Nuclear Dawn Interview

Article

posted 10/14/2011 by Travis Huinker
other articles by Travis Huinker
Platforms: PC
Nuclear Dawn was originally announced in 2006 as a Source mod and has transformed over the years into a full commercial game that is now available on Steam. We spoke with James Gray from InterWave to learn more about design choices, gameplay strategies, and the future of Nuclear Dawn.

Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about your role(s) on the Nuclear Dawn project?
Hello, I am James Gray, lead coder at InterWave. I am one of the founding members of InterWave, and I've participated in the game's development from the very start.


Nuclear Dawn began as an amateur mod and evolved into a full commercial project, can you give us a little insight on what led to that transformation and how the game has changed in scope over that time?
It was the game's scope that made us go commercial, actually. We had this beautiful, powerful vision of implementing FPS/RTS gameplay like no one managed to before, and we were not willing to compromise on it by keeping it a hobby.

In order to fully realize our vision of the Nuclear Dawn, the only choice was to commit to its production full time, without other concerns and worries, and so we did.



What design choices favored into limiting the class selection to four? Was there any discussion of more class types in the end product?
There are only so many archetypes that you can draw on to make significant gameplay choices, and even then the choice is further limited by the style and type of game.

Originally, we had four combat classes in mind, and the Support was added later on in design, as we realized the need for a wildcard healing/repair combat class. We have some sketched ideas on how to expand class selection, though for now we're happy with completely hammering the current selection into shape, and adding a little more weapon variety to the mix.

While it's something that stays on the drawing board, at the moment, watching the game in action, we don't feel that adding an extra class this soon will benefit gameplay at all.


What has been your reaction thus far with the online community of Nuclear Dawn players?
The community has been polarized, which is always good. There are players who really get into the game, and praise it as a fresh take on a familiar genre. There also are players who just don't enjoy the new mixture of common elements, and their feedback is even more important as it allows us to zero in on how to make Nuclear Dawn a more refined product.


Have you found it difficult to adapt the title, which was originally intended for a PC audience, to a console such as the Xbox 360?
The title's not been adapted to the Xbox yet – we have two major updates planned to Nuclear Dawn that will implement more game modes and AI units to specific situations. Once the game is patched up to the level of content that we always intended it to have, we will start the conversion process to Xbox.

And yes, we do anticipate difficulties with porting Nuclear Dawn to consoles in general, as we have a very ambitious memory footprint.


In retrospective to the development of Nuclear Dawn, what were some of the major lessons learned?
That there is a good reason if a major studio hasn't tried something yet – it's difficult and risky!

We blithely made all kinds of choices at the start of game development, and if we'd had full hindsight on the difficulties we'd encounter down the road because of, say, memory usage of over 20 unique structures on top of 4 player classes on two factions, each with unique main weapons... we may have taken a smaller bite.

Or then again, maybe not – what's the point in being indie, if you can't fly in the face of tradition a little?


What can we expect in the form of future updates to the game? Will single-player be an option at some point?
A full single player campaign is out of the question for the current incarnation of Nuclear Dawn.

We have two major updates planned: one will introduce AI bots and drones, and a few game modes made possible by them, and the other will introduce new maps and other gameplay additions. Once those two updates are out, a series of simple single-player training scenarios will become a real possibility.



For players striving to become successful commanders, do you have any particular recommendations or strategies for them in the heat of battle?
Yes, never forget that your players are your most powerful weapon. Turrets, artillery and spawn points can all be calculated down to a tee and defeated scientifically. It's your players who add that random element of chaos to each game that keeps the Nuclear Dawn from stagnating into an exercise of perfect structure positioning.

Whatever your strategy, make sure you put the needs of your troops first, because if they are well stocked with supplies, and can spawn in a variety of locations, you will maintain supremacy on the map automatically.

Oh, and Artillery. It's there for a reason. As are Siege weapons.


What are some recommendations or advice that you can offer for other independent game studios working on their first title?
Just work on your game, and remember that there will be people who just get a kick from stomping on someone else's dream, people who will criticize your title because the shape of its logo bothers them. Ignore them. Give your game the best shot you can, and if you make it worth playing, people will play it and tell others.


What does the future hold for InterWave studios now that Nuclear Dawn has been released?
More Nuclear Dawn, in the shape of the two updates we outlined above. After Nuclear Dawn? Something more focused and less ambitious, perhaps, just to catch our breath, before delving into either a Nuclear Dawn single player game, or multiplayer sequel. We do not yet possess the resources to engage in both at the same time.

Finally, we're involved in the development of more casual titles for the iPhone, and PC. We're working with the original indie programmers behind rComplex to deliver a more polished, commercial version of their hit title, and then there's always Radians around the corner.


We'd like to thank James for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Robbert for helping to facilitate the interview.
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