Greg Quinn is the head of a little indie studio in Durban called Meltdown Interactive Media. Along with a few other programmers, Greg and Meltdown are rounding off development on their first game, Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad.
The game has just been added to the newly launched Steam Greenlight service, which is a new feature on Steam that allows unpublished indie developers to showcase their work. Providing there’s enough fan response and Steam user approval, the all-powerful Steam distribution platform will publish the game. Greg is hoping for just that with Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad.
We recently had a chance to chat to Greg about his project, indie studio and his thoughts on the local game development scene. Hit the jump to see his game in action.
NAG: Can you provide a brief bit of history for Meltdown Interactive? How long have you been around, and what’s in the name?
GQ: Since there were limited opportunities to work for gaming companies in SA, most of my IT career has been involved in developing software and websites. In the back of my mind I was always passionate about games and always wanted to program them, yet was held back by the big learning curve of game development with DirectX and XNA. When I discovered Unity a few years ago I finally realised developing my own games was now a possibility… and Meltdown Interactive Media was born.
The name Meltdown has always been stuck in my head since I was a kid with a skateboard… I remember one of the kids we skated with had a pair of Airwalk ‘Meltdown’ shoes. They were the best looking shoes I’d ever seen, my mother never bought me a pair though but from that day on Meltdown was my word and nickname for anything.
The team consists of myself, the lead game designer and programmer, one 2D/UI artist, one 3D artist, and one sound engineer.
NAG: What are your thoughts on the SA gaming scene? Teams like QCF Design and Tasty Poison have been making some big strides lately.
GQ: I’d like to see more SA game developers. With tools like Unity on the market, game development is no longer a huge pie in the sky dream reserved for AAA studios with big budgets. Games can now be created in a matter of weeks with small teams of people in their spare time. It’s great to see local developers like QCF and Tasty Poison making a name for themselves. Hopefully an SA developer will make a big hit game and we can get some global recognition. There are so many software and website developers in SA’s booming IT industry and so many gamers, it’s a wonder why we don’t have more studios. On the Unity forums it’s been pretty positive lately. Each day I’m seeing more and more members joining the forums from South Africa, which is good for the local game development scene. Hopefully in a couple of years we’ll have one or two big game development houses in SA putting out big name games.
NAG: You’re developing Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad. What have been some of the bigger challenges you’ve faced?
GQ: MTR Extreme Offroad has been in development for over a year now. I risked everything I had and financed the game myself from start to finish. The game has taken a lot longer to develop than I anticipated. I thought it would have been done by April! Running out of funds midway through the development of the game was pretty tough to handle, as I’ve had to now juggle doing contract work to survive, while in my spare time doing my best to finish off the game. So financially and emotionally, that has been the toughest part. Aside from that, the development of the game went pretty smooth. The toughest part to get right was the AI car’s driving. I eventually ended up using an open source library for Unity… and having access to the source code was great and allowed us to tweak certain aspects to our needs. I think we’ve done a pretty good job.
NAG: Got to admit, there’s a healthy dose of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road in there – I loved that game to death. Take it that was an influential title for you growing up?
GQ: Ironman Super Offroad was a big influence in the game’s design. As a kid growing up my dad owned arcade games around Durban and I always used to play them. One of the arcades in West Street had an Ironman game and it was one of my all-time favourites. One of my life time goals was to make a similar game, but a little more realistic and with some simulation elements. And of course, what better way to enjoy a game like that with multiplayer thrown in so you can challenge your friends?
NAG: Speaking of growing up gaming, what was the first title you remember playing? Favourite game to date? Current time sink?
GQ: Growing up around my Dad’s arcade games the first titles I remember playing were Gyrus, Xevious and Donkey Kong. My favourite game to date is probably NeverWinter Nights 1. I used to sit up late at night playing that on a LAN with a friend. The one morning we got to bed at 9am LOL! My current time sink is doing contract work and adding the final polish to our game. I’m not really doing much else. It’s been a while since I even sat down and had a good gaming session!
NAG: You’ve submitted Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad to Steam’s new Greenlight system. How has the response been? Are you feeling hopeful?
GQ: The response so far has been excellent. We’ve had mostly positive feedback in the comments so far, which is great to hear, with a 60% upvote rate and nearly 7, 000 page views. Greenlight is new to Steam as it is to the community, so we’ll have to wait and see how they tweak it. One problem I have with Greenlight at the moment is many of the same games appear on the front page all the time. These games have 50, 000+ views while other games that look pretty decent sit in the middle of the order and have only 1, 000 views. I believe Greenlight should be fair to all developers and all games should get equal exposure. As for Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad getting onto Steam, we can only hope, that would be amazing, the sales figures and exposure on Steam still blow anything else out the water.
NAG: You’ve linked up with a German Monster Truck team for Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad. How did that relationship come about?
GQ: We were looking for some cool images we could use on our game menus of real Monster Trucks. Obviously the correct way to go about this is getting the rights to use any images. We dealt with several teams, but the one team wanted £1, 000 for the use of their image in our game while another team’s truck rights were owned by Dodge. I was dealing with eight different departments and an advertising agency trying to get the rights for this one image, it was a nightmare. Then I was contacted my Marco Hartenfels of MonsterTruckOnline.de, who ran a German monster truck website. He was good friends with the owners of the Monster Truck Jump team and said he could get me all the necessary rights to use any images I wanted. Since then we’ve had a good relationship.
NAG: Any plans beyond Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad? We take it you’re into game design for the long haul?
GC: Absolutely. 12 years of software development and reading/writing to a database has been enough! Games are so much more fun and challenging to make.
We have our next three games on the roadmap. The next game will be an expansion of some sort on Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad, but very different, and we’ll be adding all the features that didn’t make it into Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad like a realistic damage model and a few other goodies.
After that we are working on a sports game for PC. If sales go well with these titles we will be financing the development of an MMO, and it won’t be your standard cookie cutter MMO, it will be a hard-core full-loot MMO with some great features. Unfortunately I can’t give you any more details on these games at the moment
NAG: What are you most proud of regarding Monster Truck Racing – Extreme Offroad?
GQ: I’m proud of a childhood dream becoming a reality. Being able to say I started my dream company, and that I’m about to finish my dream game. I gave up everything I had for this, my job, my savings, to go against the grain and do exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I’m proud of the way the game has turned out, and I’m really proud to read positive feedback from people who have played the game, and they mention one word which always sticks out.. and that word was ‘fun’. Just hearing that means the world to me and makes me feel like a proud dad whose son excelled at something.
NAG: Will we be seeing you at rAge this year?
GQ: I would love to attend rAge this year. Unfortunately taking a day off for me, even on a weekend now is not an option. Living in Durban makes it even tougher to go. Hopefully by next year things will have relaxed a little and hopefully Meltdown Interactive will even have its own kick-arse exhibition stand.
If you want to lend your support to Greg and the rest of Meltdown Interactive, then be sure to check out their Steam Greenlight page for Monster Truck Racing – EO. Alternatively, check out the indi dev’s homepage to grab a copy of the demo, or give them a follow on Twitter.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Greg!