Dutch game developer Interwave Studios was kind enough to let us get to know a little bit more about their contribution to class-based FPS games, Nuclear Dawn, and how they’re hoping to change it into an entirely different beast. Here I speak with Olly Ginger, the senior programmer, and why adding RTS elements to the FPS is next natural evolution of strategic and tactical gameplay. Nuclear Dawn will be released this month on Steam, so keep your eyes peeled for it.
1) What’s the story behind Interwave?
InterWave started as a modding team for new and interesting gameplay projects. We came from the SteamFriends community, and set off to make mods that delivered both gameplay and quality.
2) Source Engine is a popular and easy way to bring new developers into the industry. How do you feel about using it?
Hard to say objectively, because we’ve been using it for so long! As a coder, I can say that Source offers a clean, complete environment for coders to develop their own solutions, starting from a professional, competent toolset that accelerates development.
The basic toolset that the Source engine comes with, outdated as some of its components may be, is a fantastic jumping platform – it definitely was a great learning platform for our past and current projects.
3) Nuclear Dawn boasts an impressive backstory. Is the story heavily incorporated into the team-based battles?
The story does not surface much in the action itself, though the advantage of having such a well detailed back story is that every single element of the action, even in the most furious battle, belongs to a coherent game world, which makes sense past the ‘pew pew’ moments.
It may not seem like much, but being able to place every single element in a level with the absolute confidence of a complete back story gives each level and moment its own life, that no amount of cinematics can rival.
4) Did you have any inspirations for character design or gameplay?
We received the original assets from the Nuclear Dawn modding team. These included several sketches and concept art. That was a great jump start to set the mood and quality of the art.
Other than that, and the games we loved to play through our gaming lives, the rest of Nuclear Dawn is all our original design – both in character designs and gameplay.
5) Do you think that your game will serve to bring players closer to the RTS or the FPS genre? Or are you hoping for an even mix of both?
We’re hoping Nuclear Dawn will offer a new combination forged from those two genres. Each experience is very much segregated, because the Commander has a full RTS job and the players a full FPS experience, so fans of each won’t have their favourite genre too polluted.
However, because of the extra layer of interactions, such as having real human players instead of AI bots, or having a powerful Commander swaying the tide of battle, Nuclear Dawn’s game modes offer a fresh take on either genre.
6) As the RTS Commander, do you have complete control over the strategic processes of your team?
As the RTS Commander you have full control over weapon unlocks (Siege weapon research), structure placement, artillery strikes and Commander abilities, as well as directing your troops with order beacons and feedback.
Whether your troops will follow your recommendations and orders… that’s another story.
7) Do you think the typical methods of micro and macro apply well to today’s FPS gameplay?
In a very real way, the two game types each perform a balanced half of both micro and macro gameplay. The Commander has full control of macro execution, but he needs his troops to capture and hold the resource points.
On the other hand, players have full control over micro manoeuvres, but they still need artillery support, and Commander abilities to succeed fully in their tasks.
This way, either side has full control of one side of gameplay, but relies on the other component to fully develop and implement its plans.
8) How do structures come into play in the midst of player on player battles?
There’s a variety of ways players can interact with structures during a battle.
Beyond the obvious ones (getting killed by a turret, or an artillery strike), players are revealed to the enemy Commander by radars, they restock at their Supply Stations, and respawn at the spawn gates that the Commander placed. They have to defend power structures, and can change their kits and load-outs at the Armoury.
Structures are a very real, and very important, factor in any battle, and the right structure in the right place will spell the difference between victory or defeat.
9) What would you think would be an ideal experience for a group of players on Nuclear Dawn?
Overturning what looks like a certain defeat. When an enemy is at your gates, pummelling your base with their artillery, picking your structures and soldiers with long range Siege weapons, a determined team can rally, efficiently organize its ranks, and push back on multiple levels, hitting each attacking side with precise counter-manoeuvres.
The concentrated push of a desperate faction can rip through the ranks of a complacent enemy, and bring an entire faction back from the brink of death. It’s one of the most exhilarating moments in Nuclear Dawn.
10) Can you go over the classes and how their specializations might be applied in game?
The Exo is the slowest, most armoured class. They also carry the most powerful weapons, though powerful is not the same as instant kill: the chaingun takes time to spin up, and both M95 rockets and X01 bolts take some skill to land kills with. Exos can enter ‘lockdown’ mode, which effectively turns them into living turrets able to kill enemies from great range.
The Stealth is the Exo’s diametrical opposite: small and fast, with next to no armour, this class has a powerful cloaking ability that allows them to sneak past enemies and enemy turrets easily, but disables itself on each attack. Stealths are the premier Exo killers: the slow, armoured behemoths can’t see their lithe death coming, and succumb in droves to Stealth knives.
Assaults are your average GI JOE army soldier, with a versatile set of load-outs that goes from full combat and sniping to base assault. Their special class ability is a Visor that allows them to spot cloaked Stealths. Any group of Exos intent on survival really should bring an Assault along, to protect them from Stealth attacks.
Finally, Supports are not a direct combat class, but still come armed with short range weaponry such as machine pistols, shotguns and flamethrowers. Supports also wield a range of grenades and healing or repair tools. While they may not be the most powerful class in combat, Supports can easily sway the tide of any battle with their poison and EMP grenades, or healing packs.
11) Class-based shooters usually go through a thorough patching process to make sure the classes are balanced. Can we expect this from Nuclear Dawn?
That process already started with the Beta – we’re gathering community feedback, watching the new strategies that evolve, and making sure everything stays balanced, as well as stable.
We will definitely be patching and balancing the game constantly, though perhaps not as quickly and promptly as some more vocal members of the community think it should happen. The simple fact is that most people jump into a shooter, and expect it to behave just like all their other games do.
If I had a penny for every time a ticket feedback cited “balance issues” just because they did not like a weapon, Nuclear Dawn would be free, and we’d all live on our own private floating sky islands. We’re keeping an eye on things, and taking all feedback seriously, and it will all be used to evolve Nuclear Dawn into a better, more mature product over time.
12) Are there any plans for expansions and DLC? New maps? Weapons?
We don’t really like the idea of paid DLCs for multiplayer games. InterWave is already planning two major updates to the game, both free to download for owners of Nuclear Dawn.
One will add more maps and game modes, and the other will introduce AI bots and drones, along with more game types and updates. New Tier 2 (and eventually Tier 3) weapons will be introduced in successive updates as well.
13) Does your team enjoy playing the game as well?
Passionately. Our only guideline is to make sure that the game is fun to play, and we’d be poor developers if we didn’t like our own product. InterWave is a small outfit, and no one involved does it just for the money: there isn’t enough money for that!
14) Any concrete details on future projects?
15) Nuclear Dawn promises a lot that other class-based shooters don’t. Do you think that your approach will be picked up in later generations?
We are hoping so, though any innovation we bring to the table is an evolution of a gameplay paradigm that already started with the original Team Fortress, continued in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and is being picked up more and more by multiple games.
16) Any special shout outs or thanks you’d like to include?
Definitely a shout out to my family, to my friends, and to my colleagues – we balance each other out, and make awesome things together.
Once again, thanks Ollie, and all the staff at Interwave for showing us your great product.