Review Fix Exclusive: Inside Geneshift

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.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 12953 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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