Last night I spent several hours broken down at the side of a busy A road, so, unfortunately, this interview comes to you all a little later than I had hoped. But all involved are now safe and sound, tucked up under a duvet on the couch and I can finally introduce you to our exclusive interview with Henry Vuontisjärvi of Indie studio Iron Sight Ltd. So without further adieu, here it is….
Let us begin with a small introduction; tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
We are Iron Sight Ltd, a year-old game studio from Oulu, Finland. The company has been founded by me, Henry Vuontisjärvi to develop PC strategy games. We are currently a team of five dedicated developers from various backgrounds.
And how about a quick history lesson on your studio? Our readers love a good origins story.
Years ago, then an engineering student and an avid fan of Jagged Alliance 2, I started developing a turn-based tactics game. “It should be simple enough for a hobbyist project”, I thought (just kidding).
During college, I stayed in the school library at nights to design the game and to program the engine. Eventually, I graduated, got a job as a game programmer and for few years worked in various game companies, usually creating mobile games with Unity.
As my skills improved, so did End State, evolving continuously in the background. In early 2014 I decided to focus full time on delivering my dream project. Initially, I worked mostly alone with help from friends, volunteers, and freelancers.
In summer 2015 End State was submitted in the Steam Greenlight and got “greenlit” in just 10 days. That was the final encouragement needed and in late 2015 I founded Iron Sight Ltd.
Being based in Finland; do you find it harder than developers who are based in other countries such as the UK and the USA where there may be more game development opportunities? Or because of things like Skype, Twitter and the rest of the internet, do you think location may not be as big an issue as it may have been say 20 years ago?
No, I don’t think it is any harder. We have such a good and “indie-spirited” community here in Finland, a good access to funding and a large, competent talent pool of hobbyists and professionals that we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Now we’ve gotten to know you let’s talk about End State, your first studio title. What kind of game is it?
It is a modern take on the classical turn-based tactics genre. In End State, you manage and command your squad in various combat and intelligence operations. It features a non-linear campaign, deep tactical gameplay, resource management, destructible environment and a variety of different weapons.
End State takes place in a fictional country of Brekovia, a former soviet state located in eastern Europe. After falling of the Iron Curtain and the following years under a corrupt government, the region has become a haven for criminals, international terrorists and shady corporations.
The game places the player in control of private military intelligence company that is tasked to track down a notorious terrorist network operating inside the country. The player will manage the unit in the strategic world map and command individual soldiers in tactical operations.
Thematically End State represents a gritty version of the real world and draws from the mental imagery of CIA-backed covert operations on foreign soil.
And what was it that inspired you to make this game? Is this a genre you’ve always been a fan of?
Jagged Alliance 2 made a huge impact when it was released in 1999 and I wanted to someday do something similar. I have always been a big fan of the genre and strategy games in general.
What have you done to make your title stand out from the competition and freshen up the genre?
The most important thing for us is that the gameplay is solid. The tactical combat has pretty much everything we thought that a game like this should have, ranging from interruptions and a smart cover system to a destructible environment and realistic bullet simulation.
We have played a lot of the other games in the genre and there have always been several things that have annoyed us gameplaywise and we have tried to avoid and fix them in End State. Some are minor details such as a bad cover system, pew-pew weapons or shots missed from a foot away. Others are major gameplay choices like a pseudo-RNG system in some games versus simulation in End State or two actions versus action points (we use the latter).
Naturally, there are a lot of fresh new things we have added in the play. There is an important reaction mechanism where the field of view and the directional facing matters a lot. This makes careful tactical movement and strafing around corners important so that you can spot enemies and have better reaction time when engaging in firefights during interruptions. It makes the gameplay much more intensive.
Probably the least important thing for strategy fans, but also visually the game is now on a level it will definitely stand out from the genre.
I know in the past playing turn based strategies, I have witnessed a fair few bugs because sometimes the games can be quite complex. Have you had to face any major issues during development?
When developing a game, there are of course always many small issues, ranging from unexpected AI behaviour to resource hogging and physics glitches. We all have years of development experience, which makes it easier to solve technical and graphical issues. The biggest challenges have been in making the actual content since we are a small team in the end.
And following on from that, have there been any parts of the development of this game that you were particularly proud of?
I would like to say that we are proud to be able to make something this awesome with such a small team and budget. It might sound a bit douchey, so instead I’ll have to praise the reaction and facing mechanism mentioned earlier. Strafing and turning feels so natural, we have unconsciously tried to do it in other games with poor success.
The alpha demo is out soon and for anyone interested they can register to join on your website. What exactly are you hoping to get out of this phase of testing? And when do you think you’ll have the beta testing starting?
The registration is still open on our website or Facebook. The main purpose of this testing is not to get something but to give – we want to show the people that something really unique is brewing here and let them taste it. Naturally, we want to build a community around End State that will help us to develop and deliver a genre defining title.
I can’t say much about the beta or other next steps at this point because we don’t have a publisher telling us what to do and when to do it. We are making the game we have always wanted to play ourselves and it is ready only when it’s ready.
Will you be attending any conventions in the new year to showcase End State?
Most likely Gamescom in Cologne, since it’s easy to access it from Finland. If people would definitely want to see & meet us somewhere, we are always open to suggestions.
Just a couple more general questions to tie things up; firstly for people looking but are maybe too scared to venture into game development and start up a studio like you have, what advice can you offer? Are there any particular pieces of software you would recommend?
Well, I think anyone should go game first and think about starting a company only when you actually have something you are passionate to develop. At Iron Sight we use Unity. It has been good for us.
And what suggestions would you give us if we’re to be successful in achieving our ambitions? Afterall Full Sync Gaming is the journalistic parallel to an indie dev working from their bedroom. We’re building from the ground up with a commitment to quality original content like this interview with you.
What exactly are your ambitions? Well, in my opinion, you should go determinedly towards the goal you wish to achieve and stay true to your original principles and ambitions even after success.
Your game has actually already been Greenlit by the community on Steam Greenlight; what do platforms like this do for Indie Developers like yourself? How has the introduction of them changed the way developers operate?
I think it democratises the industry. Everyone with reasonable skills and a good idea has the access on the global market. It is something that you can’t appreciate enough. There aren’t many easier ways to get your product globally available for the masses than Steam and other digital marketplaces.
And finally, just for a bit of fun, what kind of person are you; are you well prepared and always arrive early, very anal and arrive everywhere on time, or like me do you show up fashionably late well after you said you would?
I’m always on time when I promise to be, therefore I rarely promise to arrive on a certain time. I don’t like giving promises I can’t keep.
We’d like to thank Henry for doing this interview with us; if you’d like to know more about Iron Sight or their game End State, you can find all the links your heart desires below:
We are game developers from Oulu, Finland. Iron Sight is founded on the passion for developing strategy and wargames. One game particularly.
Iron Sight – http://www.ironsight.fi
End State – http://www.endstategame.com