More Than Just 15: A 21-6 Productions Interview
Instead of praising myself for coming up with such a clever headline I'll direct the spotlight onto 21-6 Productions. The most known titleÃ‚Â from the young indie developer is Orbz andÃ‚Â it's quite a challenge to categorize the game with a few words. Let's justÃ‚Â say it incorporates golf elements but it's not golf andÃ‚Â multiplayer happens to be the focus. Read on as Justin Mette talks about the company, GarageGames, multiplatform support, GravRally, the next version of OrbzÃ‚Â and their 'currently on hold' project Myrmidon.
Q: First of all, who are you and whatÃ‚Â do you do at 21-6 Productions?
Justin Mette: My name is Justin Mette and I am the President of 21-6.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â I take care of the business, act as producer on a couple of our games, and do some programming.
Q: Can you give us a brief look at the history of 21-6? And while we're at it, why is it "21-6"?
JM: 21-6 was started by six guys back in January of 2000.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We had all been part of an online community project to build a game and when that project failed we formed our own group.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â In November of 2001, my brother and I quit our day jobs to focus on building the company.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â In the summer of 2002 three of the original members (Ryan Mette, Dave Myers, and I) formed a partnership and incorporated 21-6.
Q: When did you decide to try out the Torque Game Engine?
JM: We met GarageGames in March of 2001 at the Game Developers Conference and learned about Torque.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Up till then we had been building our own game engine but it was an extremely slow and painful process.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Once we found out that we got full source for a AAA engine that could be licensed for $100 per developer - that's all we needed to hear.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â 21-6 was one of the first companies to purchase Torque and we are proud to be members of the GG community since its inception.
Q: How long did it take you to goÃ‚Â from there to the moment when you had your first game running?
JM:Ã‚Â Ã‚Â About 4 months after we started working for 21-6 full time, we built a small team and a demo of a game called Myrmidon - which we got to show in the Intel booth at GDC 2002.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We actually shelved Myrmidon once we realized how big the game was and instead focused on smaller games.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We delivered Cyclone in October of 2002 and Orbz in December of 2002.
Q: How many people are currently working at 21-6? Is everything completely done in-house or are you also outsourcing projects or parts of them?
JM: There are currently a total of 16 team members working on 4 different projects for 21-6.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We do not have a central office and instead work remotely out of our homes.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Everyone (except the 3 founders of the company) work for royalties on the games they help build - at least until we can generate enough revenue to start bringing others on full-time.
Q: GarageGames.com is a publishing platform for you and the company also provides support for the engine you're using.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Are you also cooperating with them in other parts of the production of your games?
JM: Outside of being our publisher and providing the engine technology for some games, GarageGames also works with us to help promote and make money with the games we publish through them.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We don't work with them on actual game production other than to get early feedback.
Q: How's Orbz selling so far?
JM: Orbz sales have been growing every month since it launched in December of 2002.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We released a major upgrade for the product in April 2003 and another in August of 2003.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â These releases have addressed making the game more accessible to a larger audience - from community requested features to smaller download sizes and support for older hardware. We've also recently started selling Orbz on Real Arcade and Shockwave.com in addition to GarageGames which is helping to reach even more gamers.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Before the year is out, we plan to be distributed on atleast 4 other online game portals.
Q: Multiplatform support is one of the aspects of the development. How's the sales performance of the Linux and Mac OS versions?
JM: Through August of 2003, Orbz sales breakdown across platform as follows: Windows 49%, Mac 37%, and Linux 14%.
Q: Orbz 2.1 is available meanwhile and I assume you're going to work (or already are working) on the next version. What kind of improvements and new features are there going to be?
JM: A great deal of our focus right now is getting Orbz into more online distribution channels.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â That said, we are starting to plan Orbz 3.0 which will focus on giving players the ability to create their own courses for the game and share them with the community via a central web site.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We will probably sneak some more features and content in there as well.
Q: As for other projects, which genre(s) are you going to cover with Myrmidon? What would you compare it to?
JM: Myrmidon is currently on hold while we develop the talents needed to take on such a big project. There has been some talk of starting Myrmidon back up after GravRally is completed but that's far from a concrete statement.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â For the record, Myrmidon is a cooperative third-person shooter along the lines of Diablo but in 3D and with a sci-fi setting.
Q: How many players will be able to participate?
JM: The vision behind Myrmidon is to capture the fun parts of an MMO by getting adventurers together for just the cool missions - and skipping all the running around trying to find each other.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Therefore, the co-opmissions will tend to be smaller, similar to Diablo II over Battle.net. Exact specs on the number of players that can adventure together are not yet defined.
Q: Myrmidon incorporates RPG elements. Are the stats/skills going to be persistent only during one session (as in 'sequence of missions') or will the character also be saved if you decide to quit and log on again some time later?
JM: Myrmidon will employ character persistence only.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â All stats, skills, and equipment for a character will be saved to a central server after each mission.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The world of Myrmidon (aka missions) will not be persistent but can be replayed as often as desired.
Q: What types of 'non-weapon' items and upgrades will there be?
JM: There is a series of nano-equipment that characters can equip which act much like Magic in a D&D RPG game in that they give the clone special abilities of both mental and physical nature.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The exact details aboutitems in Myrmidon are still being designed.
Q: What kind of objectives does the player have to face?
JM: The missions in Myrmidon will be very objective driven but we are still designing these missions so I can't say much about the details.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say about the game?
JM: Only that we are serious about the game and will come back to finish it. Myrmidon is the type of game we always wanted to build but haven't had the team or skills needed to pull off such a big project.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â By this time next year, we will have a much different story to tell.
Q: GravRally happens to be another product which is currently in the development at 21-6. The game recently scored two awards at the Indie Games Con butÃ‚Â there isn't a lot of public information on GravRally available yet. I guess it isn't too farfetched to assume that there's a racing game behind this title, is it?
JM: GravRally is a futuristic racing game that was just announced days ago, right after IGC. You can read more about the game at our new web site; (www.gravrally.com). We will be using the forums on that site to talk more about the game as it is developed over the next 6 months. It is our goal to include the community in the development of the game in an attempt to build the best racing game possible.
Q: GravRally scored in the "Best Multiplayer" category. So, how does the multiplayer part look like? Are there different gameplay modes one can choose from?
JM: GravRally will have both a single-player and multi-player career mode. Playing online can be as simple as finding a friend and having a quick race but will also extend to hard core gamers with a full back-endÃ‚Â Ã‚Â tournament and online ranking system.
The game currently has 6 racing modes including a few variations of Checkpoint racing as well as Rabbit, Hunters, and Cruise mode.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We are still in the process of nailing down exactly which modes will ship withthe final game but are shooting to have as many racing modes as we can.
Q: How many players can join the race? What kind of extra items are there to be used against your opponents?
JM: Right now, the game supports 8 racers at once however that may be increased as we improve performance of the network layer.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â GravBikes have standard boosters like most other racing games but you charge up the boosters by skidding or sliding on turns - which adds a level of balance not found in other racing games.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â One of the more exciting features is GravMode which allows the bike to drive on vertical or even inverted surfaces.
We aren't planning on any offensive/defensive weapons at this time.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We want the gamer to focus instead on racing skills by master bike handling and learning the nuances of racing locations, tracks, and game modes.
Q: Is there something you're going to change/tweak/add based on player feedback/demands at the IGC'03?
JM: The best part of IGC was the feedback we got on the 4 games we showed during the weekend.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â GravRally is still many months from completion and the feedback was well timed.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â We learned a lot watching people play thegame for the first time and plan to make a lot of changes that help players get into the game easier.
Q: Are there any other games being planned already?
JM: We have 3 other games in development that are slated for release in the first quarter of 2004.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â All the games are single-player designs and we are using our proprietary 2D engine for two of them and Torque for the third.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â It's too early too say much more about them.
Q: Last but not least: What games are you currently playing/keeping an eye on?
JM: I'm an XBOX junkie because I spend way to much time at the PC building games now.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â I've been playing Knights of the Republic and Midtown Madness 3 mostly in recent days. I'm looking forward to the sportsgames coming out that support XSN like Top Spin and NHL Rivals.
Thanks a lot for the answers!
More information on 21-6 Productions and their games as well as demos can be found at the official website of the company.