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During Gamescom we’ve talked with Shaun Williams – a one-man-army game developer, who’s working on the amazing space combat game CDF Starfighter. He talked about the choice of the engine and game development tools, discussed the hardships of onbe-man development and talked about the best way to conquer VR.
My name is Shaun Williams and I am from and live in the UK. I have worked in 3d modeling and design when it first started in the late 80s and early 90s. I have been a sci-fi commercial artist fro 20 years now with a variety of published work. I have a bachelors degree in games design and I spent 5 years working on the Freespace total conversion to Babylon 5 (TBP – The Babylon project). I have spent the last few working on my solo-dev games Ghostship Aftermath and CDF Ghostship, which are both available on Steam.
I have always been into space combat games and games from the late 90’s and early millennium such as Freespace, Wing Commander, Star Wars, etc. gave me a lot of inspiration for CDF Starfighter. I first got into VR in 2013 when I partnered up with Oculus and made for the first full modern day VR game – Ghostship Aftermath which was released in July 2014. Unfortunately, the UDK engine which was used for the game dropped VR support just as the DK2 was coming out so the game was only playable on a DK1 with the Oculus .4 run time.
I launched a crowd-funding campaign late last year and applied for numerous development grants for CDF Starfighter, but as my previous attempts for Ghostship also failed, I knew what I would be in for going it alone. I wanted to get a small team together to work on the game as my talents are best played in concepts, design and modeling. Over the last couple of months, I have been able to contract a few people to work on parts of the game with the small amount of funds we are receiving from Steam EA.
As with most games, it all starts with a design phase and prototype phase. Getting the base mechanics working and the bones of the game was the first step. Once the initial ship was set up work started to put the other 5 playable ships into the game and after the AI a lot of balancing was needed. The game has 5 games modes and the final game mode which is arriving in a couple of months is the final icing on the cake.
Working as a solo dev has some advantages with workflow and source control. As a solo dev I know where exactly each stage of development is at and what is still required. Working an average of 100 hours a week over the last few years takes it toll and I am now due for a well earned long break next year. The long working hours and trying to fit that in with my family life and 4 kids is very demanding. One of the most challenging aspects was developing the games from home for the first 3 years. Working on sound, mind boggling code and blueprints can be a nightmare when you 4 screaming kids and everything else going on around you. I have used unreal 2, 3 and now Unreal 4 which has always been my preferred tool-set and engine for content development. The Unreal Engine is a great powerful engine with a lot of flexibility and compatibility.
VR game development differs from nonVR games in many ways. A great example of this is our NonVR version version of CDF Starfighter which is due on PC and XboxOne at the fall of 2016. The NonVR version has full cinematics and cut-scenes which we cant achieve very well in VR. The NonVR version also boasts a 3rd person arcade game mode which replaces the freeflight game mode in the VR version. As well as many changes for the GUI, HUD as well as gaming elements and mechanics tweaks and changes, both version are totally separate builds which is tailored for its target platform.
The combat side of CDF Starfighter was focused on player skill. A lot of space games and shooters concentrate on lick on missiles and have a lead indicator showing you where to shoot to hit the target based on velocity and direction. In Starfighter we have made the lock on missiles only a small part of the combat and are useless against some alien ships. We have gone with the movie/series style where its all down to skill in aiming and judgement to hit your target using projectile-based weapons. Like a first person shooter is about aiming quickly and accurately, the same principle is adopted in CDF Starfighter. CDF Starfighter is designed to be easy to pick up and play for new uses, but requires practice as in real life over time to master each ship.
The CDF (Colonial defence force) universe has a great backstory, lore and ships and environments. In the CDF Timeline CDF Starfighter carries on after the evens of the previous Ghostship games which are based in the icarus system. In Freelfight mode you can visit the Icarus system and check out the huge dreadnought class ghostship the “CDF Goliath” We have plans for more CDF games both in VR and for NonVR. We are currently working our Chinese arcade version of the game “CDF Starfighter One” which should be appearing in arcades in China this fall. Next year we are looking at adding multiplayer support to CDF Starfighter and we will be working on another VR title which i can not say much about at this time.
At the moment our CDF Starfighter game is in early access and is only available on PC through Steam. We are releasing the NonVR version of the game on XboxOne at the end of the year and will be releasing a special VR build for new Microsoft Scorpio console next year. At the end of next year, we hope to release our game on the PS4. When our game is finished at the end of year we will be looking at more distribution methods as well as localization in other languages with native voice acting. We aim to have our online store on our website up and running by the end of the year where we will also sell CDF merchandise.
Shaun Williams, 3D artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.