A sit down with Jason Brice on making a core, pro FPS, how shooters used to operate and his entry into the gaming business.
In today’s day and age, first person shooters are more often than not, modeled after hollywood esque budget blockbusters, Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises. Many present FPSs exhibit closed properties where download content, post-launch, is exclusively developed in-house, versus the old days where mod tools, that is - game altering software code, were given to the community to not only encourage content like maps, but whole new game modes and in more ambitious efforts, whole other games.
Contrary to the current shooter standards, Brice’s indie studio, Plastic Piranha, aims to bring a community friendly shooter to the market in the form of Rekoil. We caught up with Brice to talk about his company’s first game project, what makes it tick and why he’s gone old school with his FPS offering.
Raymond Solis: So with Rekoil, it’s very much an old school shooter. It has the pacing of a COD game, albeit without some of the more gimmicky stuff seen in FPSs of today. Why?
Jason Brice: Well, the gimmicks that started coming in COD4, so to speak, that’s when you started getting the rankings with the unlocks and perks deal happening later down the road, now I love those, don’t get me wrong; but there’s something that I really love about the old school sensibilities. The: Straight ahead, you and your gun and that’s all that you got and that’s all the other guy has. And once we played the [Call of Duty] pro mod, it was like, “ok we gotta do something, you know, similar to this and keep this going.”
RS: So what became your focus when that decision was made? To make a fast-paced, pro shooter like this?
JB: We wanted to go back and be really balanced, really level the playing field and the competitive nature would come out through that balance.
RS: How do you feel about the results thus far?
JB: I think we’ve done a pretty decent job in getting there. I mean, time will tell to see how the massive load of players will react to it. But you know, there’s just something satisfying about just, you know, getting knocked down, and getting right back up and seeking the guy out and trying to do it again. And that’s what made these games so popular to begin with back in the day.
RS: Right, and now these types of shooters are considered niche. With that said, is there any intimidation going into a market that, as far as FPSs go, has vastly changed over the past 7 years?
JB: Well, you know it’s definitely, going back to some of the younger guys playing, they may not understand [Rekoil] because it’s a different sensibility and different approach, but it’s just so pure and straightforward that the idea was to keep it in that vein and not worry about what anyone else is doing; and because it’s fun, competitive and straightforward that that will attract people.
RS: Is it easier if you go into a project with that the mind set? To separate yourselves from the mainstream titles in the genre?
JB: Yeah, I mean we’re not out to replace COD or replace Battlefield, those are well established, great, awesome franchises that have inspired people to do a lot of great work. But this is something that, you know where we wanted to go back to that old school sensibility and just make it our own; in this market where everyone’s all playing the newest, latest and greatest.
RS: What will Rekoil offer in terms of playable modes?
JB: There’s gonna be about 7 on release, we’ve got a total of 8 in the works so we’ll release with 7 and save the other one for content updates and what not. Just to keep the game fresh and everything else.
RS: And you’re also encouraging community involvement through modding. Can you confirm map tools on day 1?
JB: Map tools will be available day 1. The integration for all those tools will probably follow with Steam workshop about two to three weeks afterwards. So user made maps will be available to download via the Steam workshop. You can add those to your servers however you want to make that work. So it should be very similar to the way COD2 and COD4 handled their map making sensibilities, even Battlefield they way they did it; where you had to download to put the map in your system, but instead of it being on an external source or site or something like that, it’s actually gonna be done through workshop. It will be a lot easier to maneuver because of that.
RS: So modding is something you guys had in mind for Rekoil from the beginning.
JB: Yeah, that’s the other thing about Rekoil is that we’ve got mod tools. And so you know, we’re hoping to bring community in by being able to have people create their own maps and that type of thing. I mean back in the day, Battlefield 2, the original Battlefield, the original iterations of COD all had mod tools. I would significantly argue that those are, you know, some of the biggest reasons for those games becoming as big as they are.
RS: Why so?
JB: Because when the studios weren’t cranking out content, you had a huge community of people releasing maps. I mean you could go and find, 20, 30, 40 new maps a week and go on and put them on your server and you never ran out of content and it kept people playing for a long time.
RS: And there are many players that aren’t pleased with the closed ended FPSs of today.
JB: Not only that, but you’re cutting off talent. I didn’t start when I was 20, making video games. I came from a movie trailer background.
RS: How did you get into gaming?
JB: One day I came into the office and somebody had taken COD2 tools and made our office in the game. So we would sit there after work and play our office and scream, “oh he’s in so & so office.” So I did a couple of Call of Duty maps and then moved on to Battlefield where I ended up cracking the editor for BF2 to make it work with [Battlefield] 2142 and I designed my first map and released it to the public and said, “here, put this on your server.” Got an email from DICE literally the next day and they were just like, “we love what you did here, we want to make this a ranked map and do it officially.” And I was like, “well that’s fine, I’ve got like 4 or 5 more where that came from.”
RS: That’s impressive, what happened next?
JB: I ended up working with them for nearly 3 years, basically doing their content maps from the 1.2 patch all the way to the 1.51 patch. To this day it’s still the only user generated content they’ve ever released. They had offered me a position, but I wanted to stay in L.A. and so I decided that I would do my own deal.
Check out our Rekoil preview here. Rekoil is scheduled to release later this year on XBLA and Steam for $14.99.