Interview

Prodeus is Distinctly Old School, But its Developers Are Not Interested in Repeating the Past

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Prodeus

Prodeus is an upcoming retro-styled, first-person shooter that skirts the borders between DOOM and Duke Nukem 3D. So far, the game has received a lot of attention for its unique aesthetic, matching old-school resolution with modern visuals and capabilities.

The project has just begun its Kickstarter campaign, and OnlySP sat down with Mike Voeller and Jason Mojica, the pair behind  Prodeus, to discover more about the game beyond its aesthetic indebtments.

OnlySP: Firstly, how did Prodeus project start? How did you initially meet?

Mojica: Mike and I met a little over 10 years ago at Raven Software. We both started on a project called Singularity, a game about time travel and time manipulation. While this was our first industry project, Mike and I were both participants in the Half-Life 2 Modding scene before that.

Fast forward 10 years, I was working in Sweden on Payday 2 and Mike had just gone full-time indie dev. We had talked about going indie a few times over the years but weren’t able to get things off the ground. Eventually, I made the decision to leave Starbreeze on December 31, 2017, with no plan in mind, but Mike was the first person I contacted to see what he was up to. He showed me this small visual demo he had put together and it sparked my interest quite a bit.

Voeller: I had worked on the idea of a retro FPS on and off for a few years and had done a lot of visual and system tests for how everything would work. I had been ramping up work for a few months when Jason called me up looking for something to do and here we are now.

OnlySP: What do you make of the mini-revival of classically-inspired FPS games? DOOM (2016) and the modern Wolfenstein titles, for example.

Mojica: We think it’s great, both studios have done an amazing job of converting them into the modern age. I remember working on the 2010 Wolfenstein ages ago, which was also a lot of fun, but it was a completely different beast back then. One of the things that stands out to me in the new games is the movement options, huge fan of those! It’s something we’re working on for Prodeus.


OnlySP: Obvious aesthetic influences aside—DOOM, Duke Nukem, etc.—what other games inspired the retro vibe of Prodeus?

Voeller: The visual influences are actually really broad, so far we have only shown visuals from one level.  When we show some of the other monsters and environments we have in mind Prodeus will really start to stand out.

As far as the retro aesthetic, there’s just something wonderful about those big chunky pixels.  One of my favourite games is Metal Slug, it’s the epitome of what you can do with 320×224 pixels.  I don’t think there has been a Metal Slug calibre game for the FPS genre so that’s what we want to shoot for. There will, of course, be plenty of options for players to customize their visuals.

OnlySP: Weapon variety is essential for these pacy FPS games. How many weapons will be in the game?

Mojica: We don’t really have a set amount just yet, but the goal is to give players a bit of something old, a bit of something new, and a bit of something unexpected.

Voeller: Basically a weapon for every occasion.

OnlySP: How about enemies/enemy types will be in the game? In terms of interesting design and challenge, which enemy variety is the highlight for you?

Mojica: One of the things we discussed early in development was to give the player interesting scenarios based on AI level geo, and item placement that would cause them to use their tools at hand. Having an emphasis on moment to moment decisions and asking the player what their priorities are.

OnlySP: In terms of level design, what are you aiming to achieve with it?

Mojica: A mixture of old school abstract and modern flow. I take a lot of inspiration from old Half-life 2 levels and mods, as well as the new DOOM and Quake maps being made by the community.
Having built more accurate settings (like cities) most of my career, I’m having a blast forgetting all of the rules and focusing on creating fun and interesting spaces. Exploring ideas based on how engaging can I make this combat scenario instead of trying to make the space as realistic as possible.

OnlySP: The trailers so far have shown off some secret areas, are these difficult to interweave into the levels? How do you ensure these areas are rewarding or challenging to find?

Mojica: That’s sort of a philosophical question. I guess the short answer might be that while I’m building my spaces, I tend to leave room between areas that I think might work well for a secret. A lot of times it comes down to the ending shape of a room and what it’s telling me it wants to be. You really got to keep a vigilant eye open for these sorts of things while building the layout. The last thing you want is for your secrets to feel tacked on.

OnlySP: The Steam page states that post-launch the game will receive “continuous support.” What will this entail? Will it be focused on user-generated content?

Voeller: Community created maps will play a big part as well as additional official map and content packs.  Our mapping tools work in-game, so community mappers will have access to the same tools that we use to make all the official maps.  We will have more on this soon.

OnlySP: The dynamic soundtrack and music have certainly stood out so far. Who is responsible for the soundtrack? Does creating a soundscape that’s dynamic posit any unique difficulties?

Voeller: Andrew Hulshult made the first track that you hear in the trailer and we are using this to flesh out the music system, which we really haven’t shown off yet.  There are a few challenges, like deciding when to ramp the music up and down (do you want it to be reactive or preemptive or designer controlled) and balancing consistency and repetition (players don’t want to hear the same thing over and over, but they want the ambient music to be consistently ambient), but we are working through them.

OnlySP: Prodeus is, perhaps narrow-mindedly, grouped in with DOOM quite often. Is Prodeus an extension of DOOM-like play, or are you striving for something more?

Voeller: While the gameplay is very Action-FPS, we are taking inspiration from several different games and genres. Once we are further along Prodeus will really start to feel like its own game.

OnlySP: How much work has gone into the story? Does the game have a loose narrative in order to prioritise gameplay or are you trying to achieve something more with its story?

Mojica: Gameplay always comes first no matter what, but we’ve been tossing around some things internally that help us focus our design and create content for the game. One day we’ll be able to share more with the community, can’t wait!

OnlySP: Do you have any other comments for OnlySP’s readers?

Mojica: Our Kickstarter is coming out on March 25! Right smack in the middle of two crazy industry events, GDC and PAX.

Voeller: So keep an eye out for that if you want to get yourself some early access, backer discounts, or name in the credits.

For more on Prodeus, be sure to check out the Kickstarter and be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. OnlySP also has a community Discord and we’d love to have you on board to discuss all things single player.

Ben Newman

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