Pixels and Plastic Explosives – The Test3 Projects Interview

Our resident strategic specialist Mr Alex Connolly was rather impressed with Teleglitch when he put it through its paces before the holidays. He caught up with the three-man Estonian team Test3 Projects to chat with them about the game, where it came from and what the future holds.

Teleglitch

First of all, congratulations on the release of Teleglitch! How do you guys at Test3 Projects feel after the development cycle? 

Johann: I thought I could finally find peace after the release, but it looks like I still can’t.

Edvin: Naturally the end of the cycle makes us tired. Luckily visions of awesomeness in the future can fuel the reality of the present. Plus of course people playing our game.

It’s a fascinating game. I’m curious to know where the idea came from and what influences bled into the creation of Teleglitch.

Mihkel: The idea emerged from many prototypes we made during the past years. The most noticeable inspirations for me have probably been Nox, Half Life, Quake 2, GTA, Warhammer and Hammerfall. Interestingly, a large part of inspiration for developing a Teleglitch-type of game has come from stuff that I found not to be perfect elsewhere.

Johann: We’ve been working on different top-down shooters for a long time now, most of them were never released. This particular reincarnation started off as an overnight coding spree. My original plan was to do some kind of a voodoo shooter that had zombies, magic and guns. Mihkel saw that and thought it looked awful and started drawing. He also didn’t like that voodoo idea, so it was eventually dropped and zombies became incrementally faster.

We originally had a fully-destructible world and the resolution was actually even smaller, but somehow it transformed to Teleglitch. Somewhere along the way I got inspired by roguelikes, permadeath and ultra-replayability and without much consideration implemented procedural levels. A random level generator is also much more fun to code than a mid-level saving system. Those black shadows are clearly inspired from Nox, I really loved how you never knew what will happen behind the next door. The combination system was inspired by Notrium, a really awesome game about surviving in an alien world.

There has been a revival, or at least a growing spotlight on the roguelike and roguelike-esque styles of game in the past couple of years. Teleglitch certainly has elements of the sub-genre running through its veins. What makes the roguelike so appealing to people and where do you feel Teleglitch’s roguelike inspiration shines through the most?

Johann: I think that a lot of modern games have nerfed death in order to avoid player frustration so much that in some games it seems that completing them is always just a question of time. Even playing really stupidly means just a couple more hours of playtime. The problem with that is that it destroys the sense of accomplishment, because spending time with a game isn’t an achievement in itself, unless the game is really bad. People digging up roguelikes seems like a reaction to that.

I might be wrong, however.

Anyway, Teleglitch’s roguelike influences are just that. We’re trying to do a game where players will get harshly punished for doing stupid decisions, while still keeping their interest. So when they actually complete the game they would feel good about themselves, not just “oh, it’s 3AM! I’d better go to bed now!”

Edvin: The value of roguelikes is the feeling you get. The feeling that this is, in fact, your only life. Your precious, valuable, fragile, only life that you are carrying through reality. So this lets you take things much more seriously. You start to pay more attention. Focus more. Your adrenaline starts kicking in. And as a bonus, you get to master your fear of death. To remain calm in hectic, creepy, violent, this-is-not-even-fair situations… and by the way it is a ton of fun! Hardcore fun! We want to do this.

Interestingly, we tend not to see sci-fi or firearm-based roguelikes pop up very often. It was very refreshing to have a game that slotted in the ferocious difficulty and crafting aspects into something other than fantasy.

Teleglitch

What was the process of coming up with the huge variety of weaponry in Teleglitch?

Johann: Game weapons generally aren’t too original. Nearly every shooting game has a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle and then some more advanced weaponry. The idea for, say, the MG-HV came from a particular scene in Ghost in the Shell. The yellow laser gun is absolutely inspired by the one in Akira. The electric gun was inspired by Nox. I really can’t remember where the idea for the Can Gun came from. Probably from an old newspaper story where some kid blew his hands off actually trying something similar.

I can’t remember the thought process behind combinations, but if you look at them long enough, they almost make sense.

Edvin: We decided not to go with Uzis or baseball bats. Teleglitch has its own distinct universe, where nobody plays baseball and the company that made Uzis went bankrupt hundreds of years before the events of the game. But we do have heavy-duty cutting lasers and  high-velocity hand machine guns shooting armor-piercing depleted uranium bullets, as Johann mentioned.

The little dark universe of Teleglitch is scientifically plausible but in the end, radically different from our reality. It is a universe where fairy-tales were never invented. For the entire history of mankind, they have only told thriller stories to their children. Good parenting principles, you know.

The crunchy pixelated aesthetic of Teleglitch is perhaps one of its most divisive aspects. I think it’s glorious, hearkening back to the days of Quake and Doom, using those dank color palettes to great effect. Others might find it a little too hard on the eye and dismiss it in favour of something more defined and high-resolution. What were the defining decisions made towards the graphical style of Teleglitch? Was it an artistic choice, a matter of practicality or both?

Mihkel: I followed a minimalist principle that the resolution need not be higher than what is required to recognize objects. Perhaps we could have made the resolution 2x higher. Either way, we tried to have the animation and dynamics at a high quality, comparable to good games in the 2D scene.

Johann: Mihkel just thought that he would try drawing the smallest possible sprites. It actually wasn’t a very conscious decision. I also feel that with higher detail sprites, things would also have to move with more detail, otherwise they look annoyingly fake. For example, roguelikes with tilesets look worse for me than just ASCII, because with ASCII my brain just replaces all the letters with awesome monsters and combat; with tilesets it looks really weird and I can’t really imagine those monsters moving and any combat taking place, I just see some tiles.

Another bad example would be OpenTTD’s new high-resolution sprites. On their own they look great, but in game they just highlight how off the scale everything is and how sharp those 45 degree turns really are.

What’s been the feedback on Teleglitch since release? I see some very favorable reviews across the board.

Edvin: Yes, feedback after launching the game has really made us aware of the old-school hardcore gamer community, so we are super grateful for everybody who has taken their time to reflect on Teleglitch. One of the most touching reflections for me has been about the Teleglitch experience taking the writer back to his youth; back to the time when he first played Doom on a PC, down in his uncle’s basement. Reading something like this fills me with sincere happiness.

Teleglitch

I’d like to take an opportunity to ask about the Estonian game development scene. What’s it like in terms of developer community, both mainstream and indie, to create games in the country?

Johann: There’s a really old, but quite small game development community in Estonia. Most of it is centered around Gamemaker but sometimes someone builds something really amazing.

Edvin: In the last two to three years, there has been a visible growth on the scene, including growth of relevant companies, teams, education, success and general increase of awareness. There are about 20 independent game teams in Estonia and most of them are operating totally under the radar.

This might sound like a nebulous question, but given the way you can tell if a particular shooter has been made in Russia or the Ukraine, is there something particularly Estonian both fused into Teleglitch and within the gaming industry in the country?

Johann: I can’t see anything except maybe some comments in the source code.

Edvin: I would say Estonia has something cold and serious about it, in addition to everything else. The kind of coldness that ideally allows you to see something in frank, hard beauty. But there have been so few games made in Estonia that one should probably observe for a few more years before trying to generalize what’s going on here.

What’s in the future for Test3 Projects and Teleglitch?

Edvin: We are itching to start working on new content and currently still working on some small fixes and a Mac port. The first content update will feature 3-5 new levels, some nice AI tweaks plus several crunchy weapons added.

We are giving zero promises at the moment but I would just like to say that we have talked about cool possibilities like a survival mode and various juicy multiplayer modes. It should be noted that multiplayer is a big chunk of work and should not be expected this year. And of course, the realization of all the new releases are related to success of Teleglitch in its current, robust form.

I’d like to thank you for your time and wish you guys the best for the future!

Edvin, Johann, Mikhel: Thank you, and good luck to the people who have been reading this. All the best for the future to you guys!

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If you’re not already acquainted with Teleglitch, check out our review and head on over to the official site to download a demo or purchase the game.

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