Last week, I was able to have an interview with Craig Z. of Haven Made Games. While scrolling through Imgur on a lunch break, a front-page post of his latest title, Warcube, was up. The game’s aesthetic and interesting combat mechanics drew me in to looking up the studio, contacting them via Twitter, then emailing the developer. And through that, within two days, I was able to interview Craig about Haven Made Games and got into a lot of what’s coming for those interested in playing Warcube. If you’re interested in getting Warcube out sooner, help get it Greenlit on Steam.
Sheldon: Thanks so much, again, for the interview.
Craig Z.: Oh no, it’s my pleasure!
S: So how did Haven Made Games get started?
C: I come from, like, 8 years in advertising. So I worked doing post-house stuff for digital effects stuff for commercials. And one of the things that always struck me was that the people I worked with were always super talented very…generally skilled. They could do a lot of different things well. So I wanted to make a place that was more of a collective than anything. It’s really talented generalists that work together. And what we do is that everyone kinda has their own project. Everyone knows how to do a bit of everything. For example, Warcube, I’m mainly doing it, but we’ve also got some other people that are working on their own stuff. We pull from each other from whatever we need. For example, I really need help with networking. Network engineering stuff, totally not my thing. But we have a buddy, he works with that, and he loves that, so that’s his thing. It’s only a couple of years old, so it’s really not anything fantastic, but it’s been great.
S: So you’re trying to avoid that sort of piecemeal way of developing a game, having everyone be pretty good at most things, and then grabbing help from those that know better.
C: Absolutely, and I see so many indie teams that are eight, ten people, and everyone’s working on their own tiny slice of something. That makes me cringe, and I don’t see that as sustainable.
S: So from there Haven Made Games went on to develop Fetch Dog Fetch and Bounce5 before starting on your latest title, Warcube. How did you go from two mobile games geared towards a younger audience to Warcube, this quick-paced action game?
C: Oh gosh, I think we got pulled into that craze of “oh yea, mobile! Let’s do a mobile game, it’ll be fun, the scope is way easier to handle.” And ultimately, and it sounds crazy now, but I wanted to ship a game a month. Just really quit iteration times, combined with a mechanic, and ship it to mobile. That’s what I saw as cool, sort of like those one-off crazes like Flappy Bird. I thought that was the way to go, and ultimately I think what I realized was that it takes time to polish things. Whether it’s a crummy mobile game, or a really nice mobile game, it just takes raw time, a lot of time to polish it. I think after Bounce5 we were just fed up and thought, “Ya know what? Let’s just make a game that’s way more us.” So we hopped right into Warcube.
S: Wow, that’d piece out to being twelve games a year. That’s crazy!
C: Well that’s the thing! I come from advertising, so I thought, “Alright, it’s pretty easy to make something look pretty and put it together.” But you can’t make, market, and ship a game in a month. That’s impossible! Well, it might be possible, but it’s definitely way harder than I thought it would be.
S: So where did the inspiration for Warcube come from?
C: It came from, I had a concept a few years back called BitWars at the time. The whole premise of it was, there were these little cube characters that live inside of a computer, and they fight each other. And I thought “well that kinda makes sense. What if you graphics card was actually something like the Scottish Highlands, and you go there, and it’s beautiful. And maybe the CPU’s the desert, or something.” And it came from that idea, I don’t know. I’m pumped to finally make a game with cubes that’s not building things, ya know? I enjoy Minecraft, but I prefer them bashing each other to pieces.
S: You’d enjoy Minecraft more, then, if the wood cubes that made your house became sentient and attacked your dog then?
C: Absolutely, gotta make it fun!
S: The way I had first found out about Warcube was from the Imgur community: a front page post, to be exact. How influential has the Imgur community been to Warcube’s development and popularity?
C: Oh my gosh, crazy, crazy helpful. They’ve been, I mean for the most part I’m kinda a hermit. I’m super social, but I totally just, like, hunker down and work on things. And I didn’t know it! And I didn’t even realize that I was the perfect Imgur member until I began really, sustainably staying there for months on end and thought, “I’m kinda their demographic.” It just fit so well, and everyone on there has been so helpful and encouraging. It’s funny because, I bounce between Reddit and Imgur. Normally I’m on Imgur. Everyone on Reddit always trolls Imgur, and I don’t get it because these people are so awesome and so nice. Everyone’s also a sarcastic bastard, and it’s so refreshing. My favorite was that, we actually just launched the Greenlight campaign yesterday, and there’s so many Imgurians hopping on and saying hi, so it’s just been so awesome, I love that.
S: It’s great to see that sort of community around a site like that, ya know?
C: It made me so happy. They’re such good people. It’s funny because I like how you can just assume if they’re from that site, they’re cool. They’re in.
S: From looking at individual .gifs, it looks more like Warcube is a lot of individual challenge rooms rather than this more coherent world. What sort of things will players be able to do in the larger world of Warcube?
C: Yea, it’s funny how you’re talking about that, because I was super hesitant to post anything about the world. That’s the part that’s been most likely to change, and so the Greenlight, finally I started opening up on details to that. What’s your gut reaction to it? Do you look at it and are you kinda like “huh?” Or are you intrigued by it?
S: Well there wasn’t much to go on for a gut reaction, which I’m fine with. I like the sort of Dark Souls approach to gaming, where you have an ambiguous idea of what’s happening, and you piece it together during the game. I almost have to fight off reading about a game I might be interested in or watching trailers, because I really enjoy that sort of place of not-knowing. So I really enjoy the ambiguity of it, and the mechanics seem like they tie in well with the game.
C: Dude, I’m totally the same way. So it’s a really situationally fun game. It’s really easy to show off in these three-second contexts, because that’s totally what the macro-gameplay is. But it’s all about situationally fun ideas. Most of the .gifs I’ve been posting of, well, one of them’s from an outpost mission. And another one is from a battle. In this world that you can run around in, there’s a bunch of factions. One of them, the main one, you’ll be fighting against is the RedCubes, but there’s some other different factions and fun things that I won’t get into yet.
But, like I said, it’s all about… like, if you’re playing a game, most games you know. Like, Assassin’s Creed, you know “Oh, I can run up here and do this.” They kinda show you everything you can do from the start, and that was an issue I had. That kinda makes for really hard sporadic decisions, quick-action reflexes. Warcube has this sort of dynamic slow-mode function, so you can have just enough time to think “Ya know what? I want to knock that guy off the bridge while jumping off there and double-shot those guys that are hanging out by the ladder.” It’s just enough time to let you pull off these crazy combos, and that’s the goal. To put people in a really fun situation, like those Helm’s Deep moments.
S: So kinda a mix of well thought out moments and “oh shit” quick moments?
C: Yea, so a mix of that. There’s a mix of quick-reflex stuff, but you’re also going to be able to do a bunch of cool thing that you’ll think are methodical. It’s really cathartic to play the game. It almost has a zen quality to it, which is interesting.
S: And the art style with the simple, almost cartoonish color scheme and simplistic shapes makes for a really good-looking game, too.
C: Yes, absolutely. Which is funny because it’s totally different from, like I said, I’m doing most of this stuff right now. All of the artwork so far has been my own, and most of my normal artwork is really gritty, really overly-detailed. So this has been just genuinely refreshing to make and look at.
S: From some of the more recent footage posted up of Warcube, it looks as though players will be capturing different castles and points of interest that will produce units to send at other bases. Is there a sort of RTS mechanic involved in Warcube as well?
C: Absolutely, and it’s a super-light sort of RTS, and people that want to dig into it can have a lot of fun with it. But people that don’t play RTS games are usually really intimidated by people that show off RTS stuff, so the people that aren’t RTS players won’t even have to worry about it. It sort of works out like an automatic version of Mushroom Wars. You take over these outposts and, before then, there are these enemies that kinda wander around the map. You can fight them, they kinda spawn from there. If you take over an outpost, they’ll start spawning your units, which will go to the parent city. There’s kinda of a hierarchy of outposts to cities. So I could have five outposts that go to a city that goes to a mega fortress. And you can choose to attack the mega fortress right from the beginning. It can just be you, and you can go at it versus 500 dudes. And it’s awesome, I totally want to give people that option.
S: Oh god, that sounds like a lot of work.
C: It’s going to be like, crazy difficult, but I’m hoping there’s one guy on Twitch that can do it. So you can do that, or you can take over these outposts. Which is good for you, because you’ll get money, and stuff like that. And allies will start to siege around enemy cities. You can use them sort of like a currency. Each one that goes up there tallies this sort of counter. Let’s say you get about 200 people there. You can spend maybe 100 of them to make a siege tower. So now you can attack with a siege tower as well with this army at your back. And the gameplay for that is still getting ironed out. Right now, they kinda play almost like a MOBA, which is really interesting, but I’m really trying to get a good balance to it. And the sieges are fun, but I really want them to be a white-knuckle experience. Kinda like Mount and Blade. There’s also just locations in the map, too, that you can go to. There are ruins missions and things like that, that’ll be more acrobatic-based rather than combat.
S: In the Steam Greenlight page, it states that there will most likely be some form of multiplayer, either in couch co-op, PvP, or PvE. Is there any one option that you’re currently leaning more towards?
C: So the difficulty for multiplayer is definitely, at least from my perspective, and you have to understand, there’s a good amount of ignorance going into this part, is just with network multiplayer. I have no idea, like, bandwith that goes with that. I definitely want to do it. I started prototyping some local stuff, which is playing really fun, so it’s really fun to have a couple of people in a battle together interacting with each other. It’s pretty hilarious. The local stuff is not too intimidating. It’ll be fun to come up with a few game modes centered around that. Maybe like a big defense or siege. I just don’t know about PvP yet. I’m super pumped to find out, I just really haven’t looked into it enough as far as stress-testing it. But like, come on. Tons of cubes running around, hitting each other, shooting arrows at each other. Who would say no to that?
S: And you could have a gladiator mode or something like that.
C: Yes! It just sounds so much fun. And you could have traps and everything, or even animals come in and all! Like, tigers or something.
S: And for the animals, you could switch back to your over-detailed art-style, just to throw people off.
C: *chuckles for a while* so yea, it’s definitely going to be a thing. I just don’t exactly know the best context for that.