Dan, from Data Realms, talks about developing Cortex Command, 2009 IGF Winner for Technical Excellence
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Interviewer: I’m at the IGF Main Competition and the GDC and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Dan: This is Dan Tabar of Data Realms. I am the Development Director and Programmer of Cortex Command.
Interviewer: What’s Cortex Command about?
Dan: Well, it’s retro game that has a very detailed physics engine. We are using the vast computing power that we have these days to make every particle on the train have some material properties and every piece of shrapnel flying around can actually hurt your guy, so it’s got a lot of emerging game play and it’s the same bucks you kind of [inaudible].
Interviewer: Can you talk about being nominated for technical excellence? Why do you think that was?
Dan: What was that?
Interviewer: It was nominated for technical excellence. Why do you think that was?
Dan: Pretty much, hopefully, for the physics. It adds a lot of fun to the game play, and a lot of unexpected things happen that we as designers could not have foreseen or deliberately put in the game. Every time you play something else crazy happens and is new and fun and interesting.
Interviewer: How is this different than some of the other physics engines that are out there that are open source?
Dan: Some of the other what?
Interviewer: How is this different than some of the other physics engines that are out there in open source?
Dan: So, this engine was built by me. It’s completely pixel or bit map-based, and I couldn’t really find anyone else who has done it in this way in this level of detail, so I kind of had to figure it out on my own. It’s different in the way that it’s not using polygons. It’s all bit map collision, and it’s my own home brew crazy system that I never want to make again.
Interviewer: How did you go about developing this? Where did you find the information or inspiration to actually get the physics down right?
Dan: It was mostly trial and error on my own. I just thought about the problem I was having and tried different solutions and came up with something. It was very time consuming, but it’s been a rewarding process that has been a really great learning experience.
Interviewer: How long ago did you submit this to the IGF? Can you talk about that more?
Dan: I’ve been submitting this for five years now, I think. I might have lost count of it which should tell you that it’s been a while. I kept doing it because it’s been a great deadline to work toward, and every year you get motivated to submit another build. It’s just been great in terms of PR as well. Even though you don’t get nominated, you get listed on the entrants’ page and you get some good quality traffic from there.
Interviewer: Why do you think it was selected this year over last, and what was your response when you finally got an email about it?
Dan: Well, I think it’s because there’s an actual game on there now. Before, it was barely a tech demo and now there’s actual game play. We kind of polished it up and produced it to the point where people can appreciate and see what the final product is going to end up being. My thoughts, it just hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m still so tired and half drunk this whole week. It’s going to be probably next week before I realize how cool this is, but, I mean, it feels great but it hasn’t really hit yet.
Interviewer: And you guys won the audience award. Why do you think that is? Talk about emerging game play, is that it?
Dan: That’s all about our fans, our community of Data Realms fans that have been with us for years and years. We have a fan forum that has been vibrant, and people made mods for our game for a long time. I made one blog post asking people to check out different games and vote for whichever… And we hoped they would vote for Cortex Command if find to be the best one. We got a lot – they voted.
Interviewer: How are you developing a community here and can people download it?
Dan: Yeah, you can download it from our website today and play it and even buy it. It’s not complete yet, but you can buy it for a discount and you get all the future updates for free without paying more, so the website is datarealms.com or cortexcommand.com. That’s also where you will find our community forum and stuff.
There’s tons of mods to download for it and just go check it out. Have fun. Join the community and play around.
Interviewer: Great. Any last words then for indie game developers who want to make a game?
Dan: Yeah, just have a lot of perseverance. If you get sick of your project, just put it on the back burner for a while and come back to it later. If it’s a good enough project and you are passionate about it, there’s no need for you to stop working on it.
Interviewer: Great. Thank you very much.