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!