34BigThings is a bit of a messy adventure. It obviously feels like a special thing to me, but I think that the label of “yet another indie game company” wouldn’t do justice to it.
The actual working space, the place where the company was born 22 months ago, is the living room of the three founders. We just rented another office, and we’ll move there shortly; but right now, 34BigThings is fifteen people working in a living room.
When we decided, against all wisdom, to go back to Italy and start our game dev adventure there, we found the enthusiasm had we hoped for. We organized three game jams, started a collaboration with a digital art school, gave talks, and helped create a game developers’ association called T-Union, in an effort to connect people working in the field to foster their talent through collaboration.
Then, this little prototype for a futuristic racer spawned. We loved F-Zero, we missed a Rollcage kind of game, and of course, Wipeout had its influence, although we didn’t want to race on rails. We wanted an approach more focused on physics, plenty of speed, vast but low-polygon sceneries, tight controls and especially, 60fps flat pure arcade. The initial results were encouraging, so we made another prototype. And another.
Epic couldn’t launch their new pricing policy at a better time for us. Unreal Engine 4 turned out to be the perfect tool for the job. We did some work with the UDK before, and although it wasn’t exactly the easiest software to use, the results were always amazing. We used to say, “yes, the Unreal Engine is tough to approach; but put a cube in there and it will be beautiful”.
Yep, it still does look beautiful.
Our first prototype iterations have been entirely made via blueprint. It’s not an automatic door or a graphical menu we are talking about, but a fully working floating racing vehicle. Our first pre-alpha gameplay video has been taped when the ship was still implemented in blueprint, and we even brought a blueprint-only prototype to a gaming fair. Being able to get results so early in the production was a great boost of confidence for the whole team and played a big part in pinpointing the feeling we wanted the game to convey.
A component of the Unreal Engine terrain system that became really valuable to us is the spline editor., Combined with the possibility to access the source code, we were able to manipulate and extend this component to better suit our needs. In Red:OuT, racetracks are drawn out of splines. It’s a neat tool; it gives us flexibility in design and control from code. For example, it’s very easy to know at which point of the spline players are, at any given time.
Then, Epic itself allowed us to showcase the game at EGX. It was refreshing. We got lots of positive feedback and enthusiasm towards the project. Given that we have something fun to drive around, now we can focus on track design, tweaking existing scenarios and creating more, adding eye candy and camera effects, more ships, game modes, all knowing that we have the necessary horsepower under the hood.