More Damn Kharacters - Overhaul Games' Trent Oster on putting the HD into MDK2 HD

MDK2 HD is the release likely to put your Beamdog digital distribution platform on the map... but why start yet another service instead of just using Steam, Origin etc?

We also hope MDK2 HD is going to put Beamdog on the map. We started developing Beamdog after getting angry at the out-of-game experience on the PC. As a game developer, I obsess about the user experience and the user interface and how the game feels. The PC user experience outside of the game was horrible. The user has to do a bunch of file browsing, accepting EULAs, choosing install paths and possibly spend hours tracking down and installing software patches. We wanted it to be simple, see a game, buy it, the download happens and you are ready to play, no hassle. As a guy who doesn't have as much time to mess around on the computer at home, Beamdog is great. I can buy a game at work and it is downloaded and ready to play when I get home.

Your first crack at an MDK2 revival came out on WiiWare, so: HERETIC! To make that a question though, how have you found indie development on console vs. The One True Platform? Are there any big advantages to doing so, or is the PC just plain better?

Heh, I started out as a PC developer with “Shattered Steel” and have done PC development for the last 15 years, so I'm pretty comfortable on the PC side. I always buy shooters on the PC because the controls are superior so I've got a lot of loyalty to the PC as a platform. During the last few years at Bioware I spent a lot of time working on the Xbox 360 and PS3 Platforms with an unannounced project that was killed, but my first love has always been the PC. We did the port of MDK2 to WiiWare as part of our agreement with Interplay. Our goal was always the production of the “HD” version for PC.

The first big gotcha with Nintendo was learning about the 40 MB size limit on Wiiware. We had to take a game which was 300MB and fit it down into 40 MB. We used a lot of advanced compression and hand coding of file formats and, at times, a machete, but we managed to make it fit. As a whole, we were pretty happy with Nintendo... right up to the certification process. We spent almost nine months in certification, from the time we submitted our first release candidate to the time the game was up for sale in the WiiWare store, mainly on tiny issues.

The joy of developing for any console is that it is a fixed target and all the hardware is the same. The downside is all the hassle that goes along with getting content to that platform. I'll always develop on the PC and port to other platforms, it just makes sense.

Which do you see your primary company, IdeaSpark Labs (of which Overhaul Games is a part) primarily focusing on in the next few years - making/remaking games, or selling them?

After Bioware and I parted ways, I planned on taking a year off to hang out and find myself. I lasted three days before I was going up the wall. I called Cameron, who was running an indie studio and we set up IdeaSpark Labs as an incubator. After a couple months we settled on Beamdog as our first project together and started development. Our goal was to fix the PC gaming experience and give credit where it is due. We don't want the attention, we want the developers to be the stars on Beamdog.

After launching Beamdog we looked at the best means to draw attention to our service and we looked at Valve and Half Life as an example. Steam was established with Half-Life 2. We felt that good quality games which were exclusive to our service could bring customers who would then hopefully fall in love with our ease of use and developer focus. Hopefully it'll work out!

And finally, that mysterious title. In your head, what do the initials MDK stand for?

I've put some "choice" words behind those three letters over the last year of work, stretching spelling to make some of them fit, but MDK was time-stamped for me by Demolition Man and Sandra Bullock: Murder Death Kill.

And there goes civilised society, just as the tabloids feared back in the 90s. Well, no matter. It had a pretty good run, all things considered. MDK2 HD is out soon, only on Beamdog .

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