Interview with Radian Games’ Luke Schneider

July 7, 2010, By Christian Davis

Below we have a great interview with Radian Games’ Luke Schneider. Responsible for the Xbox Live Indie Game hit, JoyJoy and the upcoming Crossfire. Luke was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule and answer a few questions for us.

DM: Alright Luke, lets start with something completely generic. How long have you been designing games for?

Luke: I started professional work as a level designer back in December of 1997 right after graduating from college.  That was on Descent 3.  Prior to that I was a hardcore Descent 1 and 2 player and level designer, with over 70 levels made for those two games.

DM: Did you go to school to learn or just something you did on your free-time?

Luke: A little of both, since I was a computer science major, but mostly I just learned it in free-time and on the job.

DM: Do you create these games by yourself, or do you usually have a team with you?

Luke: Until earlier this year, all my commercial games were on teams, ranging from around 20 people for Descent 3 to more than a hundred for Red Faction: Guerrilla.  For Radiangames though, it’s just me.

DM: JoyJoy was a great game and sold about 100 thousand copies in the US and received literally thousands of positive reviews. Are you happy with these results?

Luke: The reviews have been fantastic, but in reality I’m just about to hit 3,000 sales overall.  Over the course of a year or two, JoyJoy could break 10,000 sales if it continues to sell at a good pace.  That’s not quite as awesome as it sounds, because it sells for a dollar and I only get part of that dollar.

Overall I’m pretty pleased the game has continued to sell, though I’m hoping Crossfire does a bit better.

DM: Would you have changed anything about JoyJoy? Color scheme, power-ups, anything that you just weren’t completely happy with?

Luke: In retrospect, I should have had fewer enemies and weapons, so I would have had more time to polish and differentiate the remaining ones a little more.  Someday I hope to do another twin-stick shooter with that in mind.

DM: What’s your design process like? JoyJoy, and your latest title, Crossfire are both very different games.

Luke: I just start with a general idea of what game I want to make and go for it.  Early on I make sure to stay very open to changing the design details in order to find the best gameplay focus and balance.

After I feel good about that though, I just keep a list of stuff to do on the game and work my through it while periodically testing the game on people who haven’t seen it before.

DM: Would it be accurate to say that there was a bit of Space Invader influence for Crossfire?

Luke: Of course, though it also influenced me on what not to do as well (such as not having a very slow firing rate).  I was actually originally going for a little more of a Galaga-style game, but once I started working on it, the swooping-in aspect of Galaga didn’t seem to fit, and it’s less work not to have it.  By not having complex enemy movements prior to entering their fixed location, I was able to do more movement patterns for the enemy fleet.

DM: How intense does Crossfire get? From the trailer, it seems to get pretty hectic.

Luke: Yeah, my trailers tend to capture the most hectic moments.  Wait ’til you see the co-op trailer!

But really the game starts off simple and slowly builds up to the 50th wave.  Then you can do it all over again in Turbo mode (almost everything goes faster), or on the bonus Megawave (a bunch of tough waves mashed together).  Then of course there’s Turbo Megawave, which is where the true insanity happens and it really feels like you’re playing the game in the trailers.

DM: It was unfortunate to see that Crossfire was delayed to release in July rather than June. Could you explain what happened?

Luke: In my first submission for the game, there was a bug that made you lose control of the game if you used a controller other than #1 while trying to cancel selection of a storage device.  So the game was pulled from the submission process in order to fix that.

That was to easy to fix, and the updated build was ready for re-submission on June 28th, but the XNA submission process requires a week delay between the end of one submission process and the start of a new one.

DM: What’s next for you and Radian Games? Any ideas for the next title?

Luke: The next game is called Blaze, and right now I’m just saying that it’s not a shooter.  Like Crossfire it has influences from a classic game, though one from the early 1990s instead of the late 1970s.  It’ll be available on XBLIG, most likely in August.

I’m also in a holding pattern on another game, Fluid, which is pretty far along.  It may be for XBLIG, though it might be better suited to XBLA.  We’ll see.

DM: These two games have been only 2 player co-op. Any plans on expanding to 4?

Luke: Not for Crossfire or JoyJoy.  Both are pushing the limits in terms of playability and avoiding slowdown with 2 players.  I’m not opposed to 4-player co-op, but it really has to be right for the game, since it’s a bit more difficult to test and get playing smoothly.

Blaze and Fluid will both be single player only.

DM: And last question, What about Xbox Live Multiplayer. Do you have plans on future titles to support that?

Luke: With the speed of the action in my games, networked multiplayer would be very difficult.  Compensating for latency is also just the tip of the iceberg.  I worked on online multiplayer for two years on Red Faction Guerrilla, and the amount of extra work required for networked multiplayer is greatly underestimated by most people.  But not by me.

It’s something that would be nice to have, but I’m trying to keep each game focused and doable in a reasonable timeframe without compromising quality.

Someday if Radiangames expands to multiple people working on a title for PSN or XBLA, you could see networked multiplayer, but I’d say it’s very unlikely for anything you’ll see on XBLIG from me.

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