Sangbin Han, CEO of G1 PLAYGROUND, discussed the development of the upcoming survival game Zelter, dived into the team's approach to using assets and creating VFX as well as talked about the publishing and investing processes.
We are G1 PLAYGROUND, an indie development team located in South Korea, and our mission is to deliver unforgettable games. The team, which started as a one-man shop in 2017, has now grown to a team of nine people. We've been developing experimental games with the goal of showing gamers a distinctly new level of fun. For example, one of our games, "Trick Art Dungeon", is an optical illusion adventure game based on trick art. We’ve also developed "Battle Sawyer," an online battle action VR game that gives you the experience of being a real wizard.
Now, we are developing 'Zelter,’ a crafting survival action game in a zombie apocalypse. This game looks like 2D, but it is a 3D game, so we are doing a lot of R&D to implement it.
The Idea of Zelter
The inspiration for Zelter came mostly from 'Minecraft' and 'Enter the Gungeon.’ You can do just about anything in Minecraft, and ‘Enter the Gungeon’ has a cool action system as well as a simple and clear game style. So we wanted to mix the strengths of these two games and make a survival title with a focus on crafting.
This concept has been our main design direction from when we first started working on Zelter.
Working on the Style
Zelter looks like it’s 2D, but it's really 3D. We wanted our game to look a little more sophisticated with various physical effects applied in three dimensions, while still retaining the retro feel. So I spent a lot of time learning how to create a 2D look in a 3D environment. This allows us to use lights, shadows, and three-dimensional physical effects in a more sophisticated way. In addition, the pixel art style gives it a retro sensibility, without feeling outdated.
The Game’s Storyline
The story is pretty simple yet touching: the apocalypse happened, and, for the reasons unknown, people became zombies. The city you lived in was destroyed, you lost your family and friends, and nearly died yourself — but a group of people rescued you and welcomed you into their family. Though the city was flooded by zombies, your new family was continuously saving people without losing hope. They taught you how to survive in this new world. But it didn’t last long — zombies found your shelter and crushed it. You are the only survivor, and now you have to start from scratch.
That’s the backstory of the game, and when you start playing, what’s next is up to you. Will you be able to survive? Will you team up with others and complete your shelter? Or will you fall, unable to defeat the zombie horde, like so many others before you?
Game Development Workflow
We are currently using the 2019 version of Unity 3D because it is easy to develop with a small team using the Asset Store. It’s good to continuously upgrade the development tools in Unity, but it is difficult to modify the code according to the Unity version every time, so we are staying with the 2019 version.
Our first goal with Zelter was to keep the tension and fun in the survival game but to reduce the stress by introducing some cool action. At the same time, we wanted our game to be replayable, so the audience could see and feel something new every time they played. At the same time, we wanted to avoid making it too difficult or too stressful and make sure it was fun. We’ve created a map where the player can start from a fixed position, and we designed the level so that the drop rate of items or monsters is random but won’t overwhelm the player. We also didn’t want the players to feel too stressed when they die and the game is over, so we have been working on a system to combat this.
Creating The Game’s World
Zelter aims to put an entire city into the game. We will be expanding the world through continuous updates and will add a variety of themed topography and buildings.
As for the obstacles, we're adding huge bosses at the boundaries of each region. In order for the players to explore a wider world and get more content and upgrades, they will have to overcome these challenges and take down these bosses.
We used only Photoshop to create terrain graphics. The color of the textures and the overall color palette give Zelter a sense of unity. We tried to create our own unique style based on various images and photos of real-world locations. As a primary source of inspiration, we used the Korean city of Pangyo, and we have tried to deliver its atmosphere in the game.
As the game is 3D-based, we're free to make the visual effects we want! We can use lights, shadows, and other effects. This desire to make a 2D game on the 3D engine was the driving force behind the Zelter’s visual aesthetic
We introduced Zelter to a wide audience for the first time on Kickstarter at the end of 2019. We had been developing the game for quite some time and wanted to find out how potential players would react. We also wanted to meet a publisher that would understand us and our game. It seems that we made the right decision back then! We met a lot of backers around the world who decided to support Zelter because they really loved it, and they gave us a lot of support and feedback. It gave us a clear picture of the game's improvement points and helped to set a clear direction for development. Now, as we prepare to launch Zelter in Early Access in October on Steam, we plan to add content and features for about a year before officially launching the game.
We first got to know each other through Kickstarter, and have been working together happily since then. We focus on the game’s development, and everything else related to promotion is handled by Super.com. Super.com interacts directly with users in social communities such as Twitter and Discord and is also actively involved in events such as Gamescom. We appreciate the help because these are areas that are difficult for developers to take care of themselves and require specific expertise.
It is not easy for an indie game development team to receive investment from publishers, especially in Korea. It is also pretty difficult to raise money via Kickstarter or other crowdfunding platforms. Nevertheless, I think the most important thing when talking with publishers or investors is the game itself. You don’t have to make a triple-A game, but it is essential to create a high-quality game with your own vision.
For our team, making the games we want to create, the fun we want to show, and the system are of paramount importance. As a result, we were able to find a strong group of supporters and partners.
When looking for partners, we prioritized publishers who can understand the characteristics of our team. That's also the biggest reason we joined Super.com.
Zelter will be launched globally on Steam on October 22, 2020. We have created Zelter with the support of our community, and we have carefully listened to their feedback during development. We are planning to have content updates every couple of months, along with any fixes and patches that are needed.
We really appreciate the support of our wonderful community, and we hope they will love our game as much as we do!