Granite Games launches Dusktreaders on iPhone
Dec 31, 2008 21:16:47

dusktreadersIf you've been following VirginWorlds since show #11 or keep a keen eye on independent MMORPG project, you've probably heard of Dusktreaders and Granite Games in the past. This Minneapolis-based studio has been hard at work on a MMO set in a dark fantasy world with the Victorian Gothic revival and steampunk stylings such as that depicted in the film Van Helsing. With 4 years of development behind them, the team at Granite Games recently decided to take a slight break from the main project to put a Dusktreaders iPhone game. The game, set in the Dusktreaders world, launched on the iTunes App Store just before Christmas and lead developer of Granite Games, Erik Hyrkas, was kind enough to answer a few question regarding this interesting project.


VirginWorlds: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your projects. It has been a long time since podcast 11 where we talked about the Dusktreaders MMO. Before we get to the iPhone developments, how is that project coming along?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: The Dusktreaders MMO is still underway. We are actively building it and continuing to push toward release. It has been a long process. We've made a lot of direction changes, some subtle and some larger, as the project has gone on. This is one of the reasons the website has been stripped down. We were finding the maintenance of the website to keep up with our current direction was beginning to be a burden. In the very beginning we were Gothic/fantasy, but now we are more Victorian Gothic revival and steam punk. That might not sound like a big change, but it was when you have to scrap much of your art. We've also had technological flip flopping. First we built the game engine in C, then C++, then we did it in C++ again, then we tried Torque Game Engine Advanced, then C++, then JMonkey, then C#. Somewhere in there we toyed with Ogre3d, but didn't get very far. The conflict for me is that I don't want to build a game engine, I really don't because I don't want to be in the business of building and maintaining a game engine at this point. At the same time, early on we chose Softimage XSI for our 3d modeling and so much of our art is in that format. Each time we venture to an existing engine, we find the support to be lacking and we end up having to abandon it and go back to writing our own. Most of our time has gone into building tools and such to construct the game world and setup the game rules.


VirginWorlds: What learnings have you had as an independent studio trying to manage the development of a full-blown massive title?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: Think about your tools very early on. Having a vision for your game is something I think most people who want to build games have. It is the easy part. What you need to do is find the tools that will work together and figure out what tools you will need to build yourself. If you are a small studio or even by yourself, consider how difficult it will be to do everything by yourself. I believe you need world designing tools to allow other people to contribute, try to not put yourself in a corner where you are the bottleneck. As the lead geek on our project, I have found myself to be the bottleneck a number of times -- and it is really uncomfortable being in a position where progress is being held up on your account.


VirginWorlds: Have there been any direction changes along the way that are of interest?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: The theme changes I mentioned above are important I think. Otherwise, there are a billion different small decisions we vacillate on all the time -- trying to create an intuitive interface, fun game play, etc.


VirginWorlds: Tell us a bit about the Dusktreaders iPhone game. What is it?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: It's more of an action adventure game than anything. It is set in the world of the Dusktreaders MMO, though most of the art had to be trimmed down to run well. It is not an MMO, which we have had some confusion over. There are timed missions that you run through that have some shoot-em-up aspects. Though at this moment, nearly half the missions don't require you to kill a single monster and the other half that do only require you to kill one monster. When I play the game myself, I rarely kill more than two monsters per mission -- unless I just want to listen to the sound effects. The 1.0 release was a little rough around the edges. We really pushed to get it out by Christmas -- and since it can take Apple weeks to move on a submitted application, we had to submit it very early. Since the 1.0 release we uploaded a 1.0.1 version that at the time of this writing still isn't in the iTunes store -- a point of frustration for myself. We're sitting on the 1.0.2 (or maybe even the 1.1) release waiting for the 1.0.1 release to show up since we don't want the submission of yet another update to slow down the first. I'm sure I'll get nasty hate mail from Apple for even venting my frustration with the process. We want to play by their rules, but it's a very slow process. Coming from the MMO side of things everything we do keeps in mind that there will be regular updates. We want to do the same for the iTouch/iPhone application with very regular updates and additions.


VirginWorlds: That's a rather large departure from the PC MMO space, what intrigued Granite Games about this platform and why did you decide to tackle this project?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: We tackled it in part because it is a much smaller project and we wanted to start getting some wins under our belt, so to speak. We've been grinding away at an impossibly huge project for years now with nothing to show for it. We love the iPhone platform and thought this would be a good way to get some of our hard work out there. Show off and test out some of our art and music. Maybe even create a little funding for the MMO project (which is completely out of pocket for us.)


VirginWorlds: You've done some amazing work with the 3D engine on this platform, how'd you do that?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: I have to give all the credit to Unity3d. They have a great game engine and a fabulous community. If any of the people reading this are thinking of making a game, please check these guys out. You can write your scripts in C#, Javascript (using static typing), or Boo (a statically typed Python.) What's more is that it imports in art assets very well. We're using XSI (as I mentioned) and it still took some finagling, but thanks to Ultimate Unwrap we managed to get stuff in. I sound like a commercial for all these tools, but they deserve a lot of credit.


VirginWorlds: We can't help but think there might be more developments on this front. An RPG, and MMO - on the iPhone? Can you tell us what you're planning?


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: We would actually like to do more iPhone apps, but we'll see what time allows. The MMO is our first priority. I expect we'll expand the number of missions on the Mobile Edition -- something that helps drive the MMO while it is at it anyway because it gets our juices flowing and puts a little change in our pockets. Right now the iPhone edition isn't multi-player, but we are definitely considering possibilities around networked play -- in what regard, we're not sure yet. We can also imagine ways in which you might use your iPod Touch or iPhone to access the Dusktreaders MMO at least in some limited capacity -- how limited or how unrestricted, I couldn't tell you just yet. The technology requires all of the art to be really stripped down -- a lot of people forget "it is just a phone!" Most of the games that look really fabulous on it are 2.5D or 2D. The 3D games have to use every trick in the book to get things to look okay. In our 1.0 version we stripped out lighting, though we ended up putting it back in 1.0.1 -- but the trade off was actually removing some monsters. When it comes to the real MMO, we'll have to think long and hard about whether we definitely expose a phone client to the sort of GPU punishment people expect out of their desktop systems. Some people get a little concerned about how low poly the iPhone monsters are -- but the options are low poly or an unresponsive game. It might be really tough to offer the exact same experience on the current hardware. In short, will we deliver a full mmo experience to the iPhone soon? Probably not. However, we might just offer a limited experience -- such as access to trading and other non-combat activities. I guess we need to just watch and see. :)


VirginWorlds: Thanks much for taking the time to answer these questions. It's exciting to see a start-up studio paving the way for a future where we might have some games in our pockets that are more than bejeweled clones, and instead, real RPGs with grown-up IPs behind them.


Erik Hyrkas/Granite Games: Thank you so much.


Screenshots from iPhone:













Submitted by Brent on Dec 31, 2008 21:16:47 CST (comments: 1)


Comments:


'Dusktreaders' by dan
Submitted on 2009-01-10 19:42:57 CST
It's a pretty cool idea and doesnt look to bad either. The only thing i have to complain about what i've seen is the guns from the screenshots. I don't get what the look was they were trying to go for, its like a gun shape piece of wood with a small barrel looking thing for a clip. I dont meen to bash or anything, i admire what they are doing and i think other people should try to do stuff like this.




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