Show And Tell: Visual Outbreak

This is Show and Tell, a (relatively) new regular which gives Aussie indies the chance to show off what they’ve been working on. Today we have Alex Norton, creative director at indie studio Visual Outbreak, currently heading a team of 30 people developing Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox.

Can you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about your studio? Visual Outbreak has been a small indie development house based out of Brisbane, Australia for the last six years. It started as a team of four people developing an online Dungeons and Dragons medium called Dungeon Master Pro, to allow people to play classic D&D (with the books) with people across the world. It was a bit of a quietly popular app and we got to version 3, and by that time there weresix of us. We moved on to a few small projects after that — mostly making engines for other groups' projects — and over that time it dropped down to just two people running the place. However, about two years ago we started developing our biggest ever title, Malevolence, which built the team back up to about 12 people. Over the last two years that team has swelled to 30 as the demands of the game got larger.

What game are you working on at the moment? It's called Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox, and it's a procedurally generated, infinite RPG for Windows. Lots of work has gone into creating a game that essentially creates itself as you play. All of the levels, the items, the spells, even the dialogue and some of the 3D models/textures are generated through code, so as the player keeps walking towards the boundaries of the game-world, more game-world is created, allowing them to explore forever. However, it's not just random level creation like many other games. If they player turns around and heads back the way they came, everything will still be there waiting for them. This game isn't just another dungeon crawler (although there will be many dungeons) but a full, vibrant, dynamic world for people to explore. The game is heavily influenced by some of the classic turn-based RPGs from the 80s and 90s such as Might & Magic and Eye of the Beholder, so it's not like anything people have seen for a while. We're trying to revitalise the genre! Where and when can we play? Well, given the technical nature of the game, it's going to be a little while before it's finished. The final version of the game will be released on December 21st 2012 if all goes according to plan, which so far it is. However, we know that's a long way away, so we're going to be releasing a playable demo at the end of this year, just before Christmas. The demo will start the player at the bottom of a procedurally generated dungeon, where they will have to survive and fight their way up to the surface, collecting things as they go. When they reach the surface, they will get a brief taste of the in-game countryside before they enter a town, ending the demo. We wanted people to get a proper taste of the game though, so every time they play the demo, the dungeon will be totally different from before, with a new map, new monsters and new items. Hopefully that keeps people going until the full version is out!

What’s next for your studio – any big plans? Expansion packs! An infinite world isn't big enough for us, so we plan on releasing massive content updates, and possibly even an official multiplayer upgrade. Also, if Malevolence is popular enough, then we have plans for making a sequel that will have an even more detailed world and real-time gameplay, closer to games such as The Elder Scrolls series. We're also planning to release a lite iOS and Android version of the game to help people take the game with them.

Any words of advice for those who want to get into the games industry? Personally, I'd start with indie games. Get together with a group of like-minded people. Share the talent. Have a good programmer, a good artist and a good writer and you can do anything. The real key is focus. Get an idea, make it a thorough idea, and stick with it. Too many people switch ideas or give up because their vision isn't clear enough. A good project can't be done half-hearted. To quote the great John Carmack: "In the information age, the barriers just aren't there. The barriers are self imposed. If you want to set off and go develop some grand new thing, you don't need millions of dollars of capitalisation. You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on, and the dedication to go through with it."

If you’re an indie developer, or a student working on a cool project, get in contact with us here if you want to be featured in an upcoming Show and Tell!


Comments

    Sounds interesting, be kinder like the first elder scrolls games with the random generated world

      Pretty much! I hope you like it when you try it!

    I really like the sound of this, I was disappointed when Borderlands dropped their randomly generated world as I've never played a randomly generated 3D first person game before. This does sound like a fun game, but am I the only one thinking the UI design is kind of dated?

    It is probably on purpose, to evoke the atmosphere of early RPGs but I prefer the minimalistic designs you see today which give the player view the whole screen and a few objects on top to show things like map/health/selected weapon.

      The UI can be switched between the classic look and a modern streamlined look :)

        Ah that's very cool then. Definitely looking forward to this, will check out the demo when it comes out.

    This sounds like just the sort of post-Minecraft action-RPG I've been hoping for. I just hope the combat system is really well thought out (I haven't enjoyed combat in the Elder Scrolls games I've played because it seemed too 'wave weapons around in the air until one of you falls down', compared to the much more visceral 'everything reacts to getting stabbed, and a crit can cause immediate dismemberment on either side if you don't block' of games like Blade of Darkness)

    One thing I would really love to see in a game like this though is a good climbing and athletics system (eg. at a climb skill of 2 you aren't going to fall off ladders, 5 will let you mantle most walls and do some slow rock climbing, 9+ and you parkour like Altair/Ezio) - of course to be useful there needs to me a good variance of height to buildings and dungeon interiors that are more than just map 'slices'.

    I could also see this taking off spectacularly if it eventually opened up to a MC-style discounted alpha/beta access system whereby early adopters can help test and suggest refinements, or tinker with modding possibilities.

      Some pretty tasty ideas there! We might just take you up on that!

        If you like I can put together something a bit more substantial regarding climbing system ideas and the like - as someone with eventual game design aspirations myself, but currently lacking the time and resources to work on my own projects much, I tend to have rather a lot of scrawled pages floating around the place of various systems (control/interface/interaction/inventory/item modularity/etc.) that I'd be happy to see taken up in certain other projects.

          (oops I replied to the wrong person the first time!)

          Anyway, the climbing mechanic might be a bit of an issue as the game is grid-based like the classic RPGs of old, however your ideas regarding an open alpha to get community suggestions is great!

            Alas my hopes have been dashed! ;_;

            I don't think a climbing system would actually be incompatible with a retro tile/grid system - it depends on if the grid is only 2D (like most dungeon crawlers) or 3D to allow for the requisite map generation.

            eg. if there are trap doors that drop you down a hole or into a lower level: rather than having to find stairs/ladder/etc. to climb back up again there could be percentage chances to move up/down a tile depending on which wall surface you attempt to traverse (and if there are affecting attributes like slippery/vine covered/protruding bricks/etc. - failure conditions could vary similarly like if you slip [take damage if falling more than one tile] or dislodge a rock [roll for dodge/damage and reroll for staying on the wall or falling]). It could also allow a chance to grab a ledge instead of fall if something pushes you into a hole.
            Actually if there are gaps like a missing block of floor in a tunnel it could be used to try and climb across instead of it being treated as a dead-end as well.

            Basically treating it more like a tabletop system instead of an action game system.

              It is a little like that... The game is actually fully 3d, but players are limited in movement across a grid-based plane... Hmm... It's definitely something I'm happy to consider for the full version though... Especially given the "thievery/assassination" aspects to the game that have been planned. Food for thought!

    Loving the UI - it looks great and reminds me of the old days.

    It definately sounds interesting, but you guys will have to make sure there is plenty to do in such a large world to keep people interested and make the monsters varied and interesting - i really wish you all the luck in the world.

    I'd be very interested in picking htis up when it comes out/gets to demo stage - you'll have to make sure you pop back in a let us know when it's at that stage :)

      Thank you for the wonderful comments! I'll do my best! Hopefully Kotaku are gracious enough to give us another spot when the demo is launched! And we're working hard to ensure that the procedural content generation is wide and varied! (plus expansions will help with replayability) Hopefully see you again soon!

        Oh - also, while i've got you, Alex - am i mistaken or is that the font from Diablo?
        Are you guys thinking of changing that?

        I mean i know it's not much of a big thing, it' just a font, but my worry is if Actiblizzard have trademarked it)

          It's totally the font from Diablo, first thing I noticed!
          I'm looking forward to checking this game out though, sounds like a good nostalgia trip. Can't wait for the demo. Kotaku should definitely do another story when the demo's released.

          The font used in Diablo (and I agree that it looks like this does too) is the Exocet font. Due to the fact that it's been used by a variety of games and tv shows, I'd be quite impressed if Blizzard had even bothered to attempt to trademark it.

      The climbing might be a bit of an issue as the game is grid-based like the classic RPGs of old, however your ideas regarding an open alpha to get community suggestions is great!

    The font we're using is "Avalon Quest" and is similar, but not the same font as used in Diablo. Currently though, everything you see is a work in progress, so it'll likely change before the demo comes out ;-)

    Thirty people is a pretty big team for an indie throwback RPG. Is it partially grant funded?

      Unfortunately not! All independantly funded. The team is comprised mostly of indie artists, developers, animators, voice actors, etc, who are all pitching in to help launch their careers :) And I have to say, they're all doing an absolutely amazing job!

    Well you have sold me, Bookmarked, and will eagerly await! This type of game has really been dulled down to extinction almost, and I will happily buy this game, the best part of these games is the fact you can talk to a friend about stuff that occurs and have completely different stories to tell.

      You speak our language, xVoid! Thank you for the wonderful praise! It's hearing things like that which keeps us going strong!

    Good work Alex. Looking forward to this of course :)

      Thanks, Morgan! :D

    Seems like a really cool idea, I wish you luck. The idea of making it an iOS game also intrigues me - been waiting for ages for a good RPG on the iPod. I have a couple ideas if you're interested in them, albeit fairly cliche or mediocre. But yeah, the overall game seems pretty good even though its not going to be done for quite a while.

      Demo out this Christmas, though! :)

        Is that just the PC or the iPod version?

          Or both :P

            haha PC. iPod/iPad version will only be happening if the game is popular enough, otherwise it's not worth the development time.

              Yeah, I understand that. Just for curiosities sake, how do you plan on spreading the word out on the game? Other than blogs and whatnot?

                Word of mouth on Forums and whatnot, hopefully! We hope that when people try out the demo, they'll see how good it is and talk about it!

                  You might want to get in contact with the ABC and see if 'Good Game' to showcase it. That's where I heard about minecraft along with a few of my friends so it might be worth a shot.

    Just the fact that the aspirations are huge and Alex replied to EVERY post, makes me want to buy this game for sure.

    Cant wait for the demo!

      Haha we're not your average development team! Thank you for the praise, it's much appreciated!

    The game is coming along magnificently! So much effort put in and it's not even finished, from that you'll know the end product is going to be AWESOME!

      Thanks man!

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