National Video Games Examiner Patrick Hickey Jr. chats with FortressCraft Evolved’s creator, Adam Sawkins, who discusses the game’s development cycle and the bevy of changes in the newest version of the game.
Patrick Hickey Jr.: What was this development cycle like?
Adam Sawkins: In a word – “interesting.” I come from a traditional AAA background, pre-dating silly notions like ‘patches’. You write the game, it gets pressed onto a disk, it gets tested to hell and back, then it’s shipped, frozen in time, never to change at all. This means that in Burnout 3, in an 8 player network game, if you boost hard, the game locks up… my bug. I discovered it about 2 hours after the final code left the building. These days, however, I’m a huge fan of what’s known as “games as a service”, the concept that a game is an evolving and growing entity.
I’ve embraced Early Access hard with this – I’ve stood my ground and argued for hours with the community about how I felt things should be, but when people tell you that you’re wrong (and back it up with some quite accurate graphs and numbers), the flaws in your your original ‘perfect’ vision become clear, and you begin to change things. This has led to a much better game!
In the olden days, of course, you just wrote the game, finished it, threw it over the wall and hoped you’d managed to guess what your player base wants – in FortressCraft’s case, I’ve spent the last 3 months ensuring I’ve directly addressed player’s concerns about the game – this is something I’m going to continue to do after release!
The amazing thing about using Steam is how quickly I can turn fixes around – I’m a huge fan of watching people on Twitch stream the game, and I’ve seen issues and had a fix live within 10 minutes. Beautiful!
Hickey Jr.: How was it different from the last game?
Sawkins: From the Xbox version of FortressCraft? Hah! Sadly, the Xbox version was cut short a long way ahead of the game I wanted to write. FortressCraft on the Xbox had a really well fleshed-out Creative mode, but the Survival mode was barely started before Microsoft dropped XNA support, and I had to stop work on it. FortressCraft: Evolved is a really unique survival/logistics/tower defense hybrid which isn’t really like anything else out there, so I’m happy! With some luck, I’ll be able to continue working on the game for a long time to come, and continue to add in more awesome things as computers get faster and faster!
Hickey Jr.: You’re always going to hear the comparisons to “Minecraft,” but real gamers know how different this game is. If you could tell all the “Minecraft” fanboys anything, what would it be?
Sawkins: If you’re into vanilla Minecraft’s gameplay, you won’t find many similarities here, but if you’re into Tekkit/GregTrech or Feed The Beast, you’ll find yourself in hog’s heaven! FortressCraft is a much more cohesive game experience than any of these mod packs, and is driven by a single focus, which avoids a lot of the issues with these sort of collections. Despite pre-dating both of them, the phrase “Minecraft meets Factorio” sums up the game well.
Hickey Jr.: What’s your favorite new gameplay element in this game?
Sawkins: The strange thing about gamedev is how it surprises you. I was tracking down an issue with the way the game spawns resources, and got tired of looking for them, so I implemented the Ore Scanner. After about 15 minutes, I couldn’t remember how on earth I played the game without it.
Oh, but favorite… ore scanner? Maybe the holobase – you can examine your entire base from hundreds of meters away and get readouts on what all your machines are doing. The missile launchers are awesome, too – especially when you’ve covered an entire mountain range with them, and then the bosses get their just deserts. But I reckon my favorite thing are the ‘multi block machines’ – we have some REALLY big machines, they’re not all limited to 1 meter cubes. The Orbital Power Transmitter, the current ultimate goal for the player, is 1053 cubic meters big.
Hickey Jr.: Bottom line, why should someone pick this up?
Sawkins: From the heart – if I hadn’t written this game, I would play the ever-living shit out of it. It offers a unique blend of futuristic survival, base management, logistics, tower-defense style combat, exploration in literally the largest world in any game ever. Picking it up now also gives you the opportunity to help mould the future of the game – whilst it’s been a long 2 years in Early Access, I’m treating today as the first day of the game. Also, I reckon Microsoft have enough money by now ;)
Hickey Jr.: What’s next?
Sawkins: Short answer: lots more! The last two years have seen me expanding the “We should add…” list – today’s initial release is just the beginning.
• Dedicated servers with headless support, remote admin and Linux.
• Vehicles. Think Mole Machines and you’re on the right track.
• Fluid, piping and pumps for water, lava, rocket fuel, etc
• Rocket building and simulation; orbital cargo loading (“Kerbal Lite”)
• Space Station building; transport to and from your Space Station
• More Surface Biomes with unique materials
• Multiblock Laser Power Transmitters; lethal to stand in, range of 256+ metres
• Coal Refinery and Enrichment; the first choice in alternatives to the current power progression.
• Geothermal Energy; utilising the heat differential between the surface and the Magma Caverns.
• Nuclear Energy; requires having successfully navigated past the Magma Caverns, almost 2km underground.
• Multiblock Ore Extractors
• Trains, offering high speed, high capacity transport over vast distances.
• More Base-harassing enemies
• Improved Tower-Defence attacks; EMP wasps, better route finding, tunnelling mobs, persistent hive mobs and spawns.
• Higher tiers of Laser Turrets, including larger Multiblock Laser Turrets
• Higher tiers of Missile Turrets
• More ARTHER Upgrades!
• Full SpiderBot upgrade, including movement speed, secondary AA laser turrets and boss-destroying missile systems, and in-field missile reloading bots
• Automated Remote Collection of drops by robots
• Suit upgrade interface
• Entities to support keeping graphics live outside of graphical range (LPTs, Lifts, Builders)
• Dedicated server support and Invite Steam Friends
• Multiple bases with permissions and Friend-Or-Foe settings on turrets
• Growth into fully-fledged Base Vs Base mechanics.
Thanks once again to Notch for inspiring me to make a vox-game, and for catapulting this style of game into the limelight.
“FortressCraft Evolved” leaves Early Access and launches on Steam today, Monday Nov 9.