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Dark Vale Games Interview: FORGE

/ Jun 18th, 2012 No Comments

Dark Vale Games Interview: FORGE

Dark Vale Games Interview: FORGE

Dark Vale Games Interview: FORGE

FORGE is a brand new type of MMO being co-developed by the team at Dark Vale Games. The game, which was just announced this past Friday, promises to be a pure action-packed MMO FPS/Third-Person Shooter experience unlike anything the industry has seen to date. In this exclusive interview with Gaming Illustrated, we had Tim Alvis (CTO/COO of Dark Vale) and Ian Natzmer (VP of Development) provide some very informative answers about their very ambitions project, FORGE. If you want to learn more about the game, check out the official website for FORGE.

GI: First, we’d like to welcome you to GamingIllustrated.com and wanted to say thanks for taking the time to join us. Could you talk about your new group and how long you’ve been together?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

Thanks for having us! Some of us have been together for several years, meeting at a previous company. The particular grouping of SuperGenius, Digital Confectioners and Dark Vale however is recent, starting with this project.

GI: When building a new team in a new company to take on the major undertaking of building a new IP and new MMO, what are the types of people you looked for to bring in? Do people really know what they are getting themselves into and most importantly, how do you keep yourselves sane?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

The good news is that while our plans look a lot like an MMO in feature set down the road, that’s not what we’re building at launch. At launch, the matchmaking and community environment is much more reminiscent of Team Fortress 2 than it is World of Warcraft. We plan to distribute our dedicated server so that we’re not the only people able to host games for Forge.

Building a new IP and a title with gameplay that you can’t perfectly reference with “go play this, and make it just like that!” does require bringing in the right people.

The first step for us was finding partners and people that could embrace the goals of Forge as their own. Internally, it also required learning to trust your instincts without letting any ego get in the way of progress. The mantra around here is, “Don’t worry about making it mine, just make it amazing.” So long as everything continues to fit together, and it has thus far, it will work well for us.

As for sanity, we let that go a long time ago. It not only hasn’t returned, we’re not even sure where to send postcards.

Dark Vale Games

Dark Vale Games

GI: Where did the name Dark Vale Games come from and why are you based out of Carlsbad? Any words to talk about the underrated video game development talent in San Diego?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

The name Dark Vale came from a trip I took with my wife to the Pacific Northwest. It was impressive how four or five feet into the forest in a valley you couldn’t see anything at all. Your imagination can run wild as to what’s inside, it could be anything, only 10 feet in. That’s a little of how we feel about what we want to do as a company. We don’t have to be massive, but we want to keep pushing back on what’s expected for a genre in a way that large companies just can’t.

Carlsbad was an easy choice for us given all of the talent that is in the area. I’m really sad to see what’s happened with THQ here recently, but with so many great companies in the vicinity, I hope everyone is able to land on their feet quickly. I think while it may be underrated and less talked about than some other hotspots of game development, it’s becoming less so.

GI: FORGE is promised to be an “MMO than blends FPS Action with MMO Strategy” to “Create the Ultimate PvP Game”. How are you balancing MMO with an FPS when traditionally it’s been a tried-and-true RPG interface driving the game? Just how much action can we expect in this MMO?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

MMO abilities require a fair amount of tweaking when you take them to a shooter environment for sure. Questions like range for instance have completely different answers than they would in an MMO with tab targeting, or at least should. The key has been to ask what the intent of the ability is, and be willing to start from there rather than just copying over the functionality. Some things translate extremely well, some not as well, and those that don’t translate are either scrapped or overhauled. I’d get into details, but the guy in the black suit and sunglasses behind me would “pull the trigger”. At least that’s what he keeps whispering in my ear.

Expect a lot of action. In fact, expect only action. There is no PvE in Forge. You open the game, find a server, and start (if you’re on the right end of the pointy stick) killing.

MMO - FORGE

MMO - FORGE

GI: Lore and story are the lifeblood of any good MMO. What’s gone into the lore, backstory and major events in the game to get a gamer emotionally involved with FORGE?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

We’ve spent a great deal of energy in the story, even though there is no quest or storyline exposed through gameplay ‘text’ for our launch. It still mattered a great deal to us as it influences everything from the design of the characters to the motifs these factions would etch into a building.

Our post launch gameplay expansion will introduce players to much more of the lore, through a PvP setting of course, but the impact of the story is felt, knowingly or not, in everything they see and do in the game even at launch.

GI: You’ve promised that skill will win the day in FORGE – will that be similar to other FPS games that have massive communities? Or will there be more of an MMO feel to it?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

There will be a balance in what types of skills win the day. You’re going to need some of the twitch reflexes that are required in a FPS or TPS, but you’re going to need to do more than just land that lucky headshot. The time to kill for us is so much longer than is normal for a FPS or TPS game, and even some MMOs. You’re going to need to use the full toolkit of abilities provided to you to win any given encounter. Stuns, interrupts, the right balance of direct damage and dots, it’s going to be more thoughtful than a typical FPS, but less automated than an MMO as you’re in direct control of activities like dodging, blocking, and targeting your abilities.

GI: You’re working with two other studios in two different parts of the country. How hard is it to properly pull off your goals when stakeholders aren’t closely connected?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

For us, while working apart can be a challenge, the pulling off the goals hasn’t been the most challenging aspect due to the distance of the teams working on the project. The toolsets available these days make remote work much easier than it has been in the past. The way we’ve structured design decisions and feedback processes has kept things moving forward very smoothly. There are difficulties of course, and built in time delays, but we’ve done (thanks especially to the excellent project management skills at our partners) a great job in making sure that those time delays are never impacting the overall schedule. I would say the biggest loss we have is the fun of walking into the same building and geeking out on the game together all day. Maybe we’re more productive because of that, but there is some fun lost there.

Ian Natzmer – VP of Development

Working with our partners in separate locations can be challenging, however, we’ve found that both Digital Confectioners and SuperGenius are completely invested and excited in the project. There’s this common energy that we all share about this amazing project we’re working on. We are in constant contact with both partners and have created this cohesiveness of a single team working on a project that we’re all thrilled to be a part of.

FORGE Will Use Unreal Engine 3.0

FORGE Will Use Unreal Engine 3.0

GI: It’s been announced you’re leveraging the Unreal Engine 3.0 for your visuals which seems like a double-edged sword. On one hand you’ve gotten some buzz that this game will feature some kickass graphics. On the other hand, you’ve set the bar pretty high for yourselves. How will FORGE deliver (or even exceed) those expectations?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

The best way to do that is to keep your scope in check. Rather than try to build an MMO with all the bells and whistles from day one, we decided to focus on building a great game that has the core gameplay at its center. We kept the class count on launch down to a manageable number. We did the same with environments. By doing this, and making sure we had the adequate budget and the right talent, we’re able to deliver extremely high quality assets that compete with the very best games people have played. SuperGenius has repeatedly delivered in this respect.

GI: It’s all PvP? Or will the game be a mix of solo questing with group questing and tons of PvP?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

Pure PvP. There will never be a time where you have seven conversations that end with an instruction to gather 10 boar ears from what appears to be a field that grows zombie boars (that don’t seem to notice or mind you slaughtering their zombie kin right next to them) from the ground when you’re not looking.

GI: There wasn’t any announcement about the pricing system. Will this game be F2P or be available at a traditional purchase + subscription model? What has gone into the thinking for the direction you’re taking?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

We intend to release at an Indie price point. No subscription fees or anything required afterwards, though we will be releasing free and paid DLC in the future. Our decision making process between free and paid DLC is really simple: If we feel it’s a feature or content that just should have been included, it’s free, otherwise, we’ll ask for a small amount of money to cover the development cost.

The deciding factor for us on the business model really came down to what we wanted the game to be. It’s actually very expensive to create a F2P game in what we feel is the ‘right’ way. Team Fortress 2 we believe is a great example of someone approaching it from the right perspective. You don’t feel limited or disadvantaged when playing if you’re not paying. In order to create a F2P game with Forge at launch, we would have had to sacrifice quality in some of our assets to have enough inventory to sell to make it financially viable. We just weren’t willing to do that.

That’s not to say that we’ll never consider F2P in the future, if we felt we could do it right and it’s the right thing for the game, but it’s not right for us right now.

FORGE Screenshot

FORGE Screenshot

GI: Will the game be strictly from a first person perspective or will gamers be able to play in a third-person mode, a la what you can do in Skyrim?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

It’s all third person perspective. We think it’s very important to be able to see your character for many reasons, some gameplay, some for the cool factor alone. Getting a new armor set is much more exciting when you’ll be seeing it the entire time you’re playing. It also allows us to notify users of gameplay events like dots, damage, stuns, in ways that no longer require icons plastered around the screen when you can see your character up close.

GI: The expected release for FORGE in your announcement was said to be later this year – if that’s true you must have been working on this game for quite some time already? How’s the shape of the game as it stands today?

Tim Alvis – CTO/COO

By keeping the scope small, it’s really helped keep the development timeline well under what is normal for an MMO. It’s shaping up well. We’re extremely conscious of what we show however, so it may be a little bit longer before we’re willing to show gameplay footage, but we test and play it every day.

GI: Finally, what gamers are you looking to bring into FORGE? Traditional FPS gamers looking for a little MMO element? Or traditional MMO players looking for serious FPS PvP action? What do you hope your game stands for with both groups?

I like this question, as it gets down to the bottom of why we’re building this game specifically as our launch title. For the last few years, I went back and forth between several MMOs and a couple of first person shooters. What I found was that when I was playing the MMO, I really just wanted to be at max level, with the best gear I could find, on an even playing field against the rest. I didn’t want to grind for gear just to get that level of competition where there was no question of why an encounter went the way it did. Hitting someone for 30% more damage than they can hit you isn’t competition.
At the same time, when I was playing one of the FPS games, the combat felt a little bland. It was thrilling to run around in that perspective in an environment, and satisfying when a hit would land and you knew you just outplayed someone, but there weren’t a lot of strategic options you could use, it was just kill, and kill fast. Sniping people in a single shot was competitive, but it didn’t have the same flavor.

We hope the game stands out to both groups, because we’ve drawn out what we believe are the best aspects of both genres, placed them in an environment with artwork that holds up with the very best games available, and are delivering it at a price point where I hope they see a lot of value.

Sean W. Gibson

Sean W. Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson has been the owner and Executive Editor of Gaming Illustrated for over eleven years. His roles include acting as CEO and President of Gaming Illustrated, LLC and also includes being a reviewer, previewer and interviewer. Sean's opinions on this site do not reflect those of his full-time employer.
Sean W. Gibson
Sean W. Gibson

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