Interview - Monday Night Combat devs talk Steam, bacon
I'm not going to be shy about it--I'm damn glad that I'll be able to play Monday Night Combat on PC. We need more downloadable-sized shooters on PC; I'm still miffed that EA let Battlefield 1943 drift into PC-port limbo-land.
Anyway. MNC sizzles onto Steam January 17; we thought we'd take a moment to get to know Uber Entertainment, the bacon-loving men behind the game. We spoke with Chandana Ekanayake, executive producer and art director about the special guest coming to the PC version, the dev's background, and how Uber's experience working with Valve has differed from its cooperation with Microsoft.
PC Gamer: MNC was Uber Entertainment's first game, but the studio is made up of people with a PC development heritage. Your founder and president worked on one of our most-loved titles of 2009—Demigod—with your creative director John Comes. You worked on Morrowind. How has that background helped or influenced your decision to bring MNC to PC?
Chandana Ekanayake: Great question! Here's a few others:
Steve Thompson, Cinematics Lead - Dungeon Siege, Dungeon Siege 2
John Comes, Creative Director - C&C Generals: Zero Hour, LOTR:Battle for Middle Earth, Supreme Commander, Demigod
Tim Cox, Environment Art Lead - Neverwinter Nights 2
Jon Mavor, CTO - Total Annihilation
With our combined background in both RTS and action games, we wanted to make a hybrid shooter game that we all wanted to play as developers, keep it more accessible and light hearted. That's how the idea of Monday Night Combat was born and developed. We're big believers in "find the fun first" method of game development which means get the game playable as soon as possible with the most minimal art assets. For the first year of development the game was in white box mode.
Keeping the art simple allows us to iterate on the gameplay fast, experiment with different ideas and throw away mechanics that don't work. Early on during development, our daily process started with ideas we want to throw in the game, once it was in, we all play-test it as a group, and the ideas people like stay in and things that suck get thrown out.
We still play-test the game everyday and feedback from everyone at the studio as well as fresh eyes from people that we bring in gives us good information as to what to adjust and balance. This is why we wanted to do a beta to further tweak balance for PC and also make sure the game runs well on the various PC configurations.
PC Gamer: At what point did you decide to bring Monday Night Combat to PC?
Eka: We always knew we wanted to bring MNC to PC as it started it's development there but we could only concentrate on one platform at a time with our smaller crew. We initially chose XBLA as it seemed like a great place to get noticed for a smaller indie studio like Uber.
PC Gamer: It’s not uncommon for a developer to delay or cancel the PC version of a game and say that it isn’t willing to dedicate the resources—even with content as seemingly simple as DLC. Why is it worth the time and effort to bring MNC to PC? What’s attractive about the platform?
Eka: Our basic philosophy with Monday Night Combat is that it's a game as a service. Since it's primarily a competitive multiplayer game, we feel it's important to listen to our community and keep updating the game with balance adjustments and new content. What's attractive about Steam is the ability to push content and changes out to our players in a fast manner as well as experiment with ideas and get fast feedback from our community.
We're also impulsive and if we get an idea in our heads that just makes us go "awesome!" then we want to get it into the game as soon as possible and get it into the hands our our players. Just today, we had this crazy idea for a special guest character that just makes total sense in the world of Monday Night Combat (at least to us). We ran the idea by creators of this special guest and they loved it. So said special guest character will be making an appearance when the game launches on January 17th. I know, I know, stop teasing but it'll be awesome!
PC Gamer: What’s the reception been so far on the announcement?
Eka: So far the reception has been very positive with some concerns about support for our console version. We're on our forums daily and we'll continue to be as well as supporting both the PC and console versions of the the game.
PC Gamer: You’re planning to add “editor support” to MNC on PC sometime in January. What form will that take? Is it a level editor, modding tools, or something different?
Eka: Monday Night Combat is built using Unreal3 and it's suite of powerful tools. Players will be able to edit levels and create mods with the same tools we used to create the game.
PC Gamer: In October, Penny Arcade wrote about an experience that you guys had trying to push an update for MNC through Microsoft certification onto XBLA. Has working with Steam and Valve, so far, been a different experience than working with Microsoft?
Eka: Traditionally, consoles have been fixed hardware closed platforms without too many software updates to make it simpler for the end-user while PC gamers are used to more frequent updates. The consoles are evolving slowly but they have some ways to go before catching up with Steam and its ability to put out content faster.
PC Gamer: What other changes are you making/have you made to the PC version of the game? Did any portion of the interface require significant reworking? Did any weapons or levels need to be tweaked or rebalanced?
Eka: On top of supporting higher resolutions, bigger textures and tweakable graphic performance, we reworked most of the various menus to better suit the PC version. The biggest changes went into the Multiplayer Lobby, server browser, favorites and custom games. We spent a fair amount of time setting up a good default control scheme for keyboard and mouse and adding hotkeys to our skill purchase and turret buying menus. Some of the classes have gone through balance changes and we'll continue to balance them throughout the beta.
PC Gamer: We share your open, romantic enthusiasm for bacon. What kinds do you eat? At what point did eating it turn into a conversation of “Hey, this stuff is pretty good. We should put it in our game.”
Eka: Bacon is a steady part of our balanced diet here at Uber and putting it into the game wasn't even a question of "if" but "when." Our favorite bacon right now is Country Smoked Cajun Bacon from The Loveless Cafe in Nashville. We just ordered 30lbs of it last week!
PC Gamer: Keep fighting the good fight. Thanks for your time, Eka.