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Shadowgrounds Survivor Q&A
(hx) 07:52 AM EDT - Jul,03 2007

Finnish game developer Frozenbyte recently announced Shadowgrounds Survivor, a spin-off/sequel to the highly-acclaimed underground hit Shadowgrounds PC action game. GGMania got a chance to chat with Frozebyte's producer Joel Kinnunen to find out more about their plans for Shadowgrounds Survivor.

GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about what you do on Shadowgrounds Survivor?

Joel Kinnunen:
Sure. I'm Joel Kinnunen and I work as the producer on Shadowgrounds Survivor. My main job is to keep the team happy working on the game and making sure that the game gets done - so basically I try to keep the project together. We're a relatively small team, though, so I do lots of hands-on development also, mostly relating to making sure all new features, levels and art assets are integrated properly. I'm responsible for some of the marketing stuff and I also handle business
development duties at Frozenbyte, so every day is very exciting!


GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working on Shadowgrounds Survivor? Is the same team who worked on Shadowgrounds?

Joel Kinnunen:
Frozenbyte is growing and we have a couple of exciting new projects coming in the next few years and Shadowgrounds Survivor is the first one of those. We have grown a little bit in size and greatly in our ability to make great games. 2007 and 2008 are going to be great years for us.

The Shadowgrounds Survivor team is a little smaller than what we had  at Shadowgrounds' peak of development, but we are more experienced so we actually get more things done and at better quality. We have also injected some fresh blood into the team and that's been a real big help in terms of level design and storywriting. I think we have an optimal combination of experience and young eagerness working on the game.


GGMania: Were you pleased with the reactions that Shadowgrounds received?

Joel Kinnunen:
Yes. I think it's even more evident now. I keep a close eye on news comments that are posted everywhere on the Internet, and I couldn't be happier right now. Everybody is saying very positive things about Shadowgrounds and how they are looking forward to Shadowgrounds Survivor. Shadowgrounds was our debut game so I think it's understandable we made some small mistakes too, but overall the feedback has been positive and we're definitely hungry for more of that praise, so we're doing the best we can to make sure Shadowgrounds Survivor also becomes a great game.

GGMania: So, you have decided to create a sequel. What are the biggest gameplay changes in Shadowgrounds Survivor over the previous games in the series?

Joel Kinnunen:
We're calling Shadowgrounds Survivor a spin-off/sequel, which is our way of saying that it's going to be more than just an expansion or a simple sequel. We're building on the acclaimed gameplay of the original, and we have made a big improvement to the upgrade system, which now allows character upgrades as well as weapon upgrades. We also have two new gameplay features; the Sentry Turret and the Mech, which are fully controllable by the player at certain points in the game. Oh, and of course all the three playable main characters are totally new.

That said, we are not continuing the Shadowgrounds story directly, so we want to preserve the "Shadowgrounds 2" title for a full-blown story sequel that ties up both Shadowgrounds and Shadowgrounds Survivor. (And no, we're not working on that game right now.)


GGMania: What kinds of weapons and items will players be able to use in the game?

Joel Kinnunen:
We had a very good weapon arsenal in Shadowgrounds so we decided to bring back some, and add some new ones. Each character has their own
character-only weapons and each also has a special grenade. For example, one character has a very cool and extremely useful Tazer Grenade, which stuns the enemies momentarily from a large radius.

Perhaps the most exciting additions are the Sentry Turret and the Mech, which become controllable at certain points in the game. The Sentry Turret gives a great feeling of adrenaline when you're moving down enemy after enemy and it's something that I'm personally very thrilled about.


GGMania:  In the press release you mentioned plans for "RPG-like upgrade system for weapons and characters". Could you provide us some more detailed info about the RPG elements in the game?

Joel Kinnunen:
It builds on the upgrade system we had in Shadowgrounds with some drastic changes. Since we now have three characters instead of just one, we wanted to make each character unique. In addition to the changes in the weapon arsenal for each character, we have also added something completely new: character upgrades. There's a few normal ugprades that are available to all characters, like more health and so on, but each character also has some very special upgrades that are related to that character only. One of these special upgrades is a totally new gameplay mechanism/attack. More on this in the future. :)

GGMania: Tell us about the monsters that we will be finding in the game as well as to their AI.

Joel Kinnunen:
The player will face some familiar monsters and some new ones. In other interviews I've talked about the new Arachnoid enemy, which belongs to the same "monster family tree" as the original Arachnoid in Shadowgrounds. It's a menacing enemy and brings some new tactics and counter-tactics to the gameplay.

GGMania: I remember the original Shadowgrounds was pretty short. How many new missions will be there?

Joel Kinnunen:
The original was approximately 10 hours, give or take a few depending  on the experience level of the player and the difficulty setting. But yes, we've acknowledged this and I would say Shadowgrounds Survivor is slightly longer. We've got 20+ missions, and although they are shorter on purpose, it should make up for more than 10 hours of gameplay in the Campaign mode. And in addition, there's the Survival mode...

GGMania: The press release reveals the Survival mode. Could you provide us some details?

Joel Kinnunen:
Certainly. It's an integral part of Shadowgrounds Survivor. The gameplay fits fast-paced action very well so we decided to make a completely new game mode that is made especially for quick-fix action. In the Survival mode, the player faces hundreds of spawning monsters and he has to try to survive for as long as possible. The player can choose his character and some upgrades in the beginning, and start blasting away and try to make a new high score! It's very addicting and there's already some fierce high score battles going around in the office.

GGMania: I bet we can expect a huge improvement in graphics. What are some of the special effects you're proud of having in the game so far?

Joel Kinnunen:
We've improved the engine all-around and raised the overall bar for graphics. The biggest leap will probably be in environment design, though. We've got many new environments that look absolutely stunning. We've got proper height changes now also, so you can actually walk to a lower ground in the level.

GGMania: Do you plan native support for DX10 graphics hardware? What system specs will players need?

Joel Kinnunen:
The system specs requirements will be a bit more than for the original Shadowgrounds. No native support for DX10 unfortunately. We will do some other technical changes, though, like adding widescreen support directly to the Launcher (so players won't need to manually edit the configs now) and so on.

GGMania:
Currently what is the status of the current progress of the game and when can we expect to see it in stores?

Joel Kinnunen:
You can expect Shadowgrounds Survivor in stores in early October. We're currently putting the finishing touches on the missions and starting to polish them, and in general making the game "whole" in all aspects. Some small features are also being added currently.

GGMania: Do you plan to release a playable demo?

Joel Kinnunen:
Of course! A safe bet would be "around release date". I think a demo is very important these days, and it's no wonder. Personally I don't want to buy a game without playing it first, so a demo is essential to sales. I also think that Shadowgrounds and Shadowgrounds Survivor are games that players need to try out for themselves - we don't have a huge marketing budget so we probably can't get many impulse buys at stores. I'm also very confident that after trying the demo, a lot of gamers will buy the game also - just like happened with Shadowgrounds.

GGMania: What kind of support do you plan to provide for the mod community? Will you be releasing any of your tools?

Joel Kinnunen:
Yes. We experimented with mod tools with Shadowgrounds, and it was a valuable lesson. This time we're going to release the mod tools at the same time as the game itself. We've improved the tools quite a bit so it's now much more easier to create mods or single missions for the Survival mode. In fact, we may release the updated Level Editor with its brand-new building blocks to the current Shadowgrounds community prior to release of Shadowgrounds Survivor. Let's see!

GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you want to add that we didn't cover?

Joel Kinnunen:
I think we got it covered - stay tuned for more Shadowgrounds Survivor news. Thanks for the interview, very good questions!


genre: old-schoold shooter
platform: PC
release: October 2007
developer: Frozenbyte
publisher: Meridian4

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