As I start planning for December’s big event, I’ve been working on more gamedev interviews to share with you all. I find these fascinating, because we rarely get to see the other side of this industry. I do this to show people that behind the technology and sales, there are living beings who develop and work on these projects.
Today, I bring you an interview I had with Jay, a designer from Revolution Industry. This small indie team have been working on an adventure title called Airship: Kingdoms Adrift over the last few years. It should be coming to Early Access on Steam in the coming months, so it’s something to look out for!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?
Hi! Thank you so much for this interview! I’m Jay, I’m a game designer/director from Revolution Industry. A 15ish person game studio making an fantasy Airship adventure/simulation game “Kingdoms Adrift” coming to early access in a few months. I’ve been working as managers and co-founded some casual game companies over the past 15 years.
What does being a game designer actually mean?
I think people have different opinions about the role. But to me and to people at Revolution Industry, it means we get to play games that our playerbase like and come up with something new enough to be original while also being similar enough to appeal to the fans of the genres. Now that’s just the beginning, afterward, we have to internalize those concepts and communicate between us at first, then involve the community on Discord and make all of it come true.
There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years about micro transactions in gaming. Not so much an opinion, but why do games tend to cut out content to sell later as DLC and lootboxes? Is it to do with development costs? Or is it time related?
You are right, it has to do with the cost in both static development cost term and a relative terms. You see, audiences like to compare between one game and another, they don’t really care much about budget differences, they only care about the end result. Now, all things being equal, games with higher revenue or higher projected income means games with higher budget. With higher budget you have better graphic and more iteration and more engineering and more time to do things better. So, in a sense, the way the market behaves dictate how game developers build for more potential revenue, because regardless of whether the game succeed, microtransaction and multiple cash out points mean higher projected revenue, allowing for more budget and more compatible quality.
Tell us about your current project.
Airship: Kingdoms Adrift is a single-player offline, airship strategy-simulation game with lore rich theme. This game will take you to the sky of Europa, a shattered fantasy continent struggling through an age of technological and ideological revolution. The world of this game is set in the world of Spheara where war has shattered into pieces. Since then, the newfound power called ‘mana’ has engulfed the globe, lifting the grounds hanging afloat in the sky above the deadly and dark ocean.
In this game, you can customize your airship, battle against another airship fleet, manage your trade route, create your own industry, play it in a sandbox mode, join an online multiplayer match, and so much more. Though the battle is one of the critical aspects of this game, later on in the game’s progression, the economy will become an essential part of the gameplay as well.
As anyone who creates anything, we must all deal with criticism from consumers. How do you go about it particularly in the prolific and viral standard of gaming today?
Criticism is a great thing and we have taken a lot of those in recent weeks. We have been developing Kingdoms Adrift and shaping it along with community’s criticism until this point and would continue to do so. I personally trained myself and the team to just look beyond personal attacks and overly passionate comments we seem to be getting from time to time, and learn from them as much as we can. We also need to be cleared between ourselves and our community on what we are setting out to make, after all, different subset of audience will want features to work differently. Putting clear vision out there between us and the community helped a lot.
What advice would you give new developers taking the plunge into game design?
I’d say it depend on why they are coming into game design. But since most of us are here probably for the sake of getting to perform it, so having somewhat of a purpose to why we are doing it can give us a clear direction to develop our career and businesses towards. This is better than drifting around because it helps with that extra push which prevent us from taking a step back every time things starting to get difficult.
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
I’m still playing video games and I play everything that our fanbase play both as a work and as an entertainment. Out of everything I’ve had my hands on, I’d say the X series entertained me the most. I also enjoy Mount & Blades to a great extent. Right now I don’t have anything on the backlog, and that’s probably the reason why I started working on Kingdoms Adrift, there isn’t enough games like this to keep the playerbase occupied!
What inspires you to do what you do?
I’ve always wanted to take part in the industry that inspired me, and my childhood revolved around many simulation games. Some of the most inspiring are the likes of Sid Meier’s Pirates and Star Control series. I have started my career as a game designer to work on games like these, but the first half of my career was mostly spent on learning the ropes and working on casual game titles because they sell rather well. I’ve considered this to be the second half of my career, when I get to finally set out to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Talent management has always been difficult for me, I can’t make what we are making alone. And while I’m blessed with great people that are working with me right now, I’ve always found getting the right people onboard and creating environments for them to thrive is still the most difficult part of the job after all these years.
What was your favorite thing about game development? Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?
The most favorite part is always when I get to see people’s reaction towards the game. I’ve never had enough of those experiences. The difficult part comes afterward though, once I have seen how players react, I have to come up with improvements and there’s always more options and solutions to the same problem, each with their ups and downs. I find navigating this decision making process difficult, especially when working on something very unique like Kingdoms Adrift, because I have no pre-existing solution from other games out there.
What lessons have you learned from your first game?
Wow, it was such a long time ago, my first game project went really bad, I didn’t cast the right people onboard and we had to shuffle almost a whole team. The project ended up successful financially, but I did lose some friends over it, so I would consider it a failure. The lesson I’ve picked up from my first game is to make sure that the casting of the team is rock solid, you need to make sure from day 0 that the people you are bringing onboard are equipped with the skill needed to do the job or would be able to truly pick up those skills as it goes. The latter is very risky though.
What are your future project(s)?
We’ll continue expanding the world of Airship. Kingdoms Adrift is only the first game of such a rich universe we are working together on. So, as fanbase grew, I really hope we could finance bigger budget title with more things for players to do and modders to play with while add more fidelity and content to the ever growing lore of the game.
If you couldn’t be an game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
Hmmm… I would have set out to remove whatever obstacles that prevent me from being a game developer. But, let’s say it’s really impossible, I’d probably write books and tell stories about the world of Airship instead.
What is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
It’d be an Airship game with AAA feature set and fidelity, of course. Players can play in first person, build their ships parts by parts and fight boarding combat onboard the ships deck. Also standing next to their howitzers and listen to the sound of the shell bursting through the cylinder, feeling the compressed hot air on their face and wind through their hair. Would be really really awesome. Also having places where they could visit in first person with a lot of detailed characters, buildings, and different cultural features. A lot of ships, large open world that players can play co-op and adventure together. Each on their own ships or getting onboard the same ship and do things together. I really wish the franchise would get to that point.
Thank you Sassy Gamer very much again for this interview!
Airship: Kingdoms Adrift will launch Early Access soon.
You can visit our Steam page to wishlist and check out updates directly from us.
Social and Stores
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kingdomsadrift
Discord invite: https://discord.com/invite/BVcgwY6AM4