Developer interview: Radio Viscera

If you’re a fan of the indie scene you might remember the rather unique Small Radios Big Televisions coming out a few years ago. Its creator Owen Deery is about to launch his next game Radio Viscera with Alliance Games, and we got in touch with Owen as well as Nathan Gelman (from Alliance) about what we can expect. What we’ve seen so far looks absolutely great – check out the trailer at the bottom to see what we mean.

How did this collaboration between Alliance and Fire Face come about?

Nathan: Owen reached out to us for a GDC meeting. We kept missing each other at the conference, but the Radio Viscera stuff he shared via email totally blew us away, no meeting necessary.

After Small Radios Big Televisions, you’re now launching Radio Viscera – is this the start of a “Radio” anthology?

Owen: The name actually came about because it was a placeholder. I was putting together the original game pitch and needed a name but honestly couldn’t think of anything I liked. Instead I just re-assembled parts of my last title (Small Radios Big Televisions) and pitched it as “Radio Visions”, with plans to give it a real title when the game was funded. Once I had partnered with my publisher we spent months coming up with hundreds of names but nothing really felt as good as Radio Visions. I changed “visions” to “viscera” to help create a connection to the game content, and we settled on it. I could probably make up something to tie the two games together, but the only real relationship is that I made them both.

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Owen Deery

What were some of the takeaways from Small Radios that went into Radio Viscera’s development?

Owen: Oh wow, everything! Small Radios Big Televisions was my first time working on a title of that size, releasing on Steam, working with a publisher etc. so there was a lot of on-the-job learning. Game development is like building a train while it’s already barreling down the tracks, and that was exactly what it felt like. With Radio Viscera I had already been through a full development cycle which made it much easier to plan development milestones and anticipate different issues and dependencies.

After Small Radios Big Television shipped I also had a long wish list of tools that I felt would have helped during development. Before coming up with the concept of Radio Viscera I spent many months just working on building those tools and creating the most efficient environment I could. That’s what allowed me to take on a project with a much larger scope like Radio Viscera.

Speaking of working with a publishers – how are you guys working together on this project?

Nathan: A publisher’s job on the production side is to ensure that the pieces of a game’s development are fitting together smoothly, from sound and music to programming and art. Owen is a video game rockstar and did the programming, music, sound, and art (all incredible) by himself, so he definitely made my job easier than it is for a typical project. (I should add here that I’ve been lucky enough to work on two incredible games made by rockstar solo developers: the other being Cosmo D’s Norwood Suite – which you must play if you haven’t.) On the business side we’re working on the usual publisher stuff – messaging, marketing, PR, launch prep.

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Owen Deery’s workstation

During your Flash development days, you had very short development cycles – how different is it to work on games like Radio Viscera?

Owen: The short development cycles for Flash games ended up feeling like game development boot camp. This was helpful because it gave me lots of experience finishing and shipping games, but it was extremely stressful and didn’t provide room for iterating on ideas. Working with multi-year development timelines allowed me to revisit designs again and again at different stages. Rather than designing a character once and then being stuck with it, I was able to take multiple passes on the design at various points throughout the development process. After staring at a player model 8 hours a day for 12 months you’ll know exactly all the things that you want to fix about it.

The biggest change during development was the increased focus on the arcade aspect. During early production I was working on tightening up the combat loop and the idea of “combos” was suggested. This led to the idea of keeping a combo going by destroying walls, which really upped the tempo of the whole game and brought the arcade aspects to the forefront.

Where did the idea for Radio Viscera come from? What inspired the setting, and the gameplay?

Owen: I was working on building a game around this special destruction tech I had created and wanted to add a combat element. There had been a large number of high-profile mass shootings at the time and it really made me feel uncomfortable about making a game with bullets, despite really wanting to make a violent action game. I came up with the idea of repurposing the wall destroying tool as a kind of makeshift non-lethal weapon the player could wield, which could then be used to indirectly destroy their opponents. I thought it would be funny if the player character was a reluctant participant who was just trying to escape but kept killing people accidentally, and that ended up informing the cartoonish tone for the rest of the game.

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Working on the soundtrack for Radio Viscera

Who is working on (and contributing to) the development of the game?

Owen: I’m a solo developer, so I handle all the programming, game design, 3D art, 2D art, writing, music and sound. I contracted a local illustrator to handle the graphic art for in-game safety posters and achievement icons, but otherwise everything was done by me.

Radio Viscera looks quite unique – what are some of the gameplay elements that players can look forward to?

Owen: The gameplay in Radio Viscera is a combination of chaos and creativity. Being able to smash through walls and make your own path means that there’s a lot of flexibility in how you can approach a combat encounter. Once you’re in, the chaos of the situation takes over and forces you to think on your feet.

I’ve also tried to soften the pace of the game by having outdoor sections without combat where the player is free to explore at their leisure. This allowed me to be more comfortable amping up the intensity of the combat, knowing that there was a quieter area coming up.

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Owen Deery

Where in its development cycle is Radio Viscera at the moment?

Owen: I’m happy to announce the game is finished! It’s still undergoing some final testing, but things are looking good and a release date should be forthcoming. I’m hoping the game will make enough of an impact that I can release some extra playable content in the future, there are tons of weird ideas I’d like to explore that did not make it into the final game.

What are the odds of seeing Radio Viscera on other platforms at a later point as well?

Nathan: We’re focused on our Steam launch at the moment. We don’t have any concrete plans to bring Radio Viscera to console, but it’s a great game that would fit well on consoles. (Did I mention it’s a great game?)

Looking beyond the release of Radio Viscera, what else is Alliance working on?

Nathan: Zachtronics and Starcolt are hard at work on their next games – I’m sworn to secrecy, but I can say that both teams are working on really special games that I cannot wait to play.

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