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Wrack's Run 'n' Gun to Completion: An Interview with Developer Brad Carney

This could be the “Doom Clone” you've been hoping for.

If you’ve tried Wrack in its current early access version on Steam, you’ve no doubt realized that this isn’t another shooter marching lockstep behind Halo and Call of Duty. Wrack is an intentional throwback to the sensibilities of Doom II, and its lead designer, Brad Carney is hoping there are enough people out there looking for that classic experience. Carney sat with me at QuakeCon and talked about the good and bad of having an early access game on Steam and how a six-year (!) development cycle can really benefit an indie game like Wrack.

It’s no secret that peddling an early access game gets a mixed reaction from gamers, and a lot of this is the fault of developers. Carney perfectly mistimed posting a blog on Gamasutra praising early access games a couple of days before the developers of Towns abandoned their own early access project. “What other developers do ruins it for the rest of us” he told me, with an air of disenchantment over Wrack’s level of sales thus far. Yet being in early access has allowed Wrack to continue development and hire additional help for the team.

The original team makeup didn’t make development easy. “It’s a struggle to want to do the best job you can, but you don’t have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do it all.” Now with sales from Steam and sales of an earlier alpha build, they were able to bring on more specialized members. A small team of three forced them to get a lot of general knowledge on a lot of topics like animation, but now they can hire experts to polish up what they’ve done.

Bringing help on board for the final sprint is just one more piece of Wrack’s lengthy development process that Carney seems happy about; seeing his game get some final finishes after six years still seems to invigorate him. Playing the current build on Steam makes it clear the team is getting close to their goal. The original team was composed of members with the same desires: “We all love Doom II, but nothing was being made in that vein.”  Disheartened by the single-minded direction of the FPS genre and its use of cover-systems and regenerating health, the Wrack team sought an updated version of games like Doom II.

Since that original direction, the game has taken on more of an “arcade feel” with some of its visuals and its focus on accruing a higher score with combos and streaks. Despite that slight change, there is still a lot that harkens to those olden days of shooters. Wrack forces you to fight groups of enemies instead of  one-on-one encounters where you are using nuanced combat tactics. It’s obvious that the enemies are hewn from those early FPS philosophies when you see them walking in predictable paths and charging at you without a thought. Carney insists this form of A.I. was fun years ago and it can still be fun if done right. He also adds that they are continuing to tweak the enemy behaviors up until the expected (and unofficial) planned full release in September.

The team has been bringing some form of Wrack to QuakeCon for years, typically just setting up in the BYOC room and attracting passers-by to give it a shot. That along with the more formal early access feedback from players has been generally a positive experience for the developers and in the end, the game itself. They’ll continue to add gameplay tweaks up until the release build, although they only plan on aesthetic and behavioral tweaks primarily from here on out. They’ve just added a new enemy reactionary attack, and Carney was excited to see how players reacted to this at the open demo stations. After spending so long in development, the game has had plenty of time to “percolate and evolve” and Carney seems pleased with where things stand, at least for this first release.

The expectation is that this is the first of four episodes that will comprise Wrack’s final form, but only the first episode will be released in September. Based on Wrack’s current early access sales performance, it’s hard not to wonder if they’ll be able to continue creating content for the game after it releases, but Carney seems resilient and optimistic.

It will be nice to see one of the many Steam early access games actually finish development, and everything indicates Carney and his team are going to do that. Will Wrack be a success? It’s hard to tell, since it has very little marketing budget and is going to need a lot of word-of-mouth love to get noticed. After a couple of hours with the current build, it seems like the team has met their goal of bringing back that old school mindless FPS fun. Maybe the niche that is looking for that sort of game is too small at this point, but Carney thinks the game is for anyone who “just wants to have a good time and watch some stuff blow up!” If that’s the segment of the public that latches on to Wrack, it should be a pretty big success.




07/22/2014 at 03:23 PM

This looks great! Doom II with an art style akin to Borderlands. I love it! It looks too like there is more detail in the levels. I just saw Doom and Doom II for sale on XBLA this week, and I passed on them because: A. I've already played them like crazy, and B. those old FPS's are so bland and samey in their environment design, that I get bored with them (I quit out of Marathon Durandal on XBLA because I kept getting lost since the rooms all look the same).

I hope this comes to consoles because that's where I do most of my gaming, but I'll consider the Steam release, because I may get into that soon.


07/22/2014 at 10:52 PM

Looks kinda like Borderlands but I think I like the artstyle and character concepts in Wracked even more!

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

07/22/2014 at 11:02 PM

It definitely has a Borderlands look to the art in general, but when you play, it really feels the way you remember Doom to be. I need to play more of the latest build, but I really think they are nailing what they set out to accomplish.

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