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Interview with Nabi Software

The CMP Game Group (producer of Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers. They saw how the Sundance Film Festival benefited the independent film community, and wanted to create a similar event for independent game developers as well as the student population of game developers.

I got a chance to chat online with two of the developers behind the all-out fighting game Toribash, which was nominated this year for Design Innovation.

Who are you and how were you involved in Toribash?

Kristian: Well, I'm Kristian Saether, 30 years... guess I've been involved since Hampa only had Toribash in his head, so Hampa is a close friend since back in the days. I started off as beta testing... then work accelerated with the growth of the project, from minor graphic stuff, to the website, forums, trailers and so on
Hampa: I am Hampus Soderstrom, 32 years... I started the project and do most of the coding

Congrats on your IGF nomination. What made you enter Toribash into the IGF?

Hampa: Being the biggest and most well known game festival for indies it was natural for us to enter. I also think that it will be a good opportunity to meet up with publishers, press and other game developers

Is this your first game or have you guys done previous work in the industry?

Kristian: For me, it's the first real game project. We worked together on other projects but this is our first real game project

Have you guys always wanted to make games or was there another reason for switching careers?

Hampa: I think a lot of programmers have a dream of making games.
Kristian: I've day-dreamt about working in the game industry for a long time; working full time on Toribash this year was an unexpected opportunity... So i guess a bit of a dream come true, yes
Hampa: I do not see it as a career switch though since making odd programming projects is what I do. Toribash being the most successful to this date.

Have you guys always lived in Singapore? Is there anything you feel it offers you towards game development?

Kristian: I live in Sweden :) We have a part time coder who is in Spain also, so I guess we're quite international
Hampa: He is Spanish, living in Belgium :)
Kristian: Even better :D
Hampa: Yeah, Singapore is a great place to setup a game company at the moment I think. There are a lot of small studios working on their first games, there is an active community of developers and good support from the government who is going great length to try and boot strap a games industry here. I should also mention to that I have only been here a couple of years.

So with everyone so spread out - what ways have you found work best to communicate rapidly and keep everyone in sync?

Kristian: Well, both me and Hampa together with a lot of the mods and users from the forum hang out in #Toribash here on quakenet all day. So at least between Hampa and me, IRC works really good together with e-mail.
Hampa: Yeah, I think that being spread out is less of a problem than it sounds. The in-house jobs that I have done in the past you have to send emails, IM anyways even though your fellow programmer sits in the room next door.

So where did the idea for Toribash come from?

Kristian: Credits for the original idea is basically all Hampa's. I remember when he first explained the idea to me, it was really kind of hard to imagine what the game was gonna be like. I guess it wasn't until v0.1 came out that I truly understood the concept, and I was instantly hooked.
Hampa: Toribash is a combination of ideas, concepts put together. A process that happens by itself for me. When I first saw Porrasturvat aka Stairdismount I realized that my fighting game idea was doable.

Was the physics system tailor-built for this game or was existing software put to use?

Hampa: Toribash uses Open Dynamics Engine for physics. Even though we use ODE for physics there is a lot of tweaking and coding to make the engine do what you want. I develop on Unix and prefer my libraries to be open source. When I started I looked briefly at the other engines at the market, some which where and still are more feature complete than ODE. Them being closed source though is a show stopper for me

What was the most difficult aspect of developing the game in terms of transforming it from concept to reality?

Hampa: For Toribash it was to find a control mechanism of the characters. We did a lot of releases and tried different schemes without any success.

What is it about the current control scheme makes it suitable for the game?

Hampa: It is mentally simple. 18 joints with 4 different states that you can click on. All joints also behave the same way with only one degree of freedom. Previous schemes we tried where having ball joints for hips, shoulders and torso. It was really hard to find a control scheme for that without making the game look like 3d studio. Having a control scheme that only works on two button mouse also feel like a compromise.
Kristian: Yeah, for the average gamer, I guess its a bit different from most games, but it doesn't take long to get into, and since it's turn based the system makes it easy to learn your own moves and such.
Hampa: Having said that, Toribash is a very hard game to master.
Kristian: So with the current control scheme you can create an original move, then share the sequence of states for the joints, in an easy 1.2.3 kind of fashion. Check our forums for loads of tips on different moves

Were there any problems during development that you would like to share as a caution to other developers?

* Hampa thinks
Hampa: No, I can't think of anything specific

Perhaps instead something you do that you think eases problems?

Hampa: Pick a project that you think would be fun to work on after 3 years.

What was used to make the game and what tools aided in development?

Hampa: I use Vim as editor, gnutools for compiling and debugging. The game uses SDL for window handling, OpenGL for graphics, ODE for physics and SDL_mixer for sound. Toribash uses hampusDB as database backend

What's next in development for Toribash?

Hampa: We are working on a sequel that will bring turn-based fighting to the next level. The planned release is this fall

Well good luck to you guys at GDC this year, I'll see you at the conference

Hampa: Ok.. thanks for the interview
Kristian: I wont be able to make it there, but thanks :)

Interview conducted by Drew Sikora

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