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Interview: We chat with Raw Games' managing director about The Spire

Late in 2010 a gameplay movie popped up on the internet that showed off gameplay from The Spire, a sci-fi themed action-adventure game that had some impressive moments especially when it showed off what could be done with the game's main item-weapon, the Tool. The game is being created by a UK-based team called Raw Games using Epic Games' Unreal Development Kit.

We decided to learn more about this upcoming and promising title and got in touch with Raw Games. Its managing director John Tearle told us more about how Raw Games came to be formed along with more info on The Spire.
First how did Raw Games come to be formed?

Raw Games was originally formed by three friends who met at University – John Tearle, Matt Clark and Sam Cobley. We realised we had a lot in common with our experience and previous work within the mod scene and so decided to do something different in our final year, working on a concept that Matt and I had been playing around with for a while. We later brought Amey Parulekar and Federico (Chess) Borchez onboard along with Lee Snookes to program for us, we developed the concept which has evolved into the project you see today. Along the way the team has grown organically, which we feel is important, we aim to only bring people into the fold who share our passion to create great games.

How did the idea for The Spire come about?

The Spire was built from a love of good FPS's, conspiracy theories and a passion to ask "what if?" For us, understanding the limitations and benefits of a small team were of great importance, so every element, from story to gameplay are designed taking these points into account. As far as the gameplay is concerned the idea of playing around with gravity, magnetism and a few other cool elements seemed really cool to us and so we created something that we think is achievable but with all of these factors in mind. So all in all, we are trying to take certain elements of storytelling from TV series such as Lost or 24 and mix them with games like Portal or Bioshock (all be it trimmed down) to create something fun and fresh.

What can you tell us about the fictional back story for the game?

The game is based in 2029 in a future world of conspiracy and fiction, in our opinion certain elements in the world of The Spire could quite easily exist; oil reserves becoming more scares by 2025, huge population overgrowth, a devastating global financial depression – if you like to push the envelope and think 'worst case scenario' then this is our world. Another thing that we have done with our setting is to twist certain story elements taken from great conspiracy theories that are already quite well known (to anyone who is a little open minded with an internet connection), we have just built upon them.

What can you tell us about the player character at this time?

Maher is you and so you have to find out who you are and why you are there... that's all for now!
The game is being compared to Portal. How does the dev team feel about this comparison?

It's a huge honour to be compared to Portal. The team who created that game are an inspiration and it just shows what can happen when a great company can get behind a great team to make something happen. At the moment, we have a lot still to do and so much can change, however one of main goals is to pay homage to the games that we have enjoyed playing but also focus on the what could have been done differently. One thing we can say is that there will be no portals in our game.

What sort of abilities does the player character have?

In the game you are equipped with a Mk1 prototype Tool, as with all gravity style weapons we have a pull and then push action, we also have a power blast which acts like a stream of energy. We are also working on other abilities that focus on combat in a far different manner. The combat is currently under development so we don't want to give away too much yet, but when we are happy to talk more about it we will defiantly let you know! Some of the other abilities are Crush and Polarise powers, Polarise allows you to magnetise objects together to create simple structures or it can be used in a destructive manner to make objects or enemies come crashing together with more devastating results. The crush is one of our more high powered moves, allowing the player to deform and crush objects and enemies in real time, all of these moves can be strung together to create special combos that boost power to the Tool. Other elements are not direct powers but you able to do some cool things with the environment around you.

How would you describe the gameplay of The Spire? Is it an action game? Is it an adventure game?

The game is a genuine combination of three elements; puzzle, action and adventure. We really like what Zelda did with its dungeons, what Portal does with innovative puzzles and we also think Magneto's powers rule. So this game attempts to combine all of these elements to makes the player think but to also add elements of action to keep the 30sec fun factor.

What are some of the more interesting challenges players can expect for the game?

The Spire itself poses the main challenge, but there is also a strong element of trust in the game that we will reveal more about at a later date.

How is it working with Epic Games' UDK version of the Unreal Engine?

The UDK is an amazing engine that allows smaller developers to produce AAA+ quality products, giving access to industry standard toolsets and plug-ins all for a nominal fee. The frustrations only appear with certain limitations to code, working around these issues takes the longest length of time for developers and is the root of most troubles. For us, the engine has caused us a few challenges as far as physics is concerned in its default state, but where we may lose time in one area of development, the access to the wealth of built-in tools more than makes up for it. As far as the support from Epic is concerned, they update the engine on a monthly basis, adding more and more features all of the time and the support that they give via the community is incredible.

Any plans for a demo to be released for the game?

Yes, but not for a while yet. Sometime in the future we plan to release the prologue to the game and give this away for free, this could be considered a demo but will hopefully shock a few people with the setting and content.

Finally is there anything else you wish to say about The Spire?

Nothing other than; please support us and spread the word! We are currently working unfunded and independently but we have the passion, dedication and team experience to see this through. We want your input and help to build a community that can fuel development through encouragement, criticism and support. We have a while to go with development on The Spire yet but want to make sure that this episode is the first of many, to do this we are spending time to get the gameplay right. Please follow us @RawGamesUK or check out the website for updates www.rawgames.co.uk.

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