a safe environment of a huge company. Since Israel doesn’t have much experience with AAA game development, we do not have many 3D artist with any gaming experience. I decided to change the game to 2D, since Adi could then draw his works in Flash and export them into the game fairly quickly. 3D level design and character models were just beyond our experience at the time. I’ve felt that there could be no realistic way to develop the game I envisioned. The tone of the game changed after the real Buck had passed away. The story became more serious as a result.

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Funding

We’re always on the look for potential investors, since we do want to continue making video games for a living. It’s hard to find local investors here without writing the words iOS or Android on the front page of your business plan and GDD. Kickstarter made sense for us because we would have a much easier time finding additional capital with a successful Kickstarter behind us. But that is much more of an end goal. I’ve spent much of my personal funds into Buck just to keep Amir and Adi working. Kickstarter will allow all of us to work more efficiently and progress with the game enough to reach Steam Early access, with a more significant and profound gaming experience.

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Challenges

The “We’d better move on and forget about this idea” wasn’t brought up between the team even once. It does go through my head at least twice a week, since we’ve started to work on this game. Not because I do not believe in the game and it’s value, it’s mostly due to my own financial well being. Working with two older professionals, who implicitly trust me, proved itself to be a very mature and understanding working environment. We all stick to what we know and respect each other’s opinions and experience, we’ve never had any internal issues in that aspect and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

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The biggest issue we had was Amir’s car accident last year. It happened a day before we were supposed to move into an office space and work full-time from an organized location. That accident put him out of commission for at least 3 months, which meant three whole months with zero progress in code for Buck. That was the biggest hurdle in our production thus far.

Community

The community feedback is constantly helping us test and shape Buck into a better experience. Being such a small studio, we don’t have much time and resources to play-test the game. The public demo (on Kickstarter and Steam) was our first time releasing a playable version of Buck into the wild. Our gamers are playing and constantly giving us valuable feedback. We want to continue to maintain and grow the community as much as we can. We’ve also implemented some pets from the community into the game itself that can be seen in the demo right now! Both NPC’s and enemy units.

Gal Kfir, Wave Interactive

Make sure to check out team’s Kickstarter page if you want to support Buck.

Interview conducted by Artyom Sergeev

INTERESTING LINKS

THE CREATION OF CHARACTERS WITH STORIES

CREATING REALISTIC ORIENTAL DRUID MODEL

CHARACTER DESIGN OF AMY SHARPE

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