Recently Joel Kinnunen from Frozenbyte was kind enough to take some time from his very hectic schedule to talk about their new release Shadowgrounds. I want to thank him and Steve at Meridian 4 for making this happen.

GVK:1.What is the background and setting for the game please?

JKJoel: Shadowgrounds is set in 2096, when mankind has created a nice colonization on Ganymede, the third moon of the Jupiter system. Wesley Tyler, the game’s hero of sorts, is an ex-security officer demoted to a mere mechanic, and he works at the outskirts of the colony. His dull life changes when the aliens attack. That’s the start of the journey that takes Tyler and his sidekicks to many different locations, including the colony base New Atlantis, abandoned mines, secret military bases, a crashed-down spaceship and many more.

GVK:2. What are some of the player types and their abilities

JKJoel: Only Wesley Tyler is a playable character but there are many important non-player characters who have a hand in the story. That said, there is going to be variation between players because the weapon upgrade system allows different play styles. More on that later.

GVK:3. What are some of the weapons players will be able to use and will vehicles be included?

Joel:JK: Now we’re talking! Shadowgrounds has an arsenal of ten weapons, each of which is very useful throughout the game. Even the Pistol has its uses in the later stages of the game, especially if it’s upgraded with some modifications. If I’d have to name three of the coolest weapons, I’d say the Flamethrower, the Minigun and the Railgun. I just love having a big alien barbecue, mow them down with a rain of bullets, or take a very careful shot and kill many aliens at once.

There are some vehicles used in the game world but the player won’t get to control them. Maybe some upcoming mods will do something with the vehicles… J

GVK:4., What are some of the creatures gamers will face and which is your favorite?

Joel:JK: There’s a myriad of creatures in Shadowgrounds, starting from small critters who are actually afraid of the player’s flashlight and try to hide from it, but eventually the monsters get a bit more courage and start coming at you with full force. I’m happy with our basic creatures but the real challenges come from the bigger monsters later in the game. My favorite would probably be the shrieking “Scythe worm”, which has the ability to turn invisible. Better keep that flashlight powered up because that’s the only way to see them! I’m also pretty fond of the Brutes, who are massive, stupid and very dangerous – and I love them for it.

GVK:5. How will weapons upgrades be handled?

Joel:JK: The player can collect upgrade parts from the levels, dropped by dead aliens. Weapons are upgraded in a separate screen, a bit RPG-like, and each weapon has three upgrades available. The player can choose them in a non-linear way. There’s a bunch of standard firepower upgrades and such, but I’m quite proud that we also managed to squeeze in a nice number of upgrades that really make a difference. My favorite example is probably the Flamethrower’s Fuel Trap, which allows the player to spill some fuel onto the ground and then ignite it with a single flame. Some other cool ones include the Minigun’s stand-alone Sentry, the Grenade Launcher’s Poison Grenades, and the Laser Rifle’s Pinpoint Laser that cuts enemies in half. And of course, what would an action game be without a nuke blast from the Rocket Launcher?

GVK:6. Being able to destroy ones environment is always a plus in a game, can you tell the readers please about how much collateral damage they can do in the game?

Joel:JK: There’s so much action going on in Shadowgrounds that something’s bound to break sooner or later. Usually the first ones to break or explode are the barrels (be careful with those red barrels!) and the crates, then a few small items, some shelves, bigger objects and finally some trees fall from the power of big explosions. Basically every item can be destroyed.

GVK:7. How involved will the A.I. characters be in the overall game and how many different ones are there for players to interact with?

Joel: JK: There’s a handful of important characters, including military officer Jane, Lieutenant Baxter, and the nutty scientist Dr. Weiss. They drive the story forward, and boost the game’s atmosphere (and provide some humor here and there). Some of the military people are able to help the player by shooting aliens but otherwise they try to keep out of the player’s way.

GVK:8. WWhat game engine are you using for the game and what are some of the features it allows you to include that are new to the genre?

Joel: JK: Shadowgrounds uses an in-house game engine. Over the years we have modified it to suit the top-down perspective perfectly, and the final game certainly looks like that in my opinion. I think the overall quality of graphics is new to the top-down genre, but of course we have our share of bleeding-edge graphics stuff too, like the awesome distortion effect that accompanies the flamethrower and explosions.

GVK:9. STEAM has quickly become a force in the gaming world as a new way to reach gamers. How did you come to feature the game via STEAM and do you think direct to drive will eventually replace the traditional method of buying games in a box with a CD or DVD Rom?

JK: Joel: Steam is the best online distribution method at the moment, and when they said they liked Shadowgrounds, we pulled all the stops to make it happen. I’m really glad that Shadowgrounds will be available via Steam as it gives our fans another way of buying Shadowgrounds, and as independent developers we really appreciate each sale we get.

That said, I don’t think online distribution will replace the traditional retail way of distributing games any time soon. I think there’s still a certain charm associated with having a retail box, especially if it’s well done (like the Shadowgrounds box, I might add), and I think the so called casual gamers will keep the retail market alive and well for quite some time. But in the end it will be up to gamers. It would be great if independent developers such as Frozenbyte and many others like us could rely on online distribution as the only source for revenues in the future. It might allow more experimental approaches to games. But like I said, at the moment both retail and online are very important to independent developers and I think it will stay that way for a while.

GVK:10. What Fforms of Multiplay will the game feature?

JK: Originally Shadowgrounds wasn’t supposed to have any kind of multiplayer whatsoever – we decided to focus totally on delivering the best singleplayer experience possible. However, at the last stages of development, our programmers basically went nuts and implemented a simple co-op mode. The co-op mode is only playable on the same computer and with gamepads, but despite this it’s still fun. It supports the game’s overall old-school attitude nicely. So I really suggest that you grab some of your closest friends and a bunch of gamepads and start blasting away!