Interview with David Kim's Newest RTS Studio - Uncapped Games
departure from Blizzard Entertainment in April
, former StarCraft 2 developer David Kim is back and answering questions about his newest adventure in real-time strategy, Uncapped Games! Described as a collaborative development effort between passionate real-time strategy developers and the gaming community, the brand new studio is setting out to build an action-packed PC RTS title that is impossible to master.
Check out Uncapped Games' New Website!
While best known for his decade of work on StarCraft 2 and cited as one of the
top random format players
in the world, David Kim worked on nearly every major franchise during his 14 years at Blizzard Entertainment, including Lead Systems Designer for Diablo IV, and a short time as a Principle Game Designer for Shadowlands. Joining him at this new studio are other veteran Blizzard employees such as Senior Software Engineer Michael Skacal and Sound Designer Supervisor Evan Chen, bringing a wealth of personal and professional RTS experience to Uncapped Games.
Uncapped Games is very new, so there's no game specifics to announce just yet, though Kim was kind enough to answer a handful of our questions about his vision and provide some design insights regarding competitive RTS development. Before we get into the questions though, we feel that it's important to disclose that while Uncapped Games is funded by Tencent, who is also the parent company of Wowhead, the two companies are completely separate and independently operated.
Could you tell us about the meaning behind the name Uncapped Games?
We’re pretty serious RTS fans, and it’s a play on the supply cap concept in RTS games. If your supply count is uncapped, the potential of what you can build and do with those units is limitless.
Limitless potential sounds like you have some big ideas, what makes Uncapped Games special?
We’re setting Uncapped Games up so that everyone on the team can focus solely on making the game better.
We have stood up our team with specific developers with a few things in mind:
Strong belief in our 3 team core values:
For the game.
Honesty and transparency.
Reasoning over ego.
Long time experience and expertise in game development.
Love and passion for real-time strategy games on the PC.
We also strongly believe in starting with a crystal clear game vision as well as real iteration leading into a collaborative development process with our players and community to build the most action packed PC RTS, with the lowest barrier to entry, that is impossible to master.
Of course we already know a lot about your background, but can you tell us about the other members of your team?
While not planned, all current members of our team are Blizzard alumni, bringing their experience working on games like Diablo, Warcraft, StarCraft, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone to the table.
Michael Skacal has been a fan of RTS ever since he was little, competing in many tournaments. He then went on to work as an engineer on games like StarCraft 2 and Heroes of the Storm. Evan Chen has been living RTS for the majority of his game development career, including working on Command & Conquer and StarCraft 2. One of our first artists, who is joining us very soon, has over 23,000 games played in StarCraft 2.
Another way to say this is: any combination of long time expertise and game development experience even if it’s not directly on an RTS game and love and passion for RTS are the types of developers we’re looking for.
You mentioned a collaborative development process with players, do you mean the same kind of community back and forth you had with StarCraft fans while working at Blizzard?
The weekly communication and discussion back and forth that I’ve tried with StarCraft 2 would be close to what we’re expecting, but we want to start the process much earlier and we want to have even greater transparency, cooperation, and teamwork. We strongly believe in working together with the most passionate and dedicated players out there who are willing to do their best for the betterment of the game. This is one of our three core team values, and all the team values found on our website apply both internally as well as externally as well.
So why the delay? If you have a clear game vision you are working off of, and believe in community collaboration, why aren’t you starting that conversation now?
Communicating the game vision down to every detail is extremely difficult to keep track of on a massive scale due to how unsure a lot of factors are until they’re proven in game. We have just started, and our engineers are hard at work setting up a playable game. The value we would get out of collaborating now would be good, but the time spent collaborating with the community versus not doing that and instead getting to a playable state faster would be even better.
Once we have a playable game with enough of the basics proven out, we’re expecting a very transparent collaboration with the community to develop the game together.
Moving onto technical questions, micro play has become an incredibly prevalent part of competitive RTS, increasing the skill ceiling and helping differentiate player skill, but also contributing to many cases of extreme APM requirements. How do you feel about competitive RTS relying on micro play and is that an important aspect of designing the game?
At the esport level, players being able to show off their incredible micro / high APM skills that normal players can look up to and learn from, is awesome. We want to keep this while creating a game that is the easiest to get into for any PC gamer. One example of a high level goal here is to allow players to play the way they want in terms of APM intensive armies vs. low APM armies. We will have more specifics on this as well as other specific ideas to achieve our goal once we prove out more of our game vision.
Mixing APM types is an interesting decision; many recent RTS games have tried to provide the depth for their games through low APM strategic decisions, with somewhat mixed results. Do you think a higher action RTS leads to a higher skill level within the game, or does it just become a barrier to entry?
We believe it’s a mistake to simplify the game for the sake of making the game easier to play. Our goal is to remove the “tedious clicks” required to play a traditional RTS, but we absolutely don’t want to remove any clicks that are fun to play with and master over time.
Here are example high level questions we have for ourselves:
What are the tedious, unnecessary things that just have been done in RTS because it’s always been this way?
Map design also played a big role in competitive StarCraft 2, such as reinforcing certain metas for different races - what are your thoughts on balancing around map design, and what is your plan to have both an easy way to introduce new players to the game while still retaining a high skill ceiling?
Not just maps, but we want to create an overarching long-term gameplay loop such that even with the same units being used, how each player goes about forming their in and out of game strategy massively changes from time period to time period in the most fun way. There are so many pieces regarding how to achieve this, and we have some very detailed plans that we still need to prove out. Again, we are hoping to get to the stage where we can not only discuss more of these types of topics in detail with players, but set up a real playtesting/discussion/iteration loop.
The interview concluded with a few kind words about Wowhead, when asked why they chose to conduct their interview with us.
Wowhead has everything and I don't think I've ever seen a site that is such a mandatory requirement to use when playing a game. That's how awesome the site is. This is why I respect Wowhead so much. Thank you so much for allowing us to talk about our new studio here!
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