Insurgency: Sandstorm Interview with Lead Game Designer of New World Interactive

One of the most anticipated FPS games of 2018, Insurgency: Sandstorm is in beta right now. So if you want to try it out, it’s possible. The game will be released on for PC on December 12, 2018 consoles release will follow up next year. But, today, we direct our questions to the Lead Game Designer of Insurgency: Sandstorm.

Insurgency: Sandstorm Interview

Here is our interview with Micheal Tsarouhas:

Furkan Sakoglu (Play4.UK): Hello. First of all, can you introduce yourself? What is your position at New World Interactive?

Micheal Tsarouhas (New World Interactive – Lead Game Designer): My name is Michael Tsarouhas, I am the lead game designer on Insurgency: Sandstorm which is currently in development by New World Interactive and will be released on Steam on December 12th 2018. As the lead game designer it is my job to work with the team to create, implement, and communicate new game mechanics and concepts. This can include balancing and designing anything from the user interface, weapons, mechanics, characters, voice over callouts, overall gameplay, etc. I spend a lot of time talking to team members to brainstorm new concepts, discussing with the team how to improve existing mechanics, creating documentation, and communicating to the team and community the changes we make. I also wrote and directed the voice over in the game, something I did in our previous titles. While in Insurgency 2014 I performed the voice over for every character, this time I only did the voice of the Security team’s Minigun Support helicopter pilot, which was a lot of fun.

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Furkan: Let’s dive into questions about Insurgency: Sandstorm. It’s the first game you are developing for the consoles. What is the main difference for creating a game for consoles than PC? Is it harder?

Micheal: This is our first game on consoles, yes, and it definitely has its challenges. There are all kinds of different certifications and official approval that you need from Sony and Microsoft to be on their platforms. It’s important that we get the game running smoothly on entirely different hardware as well as make sure the menu and gameplay experiences are smooth with a controller. This is stuff that we as a relatively small indie team are unfamiliar with, but are learning fast. Working with Unreal Engine 4 has been great and it makes things a lot easier. We have a lot more power and support from Epic to do things than we did previously with the Source engine, especially in regards to console. It’s also worth noting we have no plans on changing the overall experience on consoles, and that we are committing to ensuring it stays true to our vision. It just needs to feel good on a gamepad, which fortunately, it already does since even Insurgency 2014.

Furkan: I’m a fan of the first Insurgency. The game mechanics was so good, that I never seen that solid gameplay in any other FPS, and always dream about what if we had a story mode in first game. So, in Insurgency: Sandstorm, you make one. How you going to approach with narrative? What will the main “thing” about Insurgency: Sandstorm? What we can expect?

Micheal: Our story mode has unfortunately been cancelled for release, and we can’t say much more about it. We bit off a more than we could chew so to speak, and we did not accurately estimate the amount of resources required to make a story mode as we envisioned it. We will be exploring the story mode again post release. Right now we are committed to delivering a solid multiplayer experience and will be continuously updating that experience post release in free content updates.

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Furkan:  When we watch the gameplay videos or playing beta test, the first thing that caught our “ears” was the quality of sounds. Why it feels so natural and different even than multi-million dollars triple-A FPS’s? How you made it?

Micheal: Ah we appreciate hearing that, thanks! Our sounds have been made by a single sound designer, whose name is Mark Winter. He’s done a brilliant job with it, fully utilizing the power of Unreal 4 but also just being a virtuoso and expert in his own ability. Many people are surprised to hear we have a single sound designer given the quality of our sounds. One nice thing is that when a single person has that level of control, they can really plan and follow through with their own vision. I think this in addition to his natural talent allowed Mark to deliver some truly excellent audio. We also feel that the overall intensity of our gameplay contributes to the impact of the audio. When you hear a gunshot whiz by your head in an arcade action game, it doesn’t matter much because even if it sounds cool and realistic it will still take 10 bullets for you to die. Doesn’t feel very threatening or exciting to hear gunshots then, does it? But in Insurgency: Sandstorm, you know that one bullet might just take your life, and that if you die, your team will be that much weaker without you. That gets your blood pumping and makes the sound really have an effect.

Furkan: In multiplayer mode, did you plan to add more content eventually? Like maps, mods etc. And if you do, will they be free or are you going with DLC way?

Micheal: We plan on adding free DLC in the form of weapons, maps, cosmetic unlocks, voices, etc. And get ready cause we’ve already got some new stuff in the pipeline we think is really going to excite people. This free content approach is something we did for the original Insurgency for over three years. It’s important to us to not split the player base of course, so we don’t want to put these kinds of things into DLC packs where you can’t play with a friend because he has a map pack and you don’t. New DLC could also include new game modes, although we want to be generally conservative with those so as to not separate players and make sure our experience is strong in every game mode. We may also do paid DLC in the future, but there would need to be enough content to justify it. And it would probably be a separate kind of experience.

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Furkan: Will be there any microtransactions in the game? Like cosmetics, weapons, mods etc.

Micheal:  In the game right now, players level up as they play and earn “appearance credits” which they can use to select and unlock cosmetic items of their choosing. These items are cosmetic and not gameplay related; they are essentially just new clothing and gear. We are considering implementing a system post release where players can spend real life money to buy appearance credits as a shortcut and as a way to support us and our games. Microtransactions are a sensitive issue, especially in the past few years, so we want to communicate our goals on this very clearly. We feel this is a fair system because it does not offer gameplay benefits and none of the content will be locked behind a paywall. If players don’t want to pay, they don’t have to, because they can still unlock these purely aesthetic items just by playing the game.

Furkan: The graphics looks really ok. But animation wise, they surely need improvements. Will we see better animations eventually?

Micheal: The game is currently in beta for those who pre-order it on Steam, and much of the content is placeholder. This includes the animations. They are still being worked on and there will likely be even further improvements and additions post release. We are hearing everyone’s feedback on our character art in general and are making steps to improve the overall look of our characters. Not just in terms of animations, but in the quality of their textures, the detail of their equipment, etc. So you can expect things to change.

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Furkan: The optimization was not ok when you release the first beta, but after every patch, the game become more and more stable. How is the work going for the optimization process? 

Micheal: Work on optimization has been great. We are attacking optimization on a lot of different fronts. We’re employing a few different strategies in making characters and levels render more efficiently, and creating alternate video setting options for people on lower end systems. For instance, we have 3D scopes in the game, which need to render the world twice essentially: once through the scope and once outside it. Not many games do this because it is hard to optimize, but we feel it is great because it gives the player more visibility outside of the scope while aiming down sights. It also just looks damn cool. We are looking into making this system more efficient, but also provide a “low quality” scope option which makes the scopes render in a more traditional manner similar to other FPS games. This will result in a nice boost in performance.

Murat Oktay

Video games have been my passion for as long as I can remember. I have been writing and managing in the game industry for more than 30 years. I've been playing Diablo 2 nonstop since it first came out.

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