With Warshift, one man is striking out on his own to battle big-budget studios
One man’s ambitious attempt to take on big studios with Warshift
Boston-based Cyril Megem has spent the past three years holed up in his home working on ambitious action-RTSRPG hybrid Warshift – a game he’s making entirely by himself. Warshift looks like the work of a much larger team, but Megem has somehow found the energy to take on its design, asset creation and programming singlehandedly. He’s even composed one of the pieces used in the soundtrack. It hasn’t been an easy journey – prior to this passion project, he worked in art and design roles at various studios, including Diosoft, Big Fish Games and Cities XL creator Monte Cristo – but the end is almost in sight. Warshift is an incredibly ambitious project – why did you decide to embark on it all by yourself? I thought up the concept a long time ago, but couldn’t find anyone else who believed in it. Colleagues on gamedev.net with whom I shared my ideas considered them to be utopian, and my ambitious goals impossible to realise. I decided to ignore other people’s opinions and start making my dreams come true. Now I realise that I had no choice if I wanted to make the project as I had planned. You say that you’ve been living as a hermit since quitting your previous job – has it been a struggle? Yes, I’ve had to work 16 hours per day, seven days a week, almost all the time. The game is in Early Access now, and you ran a successful Kickstarter – how did you fund development prior to that? For the first year and a half, I lived and worked off of my personal savings, before the game’s development was financed by crowdfunding. Has there ever been a point where you felt like you’d bitten off more than you could chew? No, I’ve had many moments of despair, but every time I’d just look ahead and focus on the fact that I have a unique project to make. I was always sure that I’d made the right decision. Have you found it particularly challenging to divide your attention between all of the different areas of the game, and the disciplines required to craft them? No, just the contrary. Focusing my attention on different development areas is a good way of breaking up my routine. The secret of my working capability is that there are no priorities – all aspects of development are equally important at all times.
“I thought up the concept a long time ago, but couldn’t find anyone else who believed in it”
A lot of smaller teams lean on stylised graphics in order to save on resources while still communicating big ideas – did you ever consider that approach? The production of complex, top-quality assets for an unknown brand means taking great risks. Usually, for this very reason, indie developers focus on quick implementations of their ideas rather than on the production of tons of graphical assets. But I wanted to provide players with really high quality graphics. I initially made all the textures with twice the resolution that’s being displayed in the game right now, so that in future I’ll be able to improve the game’s visuals as soon as the average performance of computers allows it. How hard is it to produce all of these assets without help? It was quite a difficult challenge, because sometimes I had to deal with problems that were new to me, and come up with production solutions. For instance, in my previous roles, I’ve never had to deal with the animation of transforming objects, so I made up a technique that involves making the 3D model and animation for a character simultaneously. Have you programmed your own engine and tools, too, or are you using off-the-shelf solutions? I use Unity 3D for the engine and my own programming assets such as scripts, shaders, and so on. Modern development has changed dramatically, and I think that pretty soon anyone who comes up with a cool idea will be able to implement it without a large production team. How do you feel right now, with a playable version out there? I’m incredibly disappointed that Valve didn’t provide me with any promotion and the game was not even displayed in the section for new releases. I could sell the game on my own website with the same results, without having to give Valve 30 per cent of my profit. But I’m glad that I managed to meet so many interesting people from among Warshift’s players and get helpful suggestions and feedback from them. I collect interesting ideas and suggestions on the official forum [warshift.com/forum], and I’ve already made many changes that were suggested by the community.
Cyril Megem, sole creator of Warshift