Review Fix chats with Ben Johnson (Founder, Nik Nak Studios) who discusses his awesome Grand Theft Auto 2/Diablo hybrid, which is currently in early access on Steam.
Review Fix: How was this game born?
Ben Johnson: I started developing Geneshift in 2008 after college. I wanted to create a small project to put on my resume – expecting it to take a few months at most. Eight years later, I now realise my time estimation skills were lacking a bit. I was playing a lot of GTA2 and Diablo at the time, and I thought it’d be cool to merge the two ideas together.
Review Fix: What was development like?
Johnson: It’s been ongoing for over 8 years now and a huge part of my life. After the demo was placed online in 2009, I gathered a small community who provided feedback and ideas – leading to a perpetual state of development. In order to save money I left Australia in 2014 and started coding from cheaper countries around the world – recently spending 2 years living in Peru.
Review Fix: What makes the story special?
Johnson: If you’re talking about the development story, it has to be the fact that Geneshift was coded from all over the world. If you’re asking about the actual in-game story, my favorite part is the subtle satire of game stories in general – since it draws attention to the various tropes seen in many game stories these days (e.g., how the main character is always super strong and saving the world).
Review Fix: How special is GTA2 to you guys?
Johnson: I used to play GTA2 a bunch when I was a kid. The vehicles were great fun and there was something about the top-down view that I really liked. (I always like to be able to see my own character when I play games.)
Review Fix: How do you think this game improves on the GTA2 formula?
Johnson: Well, they are quite different games – though GTA2 was the main inspiration. Geneshift has a much stronger multiplayer focus than GTA2 does – with modern net code and far more attention to the PvP balance. There is the entire mutant skills system, which GTA2 lacks – and this adds plenty of tactics and replayability to the combat.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Johnson: It’s a strange experience writing fragment shaders in a youth hostel while a bunch of travelers are singing “Kumbaya” on the table next to you. A year of Geneshift’s development was spent traveling in cheap countries around the world – hopping from country to country when the visa expired. And after that, I settled down in Peru for two years – where I tried to learn Spanish while coding the game. It’s been a great ride that I’ll never forget.
Review Fix: How does this game disrupt the game landscape?
Johnson: I think the most interesting thing is how it merges genres: Taking the PvP combat from shooters like CS, mixing in a skill system from MOBAS, and then adding vehicles on top. I’ve tried to give gamers as many ways to kill each other as possible.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the game?
Johnson: My main concern right now is getting enough people to enjoy it. That’s why I put a free multiplayer demo up on the Steam page – so even if someone doesn’t have enough cash, they can still enjoy the game that I and my community have spent the past eight years creating.
Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Johnson: GTA2 fans will get a kick out of the vehicles, certainly. But even more generally, anyone who enjoys fast-paced PvP combat will really like the unique blend of guns and skill-based combat. And the campaign works with up to 4 players in online co-op, so many gamers will enjoy hopping on with a few friends to slaughter zombies, explore for unlocks, and just mess about with a bunch of crazy cars and mutant powers.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Johnson: Well, this is only Early Access – so more development! Eight years just isn’t enough. Once I get through this launch, I’ll be back to development, eagerly listening to the community for where to take the game next. I’m thinking more skills, weapon and vehicles. Maybe a helicopter would be cool.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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