Interview – Games Distillery

Hi all, we had the chance for a small interview with the Owner/Creative Director of  Games Distillery, and we want to share it with you guys. Games Distillery is the developer of AQUA: Naval Warfare, which was released on Xbox LIVE Arcade this week. To learn more about AQUA, head over to our review. If you have any questions for Games Distillery, let us know!

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First off, we must say the Steampunk style you’ve used in AQUA – Naval Warfare is beautiful. What inspired you to go with this style?

First, we think steampunk has much to offer in terms of design paths to take and elements to experiment with – compared i.e. to science-fiction/space setting, it is a much more exciting art-style, still free to explore and offering a lot of opportunities for a good art-designer how to create cool and unique elements – we love it and wanted to do a steampunk-setting game right from the beginning. We also did not see it around in games too often, and it really fits the naval setting of our game – so it was a clear decision to go this way.

In terms of the ships and cities, are the designs completely original, or were you inspired to build off existing concepts?

We did not directly copy any existing objects 1:1 – the inspirations themselves came from many sides – factories, train engines, art-deco objects, streamlined cars of the 30ties… We wanted to create an “imperial – steampunk” style, with lots of decorations and vain ornamentation especially on the Emperean ships – the design process went from scratch, starting with original drawings and adding elements inspired by existing objects, sometimes put to a very different use – i.e. the engines on the airship were inspired by a freaky-looking early-20th century hair-dryer J.

What do you feel makes AQUA – Naval Warfare stand out amongst other Xbox LIVE Arcade titles?

When setting up Aqua, we aimed to create a solid dual stick shooter with added elements: a proper an entertaining campaign with steampunk characters, tactical gameplay with squad controls and a nice setting with a cool distinctive Art-style. We hope to have succeeded in creating that and making a game which people can enjoy – accessible and nicely playable – even casual gamers should find their way through the campaign on the easy difficulty, while extreme should really feel challenging for even the best. A non-gameplay element that we think is quite unique to Aqua are the comic-sequences between the story missions – hand drawn and with a distinctive 19th-century style touch.

Approximately how long was this title in development? Also, being your first Xbox LIVE Arcade title, did the team experience any issues during this time, or did everything run smoothly?

We started with a small team in 2008 and gradually increased the effort. We also first had to develop the basic technology – Aqua is a pilot title on our own engine. At the end of the cycle, the submission to XBLA also took several months of technical optimizations. For a digital distribution title which cannot have the budget and team-size of a large production, at some point you face the situation that you have a lot more cool ideas and unique concepts for the game than can be realistically implemented – making the right decisions and focusing on the right areas here is key to the success of the development process and the resulting product. For us issues and challenges mainly emerged from developing game and tech at the same time with a small team, which meant a lot of things could not be completely closed until the tech was finished and optimized.

Juergen Reusswig and Slavo Hazucha, how exactly did you two meet, and what made you decide to found Games Distillery?

We met in 2004 at 10tacle studios in Germany. I was pitching a game concept there and Juergen was chosen as Executive Producer for it. The two of us clicked together immediately and we worked there together until 2008. As we saw a great opportunity to move to the digital distribution market (particularly the XBLA platform), and we were confident that we have the right ingredients together, we founded our own company – the Games Distillery.

How many people were involved in the creation of AQUA – Naval Warfare?

The core team was fairly small, but during different stages of production, over 20 people contributed to the development.

We always love to know which games are your favorite, so amongst the team, what are some of your favorite video games?

Now with all the work in Games Distillery, I personally mostly play games for quick recreation, which do not require too much long-term commitment. Most racing games are good for that, with FM3 being the best for me at the moment. That is for most of the time. More rarely, I buy games where I know am going to invest a lot of time and play it really for dozens of hours and explore it in all depth and possibilities – I am a big fan of Civilization and the Total War series.

What are your plans moving from here onward? Are you looking to expand to other digital distribution systems such as the Playstation 3?

We are already developing our next 2 titles at the Games Distillery. While at the moment, XBLA was the right platform for us and we want to keep targeting it with our next titles, for the future we hope to be able to widen the scope – PC digital distribution and at some point, also the PS3.


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