Q&A with InterWave Studios

by on July 18, 2013

As part of the TechConnect holding, developer InterWave Studios is proud to tout that they are “above all, we’re gamers.” Their first release, Nuclear Dawn, was a post-apocalyptic first-person shooter real-time strategy hybrid video game built off the Source engine. It was met with favorable reviews, with Gamespot stating it “offers a full first-person shooter and real-time strategy experience, without crippling or diluting either side of the game.”

We recently had the pleasure to pick the brain of Igor Raffaele, Game Designer for InterWave Studios, about the studios’ upcoming release Dark Matter and its inspirations.

How did InterWave Studios come to exist? Where does the name originate from?

Igor Raffaele: We started as a group of friends playing together in the old Steamfriends community, and went on to the Half Life 2 modding scene.

After several smaller projects, the core team was formed during the production of Stargate: TLS, and then moved on to making Nuclear Dawn. Dark Matter is our second commercial project.

What was the primary inspiration behind Dark Matter?

Igor: The main inspirations were Metroid, Castlevania and Resident Evil as games, and the Alien series as movies. We wanted a game that delivered the same core gameplay as Metroid (explore, survive, power yourself up), but revamped a little for modern graphics and gameplay options.

So many games now are concentrated on easy gameplay but after several hours of playing Dark Matter it seems refreshingly difficult. Will this difficulty remain in the final version?

Igor: Definitely! Dark Matter’s difficulty level is a choice we made early on, and the game becomes considerably easier once you soak in the game world, understand that light and shadows matter, and that you’ll have to adapt your combat skills to respond to each encounter.

Enemies kill you, even the weakest ones, if you give them a chance, and players have to stay on their toes throughout the game. There is a real progression in the power and variety of the weapons, but you remain the same vulnerable human throughout. As stakes increase, so does tension, as well as ultimately the sense of reward for surviving the bigger enemies.

What inspired the move from the fully 3D world of Nuclear Dawn to the 3D and 2D mix of Dark Matter?

Igor: Innocence! When we chose side scrolling over full range 3D for Dark Matter, we thought that the fixed perspective of a platformer would lead to shortcuts in asset production, and a less demanding level development work.

Unfortunately, we also wanted it to look good, and that’s a lot of work from any perspective!

In its current state the game felt quite solid and definitely the result of a lot of hard work. What about Dark Matter are you most proud of?

Igor: Definitely enemy responses. To most casual players, enemies are just slavering machines of destruction, but the way the game does not use scripting to determine their behaviors means that you will never encounter the same enemy in the same place, situation and disposition twice, and that makes the game replayable and interesting.

The visuals, and the way storytelling slots into gameplay need a mention, but the other aspect we’re very proud of is how the game’s core gameplay draws on established classics to create a mixture that is quite fresh and offers a pacing we haven’t seen before – the game has a distinct personality that sets it aside from all of its inspirations, and we love that murderous, slow, dark personality.

What aspects of the beta will definitely change in the final game?

Igor: Controls will be refined, and pacing will be tightened across the first two chapters that you played. The atmosphere and tension will stay, but we are aiming to increase event frequency, giving players more puzzles, more riddles, and more content to interact with, if they so choose.

Visually the game is well set, but if we have the chance, we’d like to give the main character a polish pass to make animation blending smoother across poses.

How long has the game been in development and how many members are on your team?

Igor: The game has been in production since May 2012, but was in design and prototyping since March 2012. We had a couple of false starts, so it’s only been in active development for a full year.

We have seven full time team members, and another two part time contributors.

At what stage of completion is the games current beta?

Igor: The current beta is roughly the first half of the game. It features a tutorial, four introductory levels, and the game’s first (and largest) hub. Two more hubs (chapters) are in development.

What game is next for InterWave?

Igor: We’d really like to revisit the Dark Matter universe to complete the Ensign’s story, either in the form of a sequel, or in the form of several episodic releases. We’ll have to make it through this Kickstarter first, though!

*Update: Unfortunately, it appears as though InterWave was unable to achieve their goal on Kickstarter for Dark Matter. Hopefully that doesn’t stop this awesome game from being released. Click here to read what we thought about Dark Matter during our hands-on with the beta.

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