Exclusive interview with Chad Jenkins of Tetragon Works

by MaddOx
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Part of the reason I got back into gaming journalism, joining Stark and Chris in setting up Full Sync, was because I missed chatting to people in the industry. Not just chatting to any old Joe Bloggs though, chatting to the hidden gems of the gaming world; whether that be cosplayers, developers or streamers. So often you see big name players in the industry having interviews with the big boys of gaming journalism, but they don’t always have the best stories to tell.

I’m glad to say that I’ve had the privilege to chat with another hidden gem in Chad Jenkins from Tetragon Works, who are currently working on Phantom Brigade. Before we get to the interview though, take this time now to go and put the kettle on because your eyes won’t want to leave the page once you’ve started reading. Here we go…

Hi Chad Jenkins, welcome to Full Sync Gaming. Let us begin with a small introduction; tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Hello! My name is Chad Jenkins, and I’m an Indie game developer. I like playing all kinds of games, reading books, drawing, and programming crazy experiments in my spare time. I also enjoy helping out other developers whenever I can.

And how about a quick history lesson on your studio. Where did it all start?

Tetragon Works has been an idea in my head for some time. I’m always working on game designs, keeping them ready for the day I have the resources to work on them. All the pieces finally fell into place, when some fellow collaborators from KSP became available. Artyom and I had always wanted to make a game, so we started up the studio and began development right away!

Chad Jenkin's Phantom Brigade gameplay footage
What kind of philosophy does your studio follow? Is there a specific game style you look to develop?

We really love Sandbox, and systemic games here, as well as strategy / grand strategy. You can expect our games to focus heavily on player-driven narratives, customization, and procedural tech. As Artyom and I are both modders, we aim to make our games highly moddable as well.

Now we’ve gotten to know you and the studio a bit, let’s talk about your current game in development, Phantom Brigade. What’s kind of game is it?

Phantom Brigade, is a Turn-Based Tactical RPG. You lead a small squad of freedom fighters as they try to retake their captured homeland. They pilot advanced, modular mechs, that are fully customizable. In order to gain an edge, you have to ambush and capture enemy equipment and supplies, using their own mechs against them to turn the tide of the war.

What was the inspiration behind the game? Was there a particular title in this genre that you enjoyed playing growing up?

Historically, the game is inspired by the opening conflicts of World War II and the resistance forces that fought to liberate their occupied homelands. They continued to fight against astounding odds, to undermine the war effort of their occupiers.

In regards to genre, it’s inspired by classic Tactical / S-RPGs of the PS1 and 2 era. Such as the Front Mission series and Final Fantasy Tactics. As well, the detailed customization of the Armored Core series of games.

What have you with Phantom Brigade to make it stand out from the competition and freshen up the genre?

The game doesn’t have a set story, just the initial starting conditions of the war. The campaign is very open and dynamic. As you play your pilots will evolve and gain new traits through combat, reflecting their hardships and triumphs. It’s not just a game about mechs, it’s the story of the people of the Phantom Brigade, and hope against all odds.

What software and systems have you been using during Phantom Brigade’s development?

The game itself is being developed in Unity, using software such as Photoshop, Maya, Sketchup and Visual Studio. The audio backend is WWise. Most of the tech we’re using is developed in-house, such as the system for building levels, and destroying them in real-time.

Have you faced any major issues during development? Has there been anything you wish you’d done differently?

We made a few missteps early on, though the game has been in a constant state of iteration. We really value player feedback and testing, which has helped us immensely. I do wish we had spent a bit more time in the early prototype phases before moving out. It would have allowed us to iterate even quicker.

And following on from that, has there been any small milestones during development where you were particularly proud of what you’d accomplished?

The current milestone we just hit. It’s great to see the base, customization and all the main systems finally coming together. Before it was just a bunch of separate pieces, now we can see the entire game as intended.

Final question related to the game; if you had to give our readers one reason to play your game when it gets released, what would it be?

Giant Mech tactics! I think if that doesn’t get you excited, it’s probably not for you haha.

Just a few more general questions to tie things up; firstly what is your view on how game development has changed over the years? Have things such as social media and platforms like Kickstarter helped out?

I think it’s really become more democratised. Now as a small Indie, you have access to all the tools you need to make amazing games. Unity, Unreal and other highly advanced engines are readily available. As well, with Youtube, Livestreaming and social media, anyone can get coverage and have a direct relationship with their fans. Kickstarter and other services are even allowing these small studios to find funding, and ideas that would have never been considered are getting published.

It is a bit of a double-edged sword though, as now anyone can quickly kitbash together a game with purchased assets that looks much higher quality than it is. These are sometimes making their way to Steam Greenlight and I worry that people will lose trust in developers.

You touched on Steam Greenlight. What impact do you think its removal will have for game developers? Do you think it will weed out the poorly made games from the good ones, or has it been a hammer blow for Indies?

I’m not sure what will happen with the removal of Greenlight. It brings a lot of uncertainty to the future, that’s very worrying for a company just starting up like ours. We’ll have to adapt to whatever the changes bring. I don’t think it will weed out poorly made games, as this move seems to be removing all curation on Valve’s part. It will be up to the Steam community itself, to vote with reviews and purchases.

And for people looking for a career in game development what advice can you, Chad Jenkins, offer? Should they specialise in one area, or expand their skillset to cover many areas?

I think that really depends on what your goals are. I tend to prefer the Valve model of “T-Shaped” employees. You should have a deep expertise in one area, and then branch out your expertise to cover a lot of areas to a lesser degree. This really helps to collaborate across disciplines and run a studio. At very least, you need to bring one of your skills to a marketable level, so you can start in a position at a game company. I’m always happy to help anyone getting started out. Feel free to email me over at Tetragon Works if you’d like more in depth advice.

And finally for a bit of fun Chad Jenkins; what’s your favourite TV Show? Have you binge-watched anything recently?

No, I don’t even have cable TV haha. I tend to binge on books and video games instead. Lately, I’ve been playing a whole lot of Oxygen Not Included by Klei. As well as re-reading the Disc World series.

And that draws our little chat to a conclusion. We’d like to thank Chad Jenkins for taking the time to chat with us. We hoped you enjoyed reading it and if what you’ve read on Phantom Brigade has you salivating over it like it were a good steak, then don’t worry, you can find all the info you need to keep track on development below:

Chad Jenkins Bio:

I started out as a tinkerer and modder, before transitioning to working on Kerbal Space Program full time. After that, I worked on Universe Sandbox ² and have consulted on a number of titles. These days, I run Tetragon Works, and help to develop our first title “Phantom Brigade”. When I’m not developing and designing games, I take care of my three boys and run local developer events for the Seattle Indies.

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