Wednesday, February 4, 2009

23 interviews: Wolfire

23's Wolfire Interview

That rabbit could kick your ass

Wolfire, the makers of Lugaru (the last game i reviewed) were nice enough to actually let me send them some questions, which actually isn't very surprising seeing how they have a very open communication with their fans. The questions aren't the best (especially the first one), but John managed to meet them with some pretty good answers. So, read the review, and maybe pre-order Overgrowth, or even just check out some of the links, cause these guys are pretty cool. Anyway with no further adieu, here's my first interview:

First I'd like to thank you for accepting my offer of an interview. I know that anyButton is very small right now, and Wolfire is very big (over 1000 followers), so this will probably benefit us more then you. So, lets start with the intro.

Who are you and what company do you stand for?

Hehe, that's a pretty intense sounding question. Is this an interview or an interrogation? :) I'm John. I work for Wolfire Games and we stand for making innovative games and being very open with our community. We definitely appreciate you taking the time to arrange an interview.

They sent pictures!

How did Wolfire start and who are the members?

Wolfire was started by our fearless leader David Rosen. We recently posted a picture on our blog that shows David using a computer at age 3. By age 7, David had made his first game in Hypercard. It was a stick-figure, choose-your-own-adventure war game complete with gunshot and explosion sound effects that David made himself by blowing on his computer's microphone. I had the good fortune to be going to school with David at the time and watched in awe as his game became very popular. Unfortunately his game spread to the library computer cluster and was then quickly banned from school. Librarians aren't too receptive to the sounds of gunfire and explosions going off in their library.

From there David went on to make a series of games with increasing complexity. He switched to pong, realized it was boring, and made Firepong which added fireballs and razor blades that could punch holes in the paddles or cut them in half. Next came GLFighters, then Black Shades, then Lightning's Shadow. The Wolfire site as you see it today was born when David decided to make his award-winning games available online in one location.

David made his most ambitious game Lugaru, 5 years ago, all by himself, while he was still in high school. He has since been recruited by companies like Crytek but decided he would rather start his own company where he maintains creative control.

After graduating from college, David is joined by his twin brother Jeff who is a web coding guru and has been selling commercial software since high school, Aubrey who is an amazing all around artist that has worked with David on previous projects, Phillip who majored in computer science and did his senior thesis on computer graphics and me who majored in economics and am focusing mainly on the business side of Wolfire.

Pretty clouds

What are some of your influences (other indie game developers, mainstream games, etc.)?

Working for a game development company does entail some competitive analysis. It's funny to think that playing games counts as work in this industry (as long as you don't do too much research on the competition). David has been playing, breaking and dissecting games his whole life. That's why we're really glad that he started doing design tours. So far people seem to really appreciate the way he thinks about games and game design.

David has stated that Lugaru's influences were the viking deathmatch game Rune and the 3rd person shooter/close-quarters-combat hybrid called Oni. David took his favorite parts of both games, added a bunch of his own new features and produced the wonder known as Lugaru. Recently we really enjoyed Little Big Planet and used it as inspiration for Phillip's map editor features.

Our indie hero at the moment is probably 2DBoy, specifically Ron Carmel who made time to come visit us for lunch. He and Kyle took a simple concept, polished the heck out of it, and broke into mainstream. The story of 2DBoy's success is very encouraging to indie developers everywhere.

This is more detail then most high budget games

What game are you making now and how is it going?

We are currently making a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth. While Overgrowth will inherit the essence of Lugaru's tried and true combat system, it will also be benefiting from every cutting edge feature that Wolfire's brand new Phoenix Engine has to offer. With better graphics, better physics, more moves, more characters, huge mod support and multiplay, Overgrowth promises to be Lugaru on steroids.

ooo, pretty...

Development is coming along well. Overgrowth looks better and better everyday. We recently made an Overgrowth alpha map editor tutorial video that showcases all of Overgrowth's latest features. You can check it out here.

The Overgrowth logo

How do you feel about your followers/why do you choose to be so transparent in your development?

Without the support of our fans, we would drown in the noisy and crowded space of the internet. We have been in awe of how much help the community has given Wolfire.

Perhaps the first major demonstration of the power of fan support was that even though David designed Lugaru with virtually no editing tools, fans went in and created two entirely separate single player campaigns (Empire and Temple) that rival the quality of Lugaru's original story. Since then it's been clear to us that our fans are too smart, creative and capable to be kept out of the loop.

For Overgrowth we've rallied fan support in our Overt Ops program. Visitors from around the world have helped us translate the Overgrowth fact sheet into over 20 languages and have gotten us exposure on foreign news sites and even Europe's biggest magazine.

Also because we make the weekly alphas available to preorderers, they have already been using the map editors to build things. One of our proudest moments was when our fans created the Wolfire and Overgrowth logos in engine (see them here).

Probably our biggest recent fan success though is the Overgrowth ModDB page. Not only is the page itself a demonstration of our commitment to mod support, but it has been fan-run for a few months now.

Actually a screen shot from the Overgrowth alpha

What makes you/your games unique?

All of David's games tend to have design elements that make them stand out. Firepong wasn't just pong, it was pong with weapons and magic spells. Black shades wasn't just an FPS, it was was a procedurally generated city system that kept the player on the edge of his seat guessing as to where the next enemy would come from. Lugaru became so popular because of its streamlined movement and fighting system. Overgrowth will be recapturing Lugaru's fluid movement and intuitive combat and adding a lot of fun new content.

As a company I think Wolfire is in a very interesting position. We have both the agility of a small company yet enough raw developing power to create high end assets.

Yes, that is lens flare

Why did you decide to charge for your games?

Well if you're planning to make game for a living, the bills need to be paid somehow. By charging money, we can afford to put 12 hours a day, 7 days a week into Overgrowth, make it a much higher quality product and still be able to put food on the table (we hope :) ). Preorders have definitely been helping.

Aubrey is a really good artist

Do you have any plans for the future of Wolfire?

We mainly want to focus all of our efforts on Overgrowth at the moment so we don't want too spend much time thinking too far ahead of ourselves. When we finish Overgrowth, then we will think more seriously about what our next step is.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me.

Bonus question:
23: oh, and I think I left out one important question: How did you get the idea for Lugaru?
John: oh I'll try to remember to add that, David Rosen came up with idea
23: yea, it seems kinda strange the whole idea for an anthropomorphic adventure/fighting game (that's the best description I could come up with)
John: so there are a few things going on, David wanted to create a universe that wasn't cliche like barbarians or space marines, he wanted to avoid the "Uncanny Valley" by using non-human characters
John: also you can make things really violent without them being as traumatic
23: hmm, good point

Now the show's really over. Till next time!


  1. Hmm... He sounds pretty cool. I thought I was special for just learning how to use Basic at 7 :P

    Did they by any chance put up any mention of us on their site?

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