Gamers aren’t getting any younger. The average age of players rises every year, and most of my gaming conversations with non-industry folks drifts towards 90s nostalgia as we seek to find some common ground.
While the games industry moves forward, there are many who just want to go back. It’s a case of rose-tinted goggles, for sure — but there’s a small section of modern developers who are combining the last few decades of game design knowledge with a retro aesthetic to get the best of both worlds.
I sat down with the man responsible for bringing back Rise of the Triad, Dave Oshry. He recently started New Blood Interactive, which is working almost exclusively on old-school shooters. It just brought Dusk into Early Access, which will make Doom and Quake players squeal, and its upcoming game Amid Evil is a loving throwback to Heretic.
FANDOM: Why focus on an old school shooter?
Dave Oshry: It’s a small market, so this is definitely not a business decision. If it was a business decision, we’d be making an open world battle royale game. The problem is, once one of those things is popular, if you start making one then, you’re already too late.
Quake 3D, Doom, those games changed my life. We were kind of the first ones to do the retro reboot shooter. Everything goes in cycles. Half Life kind of changed everything, and shooters got story-based. Then Call of Duty happened, stuff got really story based, and then they just became like Michael Bay movies. You’d carry two weapons, get tired when you run, stuff like that.
And now we’re coming full circle again, where it’s like, well I miss carrying nine weapons at a time and running around like a crazy person. So we had the Rise of the Triad reboot, the Shadow Warrior reboot, Doom 2016. The Wolfenstein reboots.
Was there anything about those old shooters that needed to be ditched?
What about innovation, is there room for new ideas in this kind of game?
The things that people like obviously are really cool weapons and carrying a lot of them. Cool enemy archetypes and figuring out which weapons work best against them.
And the funny thing I think which a lot of people have forgotten, which we specialise in, i think, is level design. Every indie FPS thing is a roguelike, except our games.
Some of the best stuff in Dusk happened by accident. Like shooting crossbows through walls. Just the other day we realised grenades were affected by projectiles. You shoot a grenade, and then shoot something that hits the grenade, and then it shoots over here, and something else explodes. We were like, should we turn that off? Like f— no, it’s hilarious.
When David started making Dusk, he realised projectiles were going through the teleporters. We were like, cool, we’ve got telefragging now.
Everyone's asleep post screenshots of AMID EVIL endless mode https://t.co/FVRtlbMNQQ
(Hordes of Evil) pic.twitter.com/N6tZd9CO4y
— PAX Oshtralia (@DaveOshry) January 15, 2018
What’s it like marketing a retro shooter?
It’s easier than ever to make games. It’s harder than ever to sell games.
Take Lawbreakers. Objectively a really good game, 90+ ratings all across the board, but it’s not selling. There’s an embarrassment of riches of multiplayer shooters. In a world where PUBG, and Overwatch, and Destiny 2 exist, how are you going to get anybody to play your game?
And for an indie, you’ve got July, August, December, January, that’s about it. Because you can’t put out indie games any other time.
You’ve said choosing these games isn’t a business decision, but you’ve got several of this style under your umbrella at New Blood. How do you make that work?
Me and my buddy started New Blood in 2014, we just kind of started it and we didn’t know what we wanted to do. We just wanted to do our own thing. I have a really hard time saying no to cool sh–. But my girlfriend is like, stop, you can’t do everything.
And in the indie space, we’re all friends. And there are so many games out there that would benefit from a producer. There’s so much time to do research on what the audience wants. By the time your game is out, if anything surprises you, it’s your fault.
I give my guys pretty large percentages, so they like me. Also, I’m pretty crazy. Talk to me in a year and see if it was a good strategy. Maybe I’ll say ah, I should have taken bigger percentages and kept the lights on.
Eventually our aim is to actually work in the same space, because we’re all remote now. That’s the dream though, right? All making games together. But that’s a new level of responsibility. You’ve got rent, energy, all that. And some of my guys, they’ve got kids that need school paid for and stuff. So I’m kind of responsible for that.
And that weighs on me, man. They’re like, “Look at my baby!” And I’m like, “Eek, I’m responsible for this baby’s future! I’ve gotta sell a game!”
So since you’re a Doom nut, what’s your favourite mod?
I won’t say Brutal Doom, because everybody says Brutal Doom.
Action Doom, and Action Doom 2. It basically turns Doom into a Max Payne noir style thing with people you can talk to, and all that kind of stuff.
One of the craziest ones, by some Italian guys, is Grezzo Due, which you shouldn’t play, it’s incredibly offensive. But it basically took sprites and weapons from every single Doom mod and threw it into one crazy, insane, offensive as hell Italian thing. They did an english dub a year or two back. You can drive around in cars, use every weapon, there are enemies from everything. The Italian elected officials are in there. You can blow them up.
You could play Doom or Quake forever. Like, desert island, you could take Doom and that’s all you need.
Blade of Agony is also a cool little RPG thing worth checking out.
Our thanks to Dave Oshry for his time!