In today’s Player Profile, we have a candid chat with Mark McGrevy, CEO and Founder of Crypstone Games, and creator of Star Prospector, an RPG/RTS hybrid game for PC, available now. Look for our review of Star Prospector later this week!
Tell us a bit about yourself: What is your current role in the game industry, what have you done and how would people know your work?
I am currently the CEO and founder of Cryptstone Games. I previously worked as a developer for Sony Computer Entertainment on PlayStation 2 (released game Rise to Honor), and before that I worked as one of the developers of the Maya API at Alias (now Autodesk).
Tell us about the projects you’re currently working on and what is your role?
I’m currently working on DLC for Star Prospector (which was released earlier this year). For most of the project I worked solo, doing all jobs including initial game design and concept art, writing the game engine, music, basically everything you need to do to make a game. For the past year my brother Jason has been working with me which is a great help. Making a game by yourself of this scope is not something I would recommend to people.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy being in the position where I can take an idea and quickly prototype that idea to a playable stage.
Also all the things I enjoy doing like painting, 3D modeling, composing music etc., are inherently part of the game development process. But being a small team also has the drawbacks. It’s hard to take the
time to really enjoy doing any one thing when you are under immense time constraints.
What was the inspiration behind Star Prospector? What made you want to create an RPG/RTS hybrid game?
When I designed Star Prospector a lot of the RTS games at the time were focusing on multiplayer.
I wanted to make a single player game featuring some of the elements of RPGs like Diablo alongside RTS mechanics.
Also games like Total Annihilation, C&C, Starcraft, and Warcraft 3 were huge influences.
Can we expect any future DLC for Star Prospector? Will it bring anything new to the game or will it be in the form of new quests/missions?
We are working on a pretty big update right now. This will be FREE for people who have purchased the game. The DLC will feature a new Tower-Defense gameplay mode as well as other new features and game improvements. We hope to have this ready in couple of weeks.
When did you get your big break in gaming industry?
After graduating from the University of Waterloo with a degree in Computer Science I landed a job at Alias|Wavefront working on Maya when it was still in the alpha stage. I was able to work on Maya for several versions on different teams. This gave me invaluable expertise working on large scale 3d software, writing scripts, and plug-ins, highly sought after skills in video games.
This experience also made it possible to write my own engine and tools at Cryptstone. Working with Maya and having this level of experience, I can often write a script or tool that saves hours of work when I
have to model and animate characters.
What’s the first game you remember being completely enamored with that convinced you that you were a gamer?
Ultima IV and Elite on the Apple II+. These were the first games I played that were more than just a few minutes playing X number of levels.
These games showed me you could create large scale worlds and play over weeks. You can’t go wrong with a cloth map!
What is your favourite development studio and what do they do differently that sets them above the rest?
Probably id Software because John Carmack has given so much to the game industry and is willing to openly share his knowledge and code.
What is the one game that you think everyone should play, and why?
Minecraft. This game showed me many things and blew away several preconceptions I had.
An independent developer can not only make a successfully game, but can also distribute it themselves.
Also the game was written in Java. Before this I wouldn’t have considered writing a 3D multiplayer game of this scope in anything other than than C++. Now I hold no computer language prejudices.
First Impressions: What game did you not expect much from but found it being a really great game?
Borderlands. I had a lot of fun with this game both single-player and co-op.
First Impressions: What game started out really great but ended up with your being disappointed with it?
One of my all time favourite games is Baldur’s Gate. I had high expectations for the Dragon Age series but Dragon Age 2 felt like a bit of a step backwards. BioWare’s Mass Effect series on the other hand is amazing.
What genre of gaming do you feel doesn’t get enough love?
Space sims and aircraft simulators such as the Jane’s series of games were great. I mean the type of game where you feel like you are in the cockpit, played with a flight stick, as opposed to the arcade 3rd person console style games. I would love to see these types of games along with some virtual reality setup where a player can actually feel they are inside the game instead of staring at a screen (or waving a
plastic controller at it).
There are some new games in the space sim genre, for instance, the indie game Sol: Exodus looks interesting.
What do you think the biggest gaming trend going forward will be?
For independent developers I think alpha funding, in a way similar to what Notch did with Minecraft, has huge potential. The player pays a lower price than the final version, and gets all updates and the final version when it’s available.
This is a win for both the players and the developer. The project can create a fan-base over the course of development, and gets longer and wider QA testing and game feedback. Star Prospector was 100% self funded and due to the small team size (mostly 1) the amount of PR and marketing I was able to do before the game shipped was minimal.
Fun question: What game or franchise are you ashamed to admit you enjoy playing?
I’m not ashamed of any games I play, but I am ashamed of the limited time I get to play games these days.
Any last comments or plugs you?d like to leave us with? What should we be on the lookout for? How can players get hold of Star Prospector?
We will be posting more information on the free DLC for Star Prospector this week and we plan on continuing to update and improve the game.
Check www.cryptstone.com for links to purchase Star Prospector.