New Blood Interactive head Dave Oshry and ULTRAKILL developer Arsi "Hakita" Patala discussed how the story of the game began, explained how they worked on enemy NPC AI, and shared their experience with taking part in the Early Access program.
Dave Oshry: Hey! I’m Dave Oshry, head of New Blood Interactive. I started out blogging about games on various websites before getting into game marketing and production and finally founding my own studio with some friends. You may know me as the producer/director of games like Rise of the Triad, DUSK, AMID EVIL, ULTRAKILL, Gloomwood, and FAITH.
Dave Oshry: ULTRAKILL is mainly developed by one man, Arsi "Hakita" Patala, a young developer from Finland.
Arsi "Hakita" Patala: I had a stealth game I was working on called Untraceable that I started at my previous game design course, and once I moved to the newer one I showed that off to a fellow student and they told me it was cool but it just wasn’t fun to play. So I decided to scrap the project and instead start a new game from the ground up based on all the things I thought were fun in games and focusing completely on the game feel above all else. That’s ULTRAKILL.
Dave Oshry: The ULTRAKILL team is now composed of Hakita, programming support from other devs like Pitr and Ben "Zombie" Moir, various 2D and 3D artists, and help from the New Blood QA and dev support teams.
The Retro FPS Genre
Dave Oshry: We’ve all been lifelong fans of the genre and grew up on games like DOOM and Quake. Up until recently, people had stopped making FPS games like the classics. A few of us worked together on Rise of the Triad 2013 which is widely considered to be the first NEW "Boomer shooter" and after working on DUSK and AMID EVIL in 2018, we realized we'd accumulated way too many devs who appreciated retro FPS and were way too good at making them. So it’s kind of our thing now!
The Main Focus of the Game
Arsi "Hakita" Patala: The main focus was just on the game feel. If the base combat and functionality are fun and satisfying just by themselves, the rest is just an added bonus.
Balancing the Speed
Arsi "Hakita" Patala: Going fast is fun, so that wasn't a worry. The game moves at a constant forward momentum with only occasional downtime to give some breathing room between big bursts of action and to accentuate both the calmness and intensity by contrast.
Work on Enemy NPC
Arsi "Hakita" Patala: The AI is kept purposefully simple to make the enemies predictable and easy to keep track of. This is part of what allows the game to be as fast and chaotic as it is because it's easy to control the flow of combat and keep track of what's going on just based on what enemies are where. The main challenge is creating enemies that actually pose a threat to the player since the player has a lot of movement tools to easily outmaneuver anything, but that becomes less of an issue with how many enemies there are in each encounter.
Creating the Game's World
Arsi "Hakita" Patala: One of the big benefits of the retro visual style is that visuals are very easy to read at a glance. The player can move at a high speed with no issues since the geometry of a level is simple and clean, so as soon as you look at a room it's easy to understand it with no details or decorations distracting or obfuscating it. The levels are linear to make sure the fast pace is kept up and the player doesn't get lost or bored, since there's always more action right around the corner.
Promoting the Game
Dave Oshry: We tend to lean heavily into our inspirations so once people saw DevilMayQuake.com they knew what they were in for. It kind of just snowballed from there. We try our best to make cool trailers and use social media to our advantage but word of mouth is still the most powerful tool in our arsenal. It helps when you make good games, too.
The Early Access Program
Dave Oshry: We’d already used Early Access successfully to launch DUSK and AMID EVIL so it made perfect sense to do it for ULTRAKILL as well. The episodic format of these games really lends itself well to Early Access as we can release new parts of the game while collecting player feedback as we develop them.
Early Access gives us a direct line to our most invested players who really care about the end product we’re creating for them. Steam forums and Discord is all we need to get everyone’s feedback, good, bad, and otherwise.
We definitely feel pressure to keep updates coming out at a good pace and release our games within a reasonable time frame but we also like to take our time and not rush or crunch. It’s a tough act to balance but I think we do alright at it. We’re always trying to get better at it, though!
New Blood Interactive's Plans
Dave Oshry: Our plan is to keep doing what we’ve been doing! ULTRAKILL Act 3 (the final act) will take time, but we have to try our best to make it live up to the expectations of our players and ourselves. We’ve also got Gloomwood in Early Access and Fallen Aces going into Early Access this year, plus updates and ports for our other games like DUSK and AMID EVIL so we’re very busy. Never a dull moment at New Blood.