|Inside Mac Games Holiday Q&A 5: Soldak Entertainment|
December 27, 2010 | Jon Carr
Welcome to Part Five of our Inside Mac Games Holiday Q&A Feature! Steven Peeler, founder of Soldak Entertainment, was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his current development, his time at Ritual Entertainment, what inspired him to become an independent developer and more.
IMG Holiday Season Q&A 5: Soldak Entertainment
Jon Carr: You are currently working on an expansion for Din's Curse titled Demon War. What are some new features or options that fans and newcomers should be excited about?Steven Peeler: Well one of the big ones is that NPCs are much more involved in the town. They now have moods of sorts, money, and relationships with others. These things can go well and make them very happy and generous to you and others. This can lead them to giving you gifts, solving quests for the town, and other similar things. On the other hand, the pressure might get the best of them and they might resort to selling town secrets to the Orcs, steal from their neighbors, try to drink their problems away, or even start fights.
Other than the new NPC stuff the expansion expands on the many things that makes Dinís Curse unique in the first place. We have new world changing quests like Anti-Magic machines, monsters blocking the gate system, traitors betraying the town, and barbarian raids. We have new world modifiers like Drunk Town, Tornados, War Zone, and Thieves Den. We have new world setup options like Invasion Mode, Raging Hordes, and world size. We have also added the new Demon Hunter class which, thanks to our hybrid class system, brings us up to 196 total class combinations.
JC: The wide variety of settings and randomization options in Din's Curse must sometimes lead to unexpected results. Does the game ever surprise you? What are some of the more unusual or amusing events you've encountered?
SP: It does surprise me sometimes. That was actually one of initial goals for this game. One recent example is one of our alpha testers mentioned that she walked over to heal at a lifestone and three Nagas had the same idea after a fight with some other monsters. All four of them healed up a bit before trying to kill each other.
JC: Have you considered setting other types of games in the world of Aleria? The rich backstory and lore would seem to make a party based traditional RPG a good possibility, for example. And, a strategy wargame featuring signature factions from the games sounds equally intriguing.
SP: I have indeed thought about both of those possibilities as well as many other types of games within the same world that we have created or new worlds. There are a lot of different types of games I would like to do, but I also still have a lot I would like to do in the action RPG genre.
JC: Kivi's Underworld and Din's Curse also features Multiplayer in addition to Single Player. How important is it for an RPG to have co-op or multiplayer options versus a single player only experience?
SP: I think multiplayer is really game specific. Kivi and Din work well with co-op multiplayer. It doesnít have it, but Depths of Peril could work well with pvp or co-op multiplayer. I donít think a game has to have a multiplayer mode though especially with certain types of games. A slow, turn based RPG might suck in multiplayer because you are always waiting for other people. You could change the game to work better in multiplayer, but the more changes needed, the more the multiplayer game ruins the single player game.
JC: You have partnered with digital distributors such as Steam to sell your games, and your titles are also multi-platform. How important have these factors been to your success as an independent developer?
SP: Both digital distributors and building our games for multiple platforms has worked out very well for us. I donít give out statistics very often, but portals make up about 18% of our revenue. We certainly donít rely on portals as our main revenue source, but it is still a good chunk. As for multi-platform, we started with only a Windows build of Depths of Peril. Not too long after releasing DoP, we ported DoP over to the Mac. We have had Mac versions of all of our games since. As of right now, Mac sales are around 38% of all of our direct sales (it is considerably less on portals and retail though).
JC: The launch of the Mac App store is right around the corner. Is the store something you will try and sell your games on, or do you think the guidelines will prove too restrictive?
SP: Oh, Iím sure we will try to sell our games on there. The restrictions worry me some but I havenít had a chance to look through them yet. Iím just really hoping itís not going to be another race down to $0.99 like on the iPhone.
JC: Before forming Soldak Entertainment you worked for several years at Ritual Entertainment. How has your prior experience in the game industry benefitted your current work?
SP: There were a lot of benefits at working at a more normal game company like Ritual. Six years of working on games there made me a better programmer, I got a lot of experience designing games even though that wasnít my full time job, I got a reasonable look at the entire process of making games, and I met and worked with many talented people, some of which have worked on Soldak games.
JC: What inspired you to shift from making games in a larger company to being independent? It seems to be a unique position that you don't often hear about. What are some of the ups and downs about developing on your own or in a small group?
SP: One of the big things was that I wanted to work on an RPG. Ritual was pretty stereo cast as a company that made shooters. While there was a lot of interest within the company to do an RPG, it didnít look like we were ever going to find a publisher that would back a Ritual RPG. Considering that Ritual no longer exists and never released an RPG that was pretty accurate. I could have gone to another company that makes RPGs, but then I would have needed to leave the area and then I would be working on someone elseís concept not my own.
Positives of the lone dev: you get to design everything, you can take crazy risks if you want to, no meetings, you donít have to do something just because thatís how itís always been done, you can work at home, and you can work whatever hours is good for you.
Negatives of the lone dev: you have to design everything yourself, marketing is hard and you probably have no experience doing it, you still need to get other people to do the things you arenít good at, it is harder to stay motivated when there is only yourself, and you tend to also do everything not related to creating the game (forums, taxes, marketing, backups, etc.).
You can try out demos or buy games at Soldak Entertainment's website, as well as keep up on the frequent posts detailing new features for the Din's Curse expansion. You can also join their social network, vote on polls and join the forum.