Rebell.at: Hello Steve. I know this is an annoying question, because every game
designer gets it hundreds of times a day, but please introduce yourself to our readers.
Steve: I’m Steve, one of the managers of NinjaBee and Wahoo Studios. Wahoo Studios is a typical small independent game development studio, and NinjaBee is basically the division of the company that handles independent downloadable games. Wahoo does traditional stuff like modern console games and contract art work.
Outpost Kaloki is the first ‚indie‘ release from NinjaBee and was worked on by a handful of great developers, including primarily: Brent, Josh, Maisey, Alex, Dave, Adam, Scott, Eric, Lane, and myself.
A bunch of these guys are industry veterans and worked on a ton of different games on various game systems before working on Outpost Kaloki. I’ve been making video games for about ten years.
Rebell.at: As I saw Outpost Kaloki the first time, I remembered the old
PC game Orion Burger – have you been inspired by this game in some way?
Steve: Nope! I’m embarassed to say I hadn’t heard of it until now. There are other space station management games out there as well, and we like some of them, but we feel Outpost Kaloki stands apart in some cool ways, mostly because it’s light-hearted and funny and easy to get into.
Rebell.at: There are rumors floating around you will make a sequel to Outpost
Kaloki and Rebell.at gets exclusive advertising space onto the space stations. Is there anything true on this rumor?
Steve: There is some truth to this rumor, but we are still waiting for Rebell.at to send us the large fancy yacht they promised during negotiations. Until it arrives, I’m afraid the advertising space is still ‚unassigned‘ and may in fact be bought by the Swedish National Handball Team.
Rebell.at: Did you ever think about making some multiplayer part for the game – I can’t imagine how this should work but could you?
Steve: We have discussed it extensively, but we are hesitant to shoe-horn multiplayer components into a game that’s primarily a single-player experience. A multiplayer version would have to be a different game in some important ways. We would very much like to have some online features such as the ability to compare level times with other people, and we hope to include this and other multiplayer elements in future games we do.
Rebell.at: Lots of newer games have better graphics than yours, but Outpost
Kaloki is only a 8.5mb download and the textures and graphics are really good compared to the size it needs. If you look at Doom 3, it
needs 3 CD’s – lots of space for textures (and half of the game is darkness, hehe). Do you use any special technology? If you would have made Doom 3 textures, could the game have fitted onto only one CD?
Steve: Hey, these ARE Doom 3 textures! Only… um… not so dark!
The people who made this game come from a heavy console background where storage space (before the Dreamcast, anyway) was at a premium. For instance, we did a lot of Nintendo 64 games. So, we have a natural tendency to try to maximize quality while minimizing storage requirements, even when we’re developing for less limited systems. We designed the interface to use less texture space and we imposed texture restrictions on the artists right from the start. This helps a lot. In addition, yes, we’re compressing textures where it’s appropriate, but with plain old DXT compression used by many games. I think the small download is really just a result of compression, careful planning, and careful filtering out of unnecessary extra data.
Rebell.at: Have you ever tried to get your games into the retail shelves or is NinjaBee strictly fixed to online sales?
Steve: Sure, we’ve had various conversations about retail versions of the game (on various target systems), and we’re still having those conversations. We want to be careful not to make the wrong deal.
Rebell.at: Why don’t you offer some cd version with printed manual etc. ?
Steve: We should! Part of the problem is that the Wahoo Studios side of the business gets busy sometimes and keeps us from doing everything that should be done for NinjaBee, including the Mac version of the game that we’ve been promising for a while, and ideas like offering a CD version. We’re veteran console developers but very new to selling downloadable PC games, and we’re still learning what we need to do as we go…
Rebell.at: Have you ever been to Europe ?
Steve: Lots of times. I’ve been to Austria, but I was about 14 at the time and remember almost nothing from the experience. I’ve spent a little over two years of my life, total, in Spain, and I go back to visit as often as I can arrange it. My son, Mateo, was born Spain.
Rebell.at: What do you think makes the European games market different to the U.S.?
Steve: I am not an expert on this topic. I can comment a bit about console games, but I’m afraid I don’t know much about PC game markets. My experience with console game development is that certain areas of Europe have less interest in games that glorify violence, and more interest in sports games. I’ve also met Europeans, who were far more passionate about single-screen multiplayer games (where you play sitting next to your opponent on the
couch) than U.S. players, but maybe that was a fluke with the Europeans I met. :)
A sad thing about "indie" and downloadable games is that most of them are in English only. We had hoped to do translations of Outpost Kaloki but didn’t have time before we wanted to release. NinjaBee may do them in the future, but as I mentioned above, things can get somewhat busy with traditional Wahoo work.
A nice thing about the NinjaBee team is that we’ve ALL been outside the U.S. at various times, and everyone on my team has studied at least one language other than English. I hope we’re at least *slightly* less ethnocentric than a typical bunch of US developers. :)
Rebell.at: My editor in chief forces me to ask this question: Have you ever
tasted Austrian beer?
Steve: Haha, no, I haven’t tasted Austrian beer. In fact, I don’t drink alcohol and have never tasted American beer, either. I tried a liquor chocolate candy once. :)
Rebell.at: A lots of sequels are coming from major publishers as we speak, but nothing really new. Does this help smaller indie publishers like you to grow?
Steve: For NinjaBee as an indie publisher, this has helped. I believe there is huge potential for indie developers at this point, and it’s entirely based on the fact that we can do really unique games that capture smaller niches in the market and explore original ideas that bigger publishers won’t explore. I think this is fairly self-evident and appeals to a lot of indie developers right now. However, even the big publishers are focusing more and more on downloadable game and content, and it’s only going to get harder to get a small independent game seen by the masses when there are so many big-name games available online.
For Wahoo as an indie developer, ’sequelitis‘ has been a bit painful for us. Trying to get a publisher to pick up our original ideas is extremely difficult (next to impossible) right now. In general, they’d much rather make sequels, and this severely limits what games we can work on.
Rebell.at: Who had all theese ideas for Outpost Kaloki and why didn’t you release it on Wahoo and founded a ’new‘ studio?
Steve: We simply felt that Wahoo would best continue as a traditional ‚work for hire‘ studio. We didn’t want big publishers to think that we were all about making downloadable $19.95 games, but at the same time we saw great opportunities for downloadable games to be a cool and viable thing for us to work on, so creating a new company made sense. In practice, we’re really the same people, just with two different sets of hats.
The ideas for the game came from the whole team – sometimes working on boring traditional contract jobs means we need an outlet for our creativity, and NinjaBee has been great for that.
Rebell.at: If i’d like to vaporize you in some online shooter, where would we meet?
Steve: Globulos! :)
I like CounterStrike and I used to play a TON of Battlefield 1942 and Desert Combat but I’ve been so busy lately I’ve cut down to almost nothing in online games.
The rest of my team regularly tries out the latest new online games, but I don’t think anyone sticks with a particular game for long.
Rebell.at: What games do you play if you have some spare time?
Steve: I try out new downloadable games whenever I get a chance. On the PC, I play a lot of Slay by Sean O’Connor and various tycoon games. You’re probably all saying Slay? What the hell is that? … :). On console systems, I like weird non-traditional games like the Harvest Moon series and tactical strategy games.
The rest of NinjaBee likes pretty much any new action console game that comes out. Most of them play FPS and RTS games on the PC, and some of them like console sports and racing games.
Rebell.at: Do you know anything else from Austria then ‚Sound of Music‘ :)?
Steve: Well, I have been to Vienna, but, as I say, I don’t remember much. Of course, I know of Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a bunch of dead composers… :)
Rebell.at: For your Austrian groupies: Are you still single ?
Steve: Of the core team that made Outpost Kaloki, only Maisey (an artist) and Adam (a programmer and designer) are single. The rest of us are married and have various numbers of kids. We live in Utah and many of the team are Mormons, but before you ask, none of us has more than one wife. :)
Rebell.at: What do you think about the re-election of George W. Bush?
Steve: I am a very non-political person. The state in which I live is something like five-billion-percent Republican, but most of my friends are vocally anti-Bush, so I try to stay out of the way. :) Most of the NinjaBee team is vaguely Republican, but none of them are blindly loyal to the party.
Rebell.at: Did you know some slimy beetles have been named after George W. Bush?
Steve: Haha, that’s excellent! I didn’t know before now.
Rebell.at: Thanks for the inteview, Steve, and keep us informed about your upcoming sequel.
Steve: Thanks very much for the opportunity to tell you a bit about the team, and for playing Outpost Kaloki! Hopefully we’ll have many more games for Rebell.at to have a look at in the future…
The interview was done by Bertold Schauer. If you have any questions concerning this interview or Rebell.at, please contact us at [email protected].