Developer interview: The Unliving

Over the past few years, Team17 has become one of the premier publishers of indie titles across all platforms. They’re about to launch RocketBrush’s The Unliving into Steam’s Early Access program, a rogue-lite game in which you control armies of the undead as a necromancer. We got in touch with the developer to find out more.

RocketBrush Studio is mostly known for their art and asset work – how different is it to be working on a full game and what can you tell us about the team?

It’s quite a different experience because we have to manage all aspects of the development process, instead of just the art side.

The development team is a part of our game art studio, but it is a standalone unit that works exclusively on The Unliving. Although we are a Cyprus-based legal entity, our team members are mostly located in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other CIS countries. Overall, we enjoy game development and we’re looking forward to keeping it up after The Unliving launches.

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How did you first come up with the core gameplay concept for The Unliving?

Having made many art projects for other game developers, we felt like taking on something that would be ours. After some research, we came up with a concept of a necromancy-themed rogue-lite action game that would comprise of a strong protagonist with control over an army of the undead. It seemed to us that there was some untapped potential here as most of the necromancers in other related games have strict limitations that wouldn’t allow us to feel as formidable as summoners of the undead as we wanted to.

The Unliving is a title in the popular rogue-lite genre – how are you implementing rogue-lite mechanics into the game?

Even though there is a permadeath, you get to keep your progression and meta currency. We have also created a lot of hand-drawn pieces that are combined to create procedurally generated levels. The Necromancer’s basic attack and abilities change every run depending on the unlocks and the player’s progress. There is also a feature where players can sacrifice the allied units – the spells released as a result of this are so powerful they can change the course of the battle. Overall, we will continue polishing our rogue-lite mechanics and adding more content throughout the Early Access timeline.

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In the game you’ll be controlling yourself as well as hordes of the undead – to what extent do you have (in)direct control over your hordes?

As of right now, you do have direct control over the Necromancer and the undead army, but you do not have micro-control over separate units. This is something we’re looking to refine through Early Access.

RocketBrush’s portfolio highly emphasizes art – how did the look and feel of The Unliving come about?

We wanted to create a game with outstanding visuals and eventually decided to make it in pixel art. We feel this is the style to best convey the atmosphere of the grim world of The Unliving. Thanks to our artists and art director the final result has already had a lot of positive feedback from players.

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The game’s heading into Early Access soon – what can players look forward to when it launches?

Going to the Early Access, we look forward to developing The Unliving with the help of our community. We will be opening our Early Access release with all the core gameplay mechanics already in place, and a couple of main locations – the Cemetery and Swamps that you might have seen on our social media updates.

The plan is to release content updates of various scopes that will introduce new enemies, bosses, and locations. Overall, we put all our faith and efforts into The Unliving and believe that with the help of our community it will eventually become an entertaining and balanced adventure that will bring our players a lot of memorable experiences.

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