Red Mountain Games is a small Ukrainian team that develops the game Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories, a sort of spiritual successor to the tactical police shooter SWAT 4, which dares to compare to the legendary Irrational Games, authors of BioShock, BioShock Infinite, System Shock 2, Freedom Force and yes, SWAT 4. We decided to talk to the brave guys who do not respect authority at all and are confident that they will be able to create a project of this level with a small team. Valerii Kudatskyi, co-founder and game designer of the Red Mountain Games studio, answers our questions.
Good afternoon, let’s get to know each other. Who you are? How many people are in your studio? How long have you been developing games and working together?
We are a small but ambitious team that loves games and wants to make them. There are currently seven of us, but from time to time people join us to help us with different aspects of the game. It can be called outsourcing to some extent, but usually it is our acquaintances or friends. As for how long ago we started working on games, it was probably since school. However, then ideas did not go further. In the university days, we became more experienced and found like-minded people. And in the spring of 2020, we started working on Fusion (currently the project Fusion is frozen – ed.), I think this moment can be called the start of something serious.
Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories launched on Steam back in Spring 2021, and how long have you been developing the game? How is development financed?
Pure development, after the resolution of organizational issues, began at the beginning of spring 2021. The game is funded by our publisher.
Did you find the publisher Ritual Interactive yourself, or did they come to you?
Our publisher found us. This is an interesting story. At some point we started to burn out of Fusion development and for a change we launched on our YouTube channel the Weekly Prototypes series, where one of the programmers started teaching small prototypes. There was a gravity shooter, a spawn system, mini games, but one of the first to appear was a video about the command system as in SWAT 4. Basically, it was a circular menu with the ability to send NPCs to a point specified by the player. The whole team was shocked when we unexpectedly received a letter with a link to this video and an offer to finance such a project.
We spent a whole year developing Fusion, actively managed social networks, applied to all the contests we could find, publishers wrote to us repeatedly and nothing happened as a result, and then the video just worked so well. Now, everyone reading this may think we’re very lucky, but that’s largely thanks to Fusion. They told us so directly that they contacted us because they saw that we were capable of something.
But not everything was as perfect as it seems at first glance. Correspondence went very slowly, we could not set a time for a phone call. At some point, we thought that it was just a spontaneous letter and that they don’t know what to do with us now. But almost 2 months later, we switched from mail to Skype, and everything was quickly resolved there. This is the story of our acquaintance with the publisher.
You use Unreal Engine 4. Why this particular engine and is there any desire to switch to Unreal Engine 5?
We chose this engine because we think it is the best for what we want to do. We do not plan to switch to UE5. It will take a long time, and we already want to enter the market.
What competitive features does Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories have? How will you attract players?
Well, the main thing is that this is not an ordinary shooter, where you need to kill all the opponents as quickly as possible, on the contrary, it is a shooter, that punishes for this. It will not be possible to “play” Rambo here, the cleaner the player manages to pass the level, the better the result will be. It will be possible to complete missions both in a single-player campaign, giving commands to an AI partner, and in co-op with friends. Replayability can also be named among the features of the game, which will be implemented through changes in levels and game modes that will change the behavior patterns of enemy NPCs.
For games like Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories, a very important component is AI partners and opponents, how much time do you spend on this?
Yes, we fully understand that AI is the basis of our game. We have our own AI specialist and he spends almost all of his working time working on this aspect of the game.
Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories, like SWAT 4, is a realistic game. Did you consult with any of the fighters of the real special forces?
We showed the demo to special forces soldiers and received generally positive feedback.
How big will the game’s campaign be?
Ten major missions are planned.
Do you create all the content yourself, do you outsource something, or do you buy ready-made assets?
We buy ready-made assets and engage an outsourcer. We only modify and optimize the content on our own.
Isn’t there some kind of SWAT-versus-terrorist competitive multiplayer planned?
Of course, we thought about the future of the project and about PvP, but all this depends on the success of the game.
Will there be something Ukrainian in the game? Missions for The Security Service of Ukraine or Special Operation Forces of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine? Ukrainian weapons? And of course, are there plans for Ukrainian localization?
Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories is a game about American special services, and accordingly, the weapons will be the ones that they use. As for localization, the interface and subtitles will be in Ukrainian, but the voice acting is only in English. I think that for all this we will receive a lot of negativity as if the game is not Ukrainian enough. Why it is SWAT, not KORD, why there is no complete localization? But, unfortunately, Ukraine is not the main market for our game, and we are limited in resources. And it’s not about greed. We are still an unknown team, and the success of this project will directly affect how our games will be developed in the future. Although we did think about a DLC where we could add something related to our special services, but that is after the release depending on the results.
Your direct competitor is Ready or Not from Ireland’s VOID Interactive, which came out on Steam Early Access in December 2021 and already has somewhere between 2-3 million sales and a stable online presence of 3-5 thousand players. Isn’t such competition scary? Do you think the market will bear two big tactical police shooters? Is there room?
Just one direct competitor and a few indirect ones in the same genre, I think there’s still more than enough room. Also, we have a different gameplay experience, so we’re potentially waiting for their audiences to come to us.
Do you think your game is still indie or is it an A-level project? I mean SWAT 4 was an A-class game that was created by hundreds of people and cost tens of millions of dollars to develop.
Still indie I think. Although I would like to believe that something more will come out. After the release, it will be clear what the players will say.
At the end of the summer, Tactical Squad: SWAT Stories is released in Steam Early Access. How much will it cost? How much will the game cost for Ukraine and most importantly, how much time do you plan to spend on the way to version 1.0?
It is not yet known how much the game will cost in Early Access. Everything changes very quickly, I think everyone will see the prices at the release. And we plan to reach version 1.0 somewhere in half a year after the start of Early Access.
Thanks for the answers, wishing a good release and good luck to you!