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Hydrophobia: Prophecy interview

On May 9, 2011 by Aaron Meehan

Earlier this week SGGamingInfo staff member Chris had a chance to talk to Rob Hewson Senior Creative Designer at Dark Energy Digital about the company and their upcoming Hydrophobia: Prophecy which is going on sale today on Steam.

Here is the Full Interview:

Q1:Can you start by telling us who you are and what you do at Dark Energy
Digital?

I’m Rob Hewson and I’m Senior Creative Designer at Dark Energy. I work
with the Creative Directors to help deliver the project vision and lead
up the design team working closely with the Lead Level Designer and
other team leads. As we’re a small independent developer I get to do a
huge variety of things, from building the game websites and interacting
with the community on forums to creating new concepts and working on
designs for better game building tools. I love my job!

Q2:Can you give us a quick over view of how the company started?

Well I wasn’t around back then, but my understanding is that a couple
of games industry executives, a Phd Astro Physicist and a world class
programmer walked into a bar and one of them said “Shall we start a
independent games development studio?”. The others looked at each other
and simultaneously replied “Hell, no. Are you crazy?”

Then the first got the rest of them really drunk until they finally
agreed and the rest is history. Something like that anyway.

Q3: The Hydro Engine looks very impressive. Was it a hard task to create
the engine?

That’s where the Phd Astro Physicist comes in. He’s probably the most
intelligent man I’ve ever met, and his unique equations delivered us a
fast, stable fluid dynamics engine for games. As far as we’re aware
we’re still the only developer with this technology.

In all honesty the really hard part came in building a game around the
technology. Free-flowing, physics driven water which is completely
dynamic and emergent presents a very unique set of problems for game
designers. The behaviour never repeats in the same way twice, so dealing
with that and making unique and compelling experiences around it was
where the real fun began.

We’re really happy with the results though – Hydrophobia Prophecy is
utterly unique thanks to all that hard work.

Q4: How did InfiniteWorlds help create the world for Hydrophobia?

We looked at using other engines but they just were not flexible or
efficient enough for what we wanted to do with Hydrophobia, so like the
utter lunatics that we are we set about building our own engine. We
approached this in a very unique way and had 3 basic goals:

a.. We needed a new, more efficient way of working which allows a
small team with a modest budget to deliver a high quality action
adventure
b.. We needed something very flexible to help us rapidly prototype a
new kind of gameplay around the dynamic HydroEngine water
c.. We needed the engine to deliver a big game for a tiny file size
footprint to help push our vision of digital delivery

So this was where the world class programmer came into play. He created
the InfiniteWorlds system to allow for live editing on the target
platform for much more efficient and rapid prototyping and with a
centralised data server structure so that everybody in the company
always has the latest game state and can work in the same areas at the
same time.

What we now have is a hugely powerful editor and engine which allows us
to work efficiently and with great agility in close partnership with the
community. The turn around of Hydrophobia Pure and now Hydrophobia
Prophecy shows this in action – and it’s going to become even more
revolutionary moving forward with Darknet (the in game Dev Feedback
system).

Q5:Did you know that you wanted to make Hydrophobia before you started
work on the engine?

Yep. Essentially InfiniteWorlds was built from the ground up to enable
us to build Hydrophobia. In the early days we were designing the game
while the tools were still being built, so it’s been a long and painful
process but now we’re in the position we wanted to get to and can move
forward with great purpose.

I sometimes make the analogy of wanting to make a blockbuster movie and
having to build your own cameras from scratch because the ones that
already exist don’t do the job you want the way you want to do it. It
seems like madness but once it’s complete you don’t have to build the
camera again.

Q6:Can you tell us a bit about Hydrophobia from its original launch and
then Pure to where it is now?

The original launch was flawed – we’re very open about that. It had
been that long process of building the camera and trying to shoot the
movie at the same time, and there were teething problems with the game
as a result. However once we were able to step back and take a breath
and look at where we had got to we knew we could quickly react and the
tools were ready to deliver.

What we did with Pure was actually a technical tour de force
demonstration of InfiniteWorlds. All those fixes, changes and
enhancements done in the space of a couple of months with a small team
and within a tiny 4mb patch! That is where the procedural technology of
the engine really gave us a huge advantage.

We also decided to open up and listen to our players and critics – we’d
had our noses to the grind stone for years and it was really uplifting
to engage with our fans. I can’t begin to tell you how overwhelmed and
humbled we were by the reaction to Pure and the Listening Post. It
really helped to pick us back up and drive us onwards to deliver the
experience we’d always wanted to.

We took all the feedback from the Listening Post and we thought you
know what? Even though Pure had a positive response, let’s not just port
it over, these guys deserve for us to work even harder to respond to
their feedback. That was the inspiration behind Prophecy and the Darknet
Dev Feedback system we built into it. We are really proud of the result
and really excited about working with the community in the future.

Q7:Finally after Hydrophobia Prophecy will we see more games set in this
universe?

Absolutely. This is just the beginning, the genesis of the Hydrophobia
journey. We really can’t wait to show you where we’re taking it next.

A big thank you to Rob Hewson for taking the time to talk to us.

Hydrophobia: Prophecy is available on Steam from 6pm GMT for €8.49 which is a special offer and once the offer ends the price will increase to €9.99.

Click here if you wish to purchase Hydrophobia: Prophecy

If you want more info on Hydrophobia: Prophecy check out the official website


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