Belgium is slowly getting to be more and more active as a Game-development country, so I contacted a few Belgian developers and checked if they wanted to talk about their upcoming game. The first that caught my interest was Cybernetic Walrus with their futuristic Anti-gravity racer, appropriately called: Antigraviator.
The time where Indie games had to underperform graphically when compared to AAA releases has come and gone and Cybernetic Walrus is making a strong case for this statement with their gorgeous looking first release.
We had an interview with Managing Director, Mike Coeck, about Antigraviator and their past/present/future plans as an up and coming Game Studio.
How long have you spent working on Antigraviator?
It started as a project for the Digital Arts and Entertainment study at Howest (Kortrijk, Belgium). We started working on the first prototype somewhere in February 2016 and spent about 12 weeks on it. We continued on the same project in the next academic year and spent another 12 weeks on it, but mind you: this was a part-time assignment as we had other courses to attend. It’s only in February 2017 that we really started Full-time development on it. So it’s been in the works for a year and a half of which it had our undivided attention for the last 6 months.
How did you decide what kind of game you were going to make?
As said, the game started during our education and we had already made some 2D games and some platformers. We wanted to do something else for a change and decided on a futuristic racer. The original intention was to have Player 1 race while Player 2 would try to active traps to hinder the other. After the race, the roles would be switched. We soon noticed it was more fun to have both players racing at the same time though, so that’s why we decided on the combination of WipeOut/F-Zero and Split/Second that we have now.
What do you think about Belgium as a Game-development country? There are almost no big companies to join so you kind of have to start your own.
The main problem with Belgium is the high labour cost and taxation. This doesn’t make it easy for a new start-up. Luckily the government has picked up on this and they are investing more in the games business as of late. Belgium’s main industries are centered around service and knowledge so the current investment of only 0.01% of its revenue reinvested in gaming is on the lower end. Flanders DC* has a bigger focus on gaming and they’re helping game studios attend big events like GamesCom and GDC
*Belgium is divided in three districts of which the northernmost is called Flanders.
Was it difficult getting the necessary funding?
Well we asked the AudioVisual Fund (VAF)* for a grant, but this was difficult for us to provide the necessary documents as we were in the middle of our exams. Luckily we managed and ended up getting 60K from them. We also had a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter but this wasn’t a big success. We knew it was going to be hard to get enough people invested as we didn’t manage to build a big enough follower base yet, but due to timing constraints we had to try at that point already instead of waiting for it to grow.
*The VAF/Game Fund co-finances the development of video games by games companies in Flanders and Brussels
What platforms will Antigraviator be available on and will you consider porting it to other platforms if it performs well?
The game will be available for Xbox One and Steam. We’ll launch it on Steam first (we hope to get it released on the 31st of October). Depending on the success we’ll also consider porting it to the Playstation 4. We haven’t decided yet if it will also be interesting to port it to the Switch.
Why did you decide on these platforms?
We’re using Unity as our game engine, which made it easy to develop for both PC and Xbox, though the Xbox version will release later as they have a stricter certification process for which certain requirements still need to be developed.
Will the game receive Xbox One X specific updates?
Yes, we have plans to support it with 4K/HDR*. We’re already developing on 4K monitors but the main issue is the hardware: On a PC this means you’ll need a Nvidia 1080 or 1080 to play it as intended.
*The Xbox One X will support this natively, though an additional download is usually required for 4K supported games.
And it will still reach 60FPS?
This depends heavily on the hardware (PC) but we a striving for this on on XBO, yes.
So are you already working with an Xbox One X Devkit?
No, we don’t have an Xbox One X yet. Our devkits are of the Xbox One S model. Mostly because the PC release is a bigger priority at the moment.
In the demo*, I only saw an option to play single races. Will there be a story/tournament mode?
Yes, there will be a tournament mode. This is what we’re currently working on.
*You can download a PC demo: HERE. It has 3 racetracks you can speed away on!
How did you manage to compress the game the way you did? It looks amazing, yet the demo was only 330MB + there was hardly any loading.
We’re using quite a few tricks to texture pack. Some of these you can find on our blog.*
*Example: When building environment textures for a game, it is always a good idea to think about its re-usability. Tiling textures or trims are great examples for this. If used wisely and combined with smart shader tricks they can greatly reduce resource usage, increase performance and save time at once. This of course depends on the environment style you are choosing to do. In our case, clean sci-fi is probably the most optimal for this kind of approach, mainly due to simplicity of man-made shapes and panel layouts
How is the AI working? Is there rubber-banding applied?* (I found it hard to remain first in the demo)
Yes, the AI does use Rubber Banding. We’re currently investigating how else we can diversify the difficulty and how the AI responds.
*Rubber Banding is a technique used in racing games where your competition is ‘teleported’ closer behind you as to increase the intensity of the race (this avoids having you drive two laps in 1st place without seeing other drivers)
Will there be more ships and tracks later on? You currently have twelve tracks and three ships planned, correct?
Yes, there are 12 tracks but you’ll be able to race through them in both directions, so in effect we have 24. There are 3 vehicles and they each have 3 sets with 3 parts you can alter, this means you’ll have 27 different combinations for one ship and 81 total variations. If the game does well enough, we can also consider DLC.
I liked the “submit your own design” contest*. Will you plan another one after the release?
Possibly. We’ll certainly have more contests lined up for our fans!
*They had a “Design your own skin” contest on Facebook. See the finalists: HERE
How quickly did you decided you wanted a split-screen multiplayer mode? Most games these days go for online only.
This was decided upon rather early in the development process. At first we aimed at 2 players only but we’ll be supporting up to 4 players!
*personal aside: this is a big deal for me as I’m a HUGE fan of the feature (see my article about split-screen gaming)
And what about Online Multiplayer, what are the plans? Is there a Cross-platform consideration?*
We’ll have an online multiplayer for sure. We’re also testing the cross-platform possibilities. It’s not a bad thing that you can play multiplayer from different platforms, but it doesn’t make it easy for the developers. We want to support it but we’ll still need more testing.
*Microsoft, for example, is recently pushing for having cross-play work across different consoles, but Sony is refusing to co-operate. Minecraft is the prime example as it will allow cross-play on almost any platform except Sony’s.
How did you get in contact with Michael Maas? He’s a pretty well-known composer in the trailer business.
Coincidentally on Facebook. Michael is known in the trailer business and wanted to do more with videogames. He sent me a friend request, I saw what he had accomplished already and that’s how we got to talking. People attending GamesCom on the 23rd of august can meet him from 11h to 12h in our entertainment area booth.
Would you like to share you and your team’s favourite games? It says a lot about a person 🙂
Our favourite games differ a lot, as is the platform we play on. I personally like Boardgames a lot, as well as RPGs and Strategy games. Our artists are more into shooters like Doom and Battlefield. Lately we’ve been playing a lot of racing games of course. In fact, the biggest benefit of our new job may be that we get to game and tell our wives we’re doing research 😉
You can meet the Cybernetic Walrus team if you’re going to GamesCom: The Antigraviator developers will show off their fast, furious and futuristic game at the pavillion and at their very own booth (Hall 10.1 E030) of the entertainment area.
We’ll also do a follow-up interview after the game is launched and possibly a review!