IT’S MONDAY AHHHHHH FUCK EVERYTHING FUCK THE WORLD FUCK MY JOB FUCK FOOTBALL EVERYTHING SUCKS AHHHHHHHHH.

Ok well now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s dive into this week’s edition of Behind the Mask. I got to speak with Andrey Sharapov, the Business Development Director and General Director of the Russian based Games Development & Publishing Team. Very informative interview about the nitty-gritty details of game development, and we went in-depth into the idea behind their upcoming title, RAM Pressure. I don’t have much else to say sooooooo as always:

This is me

This is Andrey

This is a GIF of what happens when you type “Russia” into the GIPHY search engine.

Alright Andrey, so we start every interview with the same question: how did you get into gaming? What was your first game/console?

I started playing on the PC. I remember very well my first computer, IBM PC XT, where everything had to be run on 5-inch floppy disks, there were no hard drives available yet. My first game is Karateka.

Haha really roughing it out at the beginning huh? What was the culture around gaming like when you grew up? Was it easy to access and play games in Russia? Was it a popular thing to do?

Gaming in Russia when I was just starting to play was definitely not a popular activity since there were just a few people who had a computer or a console. Even a VCR was a relative rarity.  

So what caused you to decide to start a career in game development? When did you decide to go all in and make video games for a living?

At some point I was tired of doing commercial software; I was bored. I sat down and thought about what I would like to do in life further, and realized that I either want to make a movie or make games. I was completely far from the first, and with the second I did not see much trouble trying. I decided to devote my free time to my own game. I didn’t even know the term “indie” then. For several months I wrote my own 3D graphics engine (as a true programmer, of course, I started from this haha). In general, I made a good looking prototype in the end and immediately took a shot at a space RPG/simulator. Worked on it for about a year.

I came to one famous publisher through an acquaintance, showed a prototype, and offered them the opportunity to invest in development. The guys looked at it all, offered a budget 10 times less than what was needed for development, and wanted to change the genre to RTS. I decided not to get involved but it made me realize a few different things. First, I didn’t understand anything in the production of games; it is very far from ordinary software development. Second, to try to do such a project on my own without experience was complete financial suicide. So, I decided to go somewhere in a ready-made team with experience to see how professionals make games.

Is that how you got started with GDT?

Yep! I looked for vacancies and I was hired by GDT as a non-gaming project manager, which I was a pro at that time. Gradually, I delved into the processes of game production, the basics of game design, and the features of game marketing. Then I produced my first real game project in the company!

So what do you think about GDT? Do you think the studio has “made it” yet?

I don’t think “we made it” just yet. Yes, there have been relatively successful releases, but I want to do something truly cult to leave a thick mark in the history of world game dev. Then I can say “we made it”.  

Ok, gotcha. Good mindset to have. So now that you’ve been in the game development world for a while, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty, shall we? How does your team go about making a game? Brainstorming sessions? And how do you narrow down what you think is the best idea?  

We have a production center; that is, a very small team of producers, leaders in art and game design, which generates a vision of the project. Of course, we are doing brainstorming all the time, but there is always a producer of a specific project who is the bearer of a comprehensive vision of the project who filters out ideas, decides to add something after discussion with the team, etc. Further, we just discuss, figure out how this or that will be played, sometimes we prototype or draw concept art. Then it goes into production, play testing, we change everything 100 times, and we play again.

So how long does it take to go from concept to release? What is your process?

If all is good and it’s interesting to play, an approximate production plan is made, an estimate of the budget, and if the numbers agree, production begins. When you realize what was only in your head/on paper and then you play it out, you often realize that you need to redo everything. And it is almost never possible to adequately quantify the time for these alterations in advance, therefore, at the planning stage, some buffer seems to be reasonable from the previous experience based on budget and time. Then come the alpha tests, beta tests, etc. After each – again a bunch of tweaks/alterations/changes on feedback from users and the team. Our latest project, RAM Pressure, is now in this stage. We are not afraid to change the project along the way, we just limit ourselves to what fits into the risks laid down in the initial plan and stay within the framework of the concept.

Production time depends on the game of course. The average cycle is 2-3 years before the Open Beta, not counting the continuous improvements and fixes during the operation if we are talking about online games. The path from Beta/Early Access to release is individual for all projects; it depends very much on how the project would show itself and whether the players would like it. One of the projects we almost completely redid during the Open Beta. But the path to Open Beta as a whole is about the same; the concept of game design and visual style, market research, prototype. Removing the main technical risks, that is, if there is something technologically complex or incomprehensible at all in the project, then this is examined at the prototype stage to at least figure out whether we can do this or not and how long it will take.

Great description of the process. Love that level of detail. So let’s talk about RAM Pressure. It looks a lot like XCOM to me. How did you come up with the idea and how does it stand out?

We ourselves love to play XCOM-like games; some colleagues from our team have more than a thousand hours of playing XCOM just for fun, not for work. But this is the eternal problem of single-player games: when you go through a game, you want to continue, replaying the same campaign again and again but over time it becomes boring and there are not so many good games in the genre (personally, I’m looking forward to the releases of Wasteland 3 and Phoenix Point). We have experience in developing online games, we love PvP, and it seemed to us a good idea to implement these mechanics in an online game while still preserving an offline campaign and the ability to play without PvP. But we also want to make of it something more integral than what usually happens; where PvP multiplayer is just an appendage to the single-player campaign. RAM Pressure is exclusively focused on PvP, and the campaign, if any, is more like a tutorial for PvP. We want to organically fit PvP into the plot, connect it with the campaign, but leave the opportunity to go only along with the plot without encountering other players. The result is a system where the player can purely play the campaign, can purely play PvP, or can interleave them and grind in PvP experience and resources for passing the campaign just a little more quickly than in PvE missions.

On the other hand, I really wanted to transfer the XCOM mechanics to a more realistic setting and plot; to the modern world, our universe. We wanted to refuse cartoon graphics, “magical” superpowers, and exaggerated aliens. We want underlying solid science fiction; a truly deep storyline. What if this actually happened in real life? How would it be? What would it look like without ridiculous mutants, superheroes and a handful of rebels saving the planet from evil aliens? I’m not saying that this is bad, but we wanted something more realistic in the storyline if you understand me. Real stern special forces and elite mercenaries from PMC working for militaristic governments. Covert operations, cynical special services, the struggle of states for military technology, false propaganda, the mystery of the alien tragedy. That’s what we want to show. Of course, leaving a place for gaming conventions, stylization, and imagination.

Ok, I see what you mean. You’re taking XCOM and putting in modern times. Making it realistic and, in turn, almost darker and grittier.

Yes exactly. I don’t think that humanity would survive a real invasion of a race that is capable of interstellar travel, and the rationality of the idea of an alien invasion raises many questions in itself. It’s interesting to imagine how things would turn out if the contact really took place in real life. From what the project highlights, I also want to note the character leveling system based on the synergy of several classes with a bunch of skills from one fighter. We really worked hard on this.

How long has it been in development?

The game is in development for more than 2 years, if you count from the beginning of the concept. Now the project is the Private Beta stage as we are preparing for launch of the Early Access.

Super cool! Sounds like a very interesting plan and I’m excited to see more of RAM Pressure. Thank you so much for your time! Wanna wrap this up with some rapid-fire questions?

Sure!

Alright. Favorite game of all time?

There are too many good games, I don’t want to say that this one is favorite for all time, and the rest are worse and I love them less. Well, let it be HoMM-3 or Emperor: Battle for Dune, if you count the hours spent on the game and the amount of emotions evoked. But in general it’s insulting to somehow get behind a bunch of other wonderful games, it’s impossible.

Haha, every time I talk to people outside of the US/Canada I hear of the most random titles. Favorite game this year?

Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark.

Again, random title I’ve never heard of, but I’ll look it up. Most underrated game of all time?

Haha, Journey.

Ok, now that one I’ve heard of and I agree. Highly underrated. Most overrated game of all time?

World of Warcraft.

See I’ve heard that and that’s one of the reasons I never played it. That and I just don’t own a gaming PC. Game you refuse to play (for whatever reason)?

PUBG.

Oh I don’t even need a reason for that one lol. I already know first hand how much that game sucks. One fact about GDT (or a specific game) that no one else knows

Okay, you want some exclusive? Good. The main villain-antagonist in the game in the course of the story will not be people and not aliens. Aliens are the victims of circumstances themselves, not the invading army.  

VERY interesting. You’ve got my attention now. Lastly, do you think Fortnite is a good game?

Objectively definitely yes. But I’m not a target audience at all, this game didn’t suit me.

Yea I’m not the target audience either because I’m over the age of 8 and I like good games. Haha, thank you so much again for your time! Good luck with RAM Pressure!


Alright everyone I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Behind the Mask! If you want to learn more about the production of RAM Pressure you can follow along on their website or Twitter feeds here! Next week is a HUGE edition of Behind the Mask. I got to sit down with the director of a game that I myself have backed on Kickstarter. Big, big interview so be sure to stay tuned to everything PartyChat!

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