For those of you who don’t know, Wolfire Games is a small game development team founded in 2003 by David Rosen, who developed Lugaru, the team’s first commercial game released in 2004, all by himself. The plot of Lugaru follows an anthropomorphic ninja rabbit named Turner on his quest to avenge his dead wife and daughter. After David graduated from college in September, Jeff, Aubrey, Philip and John joined the team.
On September 17th, Wolfire Games officially announced the sequel to Lugaru: Overgrowth. While David Rosen will preprise his role as lead programmer and designer, Overgrowth promises better graphics, a modular armour system, realistic vegetation growth, and proclaims itself to be the only game to use realistic fluid simulation for blood effects. We spoke to a member of the team to find out a little more about the upcoming production.
Q. First off, tell us a bit about the Wolfire Games team. Who are the key members and why?
A. Well David is the team’s MVP. He is the reason Wolfire Games exists. David has been programming games since second grade and the Wolfire site was launched when David decided he should be sharing his games with the online community.
Jeff is David’s twin brother. He’s also a hardcore developer and when he’s not directly coding Overgrowth assets, he’s helping the rest of the team work more productively and efficiently.
Aubrey is our artist. We can’t believe how talented he is. Whether he’s creating 2d landscapes and concepts for the Overgrowth site (www.wolfire.com/overgrowth), 3d modeling objects for the Overgrowth engine, or carving the Wolfire Logo into a pumpkin for Halloween, he is unbelievably gifted.
Phillip is has a strong understanding of computer graphics. He did his senior thesis on creating UI to allow more streamlined creation of 3D graphics. Phillip is currently crafting our map editor and has come up with some amazing ways to optimize how the Wolfire Phoenix Engine handles terrain.
I’m basically just the coffee guy. I have a decent foundation in programming but I decided to go the economics track instead of computer science. So right now I’m taking on as many non-coding responsibilities as I can so the other four guys are free to code.
I also often contribute game development ideas. I used to sit next to David at recess in second grade while he programmed in hypercard. With his skill and my occasional crazy idea, we invented the “choose your own adventure, stick figure, war” genre. The librarians soon banned our game though. They didn’t like the sound of gunfire (which David made by blowing on a microphone) in their library.
Q. So where did the idea for Lugaru come from?
A. The wolf theme at Wolfire is due to the fact that David’s dog looks like a wolf. His name is actually Wolfie (add an ‘r’ and you get Wolfire). I think David wanted to put his reliable companion into a video game as a ferocious and respected warrior. The title Lugaru is a phonetic spelling of the French word for werewolf. Once wolf warriors were in the game, David wanted to have a contrasting species, an underdog, to oppose them. The fact that the main character of Lugaru is a rabbit, yet he still charges in to engage wolves in combat, makes him very heroic.
Q. What is the plot or storyline of Lugaru’s sequel, Overgrowth?
A. Well, I’m not supposed to reveal too much on this front. David is still ironing out the final details on the path of Overgrowth. We’re pretty sure that we want Turner, the star of Lugaru, to be the protagonist of Overgrowth. Overgrowth will occur in the same world, some years after Lugaru ended. We believe veterans of Lugaru will have a more flavored understanding of Overgrowth’s atmosphere but we will definitely make Overgrowth it’s own stand alone game. New species are now in the world. So far we’ve announced cats and rats and we’ve worked out the cultural and physical differences of each species. I’m not supposed to leak the actual plot line yet but I can say that it will guide the player through all the exciting aspects of the Overgrowth universe.
Additionally we are very excited about our mod support. Lugaru had 2 fan-made single player campaigns despite the limited tools David included. On Overgrowth we are going to give our fans every tool we can, so that they can easily craft their own stories, items, weapons etc.
Q. How important are custom mods for Overgrowth, in your opinion? What exactly are the tools you have provided?
A. Very important! We have such a creative and hardcore fan base that we would have to be crazy not to give them lots of mod support. We plan to provide players with map editors, cutscene editors, clothing editors and weapons editors. Basically all the tools that we use to make Overgrowth, we want our fans to use too. While we won’t be able to include a Spore like creature creator for new species, there will be a ton of customization options for players to adjust the look and feel of their characters. We will also give fans a lot of online support so that they can share their mods with other players.
Q. In your opinion, what stages do your games go through in development? Is there a certain method you have which you go through when developing games?
A. Well one of the things that’s really nice about a small company is that we’re very flexible when it comes to a development schedule. So while we know exactly what we need to do, we don’t have to wrestle with a conventional, bureaucratic, product management schedule. Our development process is very fluid and dynamic rather than forced into discreet stages.
If we had to assign stages to our development thus far, I’d say our stages have been:
Building the Foundation: Overhauling the Wolfire Phoenix Engine and developing concept art to capture the intended look and feel of Overgrowth.
Refining the Foundation: We enhanced the lighting and shading of the engine so that Aubrey can have a better idea of how his assets will be presented. Cool blood effects were also added as a brief side project.
Synergy: David’s engine, Aubrey’s model, Phillip’s map editor have recently been united in Alpha 1 which was released last night.
From here we will work on compatibility, creating more character models and props and most importantly the animation system that will lead to Overgrowth’s physics-based motion and combat.
Also, we continue to listen to our fans throughout the development process. That’s why we can be found on our IRC channel and through the meebo widget on our web site and remain open to their good ideas. That is one of the benefits of being a small company. Big companies just can’t afford to or choose not to listen. But at the end of the day, we reallize that we’re making Overgrowth for our fans. So if they come up with something awesome, we’re definitely going to try to adapt our development scheme to incorporate their good suggestions. It’s fan pressure that is making us more seriously consider the idea of Whale Men (click here).
Q. So, with such a flexible manner of doing things, do you still tend to set deadlines for certain tasks, or do you avoid that?
A. David has set the precedent of getting features done right, rather than implementing quick fixes to meet deadline pressures. I’m sure that in larger companies it’s easier to hide if you can’t be held accountable to deadlines. However, for us, this isn’t really a job, we actually want to make games so we’re already really motivated without deadlines. Also, we simply can’t hide from each other. We hold each other accountable and even if we didn’t our fans would. That’s the great thing about being very open with your fan base, they tend to keep us motivated and on track. Eventually we may run out of resources, so there is a macro inescapable deadline. But thanks to pre-orders from fans, we are easily on target to put everything we want into Overgrowth before we release it.
Q. Thanks for your time. Bringing this interview to a close, do you have any idea as to when Overgrowth might be completed?
A. Thank you very much. We’re shooting for Q1 2009. So far all indications are that we will make this deadline, but if we aren’t satisfied with Overgrowth by then we reserve the right to spend a little more time perfecting it.
You can find out more about Wolfire Games on their official website.