Interview with Scott Reschke, CEO of Strength In Numbers and Lead Designer for Tuebor – a multi-genre PvP/PvE video game set in a dystopian future.
First, for any of our readers who might not be familiar with Tuebor (pronounced tu̇–ˈā-ˌbȯr) or Strength in Numbers Studios, could you please tell us a bit about the company, and what you do for them?
I’m the CEO of the company and I’m also the lead creative designer – so I came up with the characters, maps, levels, and the core game play design. I owned a cybercafé prior to owning this business for about nine years in East Lansing called the Frag Center. Over that time, I learned a lot about the general customer habits; their play styles, what they liked, what they didn’t like, what would keep them playing a game, what would get them to go play a new game, why they’d abandon something they’d played for a long time, that kind of thing. So, the core concept, the 30,000 foot overview of what this product is, is kind of taking those ideas from a lot of different games and asking: what really worked, and how can we implement that into ours without having a $100 million budget?
Why did you choose the name “Tuebor”?
Tuebor, is Latin and it means “I will defend.”. I was with my daughter at the Capitol building (State of Michigan) a couple years back and we were just walking around, and on the seal of the State of Michigan, right in the middle, is the word “Tuebor.”
That’s where I’ve seen that!
Everybody’s seen it, but no one remembers it. I’ve even talked to some people in political office that said “oh that name sounds really familiar” and here I’m going…”well, it’s on your door.”
The reason I picked Tuebor was because it’s not just about the product; it’s also about the company and what we’re trying to do in the State of Michigan right now. There are only a handful of video game studios in Michigan – of which we’re now getting to be one of the larger ones. The thought was: we will defend here. When I took a look around, everyone I talked to said “you’ve got to go to Chicago, New York, LA or Seattle.” I thought, everybody does that, everybody just leaves to go where it’s easier. I want to help create an infrastructure where all these people coming out of all the different schools and all the different people that don’t want to leave their families and their friends and their state behind can stay so we can grow this company and actually become that infrastructure. As far as the game, it worked very well because it’s a very modular game, it’s intended to be very scalable but all the modes have a theme behind it to where if you work cooperatively, you’re defending a facility against waves and waves of harder and harder bad guys. Across all of the different modes that we’ve got there is a defense element to where it isn’t just attacking for the mindless sake of running around and shooting people, it’s objectives, it’s defense. So it worked for company philosophy and vision as well as the product.
Tuebor is your big, flagship game and you’ve described it on your Facebook page as a “multi-genre PvE/PvP video game [that is] rich in story, deep in group participation and fast paced.” What does this mean for the kind of game play we can expect and how will it be different from other games already out there?
There’s a lot of stuff we’re doing internally. There’s some lovely secret sauce that we’re going to be announcing in the next couple of weeks – if you get back to me in a couple of weeks I can tell you about that too. As far as the game…going back and taking a look at what everyone said at the Frag Center, the common themes were very evident – it is something I feel kind of gets missed in both AAA studios as well as Indie, because they get very focused on a single genre: i.e. I want to make a 2D platform, or I want to make a top down dungeon crawler, or I want to make a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), or I want to make an RPG on rails etc.
The thought process was, we can go modular with this. We can have multiple genres – we’ve got a raid mode, where you will fight with a group of 10 to 15 of your friends against a raid boss like World of Warcraft or Everquest or any of the big MMOs. But instead of having to level from level one to one hundred, and figure out what any of your 900 skills are and go from worthless gear to next worthless gear until you get to end game content two and a half/three months later, the thought was: lets drop them in and let them fight raid bosses right off the get go. That puts the onus on us as a company to make more interesting/challenging bosses, to have a good set up that’s not just: “here’s a giant 300 foot tall monster, just go whack at it for an hour.”
All the modes tie together. You’ve got a raid boss and you’ve got a last stand. In the last stand it’s defending a facility against waves and waves of harder and harder NPCs. That one was very intriguing to me because I watched a lot of gamers at the cyber café who didn’t play the main versions of the games, but did play the afterthought, last stand mode that was shoveled in. Dawn of War 2 had a wonderful last stand, Call of Duty-Black Ops had the Zombie last stand, Transformers War for Cybertron had an amazing last stand. So the thought was we can take this 3rd person view and this control scheme that works for MMOs, but also works for a lot simpler to get into games like MOBAs. MOBAs don’t have all of those abilities that you have in an MMO. In a MOBA it’s a lot easier access and a lot quicker to jump in and start playing it. So how can we combine these two, but not make it feel like we’ve just kind of stuck two crappy things together? Instead, we were like – how can these controls really work? And we spent some time refining that…and at the end of the day, what we found is that if you combine that MMO with the MOBAs, you do have four unique abilities for every character, plus you have melee and ranged abilities that are not auto-attacks. The overall game play is going to be fast like a MOBA for the modes that mimic that.
We also have a battleground mode which we call Core Breach where both teams are defending their reactor cores against the other team. Now, on top down if you take look at it you go – oh this is kind of like League – but it’s not – because there are no lane pushing creeps, there’s no I have to hit a tower and then another tower and another tower. We’ve turned it on its side. You will be able to control squads of NPCs instead of just lane pushing creeps. You’ll say “push on this point,” “follow me,” “defend me,” “hold this position” so that way it’s not just that endless stream of nonsense.
There are a lot of things going on, but they’re all simple things. If you understand how to do a PvP battleground, you’ll get it right away. If you understand how to do a cooperative raid boss, you’ll get it right away. If you understand how to do a cooperative last stand, you’ll get it right away.
What kind of payment model will Tuebor use?
The game is free to play. You can jump in and earn in-game currency or accrue it through playing unlocked characters and gear. You can purchase vanity items, character unlocks or boosts so you can accrue the currency faster. This is not a pay-to-win product. You cannot buy weapons; you cannot buy anything to make you better than anybody else.
Many of our readers are generally focused on board games and RPGs especially. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see in the game from a RP and story perspective?
I’m big into storytelling. I love novels of all kinds including graphic novels and comic books. Telling a story in a video game can only be done in a couple of ways. You can either tell it through your character progression, and nowadays people don’t want to start at level one doing missions where you have to collect 5 flowers and bring them back. You can also do it on rails – where it’s all cut scenes and you have no effect on it. Both of these methods are very expensive to make. For example the Dawn of War 2 trailer – I’ve been told it was somewhere around $400,000 just to make. $400,000 is half of our development budget, so we can’t just blow that on a 3 and a half minute cut scene. So we thought: “how can I tell a cool story that can get people really into the characters and really involved in the story of this product, but not have to spend millions of dollars?” The answer was comics.
Why choose a comic as your background story medium?
I noticed at the Frag Center that almost every single one of our customers would frequent both of the nearby comic stores as well. I thought “wait a second, our customer base is really the same” – I bet you’d be hard pressed to find a comic book fan that isn’t also a video game fan. So I thought, why don’t we tell the story through graphic novel, comic book style art?
Are you using the same artist for all of the comics?
No. I love different styles of art. Ideally, what I’d like to do is have each different bit of the story have different artists. I even have an idea for a piece done in the Chibi style just to break up the doom-and-gloom graphic style.
Many of our readers revel in the idea of creating and sharing stories and worlds. What advice would you give to aspiring game designers?
Work very hard at the specific thing you want to do, because there are millions of people wanting to be game developers and most of them are super mediocre. So for example, if you want to be a concept artist, do more than just anime faces (no same-face syndrome). Draw as many and varied and different things as possible that don’t look anything like the last thing you drew. In the same way, with 3D modeling – figure out the software, use more than just ZBrush to sculpt stuff. ZBrush may look pretty, but if it is not a game-ready model, it’s useless. Use lots of different software. For coders, learn more than just Unity. And finally, if you want to be a game designer, you have be able to communicate clearly and effectively for absolutely everything.
Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers?
The company’s name is Strength in Numbers Studios, and I picked it for two reasons: the first is because it has a neat acronym. The second is the concept that our company is much stronger as we add people to it. The vision is to make it last as long as possible and to make really fun products that tell a cool story in a cool way. So we need as many people as possible to even just take a look at us. Jump on the website, fan us on Facebook, Instagram or whatever social media you’re using so we can keep having conversations on what type of games you really like.
We are also looking for people to sign up for Alpha and Beta tests on our website. So please come check us out and sign up!
You can learn more about Strength in Numbers and Tuebor at the following sites:
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