Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
80.lv talked with Phil Davidson and Richard Turner about their upcoming game Robocraft. It’s a very interesting product, which relies heavily on user-generated content.
Could you tell us a little about your company?
My name is Phil Davidson and I’m the Producer for Freejam and Robocraft. Freejam is based in the sunny Solent of Portsmouth, just down the road from Brighton and Bournemouth. Personally, I’ve worked on numerous games, from console sports games (Backbreaker) to mobile strategy games (Dawn of Titans) to massive PvP battle arena games (Robocraft). Freejam is now releasing their first game to 1.0: Robocraft which will be shortly followed by Robocraft Infinity (our Console version) and then hopefully many more!
What is Robocraft exactly?
Robocraft is a UGC (User Generated Content) game that allows the players to build their own robotic creation and take them into battle against other players in 5 vs. 5 arenas online. The rules of each of these vary, from capturing points to straight up deathmatch so players can build and play to their preferred play style. When building, players are given the option of a massive array of parts: wheels, plane wings, tank tracks, mech legs, rocket boosters, and can pair them with a devastating array of weapons: plasma launchers, lasers, flak cannons.
It seems like this is a voxel-based game.
The game is built using Unity and is indeed voxel based. This allows us not only to have easy to build robots that can be stuck together like building blocks but it allows us to easily have the real-time destruction of parts in battle as the fight rages. It also helps with the performance, because we don’t have to render every cube (the obscured ones exist as a data point rather than a 3D object) Robocraft can run smoothly on almost any system.
How does the broad list of customizing options influence gameplay?
The diverse range of options is designed to allow players complete freedom, both in terms of visual style and play style. A turbocharged buggy will play very differently to a lumbering up-armored tank. With these different decisions comes a depth and complexity of game tactics that we’re really proud of. Teams (or “platoons” as we call them) of players will need to pick the robots that best complement one another, either built themselves or downloaded from our Community Robot Factory.
What are the main things that guided the look of the game?
Let me pass these questions onto Freejam Art Director, Richard Turner:
Robocraft‘s clean art style is derived from the co-founders’ youthful obsession with both Lego and 80’s sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Tron. We have literally been carrying this weight of inspiration for decades before finding a game that can handle it.
The evolution of the Robocraft art style has two Masters:
- We wanted to give Robots in the game a clean toy style look, to stay away from realism, gritty details and instead aim for pure lines and a bold stark colour palette to enable our players to recreate anything tucked away in their imagination, from Disney characters, famous space ships, toasters to questionable parts of the human antimony. We have seen it all! 🙂
- We had a necessity to keep frame rate down with thousands of cubes on 20 robots all rendering at the same time, so we developed a solution that allowed us to batch cubes sharing materials but we stayed away from the traditional high memory and rendering costs of fancy normal-mapped meshes most game can afford to render.
Something else synonymous with Robocraft is our glowing energy detailing contained within all the “powered” cube components which really consolidates the look of the robots and the game. Cleverly this glow is switched from Neon blue to Red for the enemy team giving them much more sinister look, similarly we also have different colour weapon fire for Friendly and Enemy teams to help you define friend from foe, thus epic battles are a visual treat.
How does the monetization of the game work?
Robocraft is a free-to-play game; anyone can download it from either Steam or our launcher and through time and skill own every part in the game. Our main monetisation is through the Protonium Salvage Crates which can be purchased in sets and drop the in-game items that are used to build your robot. Buying these gives you more items more quickly but we have players who have played for more than 3,000 hours who own more parts than most millionaires could afford to get in crates!
We also have a “Premium” add-on that can be purchased, this gives players increased XP gains, access to more cosmetic choices, such as an extended colour palette, and more items dropped in their reward crates. We have always viewed Premium as a way for players to pay to support our development of the game if they enjoy it, as such the game has been built to be fun without spending a penny.
What are the next steps for Robocraft?
With the release of 1.0 we feel we have defined what we want Robocraft PC to be. Our community has stuck with us through the ups and downs of developing a free-to-play game with their participation and we do not want this to be the end; it’s 1.0, it’s the beginning! We have a raft of planned features, improvements, quality of life changes, additions to implement and bugs to fix. Whatever happens over the coming months and years we want to look back at this as the start of it all.