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Episodic games are on the rise. We’ve got Telltale Games making incredible product based on international licenses. There’s Square Enix and Dontnod Entertainment making new teenager adventure Life is Strange. Today we’re talking with Alexsey Surkov from Vertex Studio. This small company does some amazing work with Unity 3D, building an intriguing episodic adventure The_Uncertain.
What are the main advantages of episodic gaming? What makes these kind of games so appealing to users everywhere?
We think that episodic approach is more effective for gamers and developers. This is win-win strategy. Gamers can save their money and time for the full game if the 1st episode is not so interesting. There is a free demo of the pre-story gamers can try out to see if they like it. It’s the classic “try & buy“. If the developers see that the audience is loyal for the 1st episode they can put much more effort in creating the next episodes. By doing this, gamers will get their beloved game earlier instead of having to wait the time of full game development. Using this approach developers will receive feedback faster and can make necessary improvements to the next episodes for extra player satisfaction. And of course, the most important thing is for the game studio to start getting revenue earlier otherwise they would have to cut the costs by canceling the project at an earlier stage if it is not successful the first go.
How big should developers make the episodes for such games? How much time should it take to finish the episode? Do you think that maybe today’s games should become shorter and cheaper? Also, should they give the user some new experiences with each new episode?
We estimate that the episodes will be 3-4 hours of pure gameplay. It takes 4-5 month of development. We want be guided by the trends and use mixed game mechanics. Most of the time it will be a classic adventure thriller, and then other times it changes to a FPS using futuristic guns. It will also be an arcade style game where the main character has to cross a highway with aerodynamic cars. Having a mixture of gameplay like this might attract more gamers and also entertain experienced adventurers as well.
Walk us through the process of creating such an interesting and unusual game as The Unсertain? How did you come up with the idea and how long did it take to make this cool new game?
For the moment we only have the demo. As I mentioned earlier, the 1st episode takes 4 months for the PC version. In development we leaned on great examples from Telltale Games, but we decided to create images that were more realistic so we could be different and not echo Telltale Games. Besides, creating a fusion of post-apocalyptic art and sci-fi is advantageous because it is reminiscent of Half-Life. Additionally we invested a lot of time in the lighting of the game, using the most progressive methods. However, on the mobile version we are hardly working on the models details.
What were the most difficult decisions you had to make while developing this game? Maybe you had to cut something out or throw out a very cool mechanic that really didn’t work with the whole thing?
Currently we are at the inception of our work and don’t have such problems. But we have plans to make a cross-mechanic game, and on this journey we might run into some issues.
Your game is very different from the stuff you’ve made before. Why did you decide to go in such an unusual direction? Does your previous experience help you with this new product?
Project Lead Alex Surkov:
Actually, we don’t have a big experience in game development directly. In my university I was a PM of developing interactive technical guides which demonstrated how to support and fix navy ship engines. It looked like a puzzle game. Artem Netiagin Tech Lead started working in 3D more than 6 years ago. For three years he worked with Unity and now he is a leader of the Russian community on the official Unity site. Currently we have six teammates including two artists, one 3D modelist, and one programmer. Now we’re looking for an animation guy. The last game project that we made was a tower defense game called Iron Guard in Google Play. But The Uncertain is not a common story and it does not have a common approach. We want to make something special by taking a rare genre to develop a trendy interactive movie
How are you going to distribute the game? What platforms are you aiming for and what are the best ways to distribute your game right now?
We’re using the Unity engine which allows us to aim for multiple platforms such as PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, XBOX, and Playstation. Now to talk about which platform it will be on first, I think it will be the PC. We want to focus on our audience and cultivate The Uncertain community. This will be our launch pad, but we are open for discussion with publishers.
How does your Greenlight go? Did you manage to get a lot of votes? What were the reactions by the users? Did they like it? Did you have a trusted community before or did you have to find games on the spot?
To be honest we aren’t expecting such a hot welcome. 99% of gamers on site said YES to The Uncertain. It’s interesting to see that even girls would be happy to see our robot in real life. He’s probably reminded of WALL-E. Initially, we did not have a gaming community, but later it formed around our steam demo.