Warstride Challenges channels Doom, TrackMania, and Super Meat Boy

Brian Crecente
Vincent Cabanas is the kind of guy who loves to do a bit of everything (Yes, that includes talking about Warstride!). A video game enthusiast since he was three, he started game dev by creating mods for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. He also loves traveling, so when he doesn’t work on Warstride, he writes travel guides on his travel blog, Voyagetips.com.
Warstride Challenges is designed to be a nimble, brutal, and rewarding first-person shooter enjoyed in short gameplay sessions. But it also hopes to teach everyone who plays it how to be a liquid-fast speedrunner.

The game was born out of the love a trio of the game’s developers have for fast ‘90s first-person shooters and a desire to make that already speedy gameplay even faster. The end result is Warstride Challenges, a game that they describe as a lovechild of Doom, TrackMania, and Super Meat Boy.

It is, as the studio name suggests, a dream-powered creation.

We chatted with Vincent Cabanas, who is working on the 3D art, level design, game design, and sound effects on the game at Dream Powered Games, about the inspiration and development of the shooter, why Unreal Engine was the best choice for development, and how the game hopes to inspire a new generation of speedrunners.
How was Dream Powered Games formed, and what is its core philosophy?
Vincent Cabanas, 3D artist, level designer, game designer, and sound effects at Dream Powered Games: We met ten years ago when we started our game development journey. Our core philosophy is, as our studio name suggests, to make the games of which we dream.

How did Dream Powered Games come up with the concept for Warstride Challenges?
Cabanas: The three members of our team are die-hard ‘90s, fast FPS fans, so we really wanted to make a modern game that captures the essence of our favorite titles with a unique twist. It needed to be fast, brutal, rewarding, and allow you to enjoy short gameplay sessions. That’s how we ended up with Warstride Challenges, the lovechild of Doom, TrackMania, and Super Meat Boy.

What made you decide to use Unreal Engine for the game?
Cabanas: Unreal Engine was the natural choice for us: It’s very powerful and yet super user-friendly and easy to learn.
Having access to the full source is a real plus for programmers to add new features. It’s not a black box you are fighting against, like some other engines out there. 
The huge community is also indeed a big advantage, as the large number of tutorials available are super useful to get started.
And, well, that’s the engine used to make the Unreal game series we all love, so we knew it was a great choice for an FPS!
Image courtesy of Dream Powered Games
The studio references Doom, Trackmania, and Super Meat Boy when describing the game. Can you walk us through how those games, in particular, influenced your design choices?
Cabanas: We chose Doom, Trackmania, and Super Meat Boy as our main inspirations for Warstride Challenges because they really sum up what a great game should be for us: 
  1. Easy to learn (accessible to all FPS players) but hard to master (even the best speedrunners will enjoy the game from level 1, wanting their runs to reach perfection)
  2. Rewarding, pushing the players to outdo themselves 
  3. And above all: Fun!

Doom: The fast-paced first-person-shooter part: fast movements and brutal gunfights!
Super Meat Boy: The short levels plus die and retry style gameplay with instant restart.
Trackmania: That’s a weird one for an FPS, right? That’s why Warstride is so special. We didn’t want it to be a classic FPS with a time trial bonus aspect. We wanted time trial to be the core of the game and to reward people for becoming better and better!
That’s why it was also very important for us to make Warstride accessible for any FPS player, but yet hard to master, with a very high skill ceiling. You can play thousands of hours and still find ways to improve.

The medals system, the way the game makes you want to always do better and shave milliseconds off your best run, the high skill cap, the unlimited replayability, the fun are all things that Warstride have in common with Trackmania, despite the fact that they are totally different games.
Image courtesy of Dream Powered Games
What were the aesthetic influences for the game’s enemies?
Cabanas: For the big “hog” guy, it was influenced by some of the well-known enemies of Duke Nukem 3D. Everything else is the great imagination of Cecile Jaubert and Romain Pommier!

How did you go about designing the game’s 180 levels? Did you approach them like racetracks with different sorts of runs, or was it more about delivering unique biomes and visuals?
Cabanas: It’s a bit of both. We knew we wanted at least three different biomes, but we also wanted a ton of fun racetracks, so we came up with the idea to make variations.

The 180 levels are split into three chapters of 60 levels each. Each chapter is made of 12 unique levels, with five variations for each: normal, dard, very hard, hardcore, and nightmare.
Variations aren’t basic difficulty levels: the levels layout, spawn points, monster types, weapons, and powers available are also different! I won’t get into the unlocking system details; however, during your journey to become a true master at Warstride, you will also unlock bonus levels as well as “BFLs,” the “Big F****** Levels.”
There are 30 of each, so you can add 60 more levels. Warstride will thus have around 240 levels  (180 normal, plus 30 bonus, plus 30 BFLs) at the end of the Early Access.
Image courtesy of Dream Powered Games
How did Unreal Engine help you achieve the look and speed of the game?
Cabanas: The great thing about Unreal is, for sure, its dynamic lighting performance. One of our requirements was to choose an engine that doesn’t require light baking to run properly, as it would have really slowed down our creation process.
As a small team, we need to be as efficient as possible, and Unreal Engine allows just that: We can make good-looking levels that run great even on low-end hardware.
And as our game is fast, it’s even more important to be able to run it at a high frame rate. Getting 120 FPS or more really makes a difference in Warstride!
How did the team decide on what powers and weapons to build into the game, and how did they each impact the overall design of Warstride Challenges?
Cabanas: We made a ton of them and decided to only keep the ones that truly fitted the flow of the game. In general (except the railgun), we went for the good old “powder weapons,” for a really badass sound and feel.
While the game seems designed around speed, you’ve also built a number of stylish moves into the game, like the ability to do 360s and back and front flips. How does that impact play, scoring, and speed in the game?
Cabanas: The only moves that impact speed are the slide and the jump. You can even combine them to do a “slide jump”  that gives you a huge speed boost (Speedrunners really use that trick all the time!).
Doing 360s and backflips/frontflips is mandatory to kill some monsters in the top-tier levels. These are really fun moves to execute!
Not really a special move, but one of the distinctive features of the game is the amount of air control you have, even at high speed. It really allows you to control your character super precisely.
Image courtesy of Dream Powered Games
Can you explain how the game’s asynchronous multiplayer works?
Cabanas: In Warstride, you can play the game at your own pace, trying to make the best score possible. 
Every time you make a personal best, your time is uploaded online and appears in the friends and world leaderboards.

In addition to the classic leaderboards, we have developed a very special feature called The Nemesis Mode.

You can add anyone (up to three players at the same time) as a Nemesis, which means you can compete directly with your favorite streamers or Youtubers and try to beat them on all levels.

You will see your Nemesis ghosts in-game and receive notifications when they beat your time on a level.

It’s a lot of fun, and it will really push you to do your best and improve your skill!
You mention your desire to teach everyone how to speedrun like a pro with Warstride Challenges. How do you think your game will achieve that?
Cabanas: The smooth learning curve we have created, as well as the very rewarding feeling of the game, are the two core components that will motivate players to constantly improve.

The most important is that every type of player can enjoy the game, no matter their skill at FPS games.

And that’s what we noticed during the demo: FPS veteran players were “flying” around levels like pros in a matter of minutes, while more casual FPS players were first running, then started bunny hopping or even slide jumping.
What do you hope to achieve with your game’s Early Access?
Cabanas: It will give us the time to finish the game while getting players’ feedback and being able to tweak the game to create something the community really loves.
We’ve released a closed beta during the latest Realms Deep, and we’ve got so much great feedback and ideas from players that allowed us to improve the game a lot!

To be honest, when you have been developing a game for several years, it’s just so motivating to see players enjoying the game! 
In addition to doing our best to implement their feedback, it’s just amazing to interact with the community. It really motivates us to beat their expectations with Warstride and try to make the best modern old school (if that makes sense) fast FPS possible.
Do you see Warstride as a game that has the potential to enter the esports scene? If so, why, and how do you think that will happen?
Cabanas: It definitely has. The game is very challenging, it’s easy to learn and hard to master, and our top players have been playing the 30min long demo for hundreds of hours already.
And with the “level editor” and “live multiplayer” features coming during Early Access, it has serious tournament potential!
Were there any particular challenges that Unreal Engine helped you overcome? If so, can you walk us through that process?
Cabanas: It’s honestly hard to choose only one, as we really choose the engine for its strengths: great visuals, amazing performance, and famous first-person shooters already using it!
What are you most excited about with the coming of Unreal Engine 5?

Cabanas: The level design tools seem very efficient. I would love to give it a try when we have a bit more free time. Chaos-increased determinism versus PhysX looks interesting for Warstide (mainly for the replay system), “Common UI” feels like a good improvement for UI Workflow, and, of course, the crazy good lighting!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How can people find out more about Dream Powered Games and Warstride Challenges?
Cabanas: If you want to know more about the game, you can follow us on Twitter or join our Discord Community.

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