Ok guys this may be the biggest post to date in the history of PartyChat.org. This is what I eventually hoped to reach with this website: speaking with members of the gaming industry and asking the questions everyone wants to know. Sunday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Egor Dorichev, the head developer for indie studio Rexcellent Games, about their new title due out in Q1 2020. We had an awesome talk, so without further ado let’s dive into this edition of Behind the Mask:
This is me.
This is Egor.
This is a Japanese banana commercial.
Ok Egor, that’s for taking some time out of your day for an interview. Tell the readers a bit about yourself, how you got into gaming, and your first game/console.
Thank you for having me! I live in Russia, Saint Petersburg. I’m wasn’t old enough to play the old school gaming consoles, I really started on the Nintendo DS. But my first ever game to play was Tux Racer. Later on I got into Minecraft, Terraria…and I felt in love with Terraria, and decided, that I want to make a better game from it.
Ah I gotcha. So you’re a young studio not just in terms of history but also age? Is everyone on your team that young as well? And what’s it like growing up in Russia? Is gaming culturally acceptable? Easy to get games?
Well, the team behind Burning Knight also includes BibikiGl and MateCziner, but they both are much older. Yeah, it was really easy to get games, everyone around was playing something in their free time between classes, it was the rise of mobile gaming.
Yea sorry if that’s a weird question. Maybe I’m just ignorant, but I’ve just heard so little about Russian culture.
Hahaha nah you’re good.
Ok, so I think everyone that has played video games since they were a kid has had the thought of becoming a game developer, but no one really follows through. What pushed you into actually becoming a game developer?
I got pushed into learning how to make websites with HTML and CSS, and it sparked my interest in programming. A few months later I discovered PHP, and I kept making small projects with it until I saw some post online that taught how to make a simple space shooter with C++ and SDL1. C++ was really different from what I’d used before, but eventually I mastered it enough to complete the tutorial, and even ported the game to SDL2. Now I was ready to make my first game ever, a top down tank shooter. I still have the code, I can give you a link, if you want to check it out / compile and play. The game was tons of fun to make, but the code was a mess, just 3 files with all classes together. But it was a super important step, I learned some basic art, and this was my first ever game to finish. I didn’t release it anywhere, except Github, but I moved the code to Bitbucket later on. And that’s when I felt ready “yeah, lets make that Terraria clone dream a real thing!”
Haha thanks, I’m a bit busy smashing my nutsack with a meat hammer for ever starting the journey that is Hollow Knight, but maybe after that. How’d you meet the rest of your team? Online?
Yea, through Twitter.
And all three of you just were like “yea we like each other’s work, let’s make something bigger”?
Its a long story, tbh. It all started in the end of January 2018, when I just released Curse of the Arrow. I’ve been looking for a new project to start, and there was a jam starting soon, so I attempted to make a dungeon crawler for it, but I didn’t make it on time. The game was written in Lua, but I saw how painful it would be to work with it if it grew bigger, so I quickly ported the whole thing to Java. I asked artist friends around if someone wanted join me on this project, and I quickly found a pair. But the guys didn’t stick for long, sadly. This repeated a few times until I met Mate, who stuck around with us. By that point Bibiki has also joined us.
Yea I was gonna say I feel like people flake out a bunch in that scenario. Like get really hyped up and then completely die off.
Yeah. Some were scared away by the huge project size, some just had their life plans changed.
So you’re completely self taught in C++? Is that what Burning Knight is written in?
I’m completely self-taught in a lot of languages, yeah. Burning Knight was started in Lua, after jam ported to Java (it was under 1k lines at that point). I made the decision quickly, and I didn’t think about consoles, that Java does not run on… and overall, the codebase just became a huge mess. This all grew on me; I wanted to rewrite the game code, but I knew that it would be too much work. But this March I wrote a tool that converted all 60k lines of Java code to C#, and after some patching it all worked. I threw away big chunks of code, tho, but I’m happy about that now, considering how clean and easy to use the codebase is now. So yeah, I still feel a bit of shame about not doing my research before such a huge project….
Hey man, we all learn. Let’s get into Burning Knight. Expected to drop on Steam early next year. For anyone who hasn’t heard of the game, sell them on it.
Roguelike, You are a green asshole, who is stealing stuff from a creepy dungeon, while trying not to face its master.
“A green asshole” hahaha. So is it supposed to be a parody of dungeon crawlers? Like making fun of people who just stroll into dungeons and steal their shit?
I mean, you just run into a castle and completely destroy it… what else would you call that??
Dude that would be absolutely hilarious. If you aren’t super confident in your narrative, that’s what you should do. Make it like the player is a legit fucking ASSHOLE just walking into the dungeon and stealing some innocent guy’s shit and destroying the place. That’d make you stand out for sure in the indie market.
Haha, thanks. But the story behind the game is also pretty good; I don’t just throw it at the player in the way other games do it. Taking more of Hollow Knight approach here. [Meaning the player has to kinda discover the story on his/her own while playing].
Ok I gotcha I gotcha. So that leads me to my biggest question that I’ll break down into pieces: How do you create a video game? Like where does it begin? With a gameplay concept? With a narrative in mind? Do you just wake up one day and have a complete vision? I know you said you played Terraria and were like “I want to make a game like this” but how did you say “my next game will be Burning Knight and it’s gonna be this this and this”? Was it inspired by a game?
It really depends on why I’m making a game. If I’m looking for ideas, I usually pick a genre and try to break its rules a bit. If it’s a jam game, I usually try to break the theme or find a meaning that isn’t so obvious. Burning Knight was inspired by a GIF on Twitter. That was an unfinished ludum dare game, where you were running from an enemy that killed you on touch but you also needed to stay close enough to it to get enough light from it to see and survive. And then the whole concept just changed thousand times and I ended up with the current idea.
Wait, Burning Knight, the game you’ve poured hours and hours of hard work into for the last year, is inspired by a GIF of all things?
Yea man, haha you find inspiration in the craziest places.
You’ve said “jam” game a few times now, what do you mean?
A gamejam is a small competition (or big), when developers come together (online or IRL), pick a theme and a time frame, and then all make games on that theme. One of the biggest jams out there is Ludum Dare, its a 48 hour competition, that runs twice a year. But there are tons of other jams now. he great thing about them, is that they force you to make something playable fast, and not spend years on polishing something. Its a really great way to release your first game to public, that’s what happened to me by the way.
That’s so fucking cool. I had no idea that was a thing. I’m gonna have to research that some more right after this. Ok so let’s continue with the whole “how do you make a game question”: so you’ve picked a genre, what’s next? Narrative right? Not necessarily “story” but at least a narrative that gives you an outline of the game?
For me, story comes later. I start with a super basic prototype just to test out ideas and see if they work well or not. With Burning Knight, a huge challenge for me was making interesting dungeons. I knew I wanted to find a better way to generate them than the one that Isaac or ETG use, so I spent a few days prototyping that. Once I was happy, I introduced our little green griefer, got him to move around, use items, etc. The story was created later on, based on what the game had to offer. We played a story making game with the team and we ended up with a really interesting result.
A story making game haha. Sounds like everyone just gets shitfaced and say “ok y’all what if this happened…”. How do the dungeons in Burning Knight stand out? They look very similar to Enter the Gungeon. And don’t take that the wrong way. I think the dungeons in Enter the Gungeon stand out to anyone who hasn’t played that game.
Maybe they do from the screenshots. But once you play a bit of ETG, you will start noticing the same rooms pop up all the time, with the same enemy layout, etc. It doesn’t take a long time before you can learn all of these room layouts, and that kind of defeats the purpose of procedural generation: offering something new every time you play. And it works that way because rooms are handmade by the developers, and then placed in a random order to form a dungeon. Burning Knight, on the other hand, doesn’t have a single pre-made room except the lobby (doesn’t make sense to generate a new one each time). All rooms are generated completely by computer, and it provides a huge variety and unexpected outcomes. I really often see a structure, that makes me wonder for a while how was it created… and that’s the beauty of procgen!
Alright man I’m excited to play it! Hit me up with an early release version if you want some early feedback. Let’s end with some rapid fire questions. Let me know when you’re ready.
Sure! Let’s do it!
Alright, favorite game of all time?
Ahhhh why so hard?? Spelunky/Terraria
Favorite game this year?
I think it’s gonna be Celeste DLC.
Very indie responses hahaha. Most underrated game?
Most overrated game?
Ok well you can fuck right off you Russian prick. Haha game you refuse to play?
Hahaha Kerbal Space Program, because I know I will spend way too much time playing it if I start.
What’s one thing about Burning Knight that no one else knows about?
Password from git repo.
Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony?
Ok, last one: do you think Fortnite is a good game?
Game design is smart, but I don’t like it overall.
Good good good. Thanks for your time man, and keep in contact with me on Twitter. Also seriously, if you guys ever want some feedback pre-release I’m a resource. I love every and all games, and will try anything and give honest blunt feedback.
Thanks man this was awesome!
Alright everyone that was Egor from the development team for Rexcellent Games. You can follow him and his team on Twitter, and their new title Burning Knight is available for pre-order right now on Steam! Stay tuned for more content like this in the future!