October 28, 2011

Interview with Cataclysm Rogue-like Creator Whales

Eleven questions Cataclysm creator Whales
Hi Whales, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me.
I”d be happy to answer as many questions as you have
Before we begin, Would you mind telling the readers a little about yourself? 
I’m a native New Englander in his mid-twenties with a degree in psychoacoustics.  I’ve been coding off and on for about 10 years now, mostly command line utilities—I’m a linux junkie.  I’m a casual gamer, and hav always been a big fan of player-driven games, open-ended ones with no concrete goals; things like Civilization, SimCity and the like.  I’m also a big fan of the post-apocalyptic setting across all kinds of media.
I became interested in roguelikes a few years ago when I started playing Nethack, and decided to try to practice my C++ by working on a roguelike of my own—my job as an accountant had a surprising amount of down time, so I could sneak in a bit of coding during the day.
Outside of coding, I spend my free time doing a lot of wild food foraging, cooking, and some low-level DIY electronics and home decor; all stuff that’s fed into Cataclysm in one way or another.
Was C++ your first foray into programming? 
I actually started programming in TI-BASIC on my TI-82 calculator back in junior high—I really think that the limitations of the language and processor challenged me in ways that developed my skill at problem-solving in code.  After that I took a semester-long class in Visual Basic, then one in C++; the latter was the first language I actually made anything useful in.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into programming? 
As for advice, aside from learning the basics—and I think a proper class, where you can talk to the teacher and fellow students, is the best way to do that if it’s available to you—well, I have a lot of advice there.  I guess the most important thing would be to just dive right in.  Start simple; Roguebasin’s How To Write A Roguelike In 15 Steps is a good guideline.  You’ll make lots of mistakes, so plan for that and make a flexible system, but don’t be afraid of mistakes either.
What direction do you see Cataclysm heading in?
I’d like to see Cataclysm take a much more defined structure.  Right now the player is left entirely to their own devices, with no concrete goals aside from basic survival.  I will announce my first beta release of Cataclysm once there are missions the player can undertake, in most cases assigned by robust NPCs, which will give the player some real goals to work towards, deadlines to meet, places to reach.
Are there any features or ideas you want to add to the game but for some reason or another they won’t work?
There isn’t much that I want to add that I don’t feel is feasible.  Some things I look forward to, but realize that they’ll take a lot of work and planning, like pushable furniture and fast-travel.  Other things are cool in concept, but don’t fit with my vision for Cataclysm, like Dwarf Fortress-style city building or complex wound systems.
What are your favorite and not so favorite aspects of the game?
I have a few favorite aspects of the game; I like the different ways in which monsters can track you, the crafting system, and the way drug use can fit into the game.  I’m presently disappointed with some aspects of the spawn system, the ways in which buildings are awfully similar, and of course the many bugs.
After Cataclysm is finished, What’s next for you?
I don’t think Cataclysm will ever be finished to my liking—I hope to be able to continue working on it for a long time.  That said, I do have some ideas for a 4X or city-building game that I would love to one day implement.
What tip would you give to new players of Cataclysm?
My tip would be to keep a diverse set of equipment—no one item will save you at all times, and you’ll often need to fall back to a backup option.  The more tools at your disposal, the better your chances of avoiding that inescapable situation.
Your favorite horror movie?
My favorite horror movie would probably be the 2009 psychological zombie film Pontypool.  Originally a radio drama, this movie achieves a sense of horror and dread purely through monologue at its most dramatic points, and presents a kind of zombie that is utterly novel and bizarre.  A must-watch for any fan of the genre, especially those who think that they’ve seen everything zombies have to offer.
Xbox360 or PS3 or PC?
I do not own a PS3 or Xbox360, and have barely played the PS3.  I’m not sure I’ve even ever seen an Xbox360.  I’m mainly a PC gamer, and I haven’t even done much of that in the past couple years.
Zombies or Vampires?
Zombies all the way, vampires haven’t held much interest for me after Nosferatu.
Which famous person(dead or alive) would you like to meet?
I’d love to meet Jesse Thorn, I’m a big fan of his The Sound of Young America public radio show!  Though meeting rapper Q-Tip would be pretty cool too, I’ve been a fan since I was young.
If you would like to donate and help Whales visit his website:http://whalesdev.com/