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Plastic Piranha

Posted by foyleman in Indie Dev of the Month on Apr 6, 2012

To some people the name Ricochet conjured up images of an Acorn Electron, hourglasses and "SPRAT", (Yes you may google that before continuing) to others it was a mod for the original Half life. So it seems we have another game of the same name, but if you're thinking that Plastic Piranha’s Rikochet has anything to do with those you'd be wrong...dead wrong...a lot wrong...in the face. It's not just the spelling that is different here, it's so much better than that...

Last week we got the chance to chat with the gang behind Rikochet, the aforementioned Plastic Piranha. Jason “TrailerTrsh” Brice, Chris Murphy and John Sonedecker were gracious enough to spare some of their time to tell us a bit about Rikochet.

MODSonline:

So tell us about Plastic Piranha? - How did you form, where did you start?

Jason Brice:

I started way back modifying maps for Dice, working with Battlefield 2142. It all kind of started when the first map I released to the public over the internet (OPERATION SHINGLE, YELLOW KNIFE, MOLOKAI, STRIKE AT KARKAND and OPERATION BLUE PEARL). The very next day I got an email from them asking if they could make it a ranked map and I was like “Sure if you like that one I’ve got plenty more where those came from” and that basically started a relationship with the team over there at Dice.

When we got finished and released them in the 1.5 patch, I saw the response from them and the community and I thought to myself that if they liked them then why not try to start something up on my own. That's sort of where the idea started from. It's been a bumpy road to get to this point, we've had a few people that were part of the original founders group that are no longer working with us.

After about a year an a half, around 6 months of learning the UDK and a year with the full engine, we are just about ready to start showing off some of the stuff we've been working on. It's been a much bigger task than I ever envisioned and it's been tough but we are finally starting to get there and I’m really looking forward to getting it out there.

Actually we started awhile back before that. The first thing we ever released as Plastic Piranha was a little card game that didn't really see the light of day. It worked great and it was very cool, but it was it was sort of average. What it did tell us is that yes we could put our minds together and create something. Was it something that we wanted to put out and make it our first title?, no, we had bigger ideas than that and we wanted create something much grander than that. I like to try to climb the mountain from day one. Here we were doing little card games but we decided that well...we like doing shooters, all of our experience and history behind the whole thing was in shooter games.

We messed around with the torque engine a little and saw that it's good for a lot of things but wasn't suited best for what we wanted to do. It was at point that we got turned onto the UDK and it seemed like it was the best engine for what we had planned.

MODSonline:

It started out really good for you guys then? - You started with the UDK and then blossomed into something with Epic

Jason Brice:

Yeah it did. They extended us the option to get into the full source code of the Unreal engine 3, which was huge for us. Mike Gamble is one of the gentlemen over at Epic who's been interested in helping us out. He's basically set up our support contract and the whole nine yards and we're internally grateful for that. We're pretty excited about working with them and are looking forward to getting onto the unreal Engine 4. Well...As soon as well can get our hands on it. That will probably be for the next project but yeah, we love what they are doing.

It's a good middle ground for us. Some of us come from working with the original battlefield engine and the frostbite set-up and others come from working with radiant for the call of duty side of things, like ZeRoY and Matts (Sorry if I spelt that incorrectly) and then we have John Sonedecker, who was with Ghost Recon and Redstorm when they first started. He was one of the original map makers behind most of those great maps. He has been working with unreal for a long long time, so he's been a huge asset to us.

We are also working with Hourences, The creative Director/Project Lead behind the ball. He's brought a huge wealth of information to us. Then there is PreDrag (Again sorry for misspellings), he's one of our environment artists, he was also working on unreal along with some of the dungeon defenders stuff.

We've got a pretty nice, broad and unique team here, that's able to cover quite a range of game engines, but this one (Unreal) suits our talents best. Really when you are dealing with an engine you're dealing with the tools and the outcome are exactly the same, you just need to relearn the language and what you need to do in the engine to make those same things happen. I've found it to be a really great engine. After about 6 months or so we've gotten really comfortable and now we are hitting the 12 months mark we are really starting to dig deep into it. It's defiantly very cool.

MODSonline:

You mentioned some of the editors that are you working with, what other tools are you using?

Jason Brice:

I'm sure John can help me with this but we are using the Unreal 3 Engine along with all of the Autodesk suites. 3Ds Max, Maya, scale-form, mudbox, zbrush. There's some motion capture stuff in there as well.

John Sonedecker:

We're using motion builder for that. We're pretty much have anything Autodesk available to us. The good thing that they've done recently is made it really simple to transfer assets from one to the other. It allows the guys to use pretty much anything they want. It comes down to what your comfortable with. I've been a Max user since day one, I used the old 3d studio before that, so I’m pretty comfortable in that environment and nobody has been able to get me switch yet, so that's what I stick with.

Jason Brice:

They're also some third party stuff we are using. There's speed tree, we've got a licence for that, to use they're models. We are also using Simply gone to do our Level of detail. Now we are getting into an evaluation period with enlighten and geomerics, which is basically the lighting engine behind Battlefield 3. So that's pretty much what we are using...oh and photoshop and all that type of good stuff.

MODSonline:

Wow that's a lot of software, that can't be good for the bank balance?

John Sonedecker:

Yeah nothings cheap in this industry.

Jason Brice:

Yeah that's one of the things you find trying to make a game like this, as a small start-up, when you start building things from the ground up, you find out pretty quickly just how much things cost. You think you can do it for a few dimes and you get into it and you realise that it's going to take a substantial investment to get it done.

That can be hard thing, especially when you are trying to remain independent and still have control over what you're doing. I guess there are different ways of getting that funding but the way we look at it is that our team was born out of the community that turned into a driving business. That's something that's been unexpected, it keeps us on our toes and we learn something new everyday.

MODSonline:

How long would you say the game has been in development? Also did it start with someone bringing “The” idea to the table or was it more like “we want to do something, let's come up with idea”?

Jason Brice:

It came out of the fact that we knew we wanted to do a shooter and basically that was set from day one. So I guess the idea was born before there was even a name to the idea. Honestly we have really been in the execution phase for only around a year. We probably spent more time thinking we were in development but really we were just getting to know the engine and learning all we could about it.

I think there was point we got access to the full Unreal engine 3, we scrapped quite a lot of stuff and said “look we have the proper tools now” to get everything done right, along with help from epic. Lets do this right and get a team together and start working on it.

Those first few months were deciding that we wanted to do an fps. I think there's a really early Youtube video of like a work in progress of one of the subway maps, and it just looks horrid. It looks nothing like what we've got now, but for me it's kind of neat to leave it up there because it's a reminder of what we striving for. We want to people to see the progression of our work. In fact I think that was from back when we were still using the basic UDK.

Now we've got a really nice and intricate weapons system. We've got 40+ weapons in the build, 5 different classes, each class has a minimum of 5 weapons. Some have 6, some have 7. Each class have separate pistols, there's a standard array of grenades that you'd expect to find in any shooter. They're also Molotov cocktails. We've also started looking an RPG as well a nice knifing system in there that's more like BF3's but it actually has a couple of different attack methods that you can use.

So yeah it's come quite a from running around in those early levels, it's definitely moved forward a lot since then.

MODSonline:

What type of environments are we going to see in the game? Is it all set in once place or will it be spread across the globe? Is there a particular theme?

Jason Brice:

We've got a few pictures up on our facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/RikochetTheGame) that you can take a look at. You can see 3 of our levels at the moment.

I guess the game does have a industrial feel to it. One of the maps we showed at GDC was called streets and it's basically just a big city streets map. It's a lot of fun, you can get on top of a lot of the buildings and it has a lot of good angles for sniping as well as a lot of tight areas for close up fighting.

There's also the industry map, which ZeRoY had designed. That's much tighter, a more in your face type of map. With some pretty neat open type areas where you can really get your ass kicked if your not careful. So you know it's got a very grimy and dingy feel to it.

And the other map we showed at GDC is named Oil wells. A snow filled map. It very much has a classic 2142 feel to it, without it being in the future. It really has the cool snowy feel to it.

Some of the other maps we are working on currently are a warehouse map, that inspired by one of our favourite CoD maps. We working on a harbour map, that's inspired by a classic BF2 map, that Zeroy is currently working on. There's a overpass map that John and I are currently working on, that we're trying to get finished. It's actually going to be set in a bay type area with bridges going in and out, it almost has a San Francisco feel to it.

In terms of it being in this particular location or that particular location, we've tried to make it a little more generic. So that it didn't get pidgin holed as a US setting game or a European setting game. It does give us a little more freedom but it it also hinders us a little bit too. It's a pretty nice balance to what we are doing at the moment. There are a couple maps, like the harbour map, and one named compound that are essentially an Afghan type environment. Even though we're not really a military type game. We're just kinda jumping around and doing what feels right and creating things that are going to be fun to play.

MODSonline:

How spread out is your team?. You mention keeping specific parts of the world out of players mind. So your team must be pretty spread out as well?

Jason Brice:

Yeah we've got people spread out all over the place. I mean Chris is in Berlin. We've got Zeroy who's in Dublin, John in Columbus, Matts is in Detroit. Kari, who's our community manager, is out in Las Vegas and I’m Hollywood. James, who's one of our programmers, is in new Zealand. We've got Hourences, from the ball, he's in Sweden. We've got a few guys in Serbia. So our team is really spread across the planet. Oh and our sound department is in Dallas Texas.

We use Skype as our main form of communication, we've got a group chat the we all communicate in. If you fall asleep and get up you see all that going on. It's actually been fairly effective, it's been challenging running a world wide team and Skype has really been great for that.

MODSonline:

Could you tell us about some of those challenges, it's difficult enough when everyone is in the same room, what's it like working across countries?

Jason Brice:

Haha, I’d rather get Chris's and John's take on it. I'd be curios to see how they feel about it. I know what it feel like for, but there the ones that get effected by it the most.

John Sonedecker:

The biggest thing for me is moving all the data around. The builds start to get pretty big as you start putting more into them and sometimes it takes awhile. You've got to sit there for 20 minutes while something uploads. It's not as easy as “Hey come over an look at this”. You've got to upload it, the other persons got to get it, look at it and then you converse about it. That's kind of the biggest thing I run into.

Chris Murphy:

For the most part it's not to much of a hindrance, but for an example when we are trying to get announcements made or publish some media, we have to think a couple hours ahead, so that we have the OK and the final versions of everything before we release anything.

John Sonedecker:

The weirdest thing is that James is almost a whole day ahead. So when you're coming into work on Friday, he's getting ready to go out Friday night, so it does get kinda weird sometimes.

Jason Brice:

Haha, yeah I really enjoy it, I think it opens up the team a little more and allows for different opinions and different ways of looking at things. Which is unique to doing it virtually. There are advantages to doing it in house. Play testing is much easier when everyone is in the same room. Hopefully some of those big studios will take that into account and hopefully we can show a lot of the industry what can be done with just a few people. A lot of people would be surprised on some of the stuff we've been able to create while working in this way.

Check back soon for Part two of our interview with Plastic Piranha.

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