At Nerd Age, we have a strong dedication to smaller projects and rising developers. One such developer is Rob Storm, working on a project called “Stormos”. You can check out his Kickstarter here: Kickstarter page and get in on it early.
Rob has worked in various gaming projects for years, most notably he has done a huge number of design projects in the Unreal Tournament engine. He is turning his dedication into a significant game with project Stormos. His current project is done in Unity3d:
Scholar of Nerd Age: Tell us a little about your work in game design so far.
Rob Storm of Project Stormos: My interest in videogame design began when I was in 3rd grade. I was inspired by SNES and PS1 games and liked drawing characters for fighting and roleplaying games. Pretty soon I started 3d modeling, then started fiddling with Half-life and Unreal Tournament modding throughout high school.
After high school, I went to DePaul University in Chicago to study game design, which is actually where the first version of Project Stormos was born. During my time at DePaul, I got the chance to lead a number of small teams including doing some great tactical shooter work in Unreal.
Since graduating I’ve been working on a number of side projects, as well as working as a game designer and 3d artist for an awesome company in Brooklyn called Human Condition. I got introduced to Unity since working there and have used it exclusively since then.
NA: What games does Project Stormos draw its inspiration from?
Rob: I would say the biggest inspirations for Project Stormos would be Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Devil May Cry 3. Symphony of the Night had such a great feel for a sidescroller. For the original Project Stormos version, I studied SotN for hours just making the characters run and jump, and making the sword slash feel right.
Devil May Cry is where the over-the-top action came from. DMC3 taught me how to make a challenging game that can whoop your ass, but is always fair. Besides those I would say a lot of games from the 32 bit 64 bit era. There are lots of little allusions to some of those famous games that I’m sure fans of Playstation 1 and N64 won’t miss.
NA: We can’t help but be a little amused by “Robo Stormos”. We have an idea, but why did you decide to call the main character Robo Stormos?
Rob: Haha, choosing the name Robo Stormo was originally just to get a laugh out of my professor and friends back freshman year. Robo because the main character is a robot and the Stormo part from uhh… yeah you said got the idea.
NA: From what we gather, you are trying to make Project Stormos challenging without being cheap. What are you doing to make this happen?
Rob: I really learned a lot about this from DMC3; a game which is astronomically difficult, yet you can beat the entire thing without taking a single hit. Basically it comes down to giving the player just enough time to react to whatever obstacles are coming their way. It requires precision, but nothing is random or totally unpredictable or cheap.
Enemies and obstacles have warning signs and levels never put you in situations that you can’t recover from. Project Stormos is designed around this idea of extreme challenge, but that the player can always recover from it.
I love hearing great stories of Stormos players falling to their doom only to recover because they were able to slash a single target orb and turn that into a massive dash combo to the goal.
NA: What is the one thing that you want fans to know about your Project Stormos?
Rob: I want them to know that their support is deeply appreciated and that I’m confident they will enjoy this game. If you are a hardcore gamer, you will love this game.
NA: So how in-depth is the level editor be for Project Stormos?
Rob: About 90 percent of the levels in the game were created with the built in level editor. I wanted to make sure the players could make awesome levels way after they’re done with the main game. It’s really simple to use but you can recreate almost any level in the game with it. You can even do a couple more interesting things like having multiple exits to a level.
One player on the forums actually just posted a Little Big Planet style “survival level” where you actually try to avoid the Goal Exits as you get bombarded with laser shots. The level editor will also be constantly updated as the game is updated with new obstacles, enemies, etc. I know people are going to come up with some awesome designs.
NA: How exactly is non-linear level design instituted in Project Stormos?
Rob: Because of the nature of the Aerial Dashing in the game, players can actually find ways around levels that were thought to be impossible. There are multiple ways to get to the end goal, some of them much much quicker than others.
But it’s not as simple as “Path A is slow and slightly hidden, Path B is fast!” As you are playing, you find interesting ways to bridge segments of the level together that you didn’t know you could. Maybe you start out going on a path that seems “slow” at first but then are able to barely squeeze through a set of obstacles on the edge of that path and bypass an entire section of the level.
This can often be the difference between getting 20 second completion time and a 7 second completion time. It’s not about repeating the level attempting to do the same thing over and over until you perfect it. It’s about exploring the level to see what combination of ways can work best.
NA: From what we can tell, you are doing nearly all the work yourself. Is this hard on you? Do you have anyone to help?
Rob: While I am the only person developing the game, I do have many people helping me out in different ways. Steffen Olsen and Mike Hitpas have helped me with bouncing ideas and testing out the game and the level editor throughout development.
Some other friends from DePaul including Richard Borys have also helped shop the game around to indie game events. Austin Roush has been a long time partner is game development whether its actually laying down prototypes or just coming up with crazy ideas.
Austin actually worked with me on the original Game Maker version of Project Stormos back in our freshman year at DePaul. Doing all the development work for this one has definitely been difficult, but it has come from a lot of little places and been extremely rewarding. Also working in Unity has been incredible considering it took me only 2 days to get functional gameplay, which took literally months in XNA in older prototypes.
NA: Where do you see your design career going in the future?
Rob: While I do have some insanely large/complex game designs brewing in my head and on paper, I would also love to continue working in small groups. Whether it’s on a large team or a small team, depth of gameplay and innovation take the forefront.
NA: Do you think Kickstarter will continue to play an important role in your career?
Rob: I think Kickstarter is a great tool for developers and game designers, not only as a great place to get funds started but also just as a place to make people aware of your game. It’s a great platform and I imagine I will be using for other projects in the near future.
NA: We always have to ask this, what advice can you give for other developers in the industry?
Rob: My advice is to scratch your own itch. Make that game that you’ve always wanted to make. Don’t make any assumptions with your game design. Design ideas that most other games would avoid like the plague, they could become the driving force behind yours.
While I’m not quite suggesting you only study PC games released around 1993 (although many of those games rule, go Origin), start from the ground up instead of just building on top of something that’s popular today.
There are lots of players out there that have the same crazy game design wishes you do. If you get excited thinking about the game in your head, chances are others will too.
NA: Why did you decide to take your game multiplatform, will the other editions have anything new or different?
Rob: The current release style/business model is much like Minecraft at the time being. People get to play the game early on PC/Mac and see it all throughout development. By the end of development, it will have loads more obstacles, levels, story elements, etc. That final version is what will be released on consoles.
Once again we would like to thank Rob Storm for speaking with us. We will keep you posted on updates to this interesting indie game.