Interview with James Petruzzi of Discord Games
Tell us a little bit about yourself/company/team?
Discord was formed in 2009 by life-long friends James Petruzzi and Tim Dodd. Our original intention was to kill time, and have fun creating stuff. At some point we realized we had a shot at doing something really cool and unique, so we put our heads down and started working on what was to become Take Arms.
What made you decide to use the XBLIG platform for your game?
I think both of us have always wanted a game on a console, and XBLIG is the easiest path to that. No publishing deals, devkits, etc. are needed. It’s an awesome platform, just a shame it isn’t a little better managed.
What was the biggest hurdle in getting this game finished?
Our own inexperience was a huge one. We learned a lot of hard lessons over the two years of development. The only other big hurdle I’d say was making a multiplayer game for a locked down platform. On PC, its very easy just to put a build on your website and have people help test. With this, not only do you need an Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Gold, but also an AppHub membership. This cuts down your possible testing audience to a great degree. I know we’re one of the few that have experienced this, since most games focus on single player and have multiplayer as an after-thought.
Do you have plans to continue developing games for the Xbox 360?
Our plans for the moment are to keep supporting Take Arms, and help build the community with free content updates. We feel there’s a shot at getting a real niche community started, so we’re going to work at it.
How does it feel to know that your game was chosen by your peers and community?
It’s awesome! We’re proud of what we were able to accomplish, and are happy that others feel it’s relevant and well-made as well.
What games directly influenced your game, both positive (wanted to mimic) and negative (things you didn’t wants players going through or feeling)?
We’ve both been playing games for over 20 years, so there was a lot of games to look back on that we love for inspiration. I’d say the platforming elements were influenced by the smoothness of Symphony of the Night, the shooting and aiming by Shadow Complex, and the multiplayer by Call of Duty and Battlefield. We also studied general design principles of games like Half-Life 2, Unreal Tournament, and Team Fortress to make sure things were smooth and polished. We didn’t want anything to be clunky or annoying, so we put a lot of thought into minimal input from the player for navigating menus and sessions, minimal messages to the screen, and so forth.
How did you get into making games?
Tim’s been playing around with VB and other languages since high school back in the late 90s. I was more of a late bloomer in that regard, sometime after college I realized I wanted to do something more challenging and started programming with scripting languages. He helped me get started, and then we both started tackling C#. It’s been a long process of probably 5 years or so to get where we are now from almost scratch.
Do you feel your final product fully reflex the vision you had in your head?
Yes, and then some! We never imagined the graphics would be nearly this good, or the gameplay so smooth and fun. It’s kind of funny because just yesterday we pulled up the design document from last year, and the final product is very close to what we originally wrote down. We had to make some changes along the way, but I’d say we definitely accomplished our goal and then some!