The Tuesday Interview – Straylight Studios
The team behind Sanctus Reach stops by for a chat ~
Boggit, 28 March 2017
Gordon, Kimberley, Mark, and Alex thank you for agreeing to talk to Grogheads about Sanctus Reach.
Tell us something about yourselves. Slitherine mentioned to me is that you are all from Elgin in Scotland, and all have previous video game industry experience – but this is your first big project together.
That’s the gist of it. We came to Elgin from all over the country for work where we met and became friends. We’ve all worked on all sorts of different projects over the years and collectively have 20 years of experience, but this is by far the biggest and most challenging project any of us have undertaken.
When did you become interested in gaming, and how has this influenced your gaming taste and preferences?
We are all traditionally gamers. We all played games as soon as we were able to interact with them. We all have different tastes and between us we have hundreds of hours in almost every genre of game spanning the last 3 decades. We have noticed a trend where there has been a bit of a dilution in gameplay in recent games where art and gimmicks trump solid gameplay. We wanted to make a game that looks good and would challenge you and reward you based on your skill and decision making.
Why did you decide to design and produce Sanctus Reach?
We were given a wide range of material to choose from in the initial stages of pre-production. We did a lot of research into different armies, scenarios and stories and no matter what armies we chose, there would be disappointment among people whose favourite armies weren’t picked. We settled on Sanctus Reach because it captured our imagination as gamers and artists. We wanted to take on the challenge of reproducing the detail that’s oozing from each Space Wolf unit and the Heroes and Villains of the story and encasing it all in gripping gameplay.
Kimberley, it’s not common to see a lady breaking into what has sometimes been perceived as a male oriented hobby. As a female game developer have you encountered any particular challenges, and what advice do you have for any other ladies considering a career in game development?
I haven’t encountered any challenges from being a woman, the challenge has definitely come more from being an artist. In High School they didn’t think it was a viable career, in art college they didn’t consider concept art for games as “art” and they didn’t know you could draw on a computer. I’ve always been determined that this is what I want to do. If you’re focused and determined then I feel that gender doesn’t matter. Everyone I have encountered has been professional with me. My advice to anyone considering a career in games development is to just ‘go for it’, and don’t let anything stop you.
Tell us about the design philosophy behind Sanctus Reach?
First and foremost, fun! We also wanted it to be easy to play but hard to master.
What do you see as the most exciting aspects of Sanctus Reach?
Do you mean development or gameplay?
As developers, the most exciting thing is seeing all the aspects of our hard work come together and getting the feedback from players. This combined with coming up with new ideas to push the game further.
Regarding gameplay, the most exciting aspects are the battles that are neck and neck. You’re unsure of the outcome, there’s some back and forth. You lose a good unit but make up for it by taking out the enemy’s one. The match becomes a roller coaster of emotions as you battle to the end and finally emerge victorious against the odds. It’s a great feeling!
Has the game engine reached final development, or will you develop it further from the Warhammer 40K universe adding new rules, weapon systems, factions, and campaigns etc?
We feel like this is only the beginning. We have lots of plans to add new content, variations on gameplay and ideas to give the player more control over their experience. We want to continue to push it further, but nothing can be announced at this point.
Tell us about the moddability of Sanctus Reach with the game editor? I know it is early days, but have you had much feedback from the modding community?
The engine is very mod friendly. We had our first texture mods within the first week of release! We also recently ran a competition where players submitted their own designed levels, a player even modded the scripts to give all the marines different abilities from the base game. It was brilliant to see and we’re looking forward to what players will do with it in the future. It gave us a huge buzz!
What was the biggest design challenge in converting Sanctus Reach from table top Warhammer 40K to a digital format? How did you resolve it?
Making sure the units and weapons behaved in a manner table top players would expect, while not copying the tabletop rules was a big challenge. It took a lot of testing to find that sweet spot and we are still balancing things now.
I can see that Sanctus Reach could be a lot of fun multiplayer, but a lot of people in the community prefer to play their games single player. Tell us about the AI in Sanctus Reach, and the sort of challenge the game presents in single player mode.
The AI is being improved all the time, but the initial focus was on the Ork AI. We have lots more planned but in the initial campaigns you will face overwhelming numbers of Orks and a progression of tougher enemies to deal with.
What potential do you see for new DLC?
The skirmish that took place in the Sanctus Reach system was big and bloody with a number of additional races. The story certainly doesn’t end with ‘Blood on the Mountain’ and the brave Space Wolves. The Orks have their own personality and story to tell. With the Astra Militarum and the vile chaos daemons there’s a lot of interesting avenues to explore.
If you could make any game you liked, what would it be and why?
We all have individual tastes within Straylight, but we would love to reach a stage where we can develop our dream games. We see a great future with Games Workshop and there a number of interesting boxed games which would be dream projects.
Do you have any personal favourite games?
Straylight is a melting pot of different tastes; it’s safe to say we enjoy most genres: strategy games, retro gaming, FPS titles and the recent VR craze is also pretty interesting. To name a few titles though: Warhammer 40k: Chaos Gate, Overwatch, S.T.A.L.K.E.R series, X-COM series. The list is endless!
Now that Sanctus Reach is released what is next for Straylight Studio?
We want to continue pushing ourselves as a team towards the production of our next title but Sanctus Reach still requires support, and we’re fully devoted to DLC creation. Our devoted community keeps us on our toes!
Is there anything else you think our readers should know about Sanctus Reach or Straylight Studio?
Slitherine have been incredible to work with and very patient with us from the very start, creating the game we felt the fans of Warhammer would truly love. We too are huge fans of Games Workshop, with a deep history and understanding of the game, and that really paid off. There’s a lot to do, but we can’t wait to unleash the future updates to the public.
Thank you for making the time to answer my questions, and for sharing your thoughts with Grogheads.com.