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Interview with Michal Marcinkowski – Part 1

I recently had the chance to ask Michal Marcinkowski, the creator of Soldat and currently the developer of Link-Dead a few questions over the web. This was quite an honour for me, as Soldat is one of my favourite games of all time, and I am fervently awaiting the full release of Link-Dead.

Player Affinity:  Describe Link-Dead in a sentence.

MM:  Link-Dead is a 2D side-scrolling team multiplayer tactical shooter set in a post-nuclear War setting.

Player Affinity:  Describe yourself in a sentence.

MM:  My name is Michal Marcinkowski ("MM" online) and my biggest passion is making computer games, you might know my game called Soldat.

Player Affinity:  When did you start programming, how did you first start, why you like 2D games so much?

MM:  I've been making games most of my life (now I'm 26). I started playing games at age 4 and coded my first one only 3 years later. My dad introduced me to QBasic (which was popular in the 80's), The idea that you could create stuff out of nothing fascinated me and got me hooked since then. I'm drawn to 2D games because my favorite games are the old games like Another World or Prince of Persia. They were done in 2D because the technology was limited. I am in the same position right now, I am not limited by technology, but I am limited by resources because I am a one-man game development team and it is easier to make a 2D game.

Player Affinity:  What makes Link-Dead different from the other games you made/started to make? I'm asking this because you started to make R and Crimson Glory and even Berserker (though to my knowledge that was kind of rolled into Link-Dead), but never ended up finishing those, yet you've been putting in lots of effort for Link-Dead.

MM:  I started making R because I felt I needed a break from making Soldat. So to contrast a multiplayer only game I wanted to make a funny single-player platformer game. At the time I didn't have any drive to make a popular game, or make money or anything cause all of that I have accomplished. So I thought what game would I make just for my own enjoyment? What turned out was a twisted philosophical puzzle platformer.

Crimson Glory started in a weird season of my life when I was fascinated by Porco Rosso, an animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki. I wanted to bring the sense and freedom of flight for the player to experience in a multiplayer plane combat game. I eventually ditched it because I used 3D as a technology. First of all I never liked working with 3D models, I felt it held back my creativity (in terms of code and design). Second it was a lot of work (although now I see it wasn't that much more than Link-Dead).

Berserker started some time after I started working on Link-Dead. We worked on Berserker with Sigvatr for a while and then rolled back into Link-Dead again. Berserker is just an idea that has been with me for probably more than 15 years. My dream is to make a game more brutal than brutality itself! I'm not giving up on Berserker yet I'm just focused on Link-Dead.

Player Affinity:   What caused the changes to the gameplay over the course of development? Specifically talking about how at the start, you talked about how Link-Dead was going to be a 2d sidescrolling strategy type game, but then you changed the direction to a team based 2d tactical shooter.

MM:  It was a team based 2d tactical shooter from the beginning. Then I changed ideas to a real-time strategy. This is because the idea for me is absolutely awesome, there are no side-scrolling RTS games, and it pumped me up so much I decided to redesign Link-Dead. I started working on the AI necessary for such a game and it took me about 4 months to make the characters walk on the complicated maps I have. It was a lot of hard work and I realized maybe I better stick to the original tactical shooter idea because that is doable. I could make a side-scrolling RTS one time but in a different engine, it would be much simpler than Link-Dead.

Player Affinity:   You mentioned once in a presentation about how you never intended for Soldat to be a game that's mainly played over the internet, how it was supposed to be more of a LAN game. Are you going in with the same LAN-focused mentality for Link-Dead? If not, how did the design decisions change with that decision?

MM:  I think you can see that decision in how Soldat is played. It is a very enjoyable game in a party. When I see people playing Soldat live they laugh out loud all the time. That was my goal. Although people rarely play Soldat on LAN. It turned out to be mainly an Internet phenomenon. This is why I'm not focusing on LAN with Link-Dead and write it with the Internet in mind from start. This is why Link-Dead is much more sophisticated than Soldat. On the Internet people have more time to develop their gameplay, learn the different game mechanics and immerse themselves more in the story. With a LAN game it was all about joining a game for 30 minutes, killing as much dudes as possible and quitting.

Player Affinity:  With Soldat having quite a number of leagues (and a few of them being very successful, mainly SCTFL and the Soldat World Cup), I can expect that Link-Dead will have a probably even more hardcore following, considering its complexity (relative to Soldat). Are you doing anything to accommodate those players (robust spectator mode, demo recording, rich stats-tracking)?

MM:  Yeah I want all of that. Ideally I would like to have a whole matchmaking system and leagues integrated into one site e.g. Quake Live. I already have some basic functionality of that like accounts, basic stats and gathers (which jrgp has coded for Soldat). If there was 2 of me, the other MM would code this system.

This is the end of the first half of the MM interview, to continue click HERE.


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