Strolling through IndieDB can get you some awesome indie games, and I found Splatter, an upcoming (edit: now available!) shooter with a slick style. I contacted Thomas, the creator, to find out about how the art style was made, among other things.
Give us some info about yourself, Thomas.
So hi, I’m Thomas. 34 years old, been doing spare time game development for 28 years now if you count the first simple programs a 6 year old can do. Our “team” made its first appearance in 1996 with a shareware game for the Amiga. I did quite some more games with these people over the years, I have been in the professional game development for about a year, I’ve been working for some years in various consumer electronics companies, and now I’m full-time indie since 2011. It was a bumpy ride at times, but it was fun.
What can you tell us about Splatter?
It’s my attempt at living by indie game development. Back in 2010 we did a “prototype” of Splatter in one month for a contest of our local developer community. It was already fun to play, it already had the flares that make the gameplay so different from standard shooters, and it was quite polished considering the time we had. We won the contest 🙂 But we had so many more ideas we weren’t able to fit into the short development time. So when I quit my job to go indie, I went back to Splatter and grew it into the story-driven shooter it is now.
Splatter – at its core – is just that: a mouse/stick shooter. But there are some things to set it apart from the crowd. First there are the flares. The monsters are scared by its light. You can stick a flare at a large enemy to ignite it, you can throw it at the ground to give yourself new space to breathe, or you can simply use one to light up a room. The flares feel like a game changer, I even start missing them in other games. And of course there are boss battles you can’t win without using flares.
Along with the flares comes a nice light/shadow system which mostly just sets a nice mood to the scene. But you also need to be aware of the shadows when playing: the light of flares is just light, anything in the shadows won’t be affected by it. So when the monsters are sprawling thick around you, even your own shadow will be a danger.
Do you have any inspirations for the game?
Anyone of you ever played Crimsonland? That. I played so many rounds of it, shooting everything in sight… I always wanted to do my own version. I played a lot of similar shooters over the years, but none ever got me like this again.
I love the art style. Who did the art and using what? Do they have any tips on making art for games?
Most of the art side of Splatter is done by my friend Michael. He’s an avid photographer, so when he needs to do some background tiles, decals or a image for a cutscene, he starts searching his thousands of photos for elements to extract and combine.
On the other side most of the monsters and NPCs were created as 3D models, animated and then rendered into hundreds of frames. Beware: technical – Splatter uses a deferred renderer of sorts for all in-game scenes, so in addition to the “color” image we also need normal maps and height maps for all graphics. If you get your graphics from 3D models, you can simply render those out, too. Hand-drawn graphics pose some difficulties in that regard, but over time we got pretty good at hand-drawing height maps.
What can you tell us about the multiplayer modes?
First I need to clear up a potential misunderstanding: Splatter only supports local multiplayer, up to four players on a single computer. There won’t be any networking support. I’d need to rewrite most of the gameplay logic to support this, it’s just not feasible.
When you gather a few friends in front of your computer, everyone grabs the controls s/he’s used to – multiple keyboards, mice, gamepads, joysticks are supported. Currently there are just two multiplayer game modes: Deathmatch and Survival. Depending on the success of the game I’ll add more with free updates afterwards.
In the Deathmatch mode you try to shoot your friends while trying to not get hit. Simple as that. Each of the maps adds a little special twist to the fight – one contains an automated turret you need to stay covered from, one has a little kill switch with which you can blast the room where new weapons spawn… such things.
The Survival mode is you and your friends together against ever-growing hordes of enemies. This game mode can also be played alone for online leaderboards, and we also added little twists to each map.
Is the game linear or non-linear?
The story mode is mostly linear. There are occasional free-roam areas you can explore on your own or simply skip, and there are occasional side missions, but mostly its a linear sequence of events.
The cutscenes are awesome-looking as well as amusing. How were they made? Did you hire actors? Is that you…?
To be honest: they’re not intended to be humorous. 🙂 We tried to get a film-noir vibe from the cutscenes and the player character also talks like this. Our budget was too tight to pay anyone, so we asked friends to help us out. The main character, Max, is played by a male model we convinced to lend us his face. Everyone else is recruited from our friends. We asked people at a party if they’d pose a certain character for our game, took some photos of each, and used those as character portraits when people are talking in the game.
I expect all this talking and cutscenes to be effective only if we get believable voice acting. But this won’t be cheap, so I have to defer voice recording for when the game has reached a certain success. If it doesn’t, I can’t afford voice acting.
Do you have any tips on webpage design? Your website is pretty nice! If not, how about tips on getting your game out there.
Thanks 🙂 I’ll forward the compliment to Michael, who also did the website. It’s based on WordPress with a custom design, I think, and some plugins to achieve multi-language support, galleries and so on. Can’t say much about this because I simply don’t know more, sorry.
And on getting the word out about your game: from the numbers I apparently failed on this regard, so you better don’t ask me about hints.
Thanks. Any parting thoughts?
I’m currently hacking through lists of literally hundreds of details to fix… it’s always a very stressful time, but you also climb to new heights of efficiency and motivation. It’s a blast. In a few days this game will see the public, and if all works out this is only the beginning of the Splatter tour. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathan prefers his last name not to be known. He’s probably a high-class superspy, but we don’t mind. Point man for interviews, and occasionally he takes a blowtorch to a game to see whether it measures up to his standards. Visit his game development blog: http://wonderlandgamesblog.wordpress.com/