Interview With Dexter Chow From Codex Worlds
Dexter Chow is the CEO and Creative Director for codex worlds. He originally started out at Broderbund Software and then moved on to Ubisoft, eventually making his way back to the indie scene by creating Codex Worlds. I got a chance to chat with Dexter Chow to ask him a few questions about transitioning from a bigger game company to an indie game company plus, all the exciting things Codex Worlds has in store for gamers across the globe.
GameSkinny: What was it like transitioning from a big game company like Ubisoft, to creating your own with Codex Worlds?
Dexter Chow: Frankly, I couldn't see myself making that transition right away from a huge company with tons of resources, like Ubisoft or Mattel, to the challenges of being a small indie developer. I was fortunate to have worked at GarageGames for three years after Ubisoft, where I worked in a much smaller company (25 people) and with passionate indies who face challenges every day. I caught the indie bug after that.
GS: Can you describe some of the challenges smaller game studios face? How does Codex Worlds overcome them?
DC: The biggest challenge is the ever-increasing quality of other indie teams and their products. It is both inspiring and daunting at the same time. Our decision to do PBR 3D graphics (physically based rendering) with a small team is a challenge in itself. Regardless, we felt the type of products we were doing would be much better as 3D products. Indies will constantly be asking what is their best choice to increase quality. More often than not, it boils down to increasing production values and higher quality game experiences. This is not to say every indie game needs to be a complex production, but overall visual game experiences matter more than ever. The big VR push also supports this point that the mass market is expecting higher production values and small developers like us will always be challenged by bigger-budget game projects.
Time-to-market is also more important now. In this competitive environment, it is very hard for a product to stay relevant if it is two or three years late. Releasing late is a much bigger risk than it was five years ago because competition is so intense. Some might say it was OK to be fashionably late five years ago, but now there's a likelihood you will just be forgotten.
GS: Codex Worlds has a very talented roster. How did you all come together?
DC: Both Michael, our production director, and I have been in development a long time. We've built up relationships with co-workers as well as with talented students at local game development programs. We have communicated our culture of working closely with talented new college grads and veterans on original games with high production values. The majority of our team have come as personal recommendations through Michael and I's contacts from our respective careers and of course their contacts as well.
We are results oriented and not necessarily stuck on a resume or experience. Our young team has fresh ideas and are more in touch with the newer trends. For example, Cameron Loui hasn't finished college yet and he decided to join us full time as a lead programmer...he happens to be a master-ranked StarCraft 2 player and his competitive experience helps us in our approach to designing games.
GS: As a huge RPG and dungeon-crawler fan, can you elaborate on what Battlecursed is bringing to the genre?
DC: There are three areas we are trying to innovate: combat system, mixing the genres of rogue with classic dungeon crawling and skill-based action.
Combat: We have a distinct combat system we call Tactical Action Combat System that introduces tactics and precision into what looks like first-person action. There is a lot of underlying system in play, but the gist of it is the characters are animated and their AI is programmed with a number of tactics in mind so the enemies don't blindly attack like in so many other games. When you throw in spells, buffs and special attacks, we hope this makes for interesting battles. For example, you can use the Mage's frost spell to coat the Archer's arrows and deliver is a freezing attack that locks the enemy up in ice. This allows us to have large-scale battles that are not typically associated with dungeon crawler games.
Rogue/Dungeon Crawler: The rewards of getting deeper into the adventure are many. Playing over and over again, players will get to experiment with different party types which will introduce new play styles and maybe more success. There are many classic products that provide combat and story through exploring a dungeon-style adventure. However, in Battlecursed, we want to provide an ever-expanding story with expansive hero development as players get better and go deeper into the dungeons. Also, with ten heroes and their respective guilds, there is a lot of unveiling of story and hero talents breadth, not just depth.
Skill-based Actions: The pacing of combat in dungeon crawlers like Dungeon Master and Grimrock tends to be slow and on a small scale. Battlecursed doesn't feel as fast as a first person shooter, but we've increased its scale of combat to upwards of ten enemies at once, as well as giving players time to make tactical actions. There's a lot of challenge here to get this combat system right, but we are shooting for this larger scale without losing the tactics from this genre of game.
GS: With your first title about to launch, can you tell our readers about Infinium Strike.
DC: It's a 3D strategy/action hybrid where you are the weapons officer of the largest battleship ever made. You don't control the ship or any one turret, but all the strategy is built around protecting your ship. Unlimited power and liquid metal repairs allow huge battles to be won with the proper use of the ship's turret systems, fleets of ships and special tech, callled SuperTech. Examples of SuperTech include a satellite that changes gravity and all units start following it as well as a massive nuke that clears almost everything in a quadrant.
We think this original real time strategy/action hybrid plays like a strategy game and an arcade game because of all the choices a player has to make in the 4 cardinal directions.
GS: I know you guys got a chance showcase both titles at GDC 2016. How was that for you?
DC: The exposure we got for both Infinium Strike and Battlecursed was excellent. The nice thing was seeing that people understood both products very quickly by just looking at it, which is important to us. The gameplay mechanics have proved to be unique, but still very recognizable.
GS: You have a blog called Game Life Coach. What inspired you to start blogging?
DC: I have been fortunate to be in the games industry and to have had so many mentors over the years. I want to share that good fortune. By writing, I’m also forced to analyze my past and present processes, especially the ones that don't work. In the past I’ve worked as a game design teacher and really enjoyed that experience.
GS: Last but not least I need your top 5 inspirational games of all time:
DC: Wizardy Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, Dungeon Master, Warlord II, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy X.
I would like to thank Dexter Chow for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us here at GameSkinny.com. Be sure to visit Codex Worlds for more information about Battlecursed and Infinium Strike. Also don't forget to follow Dexter Chow on Twitter.