Interview: Digital Arrow on InMomentum

InMomentum, the minimalistic sci-fi racing game by Digital Arrow is due to release on Steam. The game is very unique and is sure to evoke memories of Mirror’s Edge and the bunny hopping of Quake III. As release day is nearing, we thought it might be a good idea to talk with the developers about what to expect from the game. Speaking is Norbert Varga, co-founder of Digital Arrow and lead designer of InMomentum.

Would you introduce yourselves to our readers? Who are Digital Arrow?
Digital Arrow is a game developer studio located in Serbia. We are a group of people that seek new ways of exploring the gaming medium, using open and flexible development with the goal to set a new bar for innovative experiences – by expanding set genres, combining styles or just simply creating new ones.

You classify InMomentum as a sci-fi platform racing game. Could you tell us a bit about how that works?
InMomentum is a game that is somewhere in the sci-fi genre, but cannot be entirely nested into any specific style because of the abstract and minimalistic approach. It’s a game where the player has to explore, adopt and be creative to successfully win races or beat the clock. Racing is, well racing in the conventional sense – however the execution is not conventional. Instead of driving cars or other vehicles, the ‘racers’ are the players themselves, and their ‘vehicle’ is their own creativity. As we say, “it’s your move”.

After just looking at one screenshot, it’s apparent that InMomentum is sporting a unique minimalistic style, yet still looks beautiful in the Unreal Engine. Why did you decide on such aesthetics for your game? Why not an urban environment?
Thank you. InMomentum itself started off as a project that explored human reaction to simplified visuals where the focus was only on simple shapes, colors and lighting. Later on, this expanded more and we actually wanted to go towards an underground, dungeon art style. Looking back to that, I’m very glad that we did not, because the more the game evolved, the more important became to be able to quickly comprehend your environment. If we would’ve kept rocky surfaces and more complex shapes, it would’ve made the comprehension of your environment far more difficult, especially at high speeds.

What modes and features can we expect on the multiplayer side of things?
Multiplayer will provide the actual racing element to the game which will work slightly different than singleplayer. Powerups will be present that open up different possibilities. In race mode, laps appear which provide you more time and space to win and perfect your route. We will also have different kind of modes that will be added to the game post release, thing such is cat & mice or capture the flag-styled gamemodes are in plan.

While the casual onlooker might think of InMomentum as primarily a multiplayer title, what about us misanthropes with no friends? Is it time trial and practice mode for us, or will we see a single-player campaign?
The primary focus of the inMomentum singleplayer will be the various online leaderboards in two different gamemodes. One being the “Sphere Hunt”, in which the player needs to collect a set of spheres as fast as possible and finish the level, and the other will be a regular time trial. Each map will be playable in 4 different difficulties as well, each having its own separate online leaderboard to top it off. A campaign is in plan, however we will not disclose much about it at this point, except that it will be wrapped in a deep story.

I have been looking over various gameplay videos and I have to say, the actual level design looks very well done. How do you intend to keep things interesting in multiplayer for those who have mastered the quickest route for each track?
Each level will have different routes. In addition, the maps can be hosted in the available 4 difficulties, from which the 4th (Impossible) is going to challenge even the most hardcore players. But to top this off, there are the powerups. Powerups are pretty much random and work similarly to the Mario race games. Once a powerup is picked up, a random powerup is provided to the player if he has a slot available. A player can have two powerups at a time and can be activated whenever the player wishes to for additional tactics. This will make the races quite competitive. Not to mention that a good aim can always help you to knock someone out of their momentum.

Development has been going on for a while and it seems you’ve taken in a lot of community suggestions during beta. How far did you go out of your way to include player feedback and what’s it like working with your community?
I personally think that a service provider (in this case the developer) should always aim to find the best way to satisfy a customer (in this case the players). Obviously, there are set margins that we cannot cross, but a good service provider will always make sure that these margins are not too narrow when devising a plan. I wanted to start the beta as early as possible to improve the game. I played the game for months, yet I did not notice some small things that were so obvious and improve the game a whole lot. I’m very happy that we were fortunate enough to receive such great feedback. It’s a great feeling to know that your game has improved by the feedback of a player. I wish more developers would be flexible.

What are your post-release plans? Bug fixes, balance patches, DLC, hats?
InMomentum is definitively going to improve in the post-release period. Bug fixes, balance patches, DLC are all in plan. I cannot speak much about it as it heavily depends what the reaction will be on the game. But I can say that the additional narrative single player campaign and a set of additional multiplayer games will be released as a DLC. Additional map packs and possible feature expansions are also in plan. DLC for InMomentum will be free.

Will players get their grubby mitts on a level editor?
Yes, and it will probably come as part of the first major DLC.

Why did you go for the Unreal Engine for InMomentum and how did the transition to UE3 mid-development work out?
There were multiple reasons for the Unreal Engine 3 transfer. UDK is a great tool but we wanted to dive more into the source code, which we cannot do with the UDK itself. Unreal Engine 3’s source provided us with additional flexibility. Thanks to it, we managed to fix most of our crash issues, improved the Steam support for the game and we will be able to ship a proper level editor as well. The transition went way smoother than I expected, it took us five working days to get the game from UDK over to Unreal Engine 3 and get if fully running.

The game will be available for purchase on Steam. Can you tell us how this benefits you as the developer as well as customers?
Steam is one of the best options for a startup developer in every way possible to get the game to the public, especially that most smaller indies cannot afford to release retail copies of the game. For the end users, the Steamworks integration of the game will provide leaderboards, achievements, matchmaking, online play and more. We will also distribute our patches and DLC through steam, making game updates easy and convenient.

What are some of the hurdles you went through during development? Every studio has at least one tale to tell.
We had a few, like any developer does, but I’m happy to say that we never really had any extreme problems. The team is really good and every problem that came up was solved in a very short matter. I’m very happy to be able to work with such a skilled team. The only biggest problem was a start-up crash that appeared on the beta launch. It was a very random bug that occurred to some of us randomly, for some constantly and to some never. It took a good two weeks to hunt down and another week to fix.

You are also working on another game, Dilogus – the Winds of War for Windows and Linux. Can you let our readers know what to expect from that title after they’ve enjoyed InMomentum?

Dilogus – The Winds of War is our flagship project and it will be a fantasy RPG. Like InMomentum did to the racing genre, Dilogus – The Winds of War will bring novelty into the RPG genre with its large, unique universe and detailed choice and combat system. Dilogus – The Winds of War is also one of our main efforts to liven up Linux gaming, as there are quite a few Linux users on the team (including myself), and we would really like to see a serious, “nextgen” game running natively on Linux. I’m also sure we’re not the only Linux users that would be happy to see this become a reality.

What are your personal favorite games and developers?
My personal favorite gamers are (in no particular order): Icewind Dale, Baldurs Gate 2, Gothic 1 and 2, The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall, Gears of War 1, Fallout 2, Fable 1, Bioshock 1, Deus Ex 1, Quake 2 and 3, Unreal Tournament 2004, X-Com: Enemy Unknown, Diablo 2, StarCraft 1, Warcraft 3, Max Payne 1.

My favorite developers… Now that’s a tough one. I don’t really make a difference between developers as long as they make a good game.

If any of our readers visit Temerin in Serbia, where’s the best place to eat and what should we order?
If anyone is to come to Temerin, I highly suggest them to visit “Gulyás Csárda” and order a meat dish with “Temerini Szelet”, “Karadjordjeva” and “Mátrai Szelet”. For salad, I suggest the “Šopska salata”, and the right drink to this meal is the semi-sweet white wine, “Mirna Bačka”.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2xOnm1xhPY&w=460&h=264]

Finally, when can we expect InMomentum to release?
InMomentum is coming out this month. Keep an eye on our website, as we’ll release more information on this soon.

Thank you for your time.

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