Published on January 30th, 2014 | by Andy King4
Q&A: HGR Talks To KillHouse Games, Makers Of Door Kickers
I was very taken with Door Kickers so much so I decided to reach out to it’s makers, KillHouse Games, and they were gracious enough to answer a few questions I had on the team, project and tactical games.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us at Honest Games Reviews. I must confess that I’ve seen Door Kickers ‘kicking around’ in my peripheral vision for a little while now but only after a colleague and I started to talk about it, did I really take a second look. I’m glad I did as it’s great fun. Easy to pick up and play, and difficult to master. First off, who are the KillHouse Games team? How did you all come together?
We’re a small bunch of experienced devs from Bucharest Romania. Having worked a long time for the big name studios here (Ubisoft, EA, Funlabs/Activision, etc) and getting annoyed with various aspects of corporate gamedev, we struck out on our own.
But the short story is we met during the development of Silent Hunter 5 – Battle of the Atlantic. The three of us are two very talented programmers – Mihai Gosa and Catalin Saitan, and me, Dan Dimitrescu, the game designer. We all wanted to work on fun, quality games and have a direct relationship with the public.
To that core team we quickly enlisted artist help, with Bogdan “Bodo” Petrica, Adrian Cruceanu and Giani Cojan being the guys that worked most of what you can currently see in the game.
Also we’re lucky that we have a bunch of friends and contacts we can depend on for contract work or help.
For those not familiar with Door Kickers, can you explain a little about the title and game style?
Door Kickers is a tactical game about SWAT teams going in buildings and rescuing hostages. The basic premise we started with is that any blueprint contains a lot of interesting challenges when plotting a “tactically sound” path for a SWAT team. And that we can make that into fun gameplay.
Its a simple and fast playing game and easy to get into. It puts your mind to work but lets you concentrate on the tactical choices, not on complicated interfaces or abstract concept like Action Points or hexes.
Note that we’re big fans of games such as Frozen Synapse, XCom (both the original and the new one) and turn based games in general, so the above is not a critique of the medium in general. We just feel that the fast, furious and sometimes chaotic nature of modern Close Quarters Battle is best represented in realtime action.
Don’t run away – since we’re not all SWAT commanders, you can pause at will and issue orders. And, in fact, we have players actually finishing levels in “hands-off” mode, starting with a perfect plan and not doing any micro during the execution run.
I am a child (veteran) of the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six games. Not so much of the recent outings, but the very original RedStorm tactical shooters of the late 90’s. To me, the game to me is very reminiscent of the “planning stage” of the first R6 game’s in which you set way points for your AI controlled colleagues and let them loose to victory – or miserable death. How much did these games influence Door Kickers?
That was a great game! I used to play Rainbow Six in hands-off observer mode, A LOT. I’d say that we’re very influenced by it and in fact the easiest way to describe Door Kickers would be “Rainbow Six planning mode made into a strategy game”. Which also means that my decaying shooter skills don’t matter so much and I can concentrate on “being smarter than the enemy :)”
What research did you do when making the game? Are the weapons and tactics you should (note to players: should!) use in the game based on real CQB scenarios or teams?
I’m one of those nerds that fantasises about Close Quarters Combat and special operations, so for the past 15-20 years I’ve been gathering knowledge on the subject. This involves reading books, watching documentaries and training videos, asking questions and snooping around. Its also very important to sit down and perform a solid personal analysis on “what tactics make sense and why they do”, not just absorb information.
But nothing beats actually getting out in the field and doing proper training with a real Counter Terrorism expert, and I am lucky to have one as a friend. Getting a feel of how various tactics and procedures actually work in real life is priceless, and so was watching my friend perform various drills with machine like precision and speed.
Coming back to Door Kickers, its based on a generic SWAT team located in the US, and the weapons reflect that. This also means that overly hazardous devices such as frag grenades are definitely out of the picture, though we do get requests for them about once a month.
For me SWAT4 and the early Clancy games were the pinnacle of the tactical game era. Why do you think over the recent years we’ve seen an almost complete absence of the tactical shooter? Are people finding them too complicated, too “hardcore” for mass consumption or are developers just trying to make the next Call of Duty?
I’d say the latter is the answer, though the truth is a little more complex. For sure its hard to watch the success and sale numbers of COD and not think that you can do the same with whatever big name military themed game you have on your portofolio… and when that big name is Tom Clancy, well, that’s got to sell a lot, right?
You start by just adding “wow factor” to the established formula but pretty soon you assume that all players need to be driven like cattle towards the next playable cutscene.
And since you can’t do COD-like Hollywood stuff without lots of time and money, this means that suddenly you need to sell a lot more, while still struggling to find your identity. Projects get rebooted and bills pile up, and a whole series gets canned as it cannot ever live up to its costs.
Back to the classic Tactical Shooter, of course it can be improved and made easier to play, but one should be careful not to dumb the core down, just to streamline the experience and make it easy to start and familiar for the “general public used to COD”.
Also people are spoiled – and not in the bad sense – by how easy it is to play a modern game and have fun with it. Most of us are no longer willing or feel happy to put up with the same stuff we did years ago – or don’t have time for it. If I may offer you a slightly off topic example, I played hundreds more matches of Company of Heroes than of Theatre of War. The effort to setup a game and have fun in TOW is so much greater, its just not worth it for most people. And if you can’t find opponents, how can you play?
Door Kickers is getting (deservedly) some very kind words said about it. How gratifying is it to receive this for a game that is still in alpha?
To put it short, its the drug that keeps us working day and night. The feedback we get is extremely positive but of course people taking the effort to buy a game in Alpha are 1) probably very enthusiastic about its idea and 2) willing to accept many issues, on the grounds that “they’ll get fixed later, don’t worry about those”. Which is correct.
The community is really rallying around the game and have suggested some new features, started to create new maps using the in-game editor and even working on mod’s (attack dogs!). Were you surprised by any of the comments/feedback you’ve seen so far?
Well, from time to time we poll the community so we can prioritize development. Very surprised to see extra large maps not high on popularity – probably explained by how fun it is to play the current maps, which are relatively small: Quickly make a plan, run it, fail and try again, all in the space of 3 minutes.
The title is still in alpha/early access on Steam but updates are appearing monthly. What are your future plans for Door Kickers? Co-op (or even adversarial) multiplayer? A bigger multilevel “The Raid” type map or new classes perhaps?
Alpha 8 – estimated at the end of January – will complete the class roster, adding the Shield trooper and also the Sniper, which is an off-map asset. We’ll then focus on squad development and the campaign engine.
Coop and then adversarial multiplayer will come in post release – not decided whether as a free upgrade or not – and there are plans for DLCs based on other nations SWAT-style teams.