Soldak Entertainment Interview
Wecvlome back our next interview this month is with Steven Peeler of Soldak Entertainment who took time out of his busy schedule to answer some my questions.
Couchpotato: Welcome to RPGWatch Steven can you give everyone a brief introduction about yourself, and your gaming studio Soldak Entertainment?
Steven: My name is Steven Peeler. I’m the programmer, designer, and owner at Soldak Entertainment. Soldak is a small indie game developer. We’ve been making action RPGs since late 2004.
Couchpotato: How did you get started in game development, and what were your motivations for founding Soldak Entertainment?
Steven: I basically started writing games back when I was a kid and as I got older the games got more and more complex. I started by typing in games on my parents TI-99/4A from magazines. I created some simple games in high school. I built a software renderer in college and started some more sophisticated games. After college I started working on a full fledged action RPG with a small group of other people, but ultimately we really didn’t have enough experience to pull that off. Then I went to work for Ritual Entertainment.
After Ritual, I started Soldak mostly because I wanted to focus on actually making games instead of having meetings, getting sucked into politics, and having publishers constantly demanding dumb things.
Couchpotato: What games do you play in your spare time when not developing Indie games?
Steven: I mostly play RPGs and strategy games on the PC.
Couchpotato: Could you describe what your daily job is like at Soldak Entertainment so we can glimpse of what developing your own game is like?
Steven: It really depends on the day. I do all of the business stuff, most of the marketing, almost all of the design, and all of the programming. I try to fill my days with as much design and programming as I can since that is what I enjoy the most, but a lot of other things sneak in (customer emails, taxes, server issues, project management, PR, etc).
Couchpotato: You have have been making only ARPGs since your first game Depths of Peril so I was wondering what inspired you to only focus on the ARPG genre?
Steven: Depths of Peril was kind of inspired by Diablo and Civilization and the combination that made the most sense to me was an action RPG with strategy elements. I’ve been having fun expanding on those ideas (especially the clans and dynamic world stuff) ever since.
Couchpotato: As a follow-up to the last question have you ever thought of branching out, and making a turn-based RPG, or something different?
Steven: I’ve thought about creating many different types of games before, but I do think a turn-based RPG is one of the more likely if we do something that is not an action RPG.
While we haven’t branched out of the action RPG thing, we have in other ways. We ported Depths of Peril to the Mac. Kivi’s Underworld was a very casual take on the action RPG game. Drox Operative was in a space setting. We even ported Drox Operative (and then Din’s Curse and Depths of Peril) to Linux.
Couchpotato: You once worked at Ritual Entertainment, and are now in charge of your own gaming studio. So I was wondering what is your opinion of the game industry?
Steven: I think for the most part the game industry is like most mature industries. The companies at the top are risking so much money that they can’t or won’t risk doing anything new, so they churn out the same games over and over. They look fantastic, but they only make small changes compared to the last version. So smaller companies (indies) come along and take creative risks and do most of the interesting things.
I very much like that digital distribution, the internet, consoles being more open, cheaper engines, and many other things have made being an indie more viable. Well, they make it easier to jump into the industry. They don’t really help your indie company survive.
Couchpotato: Another follow-up to the last question since I asked you about the gaming industry what’s your opinion on modern RPGs?
Steven: I think a lot of them are still quite fun, but I’m not a fan of the general trend of dumbing down the games for the masses.
Couchpotato: I noticed your games are now on Steam so did it get easier for you over the years? I remember reading a few interviews where you said it was hard?
Steven: I think we were getting pretty close to getting Drox on Steam when Greenlight started pushing through more games, so I can’t really say it has gotten easier for us yet. I expect our next game, Zombasite, will be easier though.
Couchpotato: Indie developers usually have a tough time staying open due to financial reasons so how have things been for you as a studio?
Steven: This is always the weird question because it greatly depends on your perspective. Considering most small companies fail miserably (games and more normal companies), Soldak being in business after 10 years is pretty damn good. We are now at the point where we are probably the most stable we have ever been as a company, but the two of us that are full-time are both getting paid a good bit less than we did when we were in the mainstream part of the industry. So things could be good or bad depending on how you look at the tradeoffs (less hassles, interesting work, less pay).
Of course, as is true with almost any game company, how well we are doing is related to how well our latest game does.
Couchpotato: A recent trend is more Indie developers using crowd-funding have you ever thought of developing a new game using the new model? Also what’s your opinion on crowd-funding?
Steven: I think crowd-funding is great as a general rule. I think it is awesome that a bunch of games that would never have been created because of lack of funding are being released. I think more viable ways of funding is definitely a good thing.
I’m not fond of the idea of crowd-funding one of our games though. My design process and crowd-funding aren’t really all that compatible. I usually describe my design process kind of like exploring and you can’t really guarantee specific results when you are exploring something. I know plenty of game industry people don’t mind promising the most revolutionary game ever before any code has even been written, but I don’t like to promise things that I’m not sure if I can deliver. By the time I’m willing to guarantee things, it is really too late for crowd-fund anything.
Couchpotato: Your latest game in development is called Zombasite, and I was wondering if you could describe what it’s about?
Steven: Well it’s basically a zombie apocalypse action RPG, but instead of the typical modern day setting, it is set in a fantasy world (specifically the Depths of Peril/Din’s Curse world). Replace tinkering evil scientists with Dark Elf wizards and you will understand the back story. (
Here’s part of our blurb:
You are the leader of a clan trying to survive the apocalypse. This is easier said than done. When a follower dies, they can't be saved by any means. The Zombasite is highly contagious and zombies are quickly ravaging the world's surface. Food is a critical resource that must be obtained. Vendors are rare and have limited supplies. Some of the stronger monsters have survived and are as dangerous as ever. Clans of humans and monsters are fighting over what few supplies are left. Even within your own clan it isn't safe. Humans living on the edge are even more unstable than usual. So yeah, survival isn't easy.
You can read more about Zombasite at: http://www.soldak.com/Zombasite/Overview.html
Couchpotato: Will Zombasite be different compared to your older games, and do you have a planned release date for Zombasite?
Steven: There are a lot of new things in Zombasite compared to our other games like the heavy focus on zombies, zombie infection mechanics, ), much better graphics (normal mapping and per-pixel specular), crafting items, character traits (passive skills that radically change your character, and many more things.
It also has a lot in common with our previous games. You control your own clan similar to Depths of Peril. It has a very dynamic world like many of our previous games. It has complex relations between clans and various win and lose conditions like Drox Operative. It also has lots of environmental interaction, hybrid classes, and NPCs that have personalities and do their own thing like Din’s Curse.
I’m still hoping we can release or at least get into beta some time this quarter (2nd quarter of 2015). We’ll see how this goes though. We still have a lot to do.
Couchpotato: Have you got any other projects in the works besides Zombasite you can tell us about either in pre-production, or at the ideas stage?
Steven: I always have lots of games in the ideas stage, but I really have no idea what we will work on after Zombasite. I usually try to focus all of my energy on our current project and not worry too much about what is next.
Couchpotato: That's all for now so thank you for answering my questions. Do you have anything you would like to add before we finish?
Steven: Thank you for the interview. It’s always nice when people remember about us smaller guys.
Information aboutSoldak Entertainment
Country: United States