Hooked Gamers: Hello Charlie and thank you for taking your time out from work to do this interview with me. I know that everyone of you is busy trying to get Natural Selection 2 in ship shape for release. Also, congratulations on winning players choice for most anticipated Indie game on mod db – it is obvious that Natural Selection 2 is one of the most anticipated Indie games coming out soon.
Charlie Cleveland: Thanks! Yeah we have our hands full with the closed beta – we are releasing a new patch every week taking feedback from players, adding new features and fixing bugs. We’re also keeping the twitter and Facebook feeds and our developer blog updated as much as possible. So yes, plenty to do!
Hooked Gamers: So for those who are unfamiliar with Natural Selection 2, how would you classify it and what does the game play consist of?
Charlie Cleveland: You could describe Natural Selection 2 as something like Counter-strike meets Starcraft. It’s a sci-fi shooter with very different sides (marines and animal-like aliens), where players can fight on the ground or command from a top-down strategy interface. Commanders build structures, research technology, manage resources and support teams on the ground.
Hooked Gamers: Natural Selection 2 may have an original idea in that it combines RTS and FPS elements, but the whole aliens vs marines has been done many times before. So what games or movies have you and your team drawn inspiration from?
Charlie Cleveland: Yes, the alien/human genre is well-worn and well-loved by our audience and our whole team! We have been inspired from many movies and games, including (but not limited to): Aliens, Gloom, Starcraft 1/2, Space Hulk, Deadspace, Aliens vs. Predator, Advanced Space Crusade (look that one up!), Event Horizon, Starship Troopers (some of us!) and quite a few others.
Hooked Gamers: The first Natural Selection was an instant success in the modding community being that it was free and based on the popular game, Half-Life. Moving onto an independent game with its own custom engine and creating your every own studio was a big step from your modding days. How well has everyone transitioned from those days and how has it worked out for the studio as a whole?
Charlie Cleveland: It’s been quite a journey. I’m not sure we have made the transition elegantly, but we are in very good shape now. We have learned a lot about funding and running a studio and continue to learn more every day. Many of the core talent from Natural Selection 1 is here (myself, Max and Cory) and the others that have other day jobs are still in the background, helping us test, do PR, customer support, etc. We also moved from Boston to San Francisco during the process - to find investors, to be near the gaming press, to make the talent search easier and because we wanted a change of scenery!
Hooked Gamers: The first Natural Selection had the movement of the marines and every creature nailed down, so that everything felt right. Do you guys have the movement in Natural Selection 2 where you want it right now, or is it still being worked on?
Charlie Cleveland: We took a lot for granted being on the Half-life 1 engine. The core marine player movement was easier back - it was just tweaking a couple constants and we’re done. Now player movement is a much bigger problem involving general engine performance and smoothness, input tweaks, physics, networking and Lua script work. The aliens are another huge layer on top of that with Skulk wall-walking, Fade “blinking”, etc.
We are now at the point where the basic movement is pretty solid but it’s definitely still being worked on. We are constantly loading Natural Selection 1, Team Fortress 2 and other games to compare Natural Selection 2 side-by-side with them. Often there’s something that feels wrong, but it is unclear if it’s input, performance, script bugs, weapon cones of fire or even enemy player speeds. It is just a complicated process and we’re going to be refining it for a long time and it feels amazing.