TwinDrills Interview: Zombie Grinder

t’s the Linux gaming community that’s the most abuzz about Zombie Grinder, and it’s not hard to see why; gorgeous multiplayer games don’t tend to wind up on that platform. Despite being in a “pre-pre-alpha” stage right now, you can download the game for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux right now from the official website, with new versions pushed roughly every week. Developed by the two-man TwinDrills, an indie game dev duo made up of Tim Leonard and Jordan Chewning, the game looks to be shaping up to be a classic – so we spoke with Chewning to find out a little more.

First off, describe Zombie Grinder in your own words.
It’s a game where you and four friends are dropped into a world filled with squishy blood-filled zombies, and get armed with the sharpest, most explosive arsenal ever!

What’s your role in the game’s production?
I’m the lead (and only, at the moment) graphic artist, and the core conceptualist when it comes to designing gameplay mechanics. I basically design everything you see on the screen, then Tim makes my crude mock-ups come to life.

What software do you and Tim use to work on the project?
I personally do all my work in MS Paint, short of making PNGs transparent, for which I turn to Game Maker 8. Tim does all of the programming junk in a combo of Blitz and C.

Any reason for not using some higher-end tools like Paint.NET, The GIMP, or Photoshop?
I’ve used MS Paint since I started drawing back in 2003, and just felt it does exactly what I need it to do when it comes to graphic design.

How did you get started on the project?
Well, the game itself actually got concepted back in roughly 2005 between myself and my buddy Charles. The original concept was a side-scrolling beat-‘em-up game.

Has your vision of the project changed at all since you started?
Drastically! Our original concept also included the ability to beat up any object on the screen.

Do you think you’re more satisfied with the direction it’s going now as opposed to what you originally intended?
In terms of Zombie Grinder itself, I’m very pleased! I still want to make the other game with Charles some day…

What have your biggest influences been for Zombie Grinder?
For gameplay, it’s definitely got to be games like Zombies Ate My Neighbours, and Super Smash TV, and the old twin-stick shooting games like that. For graphics, I’ve been heavily influenced by the Earthbound/Mother style.

And Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the ctf_heist map!
True.

How did you get into game development in general?
It all started in the Summer of 1998. I did a Yahoo search for game making programs, an dstumbled on some old DOS-based adventure game engines that were easy to modify. Between ‘98 and Summer ‘99, I did more research on game development, made a ton of mockups and wrote/drew design docs instead of doing homework, and then in Summer ‘99, I cam across a program called Game Maker 3.1. The rest is history!

Why work on an indie game rather than apply for a job in game development?
I’m no good at meeting deadlines! Plus, I really don’t intend to turn it into a job. It’s a hobby I truly love doing in my down time, and turning it into a full-time job would suck all of the leisure out of it.

So what exactly do you want as a career?
I’m still undecided on that. It’s kind of bad at my age, but I’m still trying to find my calling. It may be graphics arts, who knows! My career choices went from English teacher to chef when I was in high school, so I don’t know.

At what stage of development would you say Zombie Grinder is currently?
Tim insists it’s in pre-pre-alpha, which I don’t even think is a thing! I’d say open beta, because I don’t believe anything released can be considered alpha.

I’d agree. The engine’s pretty much done, and you just need to put in more content, right?
Yup! It kind of puts a squeeze on me. I’m the only one doing graphics, so it’s now up to me to make maps, items, weapons, etc. Mind you, Tim and I are still concepting new zombies, so that gives him something to do.

I’ll pitch in some ideas if I come up with any as well!
Always open.

What rough release date are you hoping for? Or is that still out of the question?
Very much out of the question. We still don’t even know what we want the game to be.

Are you guys trying to focus more on a single-player campaign or multiplayer mayhem?
Right now, we’re trying to get multiplayer and cross-platform working. The single-player aspect should be coming along soon.

Are there any special features that single-player will have compared to multiplayer? Right now, it looks like multiplayer will have all the fun stuff.
Single-player will mainly be for people who have no Internet connection. At the moment, the game requires a constant connection to the master server.

How important is it to you that Zombie Grinder becomes available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux?
To be honest, when Tim released the Mac OS build, I audibly squealed! It was a major step, I feel, for the game. It’s something we’ve been promising since day one, and to see it happen felt really good. The Linux build is very nice to have around too. I was amazed to see how big our Linux following was!

Do you think you might port it over to XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, etc.? Or even mobile devices?
We may eventually, there’s no telling. It would be excellent to see it on a console, but for the time being, a full PC/Mac/Linux release is our main focus!

How has working with Desura changed the development process?
It’s been kind of double-edged… Desura itself is still very much in development, so it’s sort of hampered a few of our previous luxuries. It has allowed us to extend our reach to the community a lot easier though. I really can’t wait until the API is released!

How far do you plan to go with the included SDK as far as mods go?
As far as community-created content, we’ve already gogt people programming new weapons which we intend on adding to the game! We’ve also seen players making awesome new maps. With Tim’s programming language, adding new gameplay modes is also very easy!

Do you have any favourite community-created content?
We had a guy named Rubz create a gun called the “Marksman Carbine”, and he went really deep into the source to get it working. He made sprites, added them to the sheet, and edited all the configs to make it work, added all the stats, added sounds. It’s really cool to see stuff like that!

Finally, what single piece of advice would you give to other budding game developers?
Stay in touch with your following! No matter how many people follow your game, listen to each and every one of them.

You can find out more about Zombie Grinder on TwinDrills’ official website here, or find it on Desura directly here.

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