Takedown: Red Sabre was a game I was personally excited about since playing it at E3 2013 earlier this year. I came from the Rainbow 6 school of gaming, I'm talking old school Rainbow Six 1 on the PC. Hardcore tactical shooters have a certain satisfying appeal and there is a large audience around them - so much so - that Takedown was successfully Kickstarted earlier this year.
But the game has had a rough launch, the 360 version was delayed and the PC version has been plagued with connectivity issues and other complaints. We were given a chance to talk with Christian Allen, founder and creative director of Serellan about the launch.
Co-Optimus: The PC version launched on time, but the Xbox 360 version had a small bug that had to do with certification. That said it seems the PC version has quite a few connection issues, are you confident these won't be prevalent in the Xbox 360 version when it launches?
Christian Allen: The certification issue on Xbox 360 was related to correct messaging to the player when they have been disconnected from live. However, as you said, PC gamers have had connection issues that we are currently working to address in an upcoming update. Because Xbox360 and Steam utilize a different networking backend, we do not believe these issues are related to each other.
Co-Optimus: It's obvious the Kickstarter and its backers helped influence the creation of Takedown: Red Sabre. The term "hardcore" is thrown around quite a bit, and the game definitely has that appeal. That said some small OPTIONAL additions could have brought newcomers more gently into the mix (UI additions, objective indicators, lesser recoil, hit indicators, etc). Is this something the team is considering?
Chris: There may be some changes based on gameplay feedback however we are not going to be changing the core of the game, such as reticules, in-game kill notifications, etc. We are looking to gather feedback from the larger player base however any improvements we are looking to address will be based on improving the core gameplay experience, not changing it.
"Optional" additions can always be a double-edged sword, for any game, but especially with a small team like ours. I like to say that options cost 150% of the work with 50% of the use (if that). By adding options for things like easier play, you can fragment your player base and/or introduce unintended consequences, or bugs. Any work we put towards something like that takes away from core improvements or fixes that can be made.
Our game is meant to be challenging, it is built for an audience who has been underserved for years. Some people will not like that. There are other games that will have us beat in the "easier" gameplay arena with budgets 100x ours.
In SINGLEPLAYER sometimes this happens.
Co-Optimus: The interface feels very console heavy. There's a lack of options, the way the keypresses are designed for confirmation are clearly designed for a gamepad. Can we expect more graphical options to tweak how the game looks and plays and some improvements for mouse and keyboard users?
Chris: Again, we are gathering feedback on this and will be looking at it in the future, once critical issues have been addressed. We plan to publish a tweak guide for PC gamers that want to get the most out of their machines. It is much faster and more responsive to give gamers the information to tweak the game themselves than it is to wait to code in UI implementation of these items, so that is our first step.
Co-Optimus: Were you surprised by the number of connectivity issues people have been having? I know personally I haven't been able to play with any of my friends either via Steam or using DirectIP connect. Will the first patch hopefully resolve a lot of these?
Chris: Unfortunately we were, especially coming off of the closed alpha with Kickstarters (about 5,000 people) where there were a very low number of reported connection issues. There is a combination of issues at play that we did not anticipate that we are working to address. One example is that in the alpha, and subsequent testing builds, the default executable ran the appropriate WIN (32 vs 64) version, however in the release on Steam it was defaulting to the Win32 executable. In our upcoming update, the game will properly choose which version to run based on your system and in our test cases that is helping connectivity a lot. We are also looking at more Steam integration which should make finding amd successfully joining games much easier.
Co-Optimus: As hardcore as the game is, the AI at times can be pretty stoic. I know I've seen a lot of folks complaining about it, is it something Serellan plans on improving?
Chris:Yes, it is. In fixing a last-minute bug of weapon sounds not propagating to clients in the game, we accidentally affected the AI hearing certain sounds. After the reports this weekend, we traced this issue will be addressing this in an update.
Co-Optimus: With the launch what's the one thing you are most proud of? What's the one thing you wish you could have done differently?
Chris: I am proud that we stuck to the core values of the gameplay and throughout the Kickstarter and development process we did not bow to pressure to change the fundamentals of the vision. People don’t really understand the opportunities we had last year to change that vision (free-to-play, mobile, etc.), but we only pursued opportunities that support the core vision and released a project that supports them. It was anything if a monumental undertaking and I will be forever proud of the team and the community for making it possible. Is it an AAA $100 million dollar shooter? No. But that is not what we set out to do. Trying to explain this to people is a challenge (and most don’t care anyways) but I am still proud that we went from nothing to a game that, at the very least, has brought about serious discussion about the state of the shooter industry in general.
As far as what I wish I had done differently, I wished I had started with $100 million dollars (no, I kid, well, not really). In all seriousness though, any game that you ship you look back and wish you had done things differently, whether design wise, development wise, or on the technical side of things. There are several lessons learned with how we tested builds that, in hindsight, we should have done differently and I take full personal responsibility for those. We probably should have also opened up the closed alpha test to a larger group to get a better range of PC configuration and machines in testing, however there was a strong desire to keep the early access Kickstarter exclusive. In hindsight, I would have had a staged rollout to get a broader test audience in the wild.
A small hotfix has just been released on Steam. While it doesn't fix ALL of the issues, it does address certain stability issues, possible connection issues, and removes the text to speech.
Here's the patch notes.
Fix List:Steam client launcher [PLAY] button will now launch a batch file that properly loads the 32bit or 64bit version of the game based on the player's Windows operating system. This should fix many connection issues. Added Steam Server list support. To view in Steam, Click View (from the top) > Servers > CHANGE FILTERS: Takedown Red Sabre. Note: we are currently working on a subsequent patch to even further increase the accuracy of the server information shown. Fixed certain player audio input from not being heard by enemy AI, causing unresponsiveness. TTS (Text-To-Speech) feature has been disabled due to player abuse.
A full patch is in testing now and will be released shortly. The Xbox 360 version should be out sometime this Fall. We'll have our full review of the game next week.