A No Holds Barred Interview with Sergey Titov - WarZ & Beyond
Shattered Skies is a survival shooter by the same people who made the much derided WarZ / Infestation. We were given the opportunity to interview Sergey Titov in a no holds barred series of questions to learn more about the game and about why people might be skeptical about his latest venture. See what he had to say in this exclusive interview.
MMORPG: With the debacle that was WarZ / Infestation why are you still in the industry?
Sergey Titov: Mostly because the WarZ/Infestation was a success based on our user numbers and their love of the game, as well as financially. While there were some crucial mistakes made, the game overall proved to be addictive and fun for the majority of players. Even today – almost 4 years after launch – WarZ is a hugely popular in Asia, with a large eSports tournament happening in Thailand the past two years that includes a pretty significant cash prize.
WarZ hit a perfect PR storm in the Western world – it was hugely hyped at launch – mostly because it was the first ever standalone persistent world survival game, riding on the DayZ mod craze. Clearly everything we did was dissected under a microscope and we feel many people reacted based not on facts, but on an overblown perception.
Lots of people enjoyed playing WarZ, but there may have been a disconnect between the actual performance of the game and the perception by people who didn’t play it, but felt like they could comment on the game.
MMORPG: Previous games that you have been involved with such as Big Rigs were meet with equal amounts of disdain. Why should anyone think that Shattered Skies will be different?
ST: The Big Rigs comparison always amuses me because it’s the same as saying “Unreal engine was used in shitty game X, so why do you think Gears of War will be any different.” We provided technology for Big Rigs, that’s true, but overall the game wasn’t based on our design, or our decisions on what to do and when/how. More importantly, Big Rigs is maybe one of a hundred or so titles our team members worked on. Some titles are huge hits such as God of War, League of Legends and Gears of War, while some are small. Some are failed titles that you’ve probably never heard of, but some are massive hits. So it’s really hard to compare.
Shattered Skies is already proven to be received very positively by both players (we had more than 50,000 players participate in closed beta just last month) and game critics – we’re getting very positive reviews from game press, YouTubers and streamers, including those who disliked WarZ in a past. For example there’s an outlet – who let me put it mildly – didn’t really fancy WarZ, but gave Shattered Skies an 8/10 and it looks like they really liked the game.
MMORPG: Is this just another survival shooter?
ST: It’s “another” persistent world PVP looter shooter. There’s not much focus on the survival aspect in a Shattered Skies compared to titles like Rust, DayZ, WarZ/Infestation or even H1Z1.
While we do have things like a need to eat, drink and apply medication, we’ve really toned down the overall importance of those mechanics. For example, eating and drinking is not as important as it is in other survival games – you can drink a bottle of water and not bother about thirst for the next hour or so of gameplay. The same goes for the medical system. When we started alpha we had a pretty detailed system with multiple medical conditions that required different medications to cure and as alpha and beta went on, we gathered more and more data and feedback. From this we simplified the medical system to the point where you only have one medical condition, bleeding, and overall use of the medicine is very simple. You apply bandages to cure bleeding and all other medicine is used to restore your health.
So we’re midway between shooters like Doom or Battlefield in terms of “survival” and titles like DayZ. Our goal is for users to have a FUN shooter experience, not a hardcore survival or realistic simulation.
MMORPG: What can you tell us about the pay model? That seems to be an area where you drew the ire of consumers in the past.
ST: It’s pretty simple – you pay once and that’s it. No paid DLCs, no paid expansions, no paid anything. No microtransactions. We don’t sell cosmetic items.
It’s as old school as it can be. When we started working on Shattered Skies in 2014 it was supposed to be one huge game under the title Rise of the Badlands, but due to its scope it became three different game concepts existing in a same world. We discussed various monetization methods, but in the end we decided that to provide a truly fair competitive arena for players where they can’t possible say that they lost because somebody had an paid advantage – the game is based on skill – we had to remove all monetization from the game.
And this is what we did. We clearly understand that this means that we probably just lost at least half of our potential income, but it’s the right thing to do for the players. And we as a team are very happy about it.
MMORPG: Is Shattered Skies heavily focused on PvE or PvP?
ST: It’s heavily focused on PVP. While the game has plenty of PVE activities, they’re all happening in an unrestricted PVP world, so we want to be very clear – if you like shooters, if you like PVP – our goal is to make the ultimate game for you. If you’re more of a PVE player, you may find that the game is pretty brutal sometimes.
We’re seeing many players are grouping together to explore the world, loot it, craft, etc, so we do expect that a fair share of PVE only play will be happening, but overall our focus is on PVP.
Our goal was to create a game that allows both short and long game sessions depending on a player’s interests and goals. If you want some quick shooter fun you can go into the game and literally have some really exhilarating combat for 30 minutes and get back to whatever you’ve been doing. Or you can spend literally 12-14 hours at a time playing Shattered Skies, teaming up with other players and exploring world, completing events and objectives and of course fighting other teams. We saw things like this happening with Shattered Skies in real-time on Twitch.
MMORPG: Crafting appears to be robust. How does it fit into the games overall economy?
ST: We’re trying to think of crafting as more of a side dish, not as an entrée. You don’t need to do it at all, but if you want to, it’ll enhance your gameplay and tactical options. We specifically designed crafting to be easy to use and not interfere at all with your primary game loop – exploring, looting, fighting, unlocking rewards and new epic items.
We’ve totally abandoned the idea of having crafting based on real world “items” – i.e. like in other games you get a piece of cloth, you find a bottle of whiskey and you can craft a bandage. In Shattered Skies you can craft a bandage all right, but you use some generic “material resource” for that, which is also used in a dozen of other crafting recipes.
Also being a full loot drop game, we made special exemption for all of the crafting resources – they’re persistent, you don’t lose them and you can’t trade them. They’re like your own personal stash that you won’t notice until you open the crafting screen.
It again shows our focus with the game – make it a fun, enjoyable PVP experience with options for deeper gameplay if wanted.
Also some of the crafting recipes are locked based on a player’s level, which as we’ve already seen in beta promotes trading between players, with higher-level players crafting items for lower-level players in exchange for certain items.
MMORPG: What can you tell us about the World Event system?
ST: This is something that will release later in the game. One of the things we felt is super important in our age where most of the indie games are released and stay as Early Access for years is to have a solid and clear development plan and a focus that is shared with the players. This is why an important part of our website is called “roadmap,” which explains what players should expect from the game in the coming year.
So one of the things we’ll be bringing to the game is the World Events system. Basically think of it as MMO-style raids that are happening in a same persistent world as the game itself.
One of the first examples that is already available to players is “Reactor Event.” Every few hours a special “reactor core” is activated at a dedicated place on the map. Groups of players are fighting each other as well as waves of aliens spawned there to access a reactor core and get valuable rare items as rewards.
More complex events are coming in a future updates to the game. MMORPG: What gets your most excited about Shattered Skies?
ST: It pretty much goes back to your question number 1. We firmly believe that with Shattered Skies, we have the best open-world, PVP looter shooter experience available for players who like those types of games. We made sure we’re checking off all of the marks – nice looking yet optimized graphics, fun combat system, fair gameplay system and a very robust anticheat protection to make sure that players who have paid once to play the game will be able to enjoy it for years to come.
In some sense everything we’re doing with Shattered Skies contradicts what we did in a past and what we’ve been known for. While WarZ was a calculated risk and more “product” than a work of passion, all of the decisions we’ve made so far with Shattered Skies was based on our passion to the genre and experience we’ve learned in a past 6 years. It’s the first product that I did that didn’t included budget or calculations of how much money we can potentially make – it was all based on “we think it’ll be best for players and we really want to do it, let’s do it.”
We don’t know how the game will perform for us as a company and business, but we firmly believe that this is the best PVP experience for players to enjoy.