Hello everyone, this is the Orcosaurus for The Strategy Informer and today I am interviewing Eska from Anarkis Gaming. He is a solo dev and just released his game, After the Collapse. It is a strategic base builder in a world after the nuclear war, where big scorpions are the least of your worries.
Hi EsKa, thank you for taking your time for the interview. Tell is a little bit about yourself first before we get into the interview.
Hey! Well, my name’s Guillaume and I’m a French indie developer with a professional background in software programming. I’ve been working on my own games for a bit more than 6 years now.
I tend to specialize in large scale and relatively complex simulations.
How did you get into game development initially? And was there a game you played, and you said “Yes, I want to make one of these”?
Younger, I was an avid modder: Bethesda’s games, Civilization 4-5, and the X-Universe series from Egosoft to name a few I made mods for. Making my own games was a logical conclusion, and it sure beats writing database software all day long (doesn’t pay nearly as much, though 😄)
What engine did you use to make After the Collapse? Did have to learn the engine first or did you have already knowledge?
I’m not a big fan of using 3rd party engines and they feel like an overkill when it comes to 2D games. As a result, I always roll out my own code. It tends to lead to much better performances, but ensuring that the game will run equally well on a near infinity of hardware and software combinations is trickier.
What was the hardest part in making your game?
Code-wise, it’s probably adding the whole story-line in 1.0. Base-building games don’t really mix well with on-rail storytelling. Forcing the different systems to do what I wanted to them to, at the moment I needed to, while trying to take the actions of the player into account, has been a difficult exercise, to say the least.
What did you like the most about developing After the Collapse?
It might sound corny, but it’s true. It’s the small community who got into the game. People have been incredibly supportive and I likely manage one of the most polite forum on Steam as a result.
Did you use a design document or did you just shoot from the hip when designing the game?
Shooting from the hip, as you say, is probably the main reason why many base building games die in Early Access. You need a plan when you develop a game of this scale, especially solo.
So, while I left some room to implement the occasional requests from the community, each milestone update since the very first E.A release had very clear and detailed goals which were set from the very start. It’s really the only way to get things done without getting lost.
The game features a lot of intricate systems that can already overwhelm some gamers. How did you as a designer keep track of everything so it interlinks and does not contradict each other?
Generally speaking, those systems have been added gradually, over several years. They were tested individually first, and were implemented following a logical progression. But even so, mistakes do happen. Any programmer who says otherwise really shouldn’t be trusted or hired.
For instance, in the game you can launch expeditions to loot, explore and conquer the world map while other factions do the same. This part was rewritten 3 times from scratch before I could get it right. First time was just a temporary draft, second time the map would be too static to allow the level of interactivity it has now, and 3rd time was the charm!
As far as I know you have been solo coasting. Did you have help from contractors?
Absolutely. One of my friends, Alexandra, did most of the Steam integration, including the Steam Workshop. It saved me a lot of time.
I also hired an artist to make some of the giants creatures and the dogs.
I recognized some of the music from YouTube videos I watch. I guess it’s all DMCA free music you have used in the game?
Most of the songs are under Creative Commons license. Two of them are from my previous game and are copyrighted, but none will trigger a DMCA claim. The game is perfectly safe to record or stream.
You’re likely recognizing a few songs from Kevin MacLeod, Youtubers seem to be fans of his work.
What was the hardest part for you when trying to promote your game?
Being ignored. The reality is that if you can’t spend a sizable chunk of money on advertising, you’re only relying on your reputation, luck and following. You can send all the emails you want to all the press you want, outside of very small publications/channels, the game will generally be ignored.
I’m lucky to have cultivated a following large enough to sustain my projects, but I do feel sorry for anyone starting out nowadays. Things are a lot tougher than a few years ago.
If you look at the development of After the Collapse, what would you do different now?
The development went smoothly enough for a project of this scale. I do however regret a poor early technical decision which is now preventing me from porting the game to Linux.
Are you satisfied with the game you made and would you consider it a personal success?
So far, people seem to receive it very positively. From a technical standpoint, it’s definitively a personal success. It’s not every day I complete a base-builder with 4X elements 😄
Also, it’s not like 1.0 is the end of the line. The game is financially secure for a while and I will continue to deliver content and updates on a regular basis.
Talking about the gaming industry in general for a moment, what is your most favorite trend in the gaming industry at the moment and what is your least favorite trend?
I wish I could tell you that I keep track of what other studios do, but I’ve spent the last few months my nose buried into my own code and I’m a bit out of the loop at the moment.
Eska, thank you so much for answering our questions and you at home head over to steam and check out the base building goodness that is After The Collapse!
Semi-retired game designer and developer trying to use my experience to enhance the strategy and strategy adjacent gaming sector. Strategy game player for over 35 years. Game development experience in AAA, Indie, and Board.