Apr 102011

Detour is scheduled to release in Q2 of 2011, but before it does, we wanted to get in touch with the creators, Sandswept Studios. Today, I’m speaking with Geoff Keene (the CEO and Design Director), and he will give us a bit of insight on both the game and company alike.

Can you give us a brief history of Sandswept Studios?

Oh, it’s a riveting tale of adventure. Actually, it’s fairly short. We started Sandswept in December of 2007, during a particularly bad winter storm. At that time we were working on a 2D sidescroller. It didn’t really work out as we planned, and as it was our first project, we ran into quite a few issues we didn’t expect. In December of 2008, we canceled that project and began development on DETOUR. We started rather small, and have grown and shrunk repeatadly over the past couple of years, and we’re now sitting fairly steady at about 13 or so, right as we’re getting ready to release DETOUR.

Detour looks to be a pretty amazing multiplayer title. Will connectivity be exclusively hosted through Sandswept’s servers, or will it all users be able to direct-connect, host servers, or connect via LAN?

As long as players are connected to Steam, they will be able to create their own private and public games for people to join. We’re still working out how and if we’re doing any sort of automated matchmaking, as opposed to just having a global server list and joining directly to friends.

Will there be leaderboards or tournaments built into the game?

We do plan to have leaderboards and a few other ranked-style games, even if they’re not present in the initial release.

The video speaks volumes about the gameplay of Detour. How would you describe the game in paragraph form?

Oh boy. We’ve had to do this quite a bit, and it doesn’t always work. The gameplay of DETOUR is quite different from just about any other game out there, which is both a blessing and a curse. I’ll give it my best shot.

DETOUR is essentially a construction-based war game. The goal is to get your trucks across the map, while stopping the other players from doing the same. There’s a lot of cool stuff, such as bombs, bribery, turrets, donut shops (seriously!) and bubbles you can throw onto your truck. There’s a huge level of depth to the game we didn’t even touch on in that short 3 or so minutes of gameplay, and we hope we can show it off (and simply let people play it) in the very near future. All the beta feedback we’ve been receiving has been surprisingly positive regarding how smooth it plays and so forth. We’ve seen a few comments from those watching the video, perhaps a bit worried that the game will be too fast-paced, or something of the sort. We’ve been taking a lot of feedback and are making some adjustments to drastically increase the length of games, allowing for quite a bit more depth to the way you build, defend, and destroy.

Are there already plans in the works for DLC additions to the finished product after release?

We don’t currently have any specific plans for DLC, but it’s always a possibility. We will very likely roll out at least one additional update post-release, in order to address feedback and a few other things we simply haven’t had the time or resources for.

What gaming influences have helped to shape Detour into the game it has become?

This is a very good question. We’re not even sure ourselves. The idea spawned from an old board game (we believe it was called “Bridges”, or “Bridge-It”), but has grown into something far different. We’ve definitely looked at various RTS games and how they use their rock-paper-scissors mechanics, and we’ve heard it likened to old games, such as Blast Corps, but we certainly couldn’t point to any specific inspiration other than “The idea sounded like a fun game to make.”

Everything seems slated to release this quarter – are you aiming for a specific date yet?

That’s simply coincidence for us. Quarter 2 is basically when we’ve decided we can really get a finished, working product out the door. We’ve been working on DETOUR for a bit longer than we expected, but we love it all the same. We’ve got an internal deadline to have a huge amount of the game code ‘done’ by August 26th, but it’ll probably release a bit after. Sometime in May is the most accurate estimate I can give at this point.

On a personal level, what games are you playing right now?

Personally, I’ve been getting back into Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4, just because they’re so easy to pick up and play (and then drop when something comes up that I have to attend to.) I’ve also grown some affection for League of Legends. I’ve noticed some similarities in pace between LoL and DETOUR, that’s for sure.

After creating a title, do you still have a good time playing it?

I’ll let you know once it’s out there! The recent playtests have been quite fun for all of us. I think a good portion of the joy for us specifically comes from seeing things really come together and working properly, but the gameplay, from as objective of a viewpoint as I can get it, has definitely held up throughout development.

We’ve heard great things about working with Valve and Steamworks – how would you rate your experience with them?

Valve rocks my socks. I would recommend Steam to any one developing for the PC. The biggest issues we had were trying to get XNA (C#) working with the Steam (C++) code. The rest of the process, and the guys we’ve been in contact with have been ridiculously helpful. I couldn’t ask for a better platform at this point.

Will the game be completely Steam exclusive?

We had plans for an Xbox LIVE Indie Games release, but in order to focus more on ensuring the PC game is not a silly port, we’ve post-poned (read: canceled) it until further notice. The game will be Steam exclusive until we decide otherwise. This is not only because we simply are enjoying Steam far too much and would like to devote more to the PC version, we’re just not very confident in the XBLIG marketplace and sales. We really don’t think it’s worth our time at this point.

Once Detour is released, where will the focus of the designers be redirected? Are there other titles in the works already?

We might have hinted at something in some particular video we released recently. We are working on something huge, in every sense of the word. Gamers have been waiting for it for far too long. Tell every one you know; Sandswept delivers.

Are there any shout-outs or special mentions that you would like to make? Any sites you would like to bring attention to?

I’d mainly like to thank sites like yours for giving us a platform to speak and get the word out! That said, we’d certainly love to see some new faces over on our forums at Sandswept.net! Pardon Our Dust!

Thank you, Geoff for working with us and bringing information and entertainment to the masses. Readers can look forward to a review of this amazing looking title as soon as we are able. Stay tuned! (in the meantime, check out the video below)

  One Response to “Interview – Geoff Keene @ Sandswept Studios”

  1. Just realized what that marker is… I am ashamed.

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