Paintball War developer Reggie Strange gives his insight on the Indie side of gaming to IGHQ. Strange explains his background in game development for XBLIG and, with plans to expand into XBLA as well as PC gaming in the future, talks about how his past experiences in the business have shaped his career. If you’re in the mood for a great paintball session with your own Xbox 360 avatar, Reggie also gives Indie Game HQ a heads up on some upcoming content for Paintball War that will be rolling out soon.
About Paintball War:
Join the paintball battle with your friends in Avatar Town. Features weapon upgrades, perks, kill streaks, taunts, and lots of paint! Play offline against bots or online with up to 15 other players. (XBOX Marketplace)
IGHQ: Thank you for speaking with us today. Tell our readers a little about yourself.
Reggie: I started playing games when I was just a kid. My dad bought a mall arcade and I helped him run it so I got to play as much as I wanted after hours. I eventually got into programming when the first home pc’s came out (ours was a Radio Shack Trs 80) and have been programming in some capacity ever since.
I eventually started tinkering around with game programming about five years ago and only intended to make middleware. I didn’t know when to stop though and kept adding features until I eventually made a complete game. About this time MS opened up the Xbox with XBLIG and I realized I had a real opportunity to do this professionally.
IGHQ: Is Strange Games a one-man operation, or is there a team behind the scenes?
Reggie: While Strange Games consists of just myself right now, the games are definitely a team effort. I have a small group of artists, animators, and sound designers who produce the art for the game, and I handle the programming and putting it all together.
They all have industry experience and have worked on big name games but the trick is matching the right artist for the job. Some are better at certain things than others so scheduling has become a big part of my job right now. I still use Turbosquid, Soundsnap, and Incompetech but my dependence on them is fortunately diminishing.
IGHQ: Have you worked closely with other developers in the past, and how has that experience helped you?
Reggie: Although I consider myself a programmer, my degree is actually in engineering and I’ve never worked in the corporate world as a software developer so I never had the chance to work alongside other coders. I was typically on the IT side of things supporting them. When I joined the XBLIG developer program, I met Patrick J. Barrett, III and we became friends and eventually decided to partner on a project. It went well and we ended up working together on a number of games over the course of a few years.
Patrick was involved in the development of the original Sims game and I believe he was the lead designer on the Sims 2, and had roles in a number of the expansion packs. He’s been in the industry for over twenty years and I learned a lot about the business from him.
It was also very interesting hearing tales of what went on in the corporate world at a large gaming company. It made me realize that Indies have a huge advantage over the big corporate companies. Their strength is in their resources, but their weakness is in their inability to adapt and move quickly.
IGHQ: Your latest Xbox Live Indie Game is called Paintball War. Could you tell us more about the game and what players can expect from it?
Reggie: Paintball War is an avatar-based FPS where you run around this small town and play classic paintball. It’s a fast paced, run and gun, shooter with power ups, kill streaks, and taunting. It has all you would expect in a typical FPS including 3rd person view, unlockable weapon upgrades, and perks.
My favorite perk is the Paint Strike where you can call in an artillery bombardment of paintballs. Paintball War also has a true single player mode with AI so you can play the game offline if you prefer. Multiplayer though is what the game is all about and there’s almost always a game going.
IGHQ: What was your inspiration for Paintball War?
Reggie: I’ve always been a big FPS player so when I started making games, my goal was always to eventually do those sorts of games. While Patrick and I were working on RC Airplane Challenge, we were talking about some ideas for an avatar shooter and thought a paintball game would be great since it would work with the avatar guidelines of no blood. About that time another paintball game came out so we put that idea on hold. It’s been a few years now and I felt the time was right for me to give it a shot.
As far as gameplay goes, I would say my inspiration definitely comes from Quake II. I used to play that game all the time and loved the fast paced action and I wanted to capture a bit of that in this game.
IGHQ: How did you go about composing and implementing Paintball War’s music? Any use of middleware programs like Wwise or FMOD involved?
Reggie: For the music, I just used Incompetech since I didn’t have the budget for custom music at that point. I’ve seen some negative remarks from people about using his music but I think for a 1$ Indie game, people shouldn’t be too concerned. For all of my audio processing, I just use Audacity. It’s a great tool for doing the basic editing functions I need.
IGHQ: Do you plan to add any new content to Paintball War in the future?
Reggie: The game has been doing real well so we’re in the process of adding an additional map and weapon that should be out in the next few weeks. The next map is an outdoor map set in a grassy canyon environment. It features some nice height variations so the action isn’t all on one plane. The map is almost twice as large as the current city map and features some longer open areas perfect for the high velocity rifle. It was inspired by the Quake rail gun and will be a high velocity one-shot kill weapon. As long as the game continues to sell well, I’ll keep adding maps and features.
IGHQ: You have a number of games under your belt: RC Airplane Challenge, Avatar Laser Tag and Zombie Turkey Outbreak to name a few. Looking back, how have those projects helped you in creating and designing Paintball War?
Reggie: I think those games have helped me come to understand what gamers want and expect from Indie games. It’s funny but when we did RC Airplane Challenge, we worked on three additional game modes, race, balloon pop, and bomb drop so the game had some depth to it. We speculated what would be the most popular but were very surprised when none of them were as popular as just the basic fly around the map mode.
I think with XBLIG, gamers don’t expect too much from the games and are generally happy if the game does its core thing well. You can add a lot of bells and whistles but in the end, it’s the principal gameplay that matters. With Paintball War, I wanted it to be a fun shooter so my focus was really on the controls, movement and weapons.
IGHQ: As a developer, what lessons have you learned over the course of your career thus far and where would you like to take that experience next?
Reggie: I’m not sure I would say I’ve learned any lessons so much as I’ve gained a greater understanding of the business side of gaming. There’s certainly a difference between making games for fun and making games as part of a business. I’m looking to expand to the PC market soon and within a year or so, be at a point of moving up to the Arcade. I feel like I have about another year of engine improvements and tool creation before I’ll be ready for that level.
IGHQ: Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
Reggie: I would definitely like to thank them for supporting Indie games. It can be really tough at times being an independent and it’s great to see the interest and enthusiasm gamers have for the Indie scene right now. We can’t always compete with the big studios in terms of content and quality but we can often show them something a little different or just a change of pace.
With continued support from the gaming community, I believe the independents will have a big impact on the gaming industry in the coming years.
– IGHQ would like to thank Reggie Strange for taking the time out of his currently hectic schedule to interview with us. We would also like to reach out and thank our friend, Dan Long of Indie Animation Studios, for putting us in contact with Reggie.
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