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Interview – DJArcas, Creator of Fortresscraft

Left: The Mysterious DJArcas

 

On its very first day Fortresscraft became the best selling Indie game in the history of the Xbox 360 by selling a whopping 16,000 thousand copies. In just seven days it generated more revenue than previous record holder, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH 1N IT!!!1, made in an entire year. If you want even more statistics it has a massive 70% trial to purchase compared to the average Indie game which only has a ratio of around 5%.

So who’s the man behind the game? He’s an industry profesional having worked on numerous big name titles throughout the years, and many of them are probably sitting in your collection right now. However, he also likes to keep his profesional career and his Indie game career seperate, which means we all know and love him as……. DJArcas.

I had an opportunity to sit down with him and talk about his latest Indie hit, and a few other things as well.

WolfsGamingBlog: Hi DJArcas! How’re you?

DJArcas:  A little tired; the combination of FortressCraft, a new job, and Portal2 has left me a tad drained.

WolfsGamingBlog: So what’s the story behind the creation of Fortresscraft and how long has it taken you to make?

DJArcas:    FortressCraft is basically a conglomeration of three things; a 3d remake of Dwarf Fortress that I failed to get to run quickly, a bright idea due to looking at Minecraft’s rendering engine, and the desire to prove some people on a forum wrong that the Xbox could ‘handle’ a Minecraft-style game. It took 10 weeks and 6 days to make, from concept to hitting the Indie Game store.

WolfsGamingBlog: How challenging did you find the game to make?

 DJArcas:   Some of it was easy; it took me 3 day to get the landscape rendering, avatars and basic building+deletion working. After that, there was a huge amount of time spent speeding it up. I’ve have to extensively use threading to keep the game going at a reasonably stable 60fps. The Xbox is a 7 year old piece of hardware, trying to make it do state of the art rendering is hard work!

WolfsGamingBlog: On day one alone Fortresscraft sold a whopping 16,000 copies making it the best selling Indie game ever. Did the success of Fortresscraft surprise you?

DJArcas:  More than I can express into words. I thought I might sell a couple of hundred copies, if I’m lucky. At the current sales rate, we’ll be the highest grossing XBLIG of all time; the record is currently held by I MAED A GAEM WITH ZOMBIES INIT!!!11 – that shifted $300k in 2 years. We’ll have equalled that in about 18 days.

WolfsGamingBlog: It’s fair to say that much of your success was thanks to the massive popularity of Minecraft. Do you think you would have done as well if that game didn’t exist?

DJArcas:  Absolutely not. Whilst Minecraft wasn’t even close to being the first Vox-based building game (Voxlap was out in 2002!), it’s by far and away the most popular one. Most people who’ve played FortressCraft have said that whilst it’s superficially like Minecraft, it doesn’t have the same feel at all. But if I’d had to start from grassroots with this genre, I would still be explaining to people *why* building-things-with-your-friends-is-fun.

WolfsGamingtBlog: From what we know you’ve got seven chapters lined up for the game. What can you tell us about chapter 2 in terms of pricing, release date and content?

DJArcas:  Chapter 2 will introduce crafting and machinery. The relics are likely to become craftable rather than locatable items. I want to introduce physics objects and minecarts as priority; inventory will also come online at that point (and Minecarts will play an extensive part in making your inventory useful). Release date is 4-8 weeks after C1 is complete. It’s almost definitely going to be 240MSP again.

WolfsGamingBlog: I’ve had a small concern that you can hopefully address; will someone with chapter 1 and 2 be able to play online with a friend who has chapter 1, 2 and 3? Or will you have to have the same chapters to be able to play together?

DJArcas:  Each chapter is totally standalone. This allows me to ensure that earlier, game-breaking gameplay can be removed (for instance, the super nuke in Chapter 5 might break the Fortress Vs Fortress combat in Chapter 7, so would be removed). My vow, my aim, is that each chapter is worth $3 on it’s own, and I’ll continue patching each one until it is worth it!

WolfsGamingBlog: We’ve also got Craftworld coming soon onto the Indie channel which promises quite a bit. How do you feel about this stiff competition?

DJArcas: I think they’re being very ambitious about what they’re doing; I aimed extremely low with FortressCraft, and even that was a huge uphill struggle at times (and I’ve been doing this for 30 years!). Overall tho, I wish them well – I’ve talked to them privately, and their end goals are nowhere near mine. You might as well ask Forza 4 if they are worried if Grid 2 is competition; they’re only similar at their most basic level.

WolfsGamingBlog: Fortresscraft is one of those games that could just keep being expanded upon. Do you have any idea’s forming for even more chapters or add-ons? Or just anything you’d like to add?

DJArcas:  I want to take everything I love about Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft, strip out everything that annoys me, and write a game that I truly want to immerse myself in and play for hours. My mental list of ideas is enormous, and it grows every day, and people tweet me so many ideas! The thingI’m waiting for the most is just the ability to sit there and watch your minions run your minecart and production networks, all automated, without micromanagement, as you set it up *just* right; rather like Transport Tycoon.

WolfsGamingBlog: The seven chapters might take you a while, but after they’re done do you have any plans for your next project?

DJArcas:   I expect I’ll do other, small, projects in between the chapters; I have a sequel to BitStream and a game called Tactics Forever in the works already; they were started before FC, but I’ve had to put them on the back burner for a while!

WolfsGamingBlog: So far we’ve just talked about games here, so let’s talk a bit about the man behind the games. What can you tell us about yourself?

DJArcas:   I’m older than I care to admit, I have two enormous pedigree cats, a sports car and a motorbike. I love RTS games and films with explosions. I learned to unicycle (badly) last year. I’m the biggest geek in the world; I’m living in temporary accommodation whilst I move house; I have my ipad, ipod, xbox, and 4 laptops with me. Did I remember to pack a towel and shampoo? Did I hell. Thankfully I was near a shop!

WolfsGamingBlog: What’s your biggest, epic fail moment? Don’t be shy now, spill the beans.

DJArcas:   Worse than forgetting to buy shampoo? Hmm. In the release build of Burnout3, if all 8 players boost simultaneously, all 8 PS2s will crash. My fault. Oops.

WolfsGamingBlog: Aside from Frotresscraft, what games are you playing at the moment? And what games could you recommend to our readers out there to try out?

 DJArcas:  I’ve just finished Portal 2; apart form the fact it’s a tad easy, it’s wonderful, a truly brilliant game. I did complete all the Challenge maps in Portal 1, to be fair. I would recommend that everyone checks out Leave Home on the Indie Games service; it’s a kickass rez/procedural shooter with great risk/reward structure. I’m also recommending Insane Bash to anyone who has a hankering for those old Track and Field days.

WolfsGamingBlog: Right, time for six quickfire questions. Favorite game?

DJArcas:  Ever? EVER? Oh man, that’s impossible. Probably Gauntlet.

WolfsGamingBlog: Favorite Movie?

DJArcas:   Evil Dead 3 : Army of Darkness

WolfsGamingBlog: Favorite band?

DJArcas:   Ed Rush and Optical

WolfsGamingBlog: Favorite book/comic?

 DJArcas:  Anything by Terry Pratchett.

WolfsGamingBlog? Pirates, Ninja’s, Robots or Zombies?

DJArcas:   Pffft, you’re not thinking outside the box. What about a Pirate who was raised by Ninjas, before having his leg bitten off by a Zombie, then replaced with Robot limbs? That’d be way more kick ass. Tho if I have to PICK; robots. They can clearly defeat all the others.

WolfsGamingblog: Cats or Dogs?

DJArcas:  Cats!

WolfsGamingBlog: Anything you’d like to say to the readers out there?

DJArcas:   Until the patch comes, out, if you have an awesome single player map, don’t join any multiplayer games, as it’ll wipe your world! 🙁 I’m scared people will lose awesome worlds and stop playing – it’s resolved in the first patch! I hope to see you all in the first patch; the Dev World filter means people can come and join my game 🙂

WolfsGamingBlog: It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you.

DJArcas: Thank you!

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