Wave Light Games Interview

Wave Light Games

MBU
First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to sit for this interview. For those not in the know can you introduce yourself and the studio for which you work?

RAJPREET
My name’s Rajpreet Dhillon, generally go by “Raj”. I’m the sole person behind Wave Light Games Inc. though my wife will soon be helping me out. I work with various contractors and artists for the assets and sound but do most of the coding by myself.

MBU
Was Demon’s Rise Wave Light Games’ first title?

RAJPREET
No, first released title was a very silly twin-stick shooter called “Gun Frenzy”. It was on the iOS store for a couple months before taking it down in shame. I think it’s still on the Amazon store but could be wrong. It was a pretty terrible top-down shooter where players controlled one of two busty women and fought off waves of demons with guns and magical weapons.

MBU
How long have you worked at Wave Light Games?

RAJPREET
So Wave Light Games Inc. has existed as a legal corporation for about a year now. I was developing games for the past 3 or 4 years under my own name. So me making games has been for about 3 or 4 years now.

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MBU
Are you a tabletop gamer at heart? Many of Wave Light’s title’s have a decidedly table top feel.

RAJPREET
Absolutely. I started playing Warhammer fantasy battle and 40K when I was in high school. I used to paint other people’s miniatures for beer money when I was in university. I did very well in the competitive Warhammer fantasy tournament scene for a while before quitting that game due to the many, glaring balance issues. I then worked with some others on a completely different game called Armies of Arcana. This game was developed originally by Thane Morgan and we bought the rights to the 5th edition from him and made a completely new rule book for it. I’ve also played other wargames that are really obscure.

MBU
What RPGs inspire you?

RAJPREET
I loved Planescape Torment for its story. Playing it again now on my Android device. It’s incredible that we can do that kind of thing nowadays. I love Elder Scrolls and Fallout … in particular the open-world element. To be honest, I think my games are inspired more by tabletop wargames than RPG’s. From an RPG perspective, they’re fairly standard … it’s the tactical combat side where most of the unique elements reside.

MBU
Your new game ‘Strike Team Hydra’ arrives soon and is based on the Demon’s Rise engine, can we expect to see more games made using it in different settings?

RAJPREET
Yes, I plan to use the core code-base repeatedly but with many major changes to keep things fresh. Strike Team Hydra, for example, isn’t just a fantasy reskin of Demon’s Rise. It has completely new morale rules, a new suppression system and a completely redesigned action-point system for movements and attacks. My next game, Strike Fleet Typhon, is based in the same universe and uses the same core code-base but will involve huge space fleet battles so will get rid of the squad-level rules, the RPG elements and instead have lots of new rules and mechanics for giant space ships, carriers, fighter squadrons, etc. It will still be a turn-based, tactical game though.

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MBU
What attracted you to the Science-Fiction environment for your next game?

RAJPREET
I loved XCOM as a university student and really liked the recent re-release. I wanted to do something that recreates the horror of being in a firefight with an unknown alien race with strange weapons and alien fighting tactics. That particular scenario where it’s human ingenuity and grit against an unknown, hostile force is just really interesting.

MBU
Can we expect to see a different gameplay focus compared to Demon’s Rise?

RAJPREET
Yes, there are a lot of changes to suit the fact that this game is all about guns rather than swords and sorcery. There is a new suppression system where when you shoot at a target, you always reduce the morale of it and those units nearby … regardless of whether you actually hit them or not. This means that laying down suppressive fire is very useful but can be risky since enemies can now shoot back, unlike in Demon’s Rise where counter attacks are a melee-only thing. There is also a new morale system that directly impacts how well your soldiers fight. If they morale is high, they fight better and if it’s low, they fight poorly. Lastly, action points are used for movement and attacks now so players can sacrifice shooting to move really far in a turn or stay stationary and shoot a lot.

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MBU
Have Demon’s Rise 1 and 2 been financially as successful as you had hoped?

RAJPREET
Reasonably so. Their launch revenue wasn’t very high due to not being featured by Apple or Google but they have pulled good, steady income. That combined with very low operating costs on my end mean that they’ve been a success financially and continue to be (hopefully for a long time)

MBU
Talk us through what went into the process when approaching Demon’s Rise 2? What did Wave Light want to change/fix/improve?

RAJPREET
The idea for Demon’s Rise 2 was more that I just wanted to have it be more open and be more story-focussed. I originally planned to have branching story arcs but then eventually decided to go with a linear approach. I also wanted to explore more evil character classes and what unique design elements that would bring to the game mechanics. Having characters that aren’t particularly concerned with healing allies and instead want to make sure they, above all else, survive leads to some interesting character designs. I also really wanted to move away from the usual fighter / wizard / archer archetypes and not have them at all in the game.

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MBU
Do you have a personal favourite character from the large roster of notable Player Characters to date? We are particularly fond of the Living Canon.

RAJPREET
I think my favourite is probably the Demon Knight from Demon’s Rise 2. He’s the classic “warrior of chaos” with demon summoning powers, fiery sword, gifts from his gods, etc. The kind of character that is just pure offense and will often end the battle dead but surrounded by enemies he took down first. I love just throwing him right into the middle of a big group of enemies and having him go down swinging.

MBU
How long on average does each game take to produce?

RAJPREET
Demon’s Rise took about 3 years and was further updated heavily for the first year after release. It’s due for another big update but that probably won’t arrive for another month at the earliest. Demon’s Rise 2 took only about 9 months because I was re-use so much code. Strike Team took about 6 months. So the time needed for each game is going down, which is great.

MBU
Wave Light keep their games heavily updated post-launch. Is this a part of the studio’s policy?

RAJPREET
Yeah, I just like to have every game be as good as possible. So when I make something cool for Demon’s Rise 2, I port it back to Demon’s Rise 1. That’s why the two games are on such a similar level. The launch version of Demon’s Rise 2 was way better than the launch version of Demon’s Rise 1 … but they’re both on similar levels of quality now because they both have been updated in parallel. I plan to continue doing that in the future. For example, I just ported the new pathfinding improvements from Strike Team Hydra to Demon’s Rise 2 and plan to push it down to Demon’s Rise 1 as well.

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MBU
Can we expect to see updates for Strike Team Hydra?

RAJPREET
Yes, though I probably won’t go the route of adding loads of new characters. I feel like 12 is a good number and I’d prefer to keep updates focused on game improvements, UI improvements, performance and probably extra maps / levels.

MBU
How has the critical response been to the games you’ve worked on?

RAJPREET
Pretty good. Demon’s Rise 1 got a 4 out of 5 stars review from Touch Arcade, Demon’s Rise 2 got 4.5 stars and won Pocket Tactics’ RPG of the Year for 2016. General reviews from users have been very positive and I don’t think I’ve gotten a really bad review yet. Will see how it goes with Strike Team Hydra. I think people will either love it or hate it due to the high-complexity of the game vs. what you typically find in the mobile space.

MBU
Do you play through your own games post-launch for fun?

RAJPREET
Yes, I play them regularly and keep tweaking them after launch. I try to keep up with discussions on forums too and take those ideas, test them and add them as updates. None of my games are every really finished … at least not yet.

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MBU
What would you say is the best element of Demon’s Rise 2?

RAJPREET
I would say my favourite is the emotional roller coaster it puts the player in during most of the better designed levels. You typically go from feeling hopelessly outnumbered at first, to thinking you’re going to win after doings some great moves or combos and then suddenly losing your best guys in a single turn, and then somehow scraping a win. Because characters are really powerful but can still die to an unlucky critical hit and because new enemies can always appear, you’re never sure you’ll win until you cut down the last of the enemy.

MBU
Which would you recommend people buy going in cold to the series, Demon’s Rise 1 or 2?

RAJPREET
Probably Demon’s Rise 1. It’s the more traditional dungeon crawler and has an easier learning curve.

MBU
How have you found keeping up with iOS and Android software releases and are your games protected against the shift to the new iOS 11?

RAJPREET
Yes, the games are in good shape for iOS 11. Luckily, I use Unity and try hard to be on the latest version of that engine. Therefore, the games are 64-bit codebase and have all the technical goodies like support for Metal on iOS and even Vulcan on Android.

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MBU
Do you have any advice for budding game devs?

RAJPREET
First step would be try to find a niche that isn’t overly served on mobile. Then try to find good assets from the Unity store that can help you build a great prototype. Finally, once you know you have a decent game, don’t skimp out on the 3d characters and audio or else your game will look cheap. Lastly, make sure you optimize well for mobile.

MBU
Thanks again for your time today. For those who want to learn more about Wave Light Games, their official website can be found HERE.

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