Hopefully you’re already familiar with David Nunez, the designer for Gem Wars: Attack of the Jiblets. If it’s not ringing a bell perhaps you should go listen to this week’s podcast, which you can find here.
We picked David’s brain about his project, his aspirations and goals for the game, his interesting working relationship with his programmer, and just how well being in Early Access has worked out for him. If the game looks interesting to you it can be found here.
Let’s start with a brief introduction. Tell us a little about your game.
Gem Wars: Attack of the Jiblets is a game about a once-peaceful race of creatures called Jiblets. The Jiblets are introduced to power and war breaks out because of it. The point of the game is to battle and dominate! It’s equal parts fighter and equal parts shooter, plus some platforming elements peppered in for good measure. There are some games similar to it, but nothing exactly like it. Take Smash Bros., Worms, Mega Man, Bomberman, Quake III Arena– blend them all into one– and you might be getting close to what this game is like.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role on the project?
As lead designer/producer, I pretty much keep everyone working. I schedule deadlines and design goals and my job is to make sure we meet all of them. I also pay for anything that needs to be paid for if that’s what’s necessary. And if I can’t afford it or no one wants to do it for free, then I’ll take on the tasks myself. Graphics, sounds, level design– if I can’t get someone to do it, I’ll do it myself. Probably not as good, but I’ll freaking do it. I make sure to do at least one thing a day to move GW:AOTJ forward.
Can you go a bit more into detail about the development process so far?
Because programming is the one thing I can’t do no matter how hard I try, GW:AOTJ relies heavily on my programmer as well. A situation occurred, however, that during the second year of development, my programmer (Christian Hall) fell ill. Christian was out of commission for almost two more years. Without getting too much into his personal life, he is still technically ill. But he is also very determined and very strong-willed. He will get this game done.
What are some of the unexpected challenges you’ve already faced during development?
Besides Christian’s illness, which was arguably the toughest, the second toughest would be Christian’s stubbornness (and my own). Christian and I butted heads for most of the development of GW:AOTJ. I’d like to think that all this head-butting made for a better game. Christian challenged my designs, I challenged his. And because of that, we both grew as designers.
How do you approach the business side of development. Are there any tools that you feel have made the business easier?
My thought behind it is: the less people we deal with, the better.
We also made sure that if anything tragic should happen in the middle of development, either of us could continue developing this game without the other or at very least release a working build of the game on the spot (Agile development, I think they call it). For this, I created a Build Schedule. The earliest build was a working proof of concept. And build by build, we tack on fancier features. Each build can potentially be released as the “final” version of the game. The actual final version is going to be all bells and whistles, and it will knock your socks off.
The next thing Christian and I set out to do was to make sure that all content in the game was drag-and-drop. What this means is that if I have a new interesting character I want to add into the game, all I’d have to do is drop the assets and BAM– he’s in the game. This works for all images and sounds.
The final most important tool was creating a level editor. With this level editor, we could continue making levels with ease. No art is even needed. We could just draw up shapes or take a picture of anything and make parts tangible through the editor and we’d have a working level. Because of this, just about every new build of GW:AOTJ has a new level.
There is clearly a growing indie scene in Miami, has this helped in the development of Gem Wars?
Honestly, I didn’t even know there was an indie scene in Miami until recently. I met the #MakeGamesMiami dudes at SuperCon and was invited to one of their meetings. I was floored to see so many artists interested in making games. I have since been in contact with a few of them. It feels good to know you’re not alone. Shout out to #MakeGamesMiami!
Tell us about some of your favorite multiplayer titles. Did anything have an impact on Gem Wars?
All the games I listed above, as well as Call of Duty, Twisted Metal (huge David Jaffe fan), the Godzilla games by Simon Strange (also a huge fan of his work) — pretty much every game I’ve ever touched has inspired Gem Wars: Attack of the Jiblets.
How far do you feel Gem Wars is from launch? Any other features or mechanics you’re looking to add?
I’m really excited to add Colosseum Mode and Mythology Mode to the game.
Colosseum Mode is going to be our biggest selling point.
Ever play games where you have battle after battle with strangers and it doesn’t mean a damn thing? We’re looking to change this. In Colosseum Mode, you will be able to build relationships with other players: they could become your battling partner or become your nemesis. You can build a clan and have clan wars. You can follow players you admire and keep track of their progress. If you don’t want to battle, you can spectate. Want to show your support to a fellow combatant? You can! Some battles will even allow spectators to participate by tossing items into the arenas. This is especially helpful if you want a particular player to win. It’s costly, but worth it, especially if you wager on those matches. Because in Colosseum Mode, spectating and wagering will be just as fun as actually battling.
Mythology Mode allows you to learn new things about the world of the Jiblets as you encounter new levels or defeat new enemies. Stories usually take the backseat in these kinds of games. However, in Gem Wars: AOTJ, due to the insistence of a friend (Mark Casulo, this is a shout out to you), I decided to come up with a really deep mythology and lore for the game. We went back after tightening up all mechanics and wrote a story that tied everything together. Because of this, we had our artists, Sogeth Grimley (character and equipment) and Nathan Hicks (background), go back and add lore-related details and hints to the artwork.
You must play Gem Wars extensively, can you give us some of your favorite moments with the game?
As a designer, every time I see someone mix up some of the mechanics I came up with and do something completely different with it– that’s a favorite moment. As a player, every time I meet a player that can match me in skill– that’s a favorite moment.
How has the Early Access model benefited the game? Are there any major changes or additions that fans have played a role in creating?
Early Access has helped us re-prioritize our Build Schedule. There are some features that we are postponing in order to move up some features that are being highly requested by the fan base.
I would say that Early Access has also helped us by solidifying our existence in the gaming world. Sure we’ve been tinkering away on this game for years, but it actually feels real now. It’s out there. And I’m hoping that Gem Wars: Attack of the Jiblets is just the beginning of a much bigger franchise. Did someone say Revenge of the Jibbots?
Too soon maybe.