Geek, uncensored


April 10, 2015

#PowerTheIndie Strategizer Update

White Titan Games

A while ago, I had a discussion with Ben Perchard of White Titan Games and their upcoming title Strategizer. Months and mistakes later, Strategizer is still the same strategic tower defense, with a few new changes.

When we first talked, I described Strategizer as a ‘Real-Time Strategy Tower Defense hybrid’ and your words were ‘Defense Grid and Command & Conquer having a love child, and then injected with a small dose of Call of Duty’. Has the game deviated from this description? If so, how?

I would say it hasn’t deviated too much from that, although the “call of duty” reference to the small first-person shooting aspect has been altered slightly. Previously you would have been able to activate your ship’s cannons to shoot enemies for a short period of time, in FPS view. We’ve instead shifted the emphasis of the air support features to a dropship that is stationed above the level. So you can still use the ship cannons, however they do not come from the side of your screen, they originate from the dropship instead. There is still base-building, resource gathering, progressive storyline and everything else you might expect from a RTS or TD game so no we haven’t deviated much at all, just worked on adding meat to the bones, so to speak!

Are there any other major game changes you’d like to mention?

As far as I can recall there is not much in the way of features removed, the recent work has actually been about adding more depth to the features we already had planned, and rethinking these features to be more practical and fun. For example the enemies now all have a unique ability or feature to create a more diverse and interesting gameplay aspect. We have expanded the idea of you navigating the battlefield in a ship – there are now 4 ships to select and each has different air supports/weapons. So there’s a few changes along those lines, but mostly good changes!

You mentioned that production has been going slow. Can you talk to me about what caused the delay?

Without going into too much detail or finger pointing, it boils down to 1 simple fact – we had an extremely small budget for a game, and as such we weren’t able to employ experienced staff to help bring the project together perfectly first time around. Rather than having a game design document to follow religiously and tick everything off as we go, the project was previously very organic, and each week we would be assessing the current situation and trying to build on it and rectify/change things. Our time projections were admittedly nothing short of awful. Unfortunately as this is our first game, I had to trust the projections given to me by those in control of the code, which included the dreaded prediction of being finished 2 months after our Kickstarter finished. As time rolled on, we did make significant improvements to the game so the delays seemed justified. However in hind sight it became clear that really we were working with the wrong people and we needed a bigger budget accordingly. Money is obviously an extremely important factor to game development, and something every games development company struggles to balance. In August we formed a new team with a lot of AAA experience, and progress has been extremely good ever since!

On the same page as the delay, what do you think you could have changed to avoid the problems you’ve been having with production?

It is simply a case of working with the right people now that is getting us closer to the finish line, but our current team would not have been an available option before now anyway – so even though things haven’t gone perfectly we are now in a good position to finish up the game with a quality team in place.

Is there any advice you’d want to give aspiring or beginning indie developers to help them avoid running into problems like you’ve had?

I would certainly advise not to entertain the idea of aiming too high too quickly. If you have an idea for a game you think could be really good, but you’ve not done anything like this before, it’s probably a good idea to work on a couple of smaller games first to get some experience – especially if you will be working with and relying on other people. It’s not enough just to have a good idea and the skills to execute it. Experience is vital – the more you have the better foundation you have to build on.

Due to Kickstarter and your own independent backing, has there been any backlash because the game hasn’t yet been released? If so, in what form and how have you handled the situations.

Yes, there have of course been some people who are unhappy with the delays and clearly regret their decision to invest in us. I don’t blame them at all, because if I couldn’t foresee this then how could they?

On a platform like Kickstarter there will always be some people who get funded, yet, for various reasons they have to abandon the project – and they will have likely paid themselves a wage, so no harm done for them – but the people who invested in them are out of pocket, right?

I think it’s easy to assume we could be one of them, if you’re not privy to the details of development. However this couldn’t be further from reality. Our project was for a modest amount to help cover the art costs only – we’ve funded the rest ourselves. I haven’t been paid a wage at all during the 3 years I have dedicated to this game now – I have to work 4 jobs to be able to keep the game going in order to not become another one of the failed Kickstarter projects, so it doesn’t help when people suggest we’re not doing anything. I pledged for a couple of games before we started our Kickstarter campaign, and neither of those are close to being finished – I think it’s fairly normal unfortunately.

Does White Titan Games consider themselves back on track? Explain.

Yes definitely back on track – it’s just a different track to our original one. We aren’t going to be able to finish everything in 2 months like we originally wanted. We’ve learned a lot of harsh lessons – but if we didn’t understand what had gone wrong, we’d have just given up. As we know why things have gone the way they have, we’ve learned from it and now feel we know the solutions to move forward. We’ve got a great team now, the art is significantly improved, the levels are looking nicer than ever (and I think they’ve always looked nice!) but now we’re finally addressing the gameplay, the features, the story etc. the stuff that makes a game, a game! We restarted with the new team only 4-5 months ago, and they decided to rebuild everything from the ground up with a solid structure of work ahead. I am amazed at how far we’ve got in such a short space of time. I think we’ve pulled through and have got a good demo in the works that should be along very shortly.

When do you estimate that Strategizer will be done?

We don’t have a deadline and we don’t really think it’s a good idea to guess one. We’ve got a few months of hard work ahead of us for sure. The new team has been focused on only 1 level so far, to ensure everything is working perfectly – from there it is relatively straight forward to add the extra levels that we designed last year, and bring them up to current standards. We’ll be releasing the ‘1 level’ as a demo hopefully in the next couple of weeks to the Kickstarter beta testers so everyone can have a go for themselves. There is still a lot of improvements to go in, but the main point is that now we can make progress going forwards instead of sideways.

We have some options with delivering the game, and until they are finalized we can’t make a concrete plan for delivery – and thus setting a release date is dangerous until we’ve got that ironed out – which is next on the cards!

What does the future hold for White Titan Games? Once Strategizer is done, do you plan on pursuing other game ideas?

I think we’ll have to take things as they come – our efforts are 100% focused on this game and that will be the case until it is released! If the game proves popular then we would like to port it to mobile devices, but that is currently the only idea we’re entertaining at this stage.

In relation to the previous question: Do you have other games in development or are you focusing solely on Strategizer?

This is our only focus until it is finished!

Are there any other news announcements about Strategizer or White Titan Games that you would like to share?

I’d like to just thank everyone for their continued patience with the development process and hopefully now that we’ve reached a stage where we can start showcasing various parts of the game we’ll be able to show better progress more frequently. Stay tuned for the beta demo that will be along shortly and other than that – here’s to wishing everyone a prosperous 2015!

 Thanks to Ben and the White Titan Games team! We’re all looking forward to the release of the game. Good luck!

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