Nightmarchers Interview – A Tropical Apocalypse On a Larger Scale than Skyrim
Proudly described as 'Mad Max meets Moana,' this tropical FPS/RPG hybrid is about to get its time in the sun. The crowdfunding campaign for Nightmarchers is about to begin on January 17th and we had the pleasure of speaking with Nathan Gray, a programmer at Wyrmbyte, after taking a small virtual tour around the island of Oahu and taking a look under the hood to see what is planned for Nightmarchers.
(Nightmarchers) is built in Unreal Engine 4, correct? What sort of middleware are you integrating?
Correct, yes. The primary one out of all of them is the sky is called TrueSky. It's a middleware plugin that does really fantastic sky simulation. TrueSky is kind of the primary one because it integrates into all of the visual systems in our game with the lighting and all of that. There are a few other general plugins that we have found and integrated off of the Unreal marketplace, some sort of utility libraries like the Victory Plugin. One of the big ones that we use is IKinema. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that one, but IKinema is the one that deals with foot placement so that you keep your feet on the ground at all times. It's an IK solutions package that's also tied into how we do our character aiming. Another one that we use is the FaceFX plugin (which) allows us to do facial animations for dialogue. I can get you a list of the other middleware and plugins if that's something that you'd be interested in knowing a bit more about.
I know that's something (we) always have interest in especially with the APIs you are using, such as Vulkan, for example.
We haven't started investigating anything with Vulkan yet. It's one of the things on our radar to investigate, but that one in particular we haven't done much with yet. Anything that Unreal Engine itself happens to integrate is something that we end up using. Unreal uses the PhysX physics engine, for instance, so we'd just go ahead and roll with that. Anything that's kind of built into Unreal we're probably taking advantage of in some capacity. (That) includes the Simplygon mesh deformation for optimization of distant objects so that we actually have the ability to render as many as we do.
You've talked a lot about the procedural stuff before, but you'll have major set pieces that you're building by hand as well, correct?
Yes, that is correct. A lot of the major structures and characters are all done by hand by our team.
In the Backstage Fig campaign, you're about 20% towards goal. That's a pretty decent start with over $20,000 and more than 250 backers so far.
So far the Fig campaign is Backstage only, which means that's there only a certain subset of Fig backers that belong to that program. The actual official public launch of the campaign is going to be this Wednesday (January 17th). That's when we hope to see a real boost on top of the campaign that we're really going to start pushing. We're looking forward to seeing how it does, especially once it's actually public.
Currently, you have talked about the Windows platform for Nightmarchers. Have there been any talks to bringing this to the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?
Absolutely! We definitely want to do one or both. All of it depends on the amount of funding that we can get. We're a pretty small team and there's only so much we can focus on at once. We would all love to have it on consoles and Unreal Engine 4 makes that pretty easy to do. There's time spent perfecting the port and one thing that we do support already is making sure that as we build the game that it works with both the (PS4 and XB1) controllers. It is a very controller friendly game; all of the buttons are trying to be as intuitive as possible. One of our programmers on the project doesn't like using the keyboard at all, he's a console gamer through and through, so he's been making sure the game runs very, very smoothly with the controller. We are keeping everything in mind console-wise from a design standpoint and so hopefully it's just the technical challenge of porting it over which Unreal Engine will handle for us. Part of it is that (Nightmarchers) is a very large environment, so you have to make sure that you can fit it on those systems with all of the limitations. It's up to Scott ultimately whether or not we make that one of our stretch goals or how we are going to present that to folks. But absolutely, the goal would be to get (Nightmarchers) on console if we can get enough funding to finish the game and do a couple of other fun things with it.
It would be safe to say that you probably haven't gotten your development kits from Sony or Microsoft.
For previous projects that we never quite finished on those systems, we actually do have development kits, we just haven't really tried running Nightmarchers on those devkits yet.
Are you still planning on using Brightlocker on this project?
Yes. Scott (President of Wyrmbyte) would probably be able to tell you more about how that relationship is going, but as far as I'm aware, we're still keeping Brightlocker going. We thought that Brightlocker was a really cool idea in that it lets people get to interact with us more. Brightlocker is only just starting to get going, so we have a fairly small presence there currently. We still would like people to back us there if they can. We love the idea that we can show people development of the game as it happens and Brightlocker provides sort of direct access. Of course, one of the things with Fig is that some of the early backers have been able to hop into a Discord channel with us and have lots of interactions with some of the larger fans of the game already to both solicit feedback and provide updates on how the game is going. That's definitely a lot of fun, being able to interact with backers.
Have you announced if backers will also get access or if there is a specific tier to get early access to Nightmarchers?
Yes, there is a particular tier where the beta and eventually early access will be available. It should be there on the Fig page.
That looks like the $65 backstage, fully loaded early access tier.
That's one of the things is that as soon as this goes live on Wednesday, we'll make sure that we feel pretty comfortable with what all of the tiers are and what they can provide.
Has the team put together a minimum/recommended specification list for Nightmarchers yet?
Not yet! That is something that we are working to do. We do stop and fiddle with performance now and then. It's a neverending challenge as things go into the game, performance goes down, so things need to go in to improve the performance. At the moment, we don't have specs but we do have a lot of graphical settings that you can change and play with that can help it quite a bit. It runs pretty well on one of my PC's at home that's four years old, so it goes back ways for support.
Do you think you might be able to share specs for those that are curious?
The graphics card that we've been playing on here is a 1080, so it's kind of top of the line. The one that I have at home is a (GeForce) 680 which was top of the line, you know, four years ago. The goal would be to get it to run well on eight gigabytes of RAM, disk space-wise, the game is currently under 20GB. It's not breaking the bank like some of the modern stuff is. I can tell you that we would like it to run on as old of a system as possible but I know that's not very specific. To this point, we've mostly been focused on the high-end stuff because we're trying to get people to see what we can do with it and to get the backing. As soon as that campaign is over, we're going to have a real strong push for a wide support of systems and that will also help with consoles if we need to pull any of the specs back.
That's why a lot of people are running into with the first generation of these consoles really hitting a wall that even mid-range PC's could overcome. Now we have the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X expanded SKUs that could take more advantage of graphics.
Just based off of the graphical settings, hopefully there will be a few things where if you're on an original Xbox One, one setting will be like this but if you're on the Xbox One X, then the setting will be a little bit higher. Certain individual quality settings will certainly be improved with those new systems.
The area that we're talking about for Act 1 is roughly the entire map of Skyrim. We're trying to fill that out because you won't always be flying around as a bird so you want to have interesting stuff as you're going from place to place.
As you're overtaking outposts, you're unlocking particular skills by assigning them to particular factions. Can you take those outposts back but still retain those skills?
Yes, there is a mechanic that deals with that. I know that some of that changes back and forth. We want to encourage replayability but we know that if you go too far into one faction and regret it, there needs to be a way to change without making it so that you're upgrading all of your Ali'i, then maybe now you're going to move all of your outposts over to the TRI (The Research Institute). We want it to be that you're making a commitment, but we understand that sometimes people regret the decisions that they've made to unlock a skill. I don't have a definitive answer on that but I can say that it's a design consideration that we're certainly aware of.
No worries. That was more for trophy hunters since there will probably be achievements for maxing out the skill tree for each particular faction, so for people that want to get everything done in one playthrough would give everything to the Oahuans, reload their save, then maybe do the same for TRI to unlock that achievement.
That's true. We want to make sure that everyone can have fun doing the things they want to do.
How much emphasis is there in regards to the shark form and underwater exploration?
That was something that came about somewhat recently when we went to a game show where we were showing off (Nightmarchers). We found that everybody gravitated in particular the bird form that we were showing off and we were talking about the idea of having a shark for eventually and everybody just loved the idea. We were like 'okay, that seems like a reasonable thing to focus on sooner rather than later.' As we were implementing that, we were discussing that we wanted it to be more than just a cool thing that you could do. In fact, even turning into a bird form, there's a number of things that we're going to be adding to make the bird form more useful than just for travel, such as the ability to divebomb like a meteor strike from the air, that make it useful for base capture as well. For the shark, we started thinking about areas where you could only breathe underwater for so long but as a shark, you can breathe indefinitely. We thought about bringing in long stretches of tunnels deep out in the ocean that you can only get to with the shark, some of which we were thinking might just be easter eggs, like these islands off the (southeastern) coast where you have to do specific things like swim under the island and come up on the other side. That's something that's being designed in now but we wanted the shark form in particular to have a lot of value, so there will absolutely be a lot of underwater stuff that you can only reach with the shark or would require being underwater for so long that the shark is the only realistic way to do it.
Actually, getting the shark is kind of an interesting quest because you get that down from Kamoa. There's a shark that's swimming around the outside the edge of Hanauma Bay, so if you start the game and try swimming out there, that shark will get you. When you are doing the mission for Kamoa, he mentions that the shark has been corrupted and is dangerous, so he tasks you with destroying that shark. You go through a series of (missions) down near the scientists and wind up getting explosives and end up having to set an explosive trap to destroy the shark. Once you return, that's when Kamoa awards you with the shark form. It has a fun little quest around it and once you have it, we want it to be more useful than just swimming. We want it to be genuinely useful and we're working to add things, such as on (one) island outpost, being able to find an alternate means of attack. The enemies are all facing the land, so if you try to cross over the bridge, they're going to see your way and start firing at you. If you swim across and come up from behind, they'll see you if you're above the surface but if you can go underneath, you can sneak around back.
Yeah, that shows the methodology of being able to attack every outpost in a stealth fashion. As far as the release date, Fig has Nightmarchers listed as Q3 2018 for PC, right?
Yes, that's absolutely the plan and we should be able to hit that. We're feeling pretty good about it.
Do you have a target window for beta access for Nightmarchers?
This is another one of those things that's not really up to me, but I would guess that it would be a couple months beforehand. We want to take advantage of the beta for what the purpose would be: to actually get feedback, like try it out on all of these different machines and are people able to play it there, or is anybody having any issues or bugs that we haven't taken care of? We would want to leave at least a month or two of space there where we can get that feedback. The specifics on how all of that is going to work out is still under discussion prior to the Wednesday launch on Fig.
Thank you for your time.