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.
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.