Fight­ing talk

With Warshift, one man is strik­ing out on his own to bat­tle big-bud­get stu­dios

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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

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