Unity – Behind the Game: GTFO

July 27, 2020

[MUSIC]

[NARRATOR] This is "Unity - Behind the Game," where we talk to the talent creating some of your favorite games made with Unity.

[MIKE] Hello, everyone. My name is Mike Geig, and welcome to another episode of "Unity - Behind the Game." Today, we're talking about the game GTFO, made by the 10 Chambers Collective, and joining me is Simon Viklund and Svante Vinternatt. Howdy, guys.

[SVANTE] Hey, what's up.

[MIKE] Hey, how is it going?

[SIMON] All good.

[SVANTE] Yeah, trying to stay inside.

[SIMON] Yeah.

[MIKE] Awesome. Well, today we're talking about GTFO, but before we dig into that, as always, I would like to know a little bit about your studio, the kinds of stuff you do, and how you've gotten to where you are now.

[SVANTE] Sure, you want to have a go at it, Simon, or shall I?

[SIMON] You can.

[SVANTE] Ok, you just correct me later on then. [LAUGHTER] Okay, so yeah, we are 10 Chambers Collective, only nine people, but when we started out, we thought ten is a good number to just cap it off, and Ulf, our founder said, "Well if you go above ten, I will quit." [LAUGHTER] Hopefully, I don't think he thinks like that anymore, but yeah, we try to keep it very Swedish, a very flat organization, but everyone is, I think I am as well now, a veteran in the industry. We have to ask Simon about that, I think he has some number, the amount of years you have to work before you can call yourself a veteran. But, yeah, working on a lot of games, the Payday franchise, Battlefield, Mad Max, Just Cause, and a lot of funny titles in the background.

[MIKE] That sounds like a veteran.

[SVANTE] Yeah, but sorry, that's not me, I'm just mentioning everyone else.

[SIMON] Yeah, he's talking about the team now.

[LAUGHTER]

[MIKE] I wanted to say, when you said that you call yourself a veteran, I was like, while they could call themselves a veteran, that doesn't necessarily mean they are one.

[LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] Svante started in the business by joining 10 Chambers Collective.

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[MIKE] Okay.

[SVANTE] So I'm the only one who didn't have any game development experience, professionally, before this, at least. But, yeah, it took a long time to get GTFO out, so, well, I guess by now.

[MIKE] I'm going to officially at this point call you a veteran. That way you can just walk around with pride and say...

[SVANTE] Awesome.

[MIKE] ..."Mike said it was so, it's done."

[SVANTE] Okay, can we just hold a bit, I'm going to update my LinkedIn page here.

[LAUGHTER]

[SVANTE] But, yeah, we started out as friends. Hopefully, most of us are friends still and just try to make a co-op game, and ambitious as we were and are, trying to make a four-man real hardcore game like GTFO, really demanding on difficulty, and that cooperation, and that kind of jazz. So here we are, we released it in Early Access this December, trying to be in Early Access for about a year, I guess a little longer, but we'll see. And just keep on pushing up new updates, which we’re probably going to talk a little more about later on.

[MIKE] Absolutely, yeah.

[SVANTE] Taking care of the community and making sure they have a lot of stuff to do. [LAUGHS]

[MIKE] Well, I'm sure people listening want to get into the game, obviously, a little bit, but you had mentioned something you have nine people and a really flat structure, and I don't want to just skip over that point. That's interesting, and I'm curious, the reasoning behind that and how maybe that's affected your ability to make this game and whether that's been challenging or a really good decision and things like that.

[SVANTE] Well, I guess a bit of both. In one sense it’s quite demanding on each person in the team, I think, because you have to be agile and have to be flexible to do whatever is needed in such a small team. Since everyone has a lot of different tasks, you have to be really helpful in whatever you do, in whatever is needed at that time. And also, since everyone is expertise in the area, for example, if I come to Simon with an idea about music or sound, and he thinks, "Well that might not be the best thing to do," I should accept that because Simon is the best when it comes to music, that’s his area of expertise, one of them, of course. So I should be humble enough to just, "Okay, fine, let's continue." But if you have these superegos it's going to be hard to have a structure like this because you'll only just keep on fighting. So there has to be a good mixture there. Of course, you need to come up with new ideas and have healthy discussions, healthy fights, but in the long run also be humble enough to see that your ideas might not always be the best ones.

[MIKE] It's about trust, right?

[SVANTE] Absolutely.

[MIKE] Trust in the team, yeah, fantastic. So tell us a bit about GTFO. You had mentioned this sort of cooperative multi-player game, but it's really a lot more than that, right? So tell us a little bit about it.

[SIMON] So when we started out as 10 Chambers Collective, we started thinking about what kind of a game we would have a good shot at making, and being three out of the nine people having worked on both of the existing Payday games, Payday: The Heist and Payday 2, we figured we have a good shot at doing something within that space, the four-player co-op PVE sort of experience, and we wanted to push that further and make it more demanding in terms of cooperation and coordination and communication, I most of all, and really send out a love letter to the four-player teams that probably already have a rapport and have shorthand communication and stuff and are really looking for a challenge, the people who like those sorts of games. Then when it became clear that it was supposed to be difficult and hardcore, a real challenge, then the horror aspect came naturally because a horror atmosphere naturally inspires players to stay together rather than going all Leeroy Jenkins, on their own side missions and side quests, but communicating and making sure that everyone is… There's a certain survival horror element to it as well because you're almost always running out of health and ammo and other resources. So that came naturally, and the indoors. But then came the story as well. We don't have to, but it's more manageable for our small team to make something that's indoors, you don't have to have as much LOD...

[MIKE] Draw distance.

[SIMON] Draw distance and stuff like that, and it's more manageable in many ways. So the indoors environment came from… It's claustrophobic, so it also lends itself well to the horror sort of…

[MIKE] And there's a lot of odd angles. It's harder to see around corners and not big square rooms.

[SIMON] Exactly, it's easier for the monsters to sneak up on you because you have all these tight spaces and dark nooks and crannies.

[MIKE] That's cool.

[SIMON] It all came from the same idea, like let's make a four-player PVE game but just push the boundaries and demand more from the players in terms of coordination and communication. Then all of these elements were born out of that ambition, so it's all tied together, the backstory of the universe that it takes place in. How you play the game, the atmosphere of the game and the pacing of the game all ties back to that original sort of vision.

[MIKE] So it's funny that you mentioned Leeroy Jenkins because I was thinking that this feels like a raid boss from like… Each room was like, okay, when I was playing, how are we going to approach this door? Do we seal that door? Where will you put our Sentries? Be ready, because there's a scout in the next room, and we had to do this, and this is going to happen. The level of coordination required was really fun. Because it wasn't one of those, like, this person does that thing, and we do this thing and and alright - break, everyone just come back here once we’ve won. It was like each room was tackled together with a coordinated effort and a plan beforehand, which was cool. Then I had one moment when we were getting ready to go on a room and someone was like, "I got this," and just ran into the room, and we all died. [LAUGHTER] And it was like a Leeroy Jenkins moment.

[LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] Yeah.

[SVANTE] No, I like that comparison as well, I'm comparing it to a raid, even Warcraft for that manner.

[MIKE] Yeah.

[SVANTE] That's what I want too, the case of this game, the experience as well, the excitement. Of course, the challenge, but excitement of beating something that you have been hammering on over and over again, making progress gradually. Then finally beat that room, or to beat that level and getting that excitement of accomplishment, which you get from doing a raid in World of Warcraft, that teamwork.

[SIMON] Or Destiny.

[SVANTE] That dedication that is… or Destiny, that dedication that is needed. So, yeah, I think it's a good picture of it.

[MIKE] So you mentioned the story a couple of times. I know at the beginning of the game you're in this machine that lowers you down a bit, but what's the story? I get that you're achieving some goal at the end, it was like prisoners were released or whatever, but what's going on there in that world?

[SIMON] We've consciously kept those cards close to our chests because there is obviously a lot of mysteries in the game, like who are you and why are you kept prisoner in this underground facility? And what was the complex, the underground complex originally used for before it was overrun by these monsters? And where did the monsters come from, and what's their agenda? And what's the agenda of whoever is keeping you captive? and all of these things. But we are in Early Access still, so we need to like…

[SVANTE] Pace ourselves.

[MIKE] Okay.

[SIMON] Yeah, pace ourselves in terms of how much we reveal. We started to dip our toes in some backstory storytelling throughout the first two Rundowns that we’ve released so far. But there will be more coming. We just have to make sure that when people buy the game at a 1.0, those gamers who might not want the game during the Early Access phase, that there's still mysteries and things to discover still at that point.

[MIKE] So without prying with the story itself, how do you plan on the story being revealed? Is it going to be through discoverables in the game, or can you not reveal that? I'm just kind of curious.

[SIMON] Well, we are a small team, so it will not be like cinematic cutscenes and that sort of stuff. It will be more like finding environmental storytelling, like looking at scenes and deducing what might have gone down in this place, but also finding logbook entries and diary recordings from people who lived in the complex when it was still functional, as a community, I guess, piecing those things together and finding out what the background story is.

[MIKE] Okay, fair enough. So one thing you had mentioned was the types of players, this being sort of a cooperative game, fairly hardcore. If you had to describe your perfect player, the person that would just be just the most into this game, let's call him Jaime, how would you describe Jaime?

[SVANTE] I think there will be four of him.

[SIMON] Yeah.

[SVANTE] That's probably four Jaimes.

[LAUGHTER]

[MIKE] Okay, so how would you describe the Jaimes?

[LAUGHTER]

[SVANTE] What I realized from playing this game as well, from the start, of course, it is very hardcore. But you don't need to be these hardcore super-skilled FPS players to be really part of tackling all these levels. We definitely, in our team, are not the best FPS players. We have some good ones, but we are not the best. And it really comes down to communication. So one of the best runs, most interesting runs I've had with was with a team where no one but me had played with the mouse and keyboard before, but as long as you take your time, if you're strategic, position yourself, use your tools, all that kind of stuff. So I guess Jaime would be a little patient. He would have to be able to speak a little with his teammates, not be too shy, but hopefully have some friends that he can feel comfortable with, and just having a little time and dedication...

[SIMON] He or she.

[MIKE] I was about to say, I picked an ambiguous name on purpose.

[LAUGHTER]

[SVANTE] Yeah, he or she. At least Jamie would want to put in some time with your friends and having a good time, taking it easy. It’s not a run and gun game. There are really action-heavy things that you have to do in the game, but you really have to pace yourself and communicate. So communication is really good in GTFO. And yeah, taking your time.

[MIKE] Absolutely.

[SIMON] I'd say you can compensate, if you're not like you got the twitch and the mouse and you can set precision headshots left and right, you can compensate a lot by just being able to determine, having threat awareness and seeing it before something happens, there's going to be a fight in here, we're going to prep this room, we're going to tip everything we possibly can in our favor. Then we start the fight, and we have the upper hand. You can't play GTFO absentmindedly, just wander around and "Oh, I'll push this button."

[MIKE] "What's this thing do?"

[SIMON] Yeah, exactly, that's not going to go down well with the rest of the team. So everyone needs to be on point and everyone needs to agree on, now we start the fight or now we are ready to move on, and we move as a group. So you really have to play it that way. I'd say you don't have to be a master FPS player, but you have to strategize.

[MIKE] Set up a plan.

[SIMON] Yeah, yeah.

[MIKE] It was cool when I was playing with a group of people that I didn't know, and we're sitting there going, "Okay, if we block this door, and we open this door, and we freeze that door, then the enemies are going to come this way, so we put our targets or Sentries here." Then it was like once we started the whole thing off, it was like a cakewalk. But if we hadn't sat there and really figured that part out then there would have been a lot of enemies.

[SIMON] You sort of funneled the monsters into a kill zone, yeah.

[MIKE] Yeah.

[SIMON] It's a lot about that, closing doors and finding the choke points where it's easier to fight, and then maybe have a fallback plan. If we can't hold this position, we fall back to this place, and in between those two points we have maybe trip mines set up, so we kill a bunch of monsters that way, and then you can always pick up the trip mines if they didn't detonate. If you didn't have to use them during the fight, you can pick them up and use them later on, so it's always better to be safe than to be sorry.

[SVANTE] With GTFO you will die, and you will die a lot, but hopefully it will feel fair, that once you die you can maybe figure out what you did wrong or how to improve on that situation and make progress. That's what we really want players or gamers to experience.

[MIKE] Again, yes it's a hardcore game, and yes it's one of those things that requires patience, to the point where you just said, it just feels fair. It's like a lot of games, when you crank up the difficulty or you play on just the super hardcore setting, all it's really doing is it's making the enemies have more health and you have less health and that's "difficult." And this wasn't like that. The difficulty was just built in to how the enemies behave and the complexity of the environments, and it felt like a really natural, fair difficulty. Each enemy has a reasonable amount of health and a reasonable way to take them down, and there are no scenarios where it's just impossible. It's just you have to come at it from the right angle, then you get that, and you're just like, that was... I'm surprised I was struggling with that, that ended up being really, really easy when we thought about it this way.

[SIMON] Yeah.

[MIKE] So that's really cool. That's the type of difficulty that resonates with me. I just hate it when, "Oh, you want difficulty? We'll just add another zero to the hit points, now it's difficult." And it's like now it's just time-consuming, it's not difficult. So yeah, it's cool to see it that way.

[SIMON] That's nice to hear it.

[SVANTE] Great to hear it. Yeah.

[SIMON] Yeah. I was thinking when you were talking, that you have to unlearn some things that you learn in other games, when playing GTFO, it's like you don't use your firearms unless is absolutely necessary.

[MIKE] I've learned that the hard way. [LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] Something that makes it hard for most people, jumping into GTFO. It's like, even if you walk into a room with sleeping or dormant monsters, and you wake up maybe one of them by accident, and they alert another monster nearby, and that monster wakes up, and you think in your mind, like...

[MIKE] It's go time.

[SIMON] ...okay, weapons up. Now it's like weapons up because everyone's going to wake up now, it’s a domino effect through the entire room, you think. But if you just keep it calm, and like okay, until we hear the others start screaming and running towards us, we don't assume that they all wake up. So we keep going with silent kills, we use the melee attack, so we kill those two quickly. We might be able to still get off free in this room and not spend ammunition, and if that's possible, that's better.

[MIKE] And it's good when your teammates are there because then if you wake one, everyone rushes in and takes it down quickly.

[SIMON] Exactly, and everyone is in on it. If we wake up, or if they start waking up, everyone has their monster that they will bomb rush. So you're constantly discussing, "Okay, you take the one in the corner, I take the one by the container." Then you move up, and you try to use the map to... the north most monster in this part of the room. And if things go down, you're on top of the situation, so you can contain that mistake, and it doesn't have to go out of control.

[MIKE] Exactly, yeah.

[SIMON] And that's often the case that you can get away and kill the monsters before that domino effect starts. You just have to keep it...

[SVANTE] Calm.

[SIMON] Have ice in your stomach, as we say in Sweden.

[MIKE] I learned about pulsing the flashlight too, until you're running around with it on all the time.

[SVANTE] That's good!

[SIMON] Yeah, that's a pro strat right there.

[SVANTE] A really pro strat.

[MIKE] I'm learning, and the person who taught me sounded like maybe they were ten, and they were like, "No, you don't want to do that, you want to do this." I'm like, "Dude, you sound like you know a lot, you teach me. Show me the way." [LAUGHTER] But, yeah, it was really fun. I enjoy games like that. I have to say, I have my notes, the questions and stuff, I'm going to jump ahead real quick. But while we're kind of gushing about that, what you guys did with the computer terminals, I just absolutely loved. So you hop onto a computer terminal, and it's not just the click, which commands you want, you type the command out, like you want to ping an item, you type ping, space, the item name, with the underscores, and it physically pings the item somewhere in the level, so your teammates have to be in the area to hear the ping, and that's just really fun. I like games when you get to pretend to be the hacker. So I'm just like, "I'm in." And you're typing your commands out and doing your item list and stuff, and it just really felt fun and much more engaging than your traditional "Press 1 to get the item list" or "Press 2 to do this."

[SIMON] Yeah, it's not just a menu that is designed to look like a DOS sort of interface, it is an actual DOS interface.

[MIKE] Yeah.

[SIMON] And it has such potential because we can add commands, and in different situations we can have, for different objectives, we can have different new commands specifically in those terminals that you can use, to input passwords and start up a generator or different context-specific stuff. So it has a lot of potential to tie into more functions in the game, hacking maybe security systems to stationary targets to shoot out the monsters or activate stuff like that. So we have a lot of ideas for how to expand upon it as well.

[MIKE] For sure, it's nice that you have to remember the item names too. It's like, "Which number key card did I need to get into that door?" And it was like, "Oh, it's the KEY_GREEN_571," or whatever it was.

[SVANTE] Yeah, but there's more stuff in the terminal you can do. You can use list functions, and maybe you can find the keys to help remind you what you are looking for. If you're out of ammo, should we go through this door, and let's see what kind of consumables are in this area. Okay, maybe we shouldn't go into this one.

[MIKE] Oh, I hadn't considered that, yeah.

[SVANTE] And I don't know if you actually played one of those levels yet, or expeditions, as we call them, where you have to choose the terminal in little more stressful situations. So there is more stuff coming as well. It's a really lovely feature in the game.

[MIKE] Yeah, I liked that, you're absolutely right, because if it's a situation where you have to calmly type out the command and not have typos and stuff, in a stressful situation, that really adds to it as opposed to just hitting some menu item or whatever.

[SIMON] And your teammates have to… because you're a sitting duck when you're on the computer, you can't defend yourself, so the teammates need to rip the monsters off your back.

[MIKE] So to speak, or literally or whatever, yeah. I noticed that was a recurring element too, where you try to take some teammates out of it, where when you pick up the cargo crate, all you could do is walk with the cargo crate, and you have to put it down in order to do anything, and you're slower while holding it and stuff.

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[MIKE] Was that an intentional sort of design mechanic, to constantly pair down the team so you have to think more strategically about how you move as a group?

[SIMON] Absolutely, yeah, yeah. It's like, who has the least ammunition, you carry because the rest of the team can defend you then. Then it's a matter of okay, we can put this thing down and fight around it, but someone has to sacrifice their ability to fire their weapon in order for us to move this thing towards wherever it’s supposed to go. So that's definitely one of those things.

[MIKE] Fair enough.

[SIMON] Where we try to...

[LAUGHTER]

[MIKE] That's awesome.

[SIMON] We're taking away so much from the player, like light and the fog, you take away viewing distance and ammunition and health, as mentioned previously. You’re depriving the player of so much in this game, that players are used to in other games. You just have to get used to it. Then, of course, that opens up for a lot of tools and pick-ups in the maps that can give the players a little bit of that stuff that you see in other games. I guess in GTFO, the players would be like, "Oh, [LAUGHS] this thing that I really need" becomes so much more valuable because it's a rare thing in this game.

[MIKE] Absolutely.

[SVANTE] Yeah, some stuff that the whole community think just is… Well, I don't know if you can curse on this podcast, but really let's say trash, might have really good use in another expedition, or another Rundown, and stuff will maybe make sense a little later on.

[MIKE] Gotcha. That's awesome. So, you'd mentioned a few times this concept of Rundowns, and maybe for the folks who haven't played the game or aren't super familiar, can you tell me what you mean by Rundown?

[SVANTE] Yeah, absolutely. So what we do with GTFO is every third month something like that, we’re trying to find a good pacing now during Early Access to try a lot of stuff out, but what we do is taking our current levels that are in the game, removing them, adding, for example, now we added ten new ones, but the six ones that were at Early Access release, they're gone. And adding some new enemies, some new objectives, adding some new weapons, trying different features out, etc. We do that on a regular basis, so if you play other games, you might have like, "Oh, this is weak, to have us start playing this other level again." With GTFO, well, here’s a totally new experience.

[MIKE] A totally new game.

[SVANTE] Well, yeah. Of course, the basic stuff was there, but like adding up new flavors to it, new experiences in the sense of a new environment. This is looking totally different, these enemies, I have never seen this before. And we tried to portion that out. So essentially, we're like a game master in the Dungeons and Dragons, trying to play with the community, making them excited and challenged and terrified at the same time. Continuously going tier by tier, lower and lower into the Rundown, exiting new levels, etc. And keep stuff hidden, as well. We're not that kind of studio that wants to reveal all the stuff. One enemy that we revealed was at the… even the latest thing that happened in the last level in Rundown #1 was revealing a new enemy that we had said nothing about, for that Rundown at least. So we try to keep it exciting and challenging and rewarding as well. We've had a lot of stuff that hasn't been added yet in the game, like matchmaking, progressing, that kind of stuff, which will keep on giving you some more reasons to try to tackle or complete a whole Rundown before the next one is launched, but most stuff like that is coming. So just keeping it fresh and everything for free, if you're on the game, you will get a new experience every time you get this Rundown update.

[MIKE] That's awesome. And it's not like The Grind, where it's just like the map of the week is this one that you’ve played ten times, but now you can play it ten more to get this slightly better loot or whatever.

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[MIKE] It's a whole new set of maps, a whole new experience, which sounds pretty awesome there. So one thing I was told to ask, so I'm going to ask, you don't have to answer, though. But do you have any teasers about Rundown #3 that are coming? Anything that you want to reveal that might be enticing?

[SVANTE] Good question. Simon?

[LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] Well, for this Rundown, the current Rundown, we've sort of revealed a new method of revealing backstory, but it didn't give players a lot of backstory, which is just, okay, this is going to be a place in the future where you’re going to be able to find stuff. So there will be more of that in the next Rundown. There will be more interesting stuff to find out about the backstory through those...

[MIKE] Nice.

[SIMON] …through that sort of method.

[MIKE] Okay.

[SIMON] Yeah, that's all we can say at this point.

[MIKE] I got to try to get you in trouble a little bit.

[LAUGHTER]

[MIKE] So this game, being sort of balanced around multiplayer, I tried playing solo, it didn't get super far. That obviously requires a lot of cooperation, a lot of thought. And as you just said, that you don't yet have matchmaking, is it because it's just something you haven't gotten to yet, or is there a pretty good reason why you haven't gone down the route of having matchmaking in the game, a game that kind of lives on having a multiplayer like that?

[SIMON] It's definitely not because we haven't gotten around to it yet, it's very much in the works. It's just that we realized that a game like GTFO, where communication and coordination are so important, you can't just throw people together randomly, it has to be with certain conditions, and the matchmaking service or the matchmaking functionality in the game has to be very solid so that players feel confident in using it. And when players don't want to have to rely on a third-party software to find other players, they don't want to rely on a third-party software for voice chat either. So voice chat built into the game goes with the matchmaking, of course, as well. Then we want to be able to give the players the ability to continue playing even if the host drops out, because you might be playing with people who are not as reliable as they would be if they were your friends. And if the host drops out, you shouldn't be effed totally as a team. So server migration of some sort has to be solved, or there would have to be some sort of a waypoint system or something that gives the player less of a… what would the word be, I don't know... reason to rage quit, basically.

[MIKE] I got it, yeah, you want a consistent experience.

[SIMON] Exactly. So it's just a package of... It's not as simple as just adding matchmaking. It's sort of a package of functions that will serve that entire part of the experience, finding players, communicating with those players, and continue playing with those players.

[MIKE] Sure, I feel obligated to name-drop Vivox and Multiplay, but I'll leave it right there. But I wanted to just, "Oh, maybe some light bedtime reading." [LAUGHTER] So, totally, I get it. And I've worked on multiplayer stuff previously, and I know how crucial it is, especially when you're dealing with something that's more of a global game, people can be anywhere, different latencies, and it's not as simple as, "Oh, I'm just going to connect and play." There is a lot that goes into the planning and operations of that. I totally get that.

[SVANTE] Yeah, it's absolutely coming, we are working on it, and it's going to be good. But we weren't afraid of not launching the game without it. Of course, it's always better, the more stuff you have, but we felt like this is a good game that you can play, you can play already now, and we will keep on supporting it, and we'll keep adding stuff, trying stuff out. So if that is something that is essential for you, well, please stick around and just wait, and you can try it out once matchmaking...

[SIMON] Hold on to your hard-earned dollars, and don't give them to us until you're confident that the product represents what you feel is required for you to enjoy the game. And the game doesn't currently have a progress for the gear, like you don't get new weapons and gear and can upgrade and that stuff. So there are other things that I would consider a standard element in games as well, missing currently in GTFO. But it is, after all, in Early Access, so it will come eventually.

[MIKE] Absolutely.

[SVANTE] If you're really excited about trying out the game, don't try to do it alone, that's not recommended at all. [LAUGHTER] You'll just die. You won't have a good experience.

[MIKE] I had a lot of fun playing by myself.

[SVANTE] Most people might not have a good experience just dying.

[MIKE] Because I experience that anxiety of I don't want my very first game to be with other people, when they're like, "You don't know anything!" [LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] You have to be even more of a masochist [LAUGHTER] to play alone than you have to be to play with other people.

[SVANTE] Yeah, yeah.

[MIKE] It's funny because playing by myself the first time, I didn't really know anything about the game, I'm like, "What is going on? What is this? Who are they?"

[LAUGHTER]

[SVANTE] Yeah, it kind of messes with you. But we have a great community if you want to... like Mike, as well, when he wanted to try to play with some other guys, just jump into Discord or Overtone, and say that you're new, you want to try it out. You can probably just get a group before you're even by the gate.

[MIKE] That's what I did, yeah.

[SVANTE] It's really good, great community, and we are very happy for our community and how friendly they are. Just amazing. So just check it out.

[MIKE] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was checking that out on Overtone, I know you guys did a big, what was it, PAX…

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[MIKE] …kind of thing with Overtone?

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[MIKE] How has that been, using that for like, matchmaking and voice coms and things like that?

[SVANTE] Absolutely. Overtone is really up and coming, and I love the potential it has, so I'm really looking forward to doing more stuff with it. We had a great time at PAX, showcasing the game, playing with a lot of… It was the first, I think, consumer-faced event we were at. We all would have been at like, E3, and business areas, so it was really fun. So we had a great time. I would love to do more stuff like that. Then we had, of course, as with most people, this Corona thing kind of came and hopefully it will pass by quickly for everyone's sake.

[MIKE] Have you seen an increase in players do that? I'm curious on the impact you guys have seen, as everyone stays home now.

[SVANTE] I think, marginally, people still need to go to work, and this a game you usually play for a couple of hours, in the evening. But I haven't gone into that detail in those numbers, but logically speaking, taking out that Steam keeps on growing with the total amount of players online all the time, we should see that kind of comparable thing with us, I think. For us, though, it seems the game, which is Rundown, a bit of a progression, now and so on, I think most people are playing a lot of time and playing the game a lot once new content drops, and they might take a little break and play something else, which is totally fine, play a lot of games. It's great to see stories where people get into Discord, find friends to play with and start playing other games as well, which is just awesome. Finding friends and keep on playing, and then hopefully they will jump back and try the new stuff once it drops as well.

[MIKE] Nice, nice. So, we talked the other day, leading up to this, and one of the interesting things that came up that I want to kind of circle back to, even though it makes for an awkward segue right now, is kind of the audio decisions that you made and implemented. I was just curious, if you want to talk about maybe that process a little bit, Simon, since you're the audio guy, the audio champion there, about the tools that you used and decisions that maybe you made.

[SIMON] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I've been wanting to do a horror game for 20 years, basically….

[CHUCKLES]

[MIKE] Okay.

[SIMON] …since I started out in the business, because horror games rely so much on the audio, and it's the genre where you can mess with the players’ emotions and the anticipation of something coming and maybe not releasing the tension for a long time. And you have the action and you have the suspense, and it's a nice playground to have fun in for a sound designer and a composer. So I've been looking forward to it for a very long time. It's very difficult though. It's really like you want to be subtle, because I've made the music for the Payday games, and the music in those games is not subtle. [LAUGHTER] In no way. It’s very much like in your face. If you don't like it, you turn down the music, that's how it works. Whereas in GTFO, I wanted to be more like, there's this pulse, or there's this thing that comes every once in a while.

[MIKE] Ambiance.

[SIMON] Yeah, ambiance and stuff, just sort of subconsciously is picked up by the listener and gives you this airy atmosphere and this mood in the game. And it's so much more difficult to know whether it works and know whether you're too subtle. So it's a real challenge. Then, for the implementation, I've really made it into a challenge for myself to try to up the complexity or sophistication, in terms of implementation, where there's a lot more stuff happening in the game that controls the music, and the mix of the music, and how many layers of stuff are playing at the same time so that the music can more accurately accompany whatever is happening to the player and how the player feels. The music in Payday was much more like it’s a police assault right now, and then the music is just one layer of music, and it's full-on action, and it doesn't care whether the player goes down, or if they're running out on ammunition, or if they just recently killed an enemy, or whatever happens, it’s just the same music just keeps going. And it works well, but I think in a horror game, you need to be a little bit more responsive to what happens to the player, or you have the ability to be, and I really was looking forward to that challenge of making a game for the first time that has that level of sophistication in terms of implementation.

[MIKE] Yeah. And you had mentioned you used Wwise to do that audio layering and logic and stuff?

[SIMON] Yes.

[MIKE] Nice.

[SIMON] And I work closely with one of our two programmers to hook the audio and the music system into the code of the game so that the game constantly is feeding Wwise with parameters and information of now this happened and this happened, and that can trigger little stingers or it can change something in the music in a subtle way so that the drums are fading out or fading in, or things are happening. And you might not pick it up as a player, consciously, but, subconsciously, it's there to give you more stress.

[MIKE] Nice. Yeah, and you certainly, you noticed, at least maybe I did, maybe I'm just making it up in my mind now, moments where you pause for a second and you think, "I don't hear anything," that's really unnerving too. Like now there's no music or just the creepy ambient sounds or whatever, and it definitely adds that sort of feeling alone or claustrophobic, so to speak.

[SIMON] Yeah, yeah, and isolation.

[MIKE] That's really cool.

[SIMON] Being left down there in the complex all on your own or with your three friends, which is, of course, one of the challenges of making a horror game that also allows the players to play with up to three others. Because most horror games, you’re...

[MIKE] You're alone.

[SIMON] …you're alone and the game uses that feeling of isolation and being all on your own, being totally outnumbered against whatever monsters you're facing as one of the core elements to what's scary with the game. And we don't have that, it's built into the game that you can play with others, so it's going to be harder for us to scare the players. But then that gives us all the more reason to push it harder where we can have this sort of horror aspect of it, which is why I've really tried to stay clear of making music that is in any way leaning into the power fantasies type of music which was in Payday, because the Payday music is so much like, "You're awesome, and this is cool…"

[MIKE] No electric guitar riffs.

[SIMON] …club music, and it's really like playing to that, the coolness of what you're doing. You're living out this fantasy where you're robbing an armored transport, and you're getting away with it. Whereas in GTFO, it's so much more like you're supposed to feel uneasy at all times pretty much, so the music should never be anything that makes you bob your head and like, you're not digging the music.

[MIKE] Make you feel like, "We got this."

[CHUCKLES]

[SIMON] Yeah, and it's so easy for me to make that sort of music that you can dig, because I'm all about drum riffs. It's a real challenge. I'm not making it easy for myself. [CHUCKLES]

[MIKE] Sure.

[SIMON] I'm not a master of this type of music, but I'm finding it very interesting.

[MIKE] Well, it's an art, it's almost an experiment in psychology a little bit, right? Understanding what's going to make people feel a certain way for the environments and such.

[SIMON] Absolutely, yeah.

[MIKE] Yeah, the reason I really wanted to make a point to give you an opportunity to talk about it is I feel like that's one of those topics. We talk about programming a lot, we talk about art, we talk about design a lot, but audio is one of those things that is so crucial, especially for a game like this where the environment and the ambiance are so important. And I like to joke, and I say the trinity of game development is design, programming, and art... and audio. [LAUGHTER] People tend to sort of just skip that one.

[SIMON] Yeah, it’s often neglected in many ways. If the music does what it’s supposed to do, you don't mention it, you don't notice it. And it's the same in movies. If it's too much in your face, then you’ve failed, whereas the visual effects are often very much grabbing the attention. But I guess it’s something that you just have to be fine with and accept as a composer because that's just the way it is. When we spoke earlier, I mentioned that the concept of screenshots being released for a new upcoming game, and it’s always immediately focused on the graphics, and what technology are they using for the graphics, and does my graphic card... can it run this new game that is coming up? And there's a lot of focus on the graphics. But the music or the sound design doesn't have that sort of spell.

[SVANTE] Maybe music and sound design is the bass player of the band.

[LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] Exactly. It’s very important. It’s the one thing that you miss the most if you would lose it. It's the one thing that you're like, this doesn't sound, I cannot dig this anymore.

[MIKE] I don't get the people that turn their game volume off and just listen to music while they play. It's like, are you a psychopath? I could not get into a game with the game muted, and I was listening to something else, it would just drive me insane.

[SVANTE] I mean, you really notice that, if you actually try, you can try playing it without music, and it will feel like something is really missing here. It’s such a crucial part of the full experience.

[SIMON] The music is going to make you feel more stressed? Definitely. But also, you can get clues from the music. Personally, I know how the music system works, so when I hear certain music cues, I know, okay, this room is empty, there are no monsters in this room, and I can confidently just walk around because I know that this cue in music would not trigger unless the room was empty. It's not intended to be used for the players to...

[MIKE] It's got to be super subtle. You probably had to have a pretty intimate knowledge.

[SIMON] To deduce that same, like…

[LAUGHTER]

[SVANTE] You have to remove that from the podcast.

[LAUGHTER]

[MIKE] It’s like a power game now, this game isn't hard at all. [LAUGHTER] Did you hear that tone? There are five enemies in here.

[SIMON] Yeah, exactly.

[MIKE] So one thing that I was curious about, obviously, it's made with a Unity game, what were some of your deciding factors behind using Unity for a game like GTFO?

[SVANTE] That question is probably best answered by Hjalmar and Ulf who are the programmers on the team. I think Hjalmar was the one with experience in Unity since previous life. I think it might have been a mobile game or something like that. But when we were trying out different or deciding what should we go with, the Unity engine had a lot of potential, and we realized it really does, and I mean, great for trying stuff out, we wanted to prototype, trying to get stuff running, and we kind of went with it, and we love it. I think Unity gets a lot of bad rep sometimes because there are a lot of titles out there which are great, that uses Unity, but people don't know it. But we're doing this with Unity, and we have been congratulated for using other engines, but we're doing this with Unity, and it's going well.

[MIKE] Awesome.

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[SIMON] The thing that the programmers always mention as one of the many strengths with the Unity engine is the ability to just do these quick and dirty prototypes and tests. Because we're such a small team, and we're so agile, so we can just come up with an idea, like maybe we could do something like this, and they can try something else so quickly and just get it running in the game without graphics and sound and just see if it works. Then if it turns out that it’s fun to play with, then we embellish it with good graphics and effects and sounds and whatnot and make it work in the game. There are plenty of game mechanics in GTFO that came about through that, to test the ability to do that in Unity.

[MIKE] Okay, what are maybe some of your favorite mechanics or some of those unique mechanics? If you're allowed to talk about it or whatever. I'm just curious, like what part of the game you're just really jazzed about?

[SIMON] I'd say, for me, one of the coolest things in the game is the melee attacks from the enemies with the tongue that's coming out and finds its way to you and then retracts back into the throat of the monster. Because it's not pre-animated, it’s not a thing that comes out in your direction like a pre-animated thing, but it's like finding, and it finds a path through the air and can avoid corners and props in the surroundings in order to hit you.

[MIKE] That's really annoying.

[LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] And for the big monsters, they're longer, so they can reach further into the room. I think that's really cool. And looking at how that looked before there were graphics on that thing, when it was just this stretched out… I don't know, the polygon thingy. And they were drawing the points in midair where it decided that this is free space. So you can go here, there's free space over here, you're not going to collide with anything if you go here, and it drew these blocks in midair, and then the tongue hit those blocks as you had the debug sort of graphics…

[MIKE] Breakpoints. Yeah.

[SIMON] …yeah, that turned on, and I was like, "This is so cool. I have never seen this in a game before." [LAUGHTER] Then when we dressed it up with the sound of the tongue coming up [LICKING SOUNDS], really disgusting sounds and with the texture on that tongue or the tentacle and whatnot.

[MIKE] Was that the actual sound that you just made there? [LAUGHTER] As the sound person, is that what you recorded?

[SIMON] No, no.

[MIKE] Fair enough.

[SIMON] But yeah, that's one thing that sticks out to me. Because Hjalmar started playing around with that. We were like banging our heads against the wall, like we want to make a game where we got these monsters, but they shouldn't all just run up to you and start clawing, because you've seen that in so many games, and it's not fulfilling to just have the monsters… the muzzle of your gun is sort of already in the face of the monster, and you're just shooting.

[MIKE] They're creepy too. They do crab walk and do all these other weird locomotion things. It makes it really hard to aim at them because they just move in a bunch of weird ways.

[SIMON] We have some monsters that are shooting from a distance, and those are hard to get to because they're often staying in the back row of a bunch of monsters, because they can keep that distance. But some monsters are running closer to you, and we didn't want them to run all the way up, because then you're just shooting, it doesn't matter where you shoot, you're going to hit a monster. So they should have a three, four-meter distance maybe. Their arms can't extend that far. What is the attack? Then that idea with the tentacle came about, and when they made it look like that, when Hjalmar just sort of cracked that idea, it was just so cool.

[MIKE] Nice.

[SVANTE] A fun thing about some of the animations: I think most of them were done by Oliver Hollis-Leick, which is the creator-director for World War Z.

[MIKE] Oh! Alright, there you go.

[SVANTE] So he’s a great motion capture artist, but also apparently really good at making games. [CHUCKLES]

[MIKE] Nice. That's really, really cool. So, alright, we're getting close to the end. There's a few other questions I wanted to get to. So to reiterate, this is currently available Early Access on Steam, correct?

[SVANTE] Yeah.

[MIKE] And we’re currently on Rundown #2, and you got some stuff coming up and whatnot. Do you foresee... again, maybe you can answer this, maybe you can't, do you foresee GTFO coming to consoles once it's out of Early Access?

[SVANTE] We really want to bring it to consoles. We're a small team, so we're focusing on the PC version right now, to get it fun and all that kind of stuff, working and stable and so. But yeah, we really want to bring it to consoles as well. Most of us are heavy console gamers as well, so I'm looking forward to sitting on the couch, playing this with friends.

[MIKE] Nice. Cool. So, what would you say, for both of you, individually, what you're most proud of about this game, like when you look at this and be like, we achieved something here?

[SVANTE] I think we're nine people, and everyone is not even developers, I think that's probably the biggest thing, I think. And we managed to release it, it's working, and it's fun, and people like this kind of game. There is a lot of stuff, but doing all of that with such a small team. And, of course, there's a lot of great veterans that are really skilled experts in the team. Still, nine people making a four-player really hardcore co-op, like trying to do the math there.

[CHUCKLES]

[MIKE] What about you, Simon?

[SIMON] Yeah, it's staying true to the vision. And hatching that idea, like it's going to be hardcore, it's going to be uncompromising and really challenging, and then releasing that. Then the satisfaction in finding out that there's a bunch of people who are looking forward to a game like this. Because we weren't sure. That was really nice.

[MIKE] Were you often tempted to be like, “Well, we could make it a little easier” or "We could simplify this."

[SIMON] Of course, that idea is always there, but we had to fight that. [LAUGHTER] We have to stay the course and be confident in the idea that there are people, there's room on the market for something like this, and there's a lot of people contacting us on social media and emailing us like, "I've been waiting for a game like this for years!"

[MIKE] It's very unique, right? There are many co-op games, there are many horror games, but this fusion of being in a team and still being afraid, not feeling invincible. Even if you know exactly what to do and you have this perfect plan, if one person screws it up, like what I did, it can all go south. [LAUGHTER] I didn't realize that, alright, you charge up your melee attack, so I'm not ready to go or getting ready to take on this sort of giant one, and I'm like, "I started charging too soon, and I’m going to be out of sync." So I turn to the side to release the hammer, and I hit the wall with the hammer, and everyone is like, "What was that?" [LAUGHTER] And we wiped pretty hard there. [LAUGHTER] But it was one of those, you can always go sideways.

[SIMON] The smallest mistakes.

[MIKE] I know, right? So it's a very unique game in that regard, where with the plan and execution, you're not invincible, but with a misstep, all of a sudden, it’s like, "Oh no, and now what?" Scramble.

[SIMON] Yeah, but what’s nice is also that even if things do go wrong, it's not like you quit because you can always bounce back, there's always things going wrong, that sort of galvanizes the team, and suddenly you're playing even more focused, and you're making fewer mistakes after you've made a doozy somehow. So sometimes you have that idea of "Let's quit and start over." But then you're like, "No, no, we can, we can..." Someone in the team is like, "No, we can bounce back from this." Then you have the best experiences when you're that underdog in the situation and bouncing back from something going wrong. Those are the best play sessions.

[MIKE] Absolutely. And one time I was playing, me in my beginnerness, I put down my Sentry and forgot to pick it back up, so later when we had to fall back as something was wrong, we fell back to the room that had my Sentry, and it just started shooting the bad guys, and I was like, "Oh, sweet, it's still here." [LAUGHTER] "We're good." [LAUGHTER] Totally planned, yeah.

[LAUGHTER]

[SIMON] Accidental plan B, fallback position.

[MIKE] It makes for these really fun, memorable moments, that's very cool, nice. So last couple of questions. What would you guys say you learned the most from building this? What will you take with you into your next game?

[SIMON] Tone is so important, and being responsible for directing voice actors, writing some of the lines for the characters, and obviously the music and the sound effects, it's not perfect everything I've done, in terms of the vision for the game. So going forward, I'd say I'm really taking that to heart, that is so important to just decide on what the tone is for the game, and staying on that and not becoming influenced by things you've done before. Because some lines for the dialog of the characters on this… no fault of the voice actors, they're just reading what was written, and I as a director accepted it. But sometimes we haven't been able to use some lines that were recorded because it felt too much like these characters are like, "Kicking ass and taking names, let's go down there and kill some monsters!" And that's not the type of game that it's supposed to be. So I was sort of, not absentmindedly, I don't know, I didn't shed the skin of previous games, and that's the thing I learned...

[MIKE] That's a good answer.

[SIMON] ...how important tone is.

[SVANTE] For me, it would be team dynamics. And being a company like this is this kind of manner, it's absolutely possible, but it's also tough work, but how communication is important, how to communicate, how to work together without these ego sore, that kind of way of trying to run the company. I don't know, I'm not sure if we're going to keep on doing this in this way forever, we'll see, but that experience is very… I really appreciate that experience. I'm proud to do this with this team, in this kind of way. I think that's what I would bring, I'm bringing on to the next future, whatever.

[MIKE] Awesome. So last question then, what's next for the 10 Chambers Collective?

[SIMON] For all foreseeable future, it’s GTFO. [LAUGHTER]

[SVANTE] For GTFO, I mean, for us releasing the Early Access was the start of a marathon. Since we’re doing this Rundown concept, like when we hit 1.0, that's when the real work will keep on coming with new Rundowns, new stuff. So we're not going to be feature complete at 1.0 in that kind of sense.

[MIKE] It's a living thing.

[SVANTE] We'll keep on adding new stuff. Yeah, yeah, it's a living thing. We really want people to come back feeling like they get more worth for their money than they paid. And just having a good time in the game, keep on playing it from time to time, and coming back in when there's a new Rundown, or keep on working on your progression and so on. So for us, we will keep on doing GTFO. [CHUCKLES]

[MIKE] Nice, nice.

[SVANTE] For a while, I really believe.

[MIKE] Awesome. Well, great. So, again, the game is GTFO. You can find it on Steam Early Access, the studio 10 Chambers Collective. And again, I'm here with Simon Viklund and Svante Vinternatt. And thank you so very much guys, it's been just really great talking.

[SVANTE] Thanks for having us.

[SIMON] Yeah, thanks for having us.

[MIKE] Fantastic, now I'm going to go play some GTFO. [LAUGHTER] Talk about what's coming made me want it to play again. But, awesome. Thank you very much for being on here, and you guys just have a fantastic day.

[SIMON] You too.

[SVANTE] You too, thanks.

[MUSIC]

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