We recently had the chance to chat with John Getty of Exato Game Studios about Guncraft Blocked And Loaded, which has just been released on the Xbox 360 Marketplace.
PA2J: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us John, So how did you come up with the idea to make Guncraft Blocked And Loaded?
It was a lunch conversation between two people on our team that I chimed in on. They were talking about Minecraft and how it just wasn’t their cup of tea because they just didn’t like the “make your own story” kind of game that it is. They then mentioned that it would be awesome to be able to just shoot people in the game. That’s when I chimed in and thought that sounded super fun.
I immediately started writing up the design doc and had a preliminary one that I pitched to my business partner. We both loved the idea and ended up cancelling the game we were currently working on to do Guncraft. We understood the greatness in the idea of Minecraft, but we were all objective-oriented gamers and that conflicts with Minecraft’s ideals.
We really enjoyed the idea of having a completely destructible world too. Not like Battlefield or Red Faction ~50-75% destruction, but true 100% destruction.
PA2J: It’s definitely a great take on an already popular game, my kids love Minecraft, I can never get them off of it, if they’re not playing it, they are watching it on Youtube.
Haha yeah, that reminds me of the South Park PewDiePie episode.
PA2J: So how long did it take to go from having the idea to actually having a finished game?.
We began in sept 2011, had our soft release in July 2013 and our Steam release Aug 2013. Now we have our Xbox release in July of 2015. Seems appropriate. Writing it out actually makes me realize how long this took to make… Wow.
PA2J: Its a really fun game though, worth the wait.
Thanks. I like to think so too.
PA2J: I love the different assortment of maps available. There are some really fun looking maps to play across.
You should see the maps on our Steam Workshop. Our community map makers blow us out of the water. Makes me a little sad that we can’t bring all the stuff on Steam Workshop over to the 360.
PA2J: So some of the Guncraft Maps are community made?.
Yeah, in game, if you see the “C” badge symbol in the map preview, it was made by the community. Erk and Buffdaddy were our top veteran mapmakers, but we had plenty of others who made awesome maps. You’ll see a good number of our community maps in the 360 version are from them.
PA2J: I think it’s great that you have a big selection of different and colourful maps to choose from.
People love variety.
PA2J: Was it a tough decision to choose which Maps you wanted to bring with you from Steam to the 360?
Not really, actually. Since we keep up on the maps pretty regularly, we had already done all the work on map selection for the PC version. We just brought all the PC maps over (plus exclusive 360 maps) that were compatible with the 360 version. We did lose a few awesome maps due to them being too big though. Pretty much every PC patch, we’d put in a new community created map as an official map.
PA2J: Do you think fans of Minecraft will take to Guncraft? I’m sure it will have peaked most fans interest.
Absolutely. It offers the creative parts that people love about Minecraft in our map, prefab, and gun editors and it offers something a lot of Minecraft players want: objective gameplay. Nearly every single person that come to our booth at expos are Minecraft fans that love the idea of having a shooter in a blocky, destructible world.
We had this one kid, about 12 years old, play Guncraft at our booth for 5 hours straight, that was his first experience with the game too.
PA2J: There’s a levelling system to the game, is there a limit to how high a level players can reach?.
Yeah, we took that idea from Call of Duty mostly as a way to slowly introduce players into the mechanics. One mistake we made with the PC version was throwing everything at the player at once. We thought they’d appreciate that, but mostly they were just overwhelmed. That and we had to change the model/skin editor from the PC version since player’s can’t design their own skins on the Xbox version.
The levelling system allowed us to come up with an unlockable aesthetics system and because we wanted it to be extremely customizable, to at least compare with the PC version, we gave it a TON of stuff. There are 50 levels per Re-Crafted rank and 10 Re-Crafted ranks plus the first one, so 11 in total. That’s 550 levels. You unlock a new aesthetic piece every other level for the entire 550 levels. Unlike CoD where you just re-unlock the same stuff every time you Prestige, you get new stuff for every version of our own Prestige.
PA2J: There’s a good variety of unlockable’s in the game then?.
Definitely, if you go to the character customization screen, you’ll see how deep it can be. The unlocks are all completely random too, so you will rarely see two players look even remotely the same unless they are rocking the default model.
PA2J: You have a wide selection of game modes to play with Deathmatch, Capture The Flag, etc, but you also have some pretty unique modes like Lava Survival and Paranoia, which are both pretty unique modes.
Paranoia and Lava Survival are my favourite. It takes a decently well coordinated/knowledgeable group to get a good game of Paranoia, but when you do, that’s when you have the most fun. In a 16 player game, it’s crazy fun and nerve-wrecking when players start baiting themselves to find out who the queen is, or the queen tries to isolate players to turn them without getting caught.
PA2J: I think a lot of games now tend to stick with the norm when it comes to MP but you have some really cool unique modes for players to experience and that will only add to the appeal of Guncraft.
Yeah we tried to stay away from the tried and true game modes, obviously you have to have DM/TDM/CTF, but there’s no reason to venture out a little when you have complete control over the environment. It would be wasted potential to not try new game modes.
PA2J: I really enjoyed playing Deathmatch Under The Sea. It just looked amazing with all the differing colours, actually felt a bit like something out of Finding Nemo or SpongeBob.
That’s what we were going for haha. That was one of the ones we designed to advertise our “Under the Sea” block pack.
PA2J: Guncraft has the added option of vehicles, which are a lot of fun to use, was it always the plan to add vehicles to the game?
Oh definitely we had to have vehicles, vehicles are just too much fun. Plus, the idea of having them wreck the environment was just too awesome to not include. You probably haven’t seen it yet, but the AC-1337 is the master of that, it has an automatic rocket launcher, machine gun, and heavy cannon that blows HUGE holes in the world. It’s our top killstreak.
PA2J: Once I worked out how to fly the chopper it was a lot of fun to take players out with, sadly as you could probably tell from my landing, I haven’t quite got that down. (Lands Helicopter on top of Johns turret)
Haha yeah, who needs to land anyway? Just bail out of the helicopter if you have to.
PA2J: So can you tell me a little bit about the other vehicles in the game?.
There is the helicopter, tank, hover bike, passenger bike, hover drone, and AC-1337, the tank is a two seater: One person drives and shoots the cannon, the other shoots a minigun. The hover bike is a single seater bike with a minigun and open cockpit so you can be directly shot while riding in it. The passenger bike is a hover bike, but instead of the gun, it has a second seat. Good for CTF or travelling from one side of the map to the other with another player.
The hover drone is a remote controlled flying unit. So you have to protect yourself as you can be shot and lose the drone. It can fly up in the air, but drops down without the throttle held. It has a minigun, is tiny and harder to see, low hp, and fuel. If the hp or fuel run out, it blows up. It’s great for killing teams in tight corridors. The AC-1337 is another remote controlled vehicle, but it is on rails. It flies around the outside edge of the map and you just mow people down with the three weapons I told you about: minigun, automatic rocket launcher, and heavy rocket launcher. It is a world destroyer and can absolutely decimate a level.
PA2J: I love the idea of killstreaks, rewards players and gives them extra incentive to go on the hunt.
Yeah, killstreaks are super fun. Something I enjoyed heavily about that franchise.
PA2J: What was the reason behind the 360 release, were you not tempted to go straight for the Xbox One?.
We wanted to, but the Xbox One doesn’t support XNA and the third party porting libraries aren’t ready yet, so we didn’t have a choice.
PA2J: So can players expect any future DLC for Guncraft?.
DLC, no. If we do anything like that, it’ll be free and included in an update. We did DLC for PC as an experiment and just weren’t super happy with the options we had for paid DLC. Just makes more sense to release it for free. Updates are all dependent on popularity. We would certainly update the game if people were continually having fun with it. I can’t really speak as to what will be in any updates, but I can say for sure that we’ll try to bring more maps over from Steam Workshop with new updates.
PA2J: Is there anything you would like to say to players that have either bought the game or are interested in buying Guncraft?.
I just want to apologize about the launch issue. I felt really bad about it when I found out how common it was. I have no idea how that slipped through our testing, the 3rd party testing we had, and MSFT cert. We hope everyone won’t hold it against us and realize that we are doing everything we can to get it fixed ASAP.
Massive thanks to John Getty for taking the time to chat with us. Guncraft: Blocked And Loaded is available now for the Xbox 360.