The interview continues! Check out Part 1 to see what you missed.
Gameology News: Do you feel as though you’ve deviated from the survivor genre? Is it more of a balance of multiple genres at this point?
Joe: It’s funny you should mention that. We were just discussing that the other day. We did start off with survival in mind, but the way it’s developed has taken on a lot of RPG elements so that it’s become quite unique.
Ryan: I actually kind of came up with something that I quite liked to describe Jaws in that I called it a “hybrid survival” game; Not so much a full-on survival where you have to check all your vitamins, relieve yourself behind a tree, and things like that like in some games. We never really set out to produce a pure survival game anyway, because the games that we drew inspiration from led us to including things like having the third-person view as your default viewpoint. I feel like that’s still the thing we want to do. Don’t get me wrong; Scrub’s done an amazing job with our first-person system, but the Survival/RPG -hybrid style of game is the main direction we want to go. We’re still a long way from where we want it to be, but it’s getting there.
Scrub: The only thing I think I’d like to add to that is that, although it definitely does bring in some RPG elements, it’s main roots are in survival, given that your decisions as a player need to be made very carefully since you have to consider your hunger and thirst, management of resources, base-building, the root systems familiar to most survival-based games. But the inclusion of some deep RPG elements make it something else.
Ryan: Yes, it’s not an RPG, but eventually there will be so many RPG elements that it becomes something unique as an action/survival, or an RPG/Survival, but definitely NOT a battle royal. And when the Co-op and Multiplayer come out, it will evolve even more. I’ve actually seen people saying they felt like the prototype was more developed than the game is now, and what I try to get across is that the prototype was just like a “proof of concept” idea of what we wanted the final product to be, including the story elements, surivial and fighting elements, co-operative missions, and that’s what it was all about, showing what we have planned.
GN: Over the last year, what areas do you feel have advanced the fastest, and what areas do you feel may be needing more attention?
Scrub: I think it really depends on the scale of what you’re talking about. What I mean is, we add new things in with every patch, and a lot of things get added fairly quickly as they are basically building blocks for bigger things. So in order to build one big system we end up adding lots of foundational elements to build them up one upon the other, so certain things will happen quite quickly. But then when you start talking about things on the scale of like vehicles or the A.I. as a whole, they do take more time and may seem to be lagging behind in production, while in reality things are being added behind the scenes that the players don’t see. And everything always requires revisions due to feedback and bug fixing and tweaks. Some of these systems we’ve had in place for quite a long time we still have to tweak to adapt to new revisions. Just today we were talking about how nice it is that we’re finally getting to the point where we’re not doing fixes on everything but just balancing some things to make it all run smoothly rather than constantly building them. For example, I recently built a hunting system into the game using a lot of work that I’d already implemented, so that was quite nice because I already had a lot of the resources in-game to use in other areas. That allowed the hunting system to be included relatively quickly. But then there are things like the mercenary NPCs and the gun mechanics that took a bit longer because of the complexity involved and those resources aren’t necessarily in the game for us to draw on, so we have to build it up from scratch, which takes time.
Ryan: It’s like when you were saying about adding lots of little building blocks, parts and pieces, into the game in order to add a big mechanic or feature it just takes time. Take the vehicles for example. We just released a patch that is starting to reintroduce usable vehicles, starting with the ATV/quad. We didn’t want to just drop it in like we did with the prototype, where you could find it, jump on, and ride around forever. We needed to include a fuel system and parts of the vehicle that would wear down over time, which then brought into play that there needed to be a way to repair these things, and that led us to develop and implement a full repair system for not just the vehicle parts but for clothing and weapons. All this just from bringing in a vehicle.
Scrub: I guess just to answer your question about what might need more attention would be the “Skills” system, because that does need to be expanded upon quite a bit. And that’s currently on our radar, as well as including more story elements and quests.
Ryan: I think a big part of the slow, methodical progress is that there really are only three full-time people working on the game, though we really appreciate both Joe and Tyrone putting in as much effort as humanly possible. Insofar as the quest system is concerned though, for a while there were so many elements to it that kept breaking on us; in one patch they’d work, then the next they wouldn’t work. It really took a lot of digging to find out why that was happening, and the fix ended up being based on some work James had done while implementing the new A.I. v3 system for another sub-project that we were and are doing for the game. That allowed us to make the necessary adjustments that will free us up to really focus on adding in lots of the questing and story elements in the near future, and we know it will work.
I see the game is now in “limited” early access. Can you describe what that means and how that came to be?
Joe: Well initially we hadn’t planned to go up on Steam as early as we did. For a variety of complications we ended up launching on Steam before we wanted to, before we felt we were ready. What that basically means is that we’ve gone unlisted, so if you have a link to the store page for Jaws of Extinction, you can purchase and download the game, keep up with updates and patches. But otherwise you can’t just search for it for purchase and get it. For people who’ve come to find out about us by our Discord or otherwise heard about the game, they can request a link and we’ll provide it so they can gain access to it. This allows us to ensure that folks know they are not getting the final product, that the game is still in development.
Scrub: The real motive for us arriving on Steam when we did was because we wanted to stay within the rules and regulations on Steam, and that brought about the complications where we had to be on Steam at that time, even though we really didn’t feel ready for it, so we chose to allow ourselves this “limited” access on Steam’s store, mostly because that’s what we felt was the most fair at the time. We are getting close to releasing our Early Access that will allow us to be found on the storefront by searching.
GN: How has the reception been by your community?
Joe: People have been very understanding actually, given that what we ended up releasing was very unfinished. We made it very clear that it was unfinished and still in development, and the majority of people who downloaded the game took the time to read what we’d written before they got it, so they were aware of the state of the game at that time. A lot of people have enjoyed the process and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback about things that work, things that don’t work, and when we release a fix or patch they say, “Hey, you fixed this bit and that bit,” and the whole interaction, I think, has helped. Like Ryan was saying earlier, it’s good to get help and feedback. You know, when it’s just you there’s only one perspective but with more people you get a wider view of things.
Ryan: I think one of the bigger things that’s helped me as well is watching whatever coverage is generated on YouTube, Twitch, anything. We have a lot of folks who provide feedback about the game and report bugs, which is great, we love and encourage that. The problem lies in trying to replicate the bugs and it takes time to ask them how it came about, what was happening, etc. But when I’m watching a video or live stream and a bug occurs then I can say, “Ah, I see what happened,” and it really helps out by showing me how to replicate it. I really have to take my hat off to some of the guys who’ve helped us out making and posting videos, it’s been brilliant watching them.
GN: On your roadmap I see Tristan is due out by the end of March. Is that still going to happen?
Ryan: Basically, yes. We are on track but the thing is, with the “Roadmap” we wanted to make some kind of official plan on where we were going with everything. Some things though have been exchanged. Like the “Throwables, Part 2”, instead of putting that in we decided to put in “Item and Vehicle Repair”. There’s been so many other elements that we’ve put in that aren’t even on the roadmap, so it’s really just been a very rough guide on where we were going. For example, we recently released a tweet about what we’ve been doing with Amy, the protagonist we’ve already got in there. We’ve basically disassembled her because, in addition to constantly working to improve performance, we’re trying to improve the way the game looks. So rather than put all the playable co-op characters in there all at once and have to do this for them one at a time, we’ll get Amy done completely, then we’ll be able to apply the same changes to all of them and let the players have a finished character. So when it comes to releasing the other protagonists for play, other than their individual abilities and clothing, that’s all that has got to be implemented. Of course, all this is done at the same time as performance, new content and mechanics, A.I., and everything else we release in our patches and hotfixes.
Scrub: I mean, just to be clear, we are talking about a matter of weeks. If you’re asking if Tristan will be released AT the end of the month, that will depend on the state of the game at that time. I can say that it will be close to that time when Tristan releases.
Ryan: Of course. It might be the beginning of April instead of the end of March. We won’t put Tristan out two or three months late, but it may be a few days or, at most, a week or two before we’re comfortable releasing him.
The only reason I ask is because I’ve seen how KYE Studios prides itself on what is released, and is focused more on quality than a hard and fast date. I recall there was a catastrophic issue with the game and necessitated the Alpha release being pushed back for a couple of weeks. KYE’s response was to not let a date dictate what is offered up and only release when things are as good as you can make them.
Ryan: Yeah, I remember that. But that’s always been our rule, to release only what we feel is a good product. At the same time, if we have some things that are simply visual, like characters clipping through their clothes, then yeah, it doesn’t look great yet, but it’s not a game-breaking issue. We will address all the visual bugs and the aesthetics, but the game has to continue to grow, performance has to improve, things like that.