Interview with Scott Thunelius of DarkForge Games

Interview with Scott Thunelius of DarkForge Games

Sometimes, games rise from  out of nowhere, and stare you in the face, as if they had been ripped out of your own mind. Nekro, produced by darkForge Games, is one such game for me. The style, art and direction of the project have more than caught my attention. I had a chance to ask Scott Thunelius, Lead programmer, designer and art director at darkForge games about Nekro, what it feels like to have such a successful Kickstarter, and the whole indie Process:

Q: Tell us a little bit about the history of darkForge games, what your
goals are, and how being a games industry veteran translates into the
indie market.

darkForge Games is comprised of a talented group of people that have
been working at big studios our whole lives. I think the migration to
indie was a huge step for us because it represented the ability to
express complete creative freedom. Though we strive to get bigger, I
think most of us agree staying small is the way to go. It allows us to
keep the creative expression we love so dearly and minimize of the
politics of large studios, as we’ve seen bureaucratic processes tear
companies apart.

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Q: Nekro was successfully Kickstarted on May 4, 2012. What was that
experience like, and what did you learn about while tackling crowdfunding.

It was much harder than expected. I thought we would be able to sit back
and let the money come in, turns out I actually had to do work! Lots of
work! As a studio with no reputation behind our name and no product, we
had to convince people that we knew what we were doing. This was
extremely hard. Our Kickstrarter was a success by in large from hounding
press sites and YouTube celebrities. Overall, however, the process was
amazing and really allowed us to connect with our backers and fans in a
way I don’t think many other methods would have.
Q: You’ve got a very dark, morbid game, which has a wonderful garnish of
light-hearted cartoony graphics. What were your influences from an
artistic standpoint, a gaming standpoint, and from life in general?

It was actually by mistake! From the first piece of concept art the game
was very serious looking, lots of reds and blacks with photo-realistic
textures. But as we wanted more silly monsters with big teeth the game
just started to become a bit more cartooney with serious elements. The
textures became hand-painted, the blood became more gratuitous for no
other reason than ‘we can.’ These natural evolutions gave rise to what
eventually became our art style.
Q: What major design changes are you planning on making moving from an
alpha build into beta?

So far people seem to love the game, but the game is a bit repetitive
and has some balance errors…this is fine for Alpha, however I’d like
to see them corrected moving into beta. We’ll also be adding the game’s
shop so items/monsters can be bought (in game money, not
micro-transactions — I hate micro-transactions). The inclusion of this
element will make our world have persistence, which will be huge for the
game. Other than that, the game is playing great so besides more
content, monsters, levels and enemies we’re going to be keeping close to
the formula as it seems to be working.

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Q: In the alpha gameplay, the different powers and trinkets hint at a good
level of customization of your individual Necromancer. What can we expect
for different kinds of appearances and powers in Nekro.

We have 5 Nekro powers planned, each power looks completely different
from the other. The designs are absolutely wild ranging from a
spear-throwing ghost to a giant mechanical electrified suit with an
executioner’s mask! I can’t wait to get them in there.
Q: There are some very powerful minions in the game, and some minions that
seem a little more situational. When you go about constructing these
necromantic horrors and demons, how do you balance utility with the cool
factor?

We come up with minions based only on cool factor, “Oh man, wouldn’t it
be awesome if you could make a little plant that comes out of the ground
and spits venom?!” is how we come up with the theme/visual design for
the monster. We then find a practical role for it by comparing it to the
other minions already in there and what roles have yet to be utilized.
We balance from that and usually it works great!
Q: Have you had to ditch a really great idea because you just couldn’t fit
it in? If so, what was it?

Oh man, so many! The biggest so far is the demon, a massive snake that
the Nekro transforms into and slithers around but we just couldn’t fit
it in the schedule. We also had randomly generated worlds, open maps,
crafting…the list goes on. All of that is cut now, but what we have is
a much better game because of it so I’m so glad we made those tough
choices.


Q: You’ve announced Co-op has made its way into Nekro. What spurred on
this addition, and what challenges did it present. Why was this an
important addition for your team?

We love co-op games; they’re too much fun! I wanted to add it in because
I think it can greatly extend the life of the game. I think we all
agreed it had to be in there, but it’s going to be a huge undertaking.
We’re not at that stage just yet.
Q: What can we expect moving forward with Nekro? Any new surprises you can
hint at?

We’re hoping to be in an open Beta in a few months!
Q: What’s the most difficult moment you’ve experienced in the process of
development?

The hardest thing for me was learning the black magic of shaders. They
can be a real mystery and figuring out how they work is a ton of trial
and error. I’m by no means an expert, but I know enough to get by. It’s
been a huge challenge, but extremely rewarding! If you’re learning
shaders yourself I would highly recommend getting a book called “Shader
and Effects Cookbook” by Kenny Lammers. It helped me a lot.

Q: You know you are an Indie Dev when….

You turn down a high paying job with medical benefits to eat ramen and
make video games all day.

Q: What is one other indie game/ developer that you think people should
have their eyes on, and why?

Young Horses, makers of Octodad. My god do I love the hell out of that
silly, silly game.

 

We at IndieHangover would like to thank Scott and the entire darkForge crew not only for their time, but for their dedication to a great looking game! You can find more information about the team and their game at their website.

In addition, you can find out about Young Horses and Octodad  (If you think you’re up for the silliness) here.

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Written by
Editor-in-Chief of IndieHangover.com. With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.