18 Apr 2019

Rezzed 2019: Rogue Drones

If there's something to respect about Rogue Drones, it's that it finally lets me live out my fantasy of pissing off invasive drone owners. 

My quiet airport desk job has suddenly turned into a wild security task, with me using my own drone to zap those pesky mechanical birds out of the sky. This is largely what you'll be doing in the game, with the early EGX Rezzed tech demo having you fly around the airport runway to destroy ten of the buggers while also avoiding planes, helicopters and other hazards

The game is still in the pre-alpha stages, but the Rezzed demo was clear about what type of experience it is going for. You fly around a small map and shoot drones, but you also have to contend with Rogue Drones' tough control scheme. You must balance your altitude with your velocity using the two thumbsticks on the controller, and it can be difficult to get to grips with at first. It's an 'easy to learn, hard to master' kind of system.
I spoke to Nathan Beardmore and Berni Williams from Centrifuge Games to learn more about what to expect from Rogue Drones.

[Interview begins]

Could you tell me about where the idea for Rogue Drones was conceived?

This was all based on the drone chaos that happened at Heathrow Airport over Christmas. We were having a Christmas party and it was on the news in the background constantly. At some point, we said, "we could make a game of that". Then in early January, we followed through on it and made our first prototype.

So are you drone hobbyists in real life?

Not so much. We do have a small drone at home but we use it as more of a toy than a hobby. We like the challenge of getting it around without bashing it into walls.

In your own words, what kind of game would you say Rogue Drones is?

It's not supposed to be hyper-realistic, it's a sort-of flight combat kind of game. But we're trying to get the feel of flying a drone around, so it's a bit awkward to do. It's not as easy as up-down, left-right. You've got to balance, tilt and thrust. So yeah, flight combat with a drone twist.
So it's an early prototype, you've been doing it for a few months. What are you going to be adding to it down the road?

We've got a few plans. We've shown it on streams and in a few communities already. We've had feedback from people, with things like people asking for different locations and modes. Perhaps a mode where you're an invading drone and have to evade security to see how long you can last.

Multiplayer has been requested quite a few times too. Perhaps as a team game with security drones versus the invaders. And of course - because of the age we live in - people are requesting battle royale. Everything has to be battle royale these days.

What would a battle royale mode look like?

We did it as an April Fool's joke which went down really well. People asked when it would be out so perhaps it wasn't obvious enough to be a joke. Maybe we'll just have a whole group of drones and it be last man standing - or in fact, last drone buzzing.

How does the streaming integration work?

This is the first game we've developed with streaming in mind from the start. We've added livestream features onto some of our existing projects, but here we think there's an angle for getting the audience involved to troll the streamer. It provides good viewing. We can do things like allow the audience to call in a heavy wind to blow the streamer off-course, or maybe disable their gun, flip their controls. If you time it well, it's great fun.

You say you're giving the audience a chance to troll the streamer but it's almost as if the game trolls the player itself with these controls.

Yeah, the initial idea was to make an awkward control game. Think of it like Surgeon Simulator's approach to game controls. There was a minor programming error and we found the controls actually worked well. So rather than being annoying, it was close to a sensible control system, and it was a lot more fun so we stuck with that. 
It's been an interesting challenge, mostly physics-based. It's kind of meant to simulate flying an actual drone. You are controlling through tilt and thrust rather than simple up-down, left-right. A bit like the drone from Watch Dogs 2, that was a much simpler control method.

The level in the demo was at an airport but would you add more locations?

It's one of our biggest community suggestions. People are suggesting levels like a stadium, or pretty much any place you wouldn't want drones turning up and ruining your day. We've had suggestions for modes such as a package delivery mode, like picking up items and dropping them off elsewhere.

And what are your plans for alpha/beta testing?

We've only shown this on streams so far but I'd love to get it out so we can get more people to play it and get more feedback. We've been talking about early access, but at the moment we're saying it's too early for even that. I mean, we're only ten weeks old. Perhaps an alpha release for some early feedback.

We've got good feedback from showing it off here [at Rezzed]. People are saying they like the challenge, and they like that the controls aren't too easy. They're loving the comedy angle as well. Rather than being all complicated, having to think about airspeed and all this, we've kept it fun and simple. They're responding to that well.

Thanks for speaking!

[Interview ends]
There's still a long road ahead for Rogue Drones. I noticed the controls weren't perfectly worked out, and there were bugs regarding the shooting and AI of enemy drones. With more development time, this could be an interesting game. While I'm not much of a streamer myself anymore, I like the integration with services such as Twitch and Mixer. It's a fun idea and will hopefully be popular with the personalities that like to involve their viewers as much as possible.

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