We Shall Wake is a high-speed third-person sci-fi action game coming to PC “when it’s ready.” While it’s not easy to see in still shots, in motion, We Shall Wake is a spectacular game to watch and to play. Even more impressive is the fact that it’s being produced with a small team on a shoestring budget.
The balletic violence of We Shall Wake is inspired by Metal Gear Rising, Devil May Cry, and Kingdom Hearts, but Siliconera caught up with the game’s director, animator, and gameplay/sound/logic programmer Brayden McKinney to discover that, at least in terms of the story and lore, We Shall Wake is better compared to Prototype.
Also discussed is how the flexibility and customization of the combat system coerce, how the AI will challenge the player or flee from them, and the possibility dropping features in order to maintain hold over combat system so fast that many physics engines couldn’t keep up with it. McKinney also reveals how he was mocked for his ambition early on in the game’s development and how this motivated him to prove those people wrong.
Let’s get right to We Shall Wake’s main feature: the combat. You’ve validly compared it to a number of other fast-paced combat systems, but could you pick out what is it that separates We Shall Wake’s combat from others?
Brayden McKinney, Director: I designed We Shall Wake‘s combat in hopes that I could make one of the fastest combat systems ever – and I think this is what’s going to be its main appeal. That’s definitely what separates it from other fighting games, and what makes it fun to me to make.
In fact, early on we had to make our own physics engine because more traditional ones like Bullet simply couldn’t keep up with MORS09 (also called Novem, the main character of the game) efficiently when he reached max speed.
How did you manage to achieve such extravagant combos while also having a fully customizable move set? It seems like it could have been difficult given your high bar for flexibility and flow?
It’s actually not as hard as it sounds – the game uses a traditional combo system for basic combat, which is essentially just tapping your hand and leg attack buttons in the order that you wish to perform your combos. The real meat of the move-set editor comes in your utility moves; which include your High-Time type moves and etcetera.
You have to mix your combos and your utility moves to make the combat crazy. In short, it’s combining Kingdom Hearts basic mashing combo system with Devil May Cry’s more intricate system.
What we haven’t seen so much of yet is how the AI will affect the player’s prowess in battle – so far we’re able to be very domineering in fights. What are the different ways you are hoping the AI / enemy designs will react to and test the player?
I’m actually in the middle of a huge AI rewrite. The AI will have different personality systems based on a set of generated DNA, which determines numerical values for things such as their pride, confidence, honor, leadership abilities, down to even their tendencies to disrespect authority.
The AI will hopefully ultimately be able to work together when they’re trying to take you down, but I don’t have any specifics on that yet. An example I do have working however is that more honorable AI will challenge to you the fight rather than just lunging at you – whereas the less honorable will make a point to attack you while you’re weak, and if their confidence is too low, they’ll run away if you’re at full health.
What kinds of extra abilities and upgrades does the customizable robot chassis offer, and how do they integrate with combat, as well as allow for varied play styles, if at all?
At the moment the chassis system is in limbo – we’re not sure what we’re going to do with it. It’s already programmed and ready, but if we do decide to go through with it, it’ll need rebalancing.
The general idea was to allow the player to specialize in certain components of how MORS operates on the field, but we fear that this is becoming less of something we’d really want in the game, due to not wanting to build the other components that would have to accommodate it. In example, I’d rather not endorse a heavy MORS model that runs slow but hits hard, because that contradicts that initial direction of the game and we’re not the types to try and make a game that tries to let you do “whatever you want.”
The game has a clear purpose and we’re sticking to it, even if it means we have to remove features and replace them with others.
Zooming out from the combat, how is the player able to affect the world through their actions and their interactions with the different factions?
The game is inspired by Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Rising, and Kingdom Hearts, but in reality the aim was always to be a spiritual successor to Prototype. The game used a cool faction contesting system that allowed the various game factions to fight and take control of areas, where you could come in and change the tide of the entire war that’s taking place without you. I wanted that for We Shall Wake, and we’ve implemented it in our own way.
In the beginning of the game, the entire tower of Yarib is generated for you to explore, along with the various AI and all of their individual personalities and schedules – and along with this the state of the battle taking place there. You don’t have to interfere, they will still take place as you explore, but you can also change the tide of a battle by quelling the various forces fighting each other. In the beginning of the game you’ll be feared by both factions, but as you assist either side, they will fear you less.
Could you be specific about how the player will discover the lore of the different dungeons and what you mean by the “minimalist approach” in terms of presenting it?
The game won’t shove the fairly complicated backstory in your face. By minimalist, I meant that if you really are interested in the game’s story, you’ll have to dig for it. AI will have a chance of dropping in-game “logs” that contain pieces of information on the world that the player can put together themselves.
The main focus on the story will be the rivalry of Novem (MORS 09) and Decem (MORS 10) however and their dynamic.
What’s your favorite aspect of We Shall Wake so far? Have you had any moments that really made you proud or surprised you while you’ve working on it and testing it?
Honestly, there isn’t a part of We Shall Wake I’m not proud of. It uses a custom engine that we wrote ourselves in 2012-2013, and then we also started on the game itself in 2014. We’ve made fantastic progress, and I couldn’t have made it this far without my team – who also happen to be some of my best friends.
In the beginning people told us that we couldn’t do it and that what we wanted to do is impossible. Everywhere I went when I was trying to build the team initially, people would say “No artists or modelers would bother working with you,” or “Making your own engine is impossible,” or “You’ll never be able to make a game without a budget.”
Proving those people wrong is what makes this fun and inspirational to me. I sincerely hope that someday, maybe my game can be as inspirational to other people as it was to me while making it.