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“Steam Bandits: Outpost” Developer Interview

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 by

Today we have a special treat for the Indie-developer loving, mobile-gaming loving crowd: an Q&A with Jason Fader: the creative director and El Presidente Burrito of Iocaine Studios (an indie development studio that is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons known to man). During this Q&A, we get to find out about Steam Bandits: Outpost, and the unique vision for an all new creative world that will span multiple games but remain interconnected. Here is a quick summary of the game:

Steam Bandits: Outpost is a Free-to-Play steampunk/fantasy game in the sky.

  • Oversee your own town on a floating island.
  • Customize your character with hundreds of outfit combinations.
  • Recruit airship captains on your path to fortune and glory.
  • Send your captains out to duel your friends or work with them for special rewards.
  • Collect tons of unique pets.

Before we get down to Q&A, meet the Iocaine Studios team:

iocaine

  • Jason Fader is a Level 60 Industry Veteran whose experiences include Blizzard, Obsidian,  and Founder of Iocaine Studios.
  • Lindsey Laney is a Level 54 Art Weaver with 44 points in the Creativity tree (and 1  point in the Coffee-making tree).
  • J.D. Cerince is also a Level 54 Art Weaver but spent all points in truncating his first two names. However, he is also an Industry Vet, hailing from the the humble origins of Obsidian.
  • Brianna Garcia is like Chuck Norris and doesn’t play by levels, but I’m told that she has rocked Disney’s socks off once or twice (unlike Chuck Norris).
  • Liz Fiacco is the designer on the team focused on character customization and doesn’t have a level because she decides who has what levels (this author has been since demoted to Level i^3).
  • Alexia Fedail is a the Level 1 F.N.G. specializing in Narrative Design. By “G” I mean “Girl”…and “N” I guess I mean “Nerdy”.

Now that you’ve met the team, check out this video of the project (via Kickstarter) and find out what Jason has to say about Steam Bandits: Outpost!

[DA] I love the steam-punkish theme. What was the inspiration for the theme and gameplay of Steam Bandits: Outpost?

[JF] The theme came from my love of all things steampunk and my sadness that there are not more games out there using that style.  The gameplay came from my countless hours of playing Civ5 and thinking “I love building stuff, but really would want something I can play on my phone casually.”

 

[DA] How has your perspective changed about game design since your first Iocaine release (ThreadSpace: Hyperbol)?

[JF] Hyperbol was a fun project and a good lesson for me.  Sadly it didn’t do as well as I would have liked and the biggest reason was due to its lack of intuitiveness and foreign gameplay.  I’ve learned a lot since then and have set out to make a more mass appeal game with Steam Bandits, while still utilizing some deep strategies I love designing.

[DA] The Kick-Starter Project is a great way to raise funds for a project like this. What will the [money] be used for?

[JF] It will fund 4-5 developers full-time over the span of 6 months.  The team is larger than that, but the other folks are on the project part-time and can live without being paid right now (they’ll get profit sharing options on the backend).  Should we go above that funding goal, I’ll be able to compensate these guys better and release more content.

[DA] Will there be music that matches the theme of the game? Any thoughts about using a 16-bit generation sound emulator for the music to give the game a retro feel?

[JF] We’re using one of my composer friends to work on the sound track.  Since the art style is fairly cartoony and tropical, we’re going for a music theme that matches more closely to the old Monkey Island games.  Those games had a nice, light-hearted feel that I hope to capture with these games.

[DA] Is the plan to release on all targeted platforms at the same time?

[JF] Yup!  The initial platforms will be Android/iOS/PC/Mac.  A Linux and Web version is planned for later.

[DA] I have an Android phone and my girlfriend has an iPhone. Will we be able to interact with each other in the game?

[JF] Absolutely.  One of our core philosophies is to bring gamers together.  No matter what device you’re on, you’ll have access to your character and can link up with any other character on any other device.

[DA] I’m a little confused about whether the game is played online or offline or both. Can you elaborate how it is connected socially and what that implies for when I’m not connected to the internet?

[JF] Like all free-to-play games (to my knowledge), you must have an active internet connection to play.  The social media connection (like Facebook/GooglePlus) will be used to find friends, authenticate yourself, and brag about how cool you are in the game.  We also want to find a non-annoying way for you to rally some friends to join you in a group mission (since those are pretty awesome).

[DA] Mobile gaming has hundreds of town-building sim games. What significant play mechanics will set Steam Bandits apart from the rest?

[JF] The town is only half of it.  The other half is how you manage your captains.  Once you build up your town and start producing resources, you can apply those resources to make your captains stronger, which will make them more effective during their missions, which will then yield greater rewards and unlock even more rare items for yourself.  Also, while most other town-building games just have you build stuff up and maintain, we want to instill personality into your town by making practically everything in there customizable.  Your town is a reflection of you :-)

[DA] Since Steam Bandits will be free to play, we assume you will earn your revenue via ads, in-game purchases, or both. If you plan on using ads, how will you ensure that they’re not obtrusive? If in-game purchases, how playable/”completable” will the game before players that choose not to buy them?

[JF] The goal with ads is that you will only see them during loading screens.  For microtransactions, the player will never be forced to put money down to continue playing.  I really hate that mechanic.  There will always be something to do, and some of the higher-yield things will take some time.  To speed those up, the player can apply some “enriched steam” (which costs money) to speed things up.  If they don’t, there’s still a ton of other things they can do in the game while they wait for that action to complete.

The biggest thing that real money will do is allow the player to expand their wardrobe and customizations.  I like the “Pay-To-Style” model better than the “Pay-To-Continue” model.

[DA] The Kickstarter page indicates that delivery for points and funding rewards is November 2012 but the “timeline” section suggests that the game will take 5-6 months to complete. So that means that we can start spending our points a couple months before release?

[JF] In theory…  Once we hit beta, we’ll have most things sorted out and transactions will be permitted.  Worst case, not everything will be available for purchase, but some things will be.

[DA] The Kickstarter page also indicates there are other title ideas in the works, like a League of Legends type of game with a Co-Op slant. Isn’t LoL already Co-Op?

[JF] LoL is pvp co-op, or team vs team.  I think LoL does it right and wouldn’t want to compete with them.  Our co-op will be more like partying up with friends in an MMO “group finder”.  Start your group up, pick a mission, everyone goes in and plays side-by-side completing an objective against AI opponents/environments.

[DA] I see that there are plans to make a series of games all connected to each other in the Steam Bandits: Outpost universe. I think that is a really cool idea. Can you give an example of what that might look like?

[JF] Sorry, keeping this one under wraps for a bit ;-)

[DA] What else should we know about Iocaine Studios, Steam Bandits: Output, or the Kickstarter project?

[JF] This is pretty much a new team.  I’m still working with some of the old crew, but most of these guys came from Obsidian and Blizzard.  Not too sure how this worked out, but the team is 90% female.  It was just kind of random really.  We were all in the right place at the right time, and had the right abilities.  If we don’t pull this Kickstarter off, these guys might go their separate ways and that would be a real shame.  We’ve built up a great working relationship from making Fallout: New Vegas together and I’d hate to lose that.  Plus, starting up a new studio in California will help create jobs.  I think that’s something worth donating for, right?

 

DeltaAttack.com and its contributors would like to thank Jason for taking some of his extremely valuable time to answers some of our questions, and give a personal shout-out from IkeCube. Please do Jason a good one and check out the Kickstarter Page for more info.

About the Author

I was introduced to video games on the Atari 2600, and quickly moved to a Nintendo, where The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Dragon Warrior dominated my early non-Mario years. Now days, I do mostly PC gaming, and some console gaming. I’ve been in and out of rehab, and there’s no saving a nerd like me.

ikecube has written 101 posts on Delta Attack
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