Jay Barnson sits with us and uncovers this soon to be released space shooter, Void War
24 August 2004 | By Import
Si: For start please introduce yourself and the team behind Void War.
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Jay Barnson: I'm Jay Barnson, designer and project lead for Void War, and founder of
Games. I worked for six years in the videogame industry, developing
titles for the PC, Sony Playstation, and Sega Dreamcast. I left the
business to pursue other opportunities at the end of 2000, but part of
reasoning was that I was tired of working on other peoples' games and
the freedom to work on some neat game ideas that I'd always wanted to
Even if that meant working part-time on a shoestring budget. Rampant
I wasn't alone. After Void War began to resemble something more than a
technology demo, I found people willing to help on the project, and thus
was born. I graciously accepted help from another veteran game
(well, actually, I had to all but crawl on my hands and knees to beg him
help, but that's splitting hairs), and managed to get help from some
who had experience modeling for CAD engineering and TV commercials. I
lucky enough to be related to a talented IT professional who moonlights
musician and composer. We contract out or license what we can't do on
It's a real "garage band"-style arrangement, but its worked out
and we're very proud of the results.
And to me, a child of the 80's who became hooked on the old arcade games
Pac-Man and Asteroids, it feels like the way game development ought to
Si: When will the game be released?
Jay Barnson: Next month, assuming beta test goes well.
Si: Please introduce Void War to our readers. How would you describe
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Jay Barnson: Pure fun! The best game ever!!! The greatest gaming value to grace your
Okay, you probably wanted something with a bit more substance to it,
you? How's this: Void War is a single-player and multi-player 3D Space
action game, emphasizing ease-of-play and exciting, challenging
The game features six playable fighters, each with unique flight and
characteristics such as armor, speed, maneuverability, shield strength,
Each ship also features a unique 'special ability' they can use in
against their opponents. For example, the Renown features a "vampire
that drains a nearby enemy of power to augment its own. The Tempest has
special shield that renders it practically invulnerable to attack for a
The battles take place in unique environments filled with obstacles,
gravitational anomalies, and objects you can pick up to augment and
your ship. This is not unlike a multiplayer first-person shooter, except
you have to contend with a full, open 3D environment in the
space. You also have a level of physics to contend with, as your ships
stop or turn on a dime. Successful players will have to master flying
fighting in space.
Void War features two multiplayer game modes, and two single-player
of the single-player modes is a "campaign"-based story mode where you'll encounter ships and battlefields not seen in other parts of the game. So
should be plenty to enjoy even if you have no intention of playing it
Si: Which games have insipired you into making Void War and so how
unique will it be compared to the games in its genre?
Jay Barnson: The obvious comparison comes from the great 3D space combat games - of
I'm a huge fan - such as the Wing Commander and X-Wing series. I loved
simplicity and pure fun of the earlier games in both of those series,
also am a fan of more recent offerings, like Freespace 2.
But Void War's design actually has just as much in common with the old
space shooters, like Asteroids and Space Duel, the outstanding Star
series, and the great-grandaddy of all videogames, SpaceWar. Our intent
take the fun, cool, exciting combat parts of those games and make them
fun, cool, and exciting in 3D. It wasn't as easy, but I think we pulled
The main thing that sets Void War apart from other multiplayer-capable
combat "sims" out there is our focus on making combat unique and
Really, that was what set us off working on this project in the first
Other games offer interesting mission-based gameplay that require you
resources, wingmen, and timing to take on the other team. But when you
to pure dogfighting against another player, it's BORING. It comes down
pointing and shooting, or unleashing the first salvo of missiles. If you
manage to mix it up into a dogfight, it's just the two of you circling
other until someone falls asleep and makes a mistake.
For years we waited for a game that would make the one-on-one (or
combat element as exciting as, say, a World War II era combat flight
finally got tired of waiting and decided to make it ourselves.
Si: Which game feature are you most exited about?
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Jay Barnson: I think I'm most thrilled about the way we managed to get the "space
under control and make it such a fun part of gameplay. It was a tall
it's hard to drive a car on a slippery, icy road in real life. Now try
the same thing in three dimensions on a little 17" monitor, and you are
in for a tough time. We spent a lot of time massaging the physics and
player controls to try and make it simple and intuitive, challenging
be fun but not out-of-control and frustrating.
The end result, especially when combined with the presence of 'pick-up'
in the battlefield and objects that exert gravitational forces on your
some really fascinating gameplay that just gets deeper and deeper every
play. An example I like to use is the "hypergravity well" (or just
well") - sort of a miniature black hole in space that pulls nearby ships
you get trapped, it drains all your energy, leaving you incredibly
and spits you out in a random direction. At one point, I just thought
grav-well would be 'yet another obstacle' in space --- you have things
don't want to crash into, the the hypergravity wells that you wanted to
getting too close to.
One night during an early playtest, two of the guys got annoyed with me
stomping on them so soundly, and so they decided to team up and clobber
They were succeeding. I put my power into the engines and tried to flee,
they were still hitting with their lasers at long range as they gave
didn't dare turn much, because it would give them the opportunity to
distance. But flying straight, I was a very predictable target, and my
were already gone. In desperation I aimed for the gravity well. I was
use it's force to effectively "slingshot" my way along a different
screwing up their aim without turning. More importantly, they couldn't
turn and follow me exactly because the grav-well was in the way and
them in. They had to turn and try to escape its pull before they were
They ended up flying off in different directions, and so I was able to
around and pick them off one at a time.
After gloating about my clever tactics, I found that in future battles
were actually CHOOSING to fight near the grav-well. They could use it as
escape route if things got tight, and it would also punish anybody who
paying attention. As time has gone by, we've watched ever more
tactics emerge out of these really simple gameplay elements.
One other thing I'm really proud of is our controls. We've worked hard
them as simple as possible. It is my hope that this will make the game
accessible to beginners to the genre. I feel part of the reason the
combat' genre has died away has been because of the increasing
the controls. It gets to the point that you can't attract new players to
game because you are trying so hard to challenge the 'pros.' I think
offers something that is challenging and exciting to the 'seasoned
is also pretty easy to pick up and enjoy for people who have never
games like it.
Si: What sort of machine will the game require to run at optimum performance?
Jay Barnson: We designed the game so it would play adequately on older hardware ---
should be able to get it to play reasonably well on an 800-mhz machine
TNT-2 card (or equivalent). But I'd recommend a G-Force 2 or equivalent
and a 2
ghz CPU for optimum performance... though if you want to play with a LOT
players at once, you'll want a beefier box and a lot of bandwidth for
Si: Would you like to add anything?
Jay Barnson: Void War has been an interesting experiment in a genre that the big
have mostly given up for dead. The cool thing about being an independent developer is that you have the kind of freedom to explore these wildly
ideas and areas within gaming. I hope that more players can discover the
gaming scene and discover the kinds of cool, innovative ideas you just
find on the store shelves of your local game store.
I'd like to thank you for giving me the chance to talk about Void War...
one of my favorite topics!