Developer Interview: TheGreyWard

Today I am doing something a little different, giving exposure to an up and up and coming game developer from MyIGN. We have to look out for our own here on this site, so give this man a follow and help him fulfill his dream.

TheGreyWard

Jamie: So GreyWard, tell me a little about yourself? What got you into game development? Any particular aspects that spoke to you immediately? That really made you know this was the job for you?

TheGreyWard: It’s been a strange road for me. I’ve been a gamer all my life; my first games were on my dad’s Atari 2600. I was 3 years old at the time and I had to wait for him to be home on the weekends to play. Needless to say, I sucked. I’ve gotten better though.

I was also a pen and paper RPG gamer for many years, and I very often ended up being the one game mastering or running the games. I credit that for my first real experiences as a game developer. In the meantime, I always knew that I wanted to do something that combined art/creativity with technical know-how. I studied computer graphics and was a web designer/developer for many years. I worked at an advertising agency and though the people were really great, the work was repetitive. I’d thought about game design for a long time, but that’s when I really realized that I wanted it to be my main focus. So I quit my job and came to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) in Atlanta, and I recently completed a Master’s Degree in Game Development.

Jamie: How long have you been in development? Any games on the horizon currently?

TheGreyWard: If we’re talking digital games, I’ve been tinkering with game and engines for a long time; I did a bit of work with the Doom engine, the Warcraft and Starcraft editors, and the Neverwinter Nights editor. But that was all for fun.  In terms of formal design I’m pretty new at this. I came to SCAD Atlanta two years ago, and my first paying job was as part of a research lab doing prototype games for the then-unreleased Vuforia platform from Qualcomm; essentially a platform for making AR games on mobile devices.

As an indie developer, I’m currently working on Darkdawn: Encounters, a space combat game for mobile devices. It’s a game of capital ship combat, where the player directly controls a powerful ship of the line against multiple enemy warships, in the vein of the old Starfleet Command titles for PC.

Inspiration for Darkdawn: Encounters

Jamie: When can games expect to get their hands on this new title?

TheGreyWard: That’s a tough question. Until recently, my answer was “end of summer”, but that might unfortunately slip. I’m actually doing some contract work for an exciting mobile project I can’t really talk much about, but which is consuming a lot of my time. Part of it is simply “gotta pay the bills”, but it’s a cool project to be part of, and hey, its a game.

Still, I hope to get back to Darkdawn: Encounters soon, and a lot of the “base” work is done. It shouldn’t be more than a couple of months. I hope.

Jamie: Now being in this field requires dedication and hard work, what has been the toughest aspect?

TheGreyWard: know, the obvious answer would be “the long hours”. Even at school, with two and a half months for projects, it takes tons of work to make a polished product.  But that’s when I really knew that this was what I was supposed to be doing. If you’re still enjoying yourself at 4am for the twelfth night  in a row, you are where you’re supposed to be. Another hard one is to try and keep up as a generalist. I do design, programming and 3D art, and it’s impossible to be amongst the best at all three. So you have to pick and choose what to learn and when, and that’s hard. Sometimes I think I’d like to spend some time with a bigger company where I had a neat little specialization that I was free to polish to perfection. But then I’d give up a lot of creative freedom, and I’d need to be working on my own games on the side, which would bring me right back to the same problem.

GreyWard is hard at work on his latest game Darkdawn: Encounters

Jamie: We have some very talented big name game developers in the industry, plus some amazing indie talent. Who is your biggest idol in the field?

TheGreyWard: Oh man, that’s a hard one. I don’t know that I could pick out a single name.  I’ve heard from a good source, a former Oblivion designer who came to talk at SCAD, that Bethesda’s Todd Howard is definitely a man with a vision and a great boss to have.  And I believe it, given the results he gets.  Part of me would love to be someone like a Will Wright or Sid Meier, or even a Notch, and get to the point where just having my name attached to a title generates buzz. But I shudder to think what that would do to my already generous ego ;)

Jamie: Let’s have a fun one question here, dream company to work for?

TheGreyWard: Ah, another hard one. There’s no shortage of great developers out there. Despite some recent missteps, Bioware is close to the top. I also have tons of respect for CCP even though I’m not a regular Eve player. They’re just plain crazy, and the more that you tell them something can’t be done, the more they seem to want to do it. They’re a big developer now, but still very much doing things their own way. I like that a lot.

Watch out, GreyWard is coming

Jamie: Now we heard about your current title in development, but what else do you have in store? Any hints to future projects gaming or not?

TheGreyWard: Well, Darkdawn is meant to be a fictional universe. The original ideas for it started forming in my head about 15 years ago; it was meant to be a pen and paper RPG setting and a series of short stories. But even before it was commonplace, I decided that it should be a multimedia experience and encompass both passive (novels and stories) and interactive experiences. I already made sort of a little experiment, an old-school point and click adventure, set in that universe. Darkdawn: Encounters will b the first commercial product, and it might have sequels, but I don’t intend that all Darkdawn products going forward necessarily be spaceship combat games.

One thing you might see soon is an almost game-like interactive webpage that will be the portal to the growing Darkdawn universe. I’ve toyed with the idea of having the page also double as an evolving campaign setting “sourcebook” for a pen and paper RPG system, though I’d have to decide which system to support.

On the digital side, I’d love to make a game in the same vein as the old Starflight and Star Control games; real space exploration games seem to be a thing of the past. The first Mass Effect gave us a hint of it though and there are many people who with the saga had pushed further in that direction. I recently wrote an article on the subject on the PlaySF Magazine blog:   http://www.blog.playscifi.com/children-of-starflight/

One very talented MyIGNer

Jamie: If your fans want to follow all your updates and future projects, where should they go?

TheGreyWard: Well, right now my blog right here on IGN is the place to keep an eye on.  http://www.ign.com/blogs/thegreyward

In a few weeks I might be taking names for people to playtest an early build of Darkdawn: Encounters on Android devices, so stay tuned!

Jamie: Thank you so much for your time.

Jamie Briggs looks after Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @Jamierock50 and his videos on YouTube.

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