Mad Maximal: APOX Interview

By Jim Rossignol on September 27th, 2010 at 12:00 pm.


The unusual-looking post-apocalyptic RTS Apox has just entered beta. Having caught our attention with its fancy maps, flamethrowers, and promises of 32-player matches, we thought it might be a good idea to have a chat with the people making it. So I spoke to Blue Giant Interactive’s Mark Currie about the company, the game, Company Of Heroes, and their excitement about developing this RTS. Read on for splendid details.

RPS: Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your studio. I understand this is your first game? Have team members worked on other games previously?

Currie: After working several years in the UK, Vinnie Reddy, our CEO, came back to India to setup a new, independent game company, BlueGiant Interactive. At the time, I was a struggling independent game developer working from my bedroom in America. Vinnie convinced me to come to India to help setup the studio. Vinnie comes from a family of rice farmers. We joked that instead of being BlueGiant Interactive that we should be called Rice Powered Games.

It was a difficult process to grow BlueGiant to its current size of twenty. India is a young country, demographically speaking, and game development is new here. It’s hard to find people here with game dev experience. We did reverse outsourcing. Vinnie recruited three game devs from the West, each having a lot of prior game dev experience. Having a lack of experience hurt us in the beginning, but we’ve come a long way since we started.

RPS: What about the tech? Is this your own engine?

Currie: If a company attempts to make a modern RTS game from scratch, you are looking at at least four years to complete the game. We shaved two years off that time by starting with an existing game as a basis. We started production with my previous indie game Trash and completely overhauled it.

For our rendering engine we went with the open source engine Ogre. Torchlight proved a game can be successful using Ogre. One great thing about Ogre besides being free is that it makes it easier to port to Mac.


RPS: Tell us a bit about the game concept – why post-apocalypse, and why a strategy?

Currie: We went with strategy because of the background of the team – these are the games we like to play. We were big fans of Company of Heroes. We liked what they did in terms of adding detail to RTS genre. We wanted to extend this philosophy be adding more detail such as having limited ammo and fuel. We wanted to let players control unit stances and allow switching of a unit’s active weapon.

APOX, like CoH, has strategic sites. However we wanted our games to have a more climatic winning condition. At our strategic sites, you harvest precious resources that must be carried to a construction site. Using a few of these harvested items, you can build a super weapon. Then, using your super weapon, you annihilate your opponent. That’s a much more climatic ending, in our opinion. This part of the game feels a bit like Capture-the-Flag type games. It’s really fun to intercept a unit carrying a harvested resource item, kill him, and take the resource back to your own base.

Yes, APOX is post-apocalyptic. Like the Mad Max movie, there are no monsters or mutants. We hope this aspect will appeal to adults. We like the level of technology of this genre. We avoided ultra-high tech things like lasers and mechs.

RPS: Is it purely multiplayer or will there be a single-player campaign?

Currie: We have a strong focus on multiplayer and community. We have a match-making lobby, leaderboards, stat-tracking, clans, and tournaments. For single player, you can play in scrimmages with AI-controlled bots. We have several maps and game modes designed specifically with single-player in mind. It would have been great to have a story-driven campaign, but we decided to put more focus towards multiplayer instead.

RPS: What is like with 32-players in a game? How many units does each player control?

Currie: Massive games are awesome. They are very chaotic. You can be playing at the top of your game, taking out nearby opponents – then suddenly a huge enemy wave comes rolling through your area of the map, and it’s over for you. It’s certainly the case that the larger the game, the less impact each individual player has on the outcome. That said, it feels really epic to be in massive games with massive battles. And when you are that one guy in the massive game that actually makes the difference, it’s really rewarding.

We designed APOX to encourage players to have around five to a dozen units at any given time. We give the player lots of things to control – which weapon to use, whether to prone, what grenade to use, which vehicles to put your soldiers in. Since you have so many options, we tried to keep the unit count to a manageable number. That said, we don’t have any strict unit pop limit. If you want to sit back and make a massive army, you can – but doing so might backfire. You might lose teammates during that time.


RPS: With stance controls for individual units, the game sounds a little like Men of War? What would you say were the big influences on the game?

Currie: We only became aware of Men of War recently. Definitely Company of Heroes was a huge influence for us. Now that we know what we do about MoW, it seems to me that CoH was influenced by the prior games the MoW guys made. Anyway, APOX is like these games in that you generally control a small number of units but you have lots of options for what do with them. Our game is like MoW in that we have different stances like prone, crouch, and stand. But the crouch stance for us is automatic. We tried to find a sweet spot as far as adding new details to the gameplay without making it overly complex. I would say APOX sits somewhere between MoW and Company of Heroes in terms of details like that.

RPS: You seem keen to talk about the map editor, are you hoping for a lot of community content?

Currie: We know if we give good tools to the community, they will make good content. We have a nice mission/map editor. You can do almost anything with it. It has advanced scripting. You can import asset from any commercial 3d software package, or you can just use assets from the game’s library. After we ship the game, we will polish the editor a bit, and then release it as a separate download just as Torchlight did.


RPS: 100 maps seems like a lot, aren’t you worried that players will just pick one or two favorites?

Currie: Our game needs 100 maps. We support up to 32 players. That means you can have 1v1, 2v2, 3v3…16v16. That’s sixteen categories of maps right there. We also support free-for-all modes—3 to 32 players with every man for himself. We also support team-free-for-all. For example you can have 3v3v3v3v3. The team-free-for-all mode is something you don’t seen much in other RTS games, but it’s really fun.

As you can see there are many, many combinations, and each configuration has its own set of maps. Each mode offers a different gaming experience, and the maps should be customized accordingly. Originally we planned to have only dynamically generated maps. But these maps just weren’t as good as maps made with the human touch.

RPS: When do you expect to release the game? And will it be purely via digital download?

Currie: We’ll be releasing in late 2010. It will be released both in retail and as a digital download, both PC and Mac.

RPS: Anything else you’re excited about that you’d like to share with the RPS readership?

Currie: Sign up for our closed beta! Mention RPS in the comment field, and we’ll give you priority beta access!

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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24 Comments »

  1. Rich says:

    “For single player, you can play in scrimmages with AI-controlled bots.”

    That’s me out.

    • Premium User Badge

      Fede says:

      Remember that there is the map editor: if it allows scripting, users will make single player campaigns.

    • Rich says:

      Maybe this’ll be one to pick up a long time after release then.

    • battles_atlas says:

      I’m with Rich. RTS is all about the single player for me. I’ve recently been enjoying CoH’s co-op Operation Stonewall, but the multiplayer skirmish is far too demanding to actually qualify as fun. Seems to me you have to be either a total sadist; intensely relaxed about losing; or autistic to enjoy such an experience.

    • Wilson says:

      @battles_atlas – I’m not quite sure where you’re coming from with that. You might well find it too demanding to be fun, but not everyone is you. Maybe you got unlucky and ended up playing people way above your level? Sometimes you get games where there is a skill imbalance and that’s not fun, but when you get a reasonable match in ability, it’s very good fun. You need to be able to accept losing, but that’s life isn’t it?

      I am far from a very competitive person, and I don’t play very much multiplayer skirmish online because it can be very demanding, but it can be very exciting as well, and that’s the payoff.

    • Snall says:

      Hmm, I ONLY play skirmish in RTSes…most campaigns are just so bad…why wouldn’t you? Anyway, to each his own I guess. (Of course I mostly don’t play RTSes- bought SC2 hardly played it)

    • Sam C. says:

      I (partially) agree with battles_atlas: most times I’ve tried an RTS online, 9/10ths of the experience is terrible – can’t find an open game with an acceptable ping, wait around in a start lobby until there are enough people, then start the game and have two or three immediately lag out or quit, then end up with stacked teams. If the host is losing, he’ll ragequit. Or once I’ve gotten into the game, the other guy wipes the floor with me in a matter of minutes. I don’t mind losing, but I like to at least feel like I have a chance. Part of the problem is that I’m not amazing at real time strategy games, but there have to be other players equally as bad as I am. The remaining 1/10th is exhilarating, but it requires a lot of waiting and time to mine that rewarding part. Maybe I just don’t have enough friends that play RTS games…

    • Jakkar says:

      Just to add another comment supporting this view; Yes, singleplayer is the fun of the RTS.

      In multiplayer there’s no time to appreciate complexity, no risk to force considered tactics, just manic Star Craft inspired zergrushes, and it’s an uncomfortable, annoying experience, almost invariably.

      I’ve only enjoyed a multiplayer RTS while playing organised private matches with friends, respectful, tactical engagements without the ‘SPAM EVERYTHING HARUGARHGHRHR’ mindset ruining the complexities the developers worked so hard on.

      I know exactly what the above commenter means when he says you have to be sadistic, autistic, or incredibly laid-back to enjoy it.

      Either obsessed with winning, autistic as in able to focus on tiny details and take pleasure in micromanagement beyond any reasonable level to ensure success, or laid back enough to just not give a fuck that you’ve been steamrolled for the last 3 hours without a single success, unless you’re willing to ‘join ‘em’ by becoming obsessive.

    • perestroika says:

      single player for me too. or as least, include a deep editor like so we can make our own single player campaigns and such. i find multiplayer too repetitive on strategy games, and whenever i want to play some multi with others, i just do some quick deathmatch games and thats it [yay for quake live].

    • destroy.all.monsters says:

      I’m vastly more concerned about the possibility that turtling and defense will be unworkable (from what I see in the video) than whether there’s a single player story mode. As long as there’s single player skirmish and you can do some major base building I’m happy.

      Although I’d certainly enjoy a well done SP story mode.

  2. Barman1942 says:

    For some reason post-apocalyptic and RTS just don’t seem to mix well to me. The whole appeal behind post-apocalyptic games, to me, is surviving on your own out in the wastes, like Fallen Earth or, of course, Fallout. But that’s just my personal preference, I’ll give this a go, see if it’s good enough to change my mind on the genre.

    • Wilson says:

      @Barman1942 – I know what you mean. For me, it would be the fact that post-apocalyptic suggests a collapse in conventional command structures etc. You might well have a band of soldiers, who would still have access to a variety of military vehicles, but there would be a lot of variation in the individual quality of those vehicles, or what weapons they have, and stuff like that. RTS games can’t reflect that kind of thing very well. Generally all vehicles a side can build in an RTS have to be the same, you don’t tend to see randomised vehicles in RTS games (even only visually randomised) and this takes away from the feel of post-apocalyptic for me. You might have a scavenged flamethrower truck held together by duct-tape, and that’s cool, but when you can build 50 of them and you see them in every game, that isn’t something made of left over bits and pieces, it’s mass produced.

    • Jakkar says:

      Good point. Hard to imagine people signing up so easily. This level of organisation, obediently following orders, signing up for click-quick recruiting just doesn’t fit in this setting.

      Half the battle should be trying to get people to listen to you, in such an anarchic place and time.

      The setting is far more suited to a deep RPG, exploring human emotions and interactions.

      Nonetheless, any Post Apoc is good for me ;)

  3. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    I think this looks quite interesting, but I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic worlds. That said, I don’t like the focus on multiplayer, but if they manage to produce entertaining singleplayer skirmishes, I might be tempted to buy it. For now, I’m waiting for impressions by some of the beta testers.

  4. Pinky G says:

    32 player and team free for all! Fantastic. Customised small groups of units! Cool. I also like the idea of limited ammo as it suits the after-disaster setting. Good call ignoring mutants, personally prefer this.

    On paper, I am very excited by this game. As Wilson has pointed out, vehicles need to have enough customisation opportunites to make your army feel unique. Maybe a very simple unit editor that a player can fiddle with before the game starts so that when your dune buggy is actually made in the game, it has the colours etc you have already chosen?

    Good luck guys! Hope this does well!

    • Pinky G says:

      Ive realized that wont work because you need colours to distinguish each players army. Anyway this and Oilrush still have me quite excited.

  5. monkehhh says:

    Hope they got my email verified for the beta, I click the verify link and get “Server Error – Entry already exists”. I’m not too into traditional RTS, so colour me interested for this.

  6. DigitalSignalX says:

    Apox’s simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know you won’t break the rules, because there aren’t any.

    Needs a single player campaign.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Signed up for the Beta. This interview is the first I’ve heard of this, but it sounds like it could be interesting. Whether it would work out or not is still yet to be seen of course, but I like the ambition behind it.

    Looking forward to some 32-man RPS games in the Beta.

  8. destroy.all.monsters says:

    I love all the hulks of vehicles all around. If it lets you go to town with repair kits fixing them up a la Men of War/SHOWW2 I will be all over this thing.

    “Oh there’s a bunch of destroyed helicopters? Fix them!” etc.

  9. Spacewalk says:

    I was such a fan of KKnD so seeing post apocalyptic and RTS mentioned together has made me interested in this.

  10. WindowsGamer says:

    I am disheartened to see this post title lacks the obligatory Shakespearean pun

  11. Seb says:

    Personally, as a player of the original Trash, the whole game is best focused on multilayer.
    Those of you who have played Starcraft II, including myself, notice the massing of particular units, with Mark as the director, he should keep the same line that trash did, making it so that everyone used a fair amount of each unit, because countering plays a huge part. It takes a lot of strategic planning once you see one guy massing one type of unit and you can easily beat someone who only makes one unit.
    This is pretty much a whole new game itself, it is hard to compare with past games that you played, it is so unique in its own way.

  12. Dynki says:

    I play this game all the time, it is super! Addictive!