Ludocraft Explain Air Buccaneers HD

By Jim Rossignol on December 6th, 2011 at 4:06 pm.

Not a screenshot, obv.
It was time to find out a bit more about Air Buccaneers HD. So it was that we spoke to Ludocraft CEO Tony Manninen and asked him what they were up to. That investigation commences below.

RPS: Can you tell us a bit about Ludocraft – who are you guys and how did you come to be making mods and games?

Manninen: LudoCraft is a game studio located in Oulu, Finland. At the moment there is a 30 strong team working and playing in the studio. The total darkness of winter seasons and the total brightness of our short summers make us a bit crazy. Perhaps that’s the perfect recipe for game development. We develop various types of games, both for entertainment sector and for utilitarian purposes. This year we’ve shipped two iOS/Android titles, RoboFonics and AstroComet, but AirBuccaneers is our main project at the moment.

The origin of LudoCraft goes back in time for more than ten years. We started as a games research unit operating inside the chambers of university. Since we always loved developing games, instead of just studying them, we got into the habit of making all sorts of games. Many of them were weird and non-conventional prototypes for research purposes. At that time we challenged ourselves with various international game development competitions, such as, Make Something Unreal and Independent Games Festival. I suppose that was our way of benchmarking our skills as game developers. This is how the original AirBuccaneers was created, and we were really happy to receive excellent feedback for it.

RPS: What’s the story behind Air Buccaneers itself? Can you tell us a bit about the creation of the original mod?

Manninen: AirBuccaneers originated as a spin-off from another game project, eScape, we were working on back in 2003. At that time we decided to take part into Make Something Unreal Competition, but unfortunately we did not have any suitable designs for the competition. The first idea we got was to have airships equipped with cannons and then have two teams blasting each other to pieces. This idea immediately spawned the vision of having these majestic airships gliding gracefully through the skies, with their cannons roaring and crews sweating during the heat of the battle.

We expected relatively quiet reaction from the player community, because AirBuccaneers was not a mainstream game concept. Although it was somewhat related to the FPS genre, the gameplay and the whole theme was so different, that we thought it might be difficult for players to adopt. However, the game was interestingly different, it had very strong team game aspect and it offered huge scope for learning while the entry level was smooth and easy.

As it turned out, AirBuccaneers gathered a group of highly enthusiastic fans who enjoyed this type of more mature gameplay. Some people have been playing the mod for years, and it seems there still are LAN parties around the world where people play the original mod. We have been eagerly following the discussion around AirBuccaneers and waited for the right moment to revive the concept. Since we were a university team at the time of the mod, we did not have much chance in pursuing the further development of the game. Now things are different.

This is a screenshot, but a WIP one.
RPS: So why are you creating a new version of Air Buccaneers, and is this a commercial game?

Manninen: Based on the discussions and numerous emails from fans around the world, we decided that now is the perfect time to have sequel to the original game. I believe the concept is still brilliant, the gameplay is excellent and the hardcore teamgame experience it provides – and requires – would be welcomed by today’s gamers. The original mod is in many ways aged and there are many improvements we always wanted to make. Therefore, it is time to get a fresh start and develop a new version of AirBuccaneers.

The game will be commercial, although the pricing model and other money related matters are still under discussion. At the moment, we are working on getting the required funding to develop the whole game. We’ve managed to secure enough resources for the pre-Alpha, or even Alpha release, so the eager fans will have something to play with in the near future.

RPS: What can you tell us about Air Buccaneers HD? Will it be very close to the original game? Or something new?

Manninen: We try to capture the best parts of the original game, but there’s plenty of room for new development. There will be air balloons, cannons, teams and heavy northern imagery, but we’ll be throwing in some novel concepts as well. There are plenty of fresh talent in our team and they are eager to try new things with the game. Also, many of the features we are working on have been on our list since the original mod. Some of them were too ambitious to be developed by a ten member research team and some were not tested well enough. At the moment, we’ve been pretty loyal to the original concept, but eventually it will be the fans who decide where the game will go. As soon as we have the first public version out, we’ll start to collect more detailed feedback and concrete feature suggestions. There’s already a forum where people can submit their wishes and design ideas, so keep the feedback coming.

RPS: When do you expect to release the new game?

Manninen: We plan to release the game in phases. The first release will be something you might want to call a pre-Alpha or Alpha version. There will be a core set of features, but many of the art assets are still in development. Currently, the game is already playable, but there are some network issues and technological challenges that need to be overcome before people can play it outside LAN context. However, if Väinämöinen is not singing his final song before that, we are going to release the first public version of AirBuccaneers on December 2011 or latest on January 2012. The version 1.0 of the game will be finished by the end of 2012.

Best regards for all of the AirBuccaneers fans out there. Keep Buccaneering!

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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21 Comments »

  1. DarkWeeble says:

    Possibly THIS MONTH for an Alpha? Holy crap!

  2. SlyTheSly says:

    Yar ! I’m a former half-eyed musketeer, but I’m fully in !
    Air Bucaneers is back and this is awesome news :)

  3. Brumisator says:

    Woo! Finland!
    Two posts in one day about what I like to call “real life Skyrim”

    • affenkopf says:

      Only with less dragons and more depressed people.

    • gekitsu says:

      @affenkopf: even more arrows to the knee in finland than in skyrim? O.O

  4. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    That top screenshot is so unrealistic. The one place you wouldn’t stand would be directly behind the cannon as it fired, not unless you wanted your chest smashed in from the recoil. [/pedant]

    • Apostropartheid says:

      But the flying cannon platform bit didn’t faze you at all?

    • Durkonkell says:

      Immersion and the ability to suspend disbelief are strange things. If you know a little about how playing a violin works and then see Data playing in an episode of Star Trek, you grind your teeth and your eyebrows come down to a level somewhere under your nose. It doesn’t matter that it takes place on a starship travelling at thousands of times the speed of light, and that only a few minutes ago we saw someone broken down into their component atoms and reassembled somewhere else – playing a violin works in the same way in that fantasy world as it does in reality, so it has to look right.

      So if you’re using realistic looking age-of-sail cannon and there isn’t a clear reason why someone standing directly behind won’t get their chest caved in, it’s going to look and feel wrong for people who know about age-of-sail cannon.

      (I realise this is pre-alpha and everything could change).

    • Mijit says:

      But….but….if the cannon was securely fixed to the ship…..and…..and….we factor in that air is less dense than say water in turn significantly lowering drag coefficient of the ships lateral movement….then….maybe……it’d just rock the whole boat!

  5. limboing_leper says:

    So many huzzahs!

  6. Juan Carlo says:

    I like how RPS always insists on including “RPS: Thanks for your time” at the end of their interviews. It reminds me of when my highschool paper would do interviews.

  7. DizzyDoo says:

    On one occasion, with the original mod, I flew one those two person balloons with Kieron Gillen. We were dreadful. Kieron (arming the cannon) didn’t hit a thing. Then he walked off the edge of the balloon. I then crashed into some mines.

    Can’t wait to do it all again, fantastic game.

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  9. Warskull says:

    This is a pleasant surprise, the original Air Buccaneer mods was one of the more interesting participants in the make something unreal contest.

  10. Davee says:

    Whoop whoop! Yet another thing to look forward to in the holidays. :)

  11. Musey says:

    I think there’s a very real danger of them over designing this release – I’m of the opinion that that original Airbuccaneers was best before they added elements like the AI loader to make things more accessible. The greatest achievement of the mod was the stark contrast between the tranquillity of the floating airships, guns silent, and the frenzied shouts of their crews as they tried to organise the loading, aiming and firing of said guns.

    • Ogun says:

      ^ this.

      the original had a really unique atmosphere (not steampunk, trollpunk maybe), would be very wary of doing anything to change that.

  12. Josh W says:

    Never seen this game in action, only strangely empty servers. Never seemed to be in same the place as the people who knew how to play it. Any videos or writeups I could be pointed to to get a feel of the mod?

  13. NamelessPFG says:

    LudoCraft is still alive, and so is AirBuccaneers?

    I don’t think there’s anything that can convey the sheer JOY I am feeling upon seeing this. I remember how it evolved from its UT 2003 mod days and even had some epic balloon jacking moments back in the day (UT 2004 mod version 1.6), but the community then sort of died off, or so it seemed.

    If this HD redux is what it takes for people to take notice of such a unique, team-based game like AB, then I’m all for it. Hell, I don’t even mind if it’s commercial; this is one of the few games where I’m on the verge of saying “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”

  14. EthZee says:

    I liked this phrase:

    “heavy northern imagery”

    So I assume the loaders will all wear flat caps and each airship will carry a full complement of whippets.

    “Load the cannon, duck!” “Alreet, no worries pet!”

    Hee hee.