Case Study: NEKRO
13th April, 2012
Scott and Jay from Darkforge Games managed to squeeze some time into their very busy development schedule to talk with us about their latest game, NEKRO.
Support NEKRO today by pledging on their Kickstarter Page!
For everyone who have not heard about your game yet, can you please introduce us to NEKRO?
Nekro is a game about playing the bad guy. In Nekro, you play as a powerful necromancer summoning hordes of undead minions to do your bidding. Unlike a standard RTS, each creature you summon within the game is not under your direct control. Each unit will exhibit a handful of special behaviors unique to its playstyle. The challenge of the game comes from picking the right combination of summons for your situation. The world you explore is generated randomly, and offers a fresh experience with each play session. Nekro takes a different approach to the way modern crafting systems are handled by allowing players to “brew” spells they use in cauldrons. These special brews augment the game rules and allow players a very direct control over their experience. In Nekro, the world is always growing, expanding and changing, offering players a different challenge every time they play the game. If we can raise the money we need, we would like to release the game within a year. If not, it could take significantly longer.
The graphics for this game look exceptionally good and well designed, even in this pre-alpha stage. This is clearly the work of a team with many years of experience.
Thanks very much! We have all worked on high-profile MMOs, shooters, and RTSs in our past, as well as independent titles for PC and Xbox Live Arcade. Our main team is located in Califorina, but we have talent working with us from as far away as Taiwan. It’s been a really fun and different experience to have this kind of international team. I’m usually used to working with people right next to me at an office so we definitely had to change up our pipeline to reflect these needs but overall the experience has been amazing.
We’ve been working in ShiVa since the very first day we decided to start on the game. I looked around at a LOT of engines before we started. We had many months of pre-planning so I had plenty of time to assess different engines and determine what was best suited for our needs. There’s a lot of very competent engines out there right now, so it took a lot of research. ShiVa was a bit lesser known as most people went with Unity as their first choice, so I was a bit skeptical at first. I had used Unity in the past, and though I really loved it, it just didn’t have the flexibility I wanted in an engine. So after a lot of consideration, I landed on ShiVa. Luckily, it only took about a week of working in ShiVa before it was made extremely obvious I had made the right choice.
In your Kickstarter Video, you mention the darker games of the late 90ies such as Dungeon Keeper and Diablo as your main influence for the game. We also see parallels to Overlord. Did those games influence you artistically or do you also take gameplay cues from them?
Absolutely. I really enjoyed Dungeon Keeper – it’s easily my favorite game (that and Myth 2) so it was not a hard choice to let these games influence how we made Nekro. The permanently blood-stained ground mechanic is lifted straight from Myth, as well as the “gibbing” of our units. We also took a lot of the summoning mechanics from Dungeon Keeper such as the ability to possess your units and control them directly. Even the ability to slap your summons to make them attack faster was taken from DK. However, Nekro is a game unto itself. We wanted to make our monsters and core mechanics unique to Nekro – and with weird and spooky creations like the Shade, Horror and Punge I feel we really gave Nekro its own identity.
Many Indie and lone-wolf developers try to publish smaller Apps to iOS or Android to make some money, you decided to make a huge game with a well articulated game world, and finance your dream via kickstarter. When and why did you make this rather unusual decision?
It is interesting making a PC game when almost every person that I’ve spoken to on the ShiVa forums is making an iPhone or Android game. While these games are great (I easily spend hundreds of dollars on phone games, many of which I find right there on the ShiVa forums), I am a PC gamer at heart. I love the computer as a medium for gaming. Growing up, I was playing games like Populous, Sim City, Alpha Centauri, Age of Empires. To me, these games are synonymous with what I want when I play a game. And while it’s possible to make deep, rich experiences on the phone, the PC just lends itself better to these types of games. I wanted to make Nekro a game with lots of units fighting at the same time, lots of bloody chunks flying everywhere – I wanted everything to have normal maps, specular maps, I wanted shadows and particles. When it came down to it, I just had to make Nekro for the computer.
We chose to use Kickstarter because we’ve all worked for big companies and have seen our employer’s IPs just slip out between their fingers. Not to imply all publishers are monsters just trying to screw over the developer, but there is something to be said in this day and age for doing it yourself. And if at all possible, cutting out the middle man enables us to realize our dream to its fullest extent. Kickstarter seemed like the best way of achieving that goal. The funny thing is, we were preparing to launch our Kickstarter well before the Tim Schafer thing blew up – but we wanted to give Nekro enough time in the oven so that when we presented it to the world we had something to show. The irony now is that everyone and their dog is making a Kickstarter, so it’s been a real challenge to try to separate ourselves from the crowd.
We’re doing our best to make Nekro a reality. We feel we have a really solid game here, and we’ve put in the work to make it something truly special. Nekro needs to aim high to achieve the greatness it deserves. We want to add a lot of content in this game, and we want to do it professionally. This takes a significant monetary investment, and though we have all personally invested our own funds into this game, we decided to reach out to the community to help take it the rest of the way. Within our Kickstarter page, you can find a bunch of really cool rewards as our way of saying “thank you” for your pledge. We have art books, plushie toys, your name engraved on an in-game gravestone, and even a personal shrine made up in your honor. We know we can make this exciting game a reality with your help, so please consider checking out our page and make a pledge. Thanks for reading, and thanks to the wonderful ShiVa team for your support! ShiVa has been an absolute blast to work with and I would highly recommend it to any developer – from simple hobbyists to professionals.