Stevivor recently had a chance to grill Neal Alphonso, Lead Designer of Splash Damage, about the studio’s current title, Dirty Bomb. Join us for a discussion on the game, its mechanics and future.
Hamish Lindsay, Stevivor: There’s no Deathmatch mode currently in Dirty Bomb (which I think is a good thing). Is that something you’d look at introducing later or is that not a direction you want to take with the game?
Neal Alphonso, Splash Damage: We’re experimenting with some other modes, but we want to make sure that the game modes offer something a bit different than what’s currently available in other games and suits our Mercs well. Stopwatch and Objective are our currently available modes, and they’ve been the basis for our work so far and are still where most of our focus is.
Stevivor: We’re seeing a huge rise in competitive gaming culture at the moment, do you see Dirty Bomb ever evolving as an eSport?
Splash Damage: Games that are competitive, balanced and fun to watch are normally considered good Esports candidates, so of course we’d love it players thought that Dirty Bomb fits the bill! But ultimately that’s something that the community decides, and if they do think it suits it then it’s our job as developers to provide features to support them.
There have been a few fan-made tournaments along with some epic moments already, and we’re excited to see what else the community does on the Esports front!
Stevivor: The dynamic maps are a huge part of what sets Dirty Bomb apart from other similar FPS’s, and they’re also remarkably well balanced. How tough is it to make each map feel different and interesting while still keeping it balanced?
Splash Damage: It’s extremely tough! At a high level our maps are a series of objective maps linked together to create something similarly to the dramatic arc of a three act structure, so they can be looked at as three maps that are linked together to create a longer and more diverse play session. This is one of the reasons that we’re letting the community play our latest map, Dome, in a prototype form, as it makes sure that we can get good and actionable feedback and make sure that flow is great before we start putting the art in.
Stevivor: Will there be opportunities for community created maps or other content upon full release?
Splash Damage: A large chunk of the team cut their teeth making mods, so we appreciate the importance of supporting the mod community however we can. Right now our focus remains on internal development, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility, and it’s certainly a discussion that never goes away.
Stevivor: We’re already seeing a lot of diversity in the roster of Mercs, with all of them filling a niche well game to game. Has that distinction betweens Mercs been difficult to build and will we see it continue as more are released?
Splash Damage: It wasn’t that difficult at the start as we were starting with a familiar class-like system, but as we started looking at enabling different styles and gameplay options it started to get much more complicated, very quickly! The other wrinkle is that we have to be very conscious of how the new Mercs will work with the existing Mercs, so the factors that we need to consider increases each time. That said, we definitely have ideas about what other types of gameplay we can bring to Dirty Bomb through new Mercs, so players should stay tuned!
Stevivor: Speaking of Merc releases, how many Mercs are currently planned for the final release of Dirty Bomb?
Splash Damage: At this point we can’t confirm how many Mercs will be available at the final release, but we’re planning to roll out new content on a regular basis, which includes the free Merc rotation to try out the different Mercs, through Open Beta and launch.
Stevivor: Dirty Bomb is at its best when two closely matched teams are duking it out, but even team skill isn’t particularly common just yet. How will you be looking to ensure teams are balanced on full release?
Splash Damage: We’ve just put our first iteration of rankings into the game, and this is ultimately our vehicle for getting well matched teams into games against each other. As the player base grows we’ll be able to put similar systems in behind the scenes for our more casual modes, but the ultimate crucible for them is competitive play so that’s where it has to start.
Stevivor: Mechanical skill in Dirty Bomb isn’t as much of a focus as in other games like Counter Strike. What made you choose to emphasise the tactical side of gameplay over the mechanical?
Splash Damage: Dirty Bomb actually has a very high mechanical skill ceiling, but Objective and Stopwatch modes are more forgiving of the variances in that spectrum thanks to their respawning mechanics. In our Execution prototype mode however, which has no respawning within rounds, it quickly becomes evident that both mechanical and tactical skill ceilings are very high. Ultimately we want our modes to suit a breadth of types of player skills, provided those players want DB’s Merc-based and full throttle gameplay!
Stevivor: Currently Mercs start at about $6 USD or around 25,000 in-game credits, will those price points change at all on full release or is that going to stay relatively consistent?
Splash Damage: Our latest build lets players earn Credits much more quickly, so it’s fair to say that the real money and in game currency tuning of the game’s economy will likely be evolving throughout the life of the game. The numbers matter less than making sure that players feel like they’re getting good value from the game, plain and simple.
Stevivor: Will cosmetic items such as Merc/weapon skins be making an appearance in Dirty Bomb in the future?
Splash Damage: We’ve added many different Merc and weapon skins to the game recently through our Loadout Cards, and we have plans for more. It was always dependent on how well it resonated with players, but they seem to like the art so it’ll be full steam ahead!
Thanks to Neal for his time.