There is often a lot of debate around whether games should be seen as an art form or not. One thing I’ve never heard argued is if games could be considered a form of science. Nerd Kingdom’s TUG burst onto the scene with a very successful kickstarter and a premise rooted in science that is unique to games of its kind. We were very excited to have the opportunity to pose our questions to the Peter Salinas, one of the game’s developers. Enjoy the interview!

Peter

Peter Salinas of Nerd Kingdom.

Thanks for joining us! Tell us about yourself and your studio!

My name is Peter, most of the internet knows me as Ino (I-know). Our group is called Nerd Kingdom. We are a sort of collective of scientists, designers, technologists and artists. We like to smash different perspectives together and challenge one another to make neat things.

Tell us about TUG, and the unique design philosophy behind it.

TUG is all about “being human” and using real insights and understandings from the world you live in. We want players to experience and associate logic from the experience they have in the world to create an immersive and beautiful setting. We are aiming to create real emotions from the players, not just success, but also failure, anxiety, fear. Anything that makes us, us. And more than this, we want that to exist in a world where other people exist and allow for problems to be solved and created around one another. We want to “unhinge” traditional concepts of design in many ways. As gamers, we do not get enough credit for what we are capable of. We want to show with this project that more interesting things occur when you actually let people be human when they play, in whatever form that may take.

How did you come up with the name TUG? Is that the final name of the game?

It functioned as a bit of placeholder for a research project. It was an “Untitled Game”, THE untitled game. So we just stuck with it. It follows some interesting philosophies and even shows some samples of play that exists outside of games. TUG was not always obvious for its meaning, and was and is a lot of fun seeing people come up with their own meanings. And really, it is about what other people do with TUG. In some ways, what we are creating is not as important, we are hoping it inspires others to make things even greater than what we are doing, and they undoubtedly will. So really, it will remain untitled, until the community makes their own of it. As for any official name change, maybe. We like being responsive to needs we see as they arise, so if its something that is overwhelmingly topical, we will certainly act. But to be honest, it has grown on us.

Tug Landscape

The landscapes of Tug are filled with plains and caves to explore.

How far along the development path is the game currently?

It is actually in an alpha stage. We have a few more bigger systems to complete, then we can start ramping up more on gameplay and start taking steps into beta. Right now, its just a taste of what we can do with the tech and the world.

You have a very interesting perspective on narrative in games. Can you describe how players will uncover the secrets of TUG, its history, and its culture?

We see everything as narrative. A UI, a particle effect, an object, a book… all of it for us is important. We actually stick to these world narratives religiously. We are creating an architecture for a universe, but the details are left to the perception of the users. Eventually, people will connect the correct pieces of knowledge and it may change the way the game is viewed and played in the future. Much like how we view our own ancient civilizations; we can see the influence of them in our everyday lives, but we only have bits and pieces to really understand what it was or where it came from. We want the player to feel like they are a part of the world, or go on without ever noticing it at their leisure. For us, that is good narrative.

I love how you are taking the player-character in new, interesting directions. Do you mind talking about how characters will evolve over time? Also, what’s with that stone in his hand?

That’s rad that you are into it! We are mega geeked out by it, too. Video games are an amazing medium to really expand on visual representation. After all, it is all about seeing things happening on your screen, so we wanted to really leverage those visuals to show changes occur for who you are and what you have been doing. This also creates relative narrative for the players themselves within the world. We aren’t creating the story of the hero, we are letting you play out the story of becoming that hero. Consider how we profile others in real life. Are they large? Small? Big? Slim? We always naturally make assumptions of those people. It is harmless really; it is in our DNA to assess our surroundings for sake of survival. We want a player to be able to look at another player and see that same thing… are they strong? Fast? Slow? Magic users? It is as important for your own connection to the players as it is for other players connections to you.

On the back side of it, mathematically, it is somewhat complex… considering intake, use of energy, etc… but it is being designed in a way that a player will never be hindered by it or annoyed. It certainly will take iteration and time, but it is important for many reasons to have a system that is responsive and logical as well. Its still a fantasy setting after all, so expect fantastical things to occur. Swing big swords, get bigger, carry lots of items, move slower but build endurance.

Tug Concept

TUG player-character concept art.

Can you expand on how the game will respond to a player’s interaction with other players? That is one of the most interesting concepts I have ever heard of in multiplayer environments. Can you give us a hypothetical example of how this might work?

This has lots to do with data for us. One such example, maybe a certain type of player is constantly trolling or camping others in the world. That behavior may be noticed by “something” in the world and that something may be responsive to you. Its not a punishment, but a way to really create experiences for all types and given interesting incentives to work one way to another. That response from the “something” may be access to other worlds, weapons, or knowledge. It could means certain NPCs will or will not want to associate with you. It could mean anything. We have a handful of social scientists on board and we would not really be leveraging those insights unless we took full advantage of that input.

Can you explain the difference between the Creative and Survival gameplay modes?

Creative is just as it sounds, its a mode that allows you to be creative and manipulate the world and rules in interesting ways. Right now, its just a sandbox of all the bits and pieces of TUG, for players to place things about. Right now, you can actually make your own survival maps in creative mode. Place weapons, build structures and share the maps with others. Creative will be MUCH more impressive once we get rid of those blasted blocks (which we are very close to pulling off). Soon, we will have a variation of shapes and tools to use to build things and more organic bits falling off when we dig. I suppose the closest comparison is EverQuest Next. But for us, we want people to create whatever they want, not just a few bits in one universe.

What kinds of environmental hazards will the player have to contend with? Beasts? Natural disasters? Trees falling over?

When the tech is where we need it, all of the above. Environment is where we will shine. We put a lot of time into planning, designing and building around these use cases. Expect to have to avoid trees, avoid traps, or move away from a falling meteor.  Once water is complete, we will move into some interesting considerations for this, as well.

What are you and your team currently working on in development?

Right now we are working on some engine factoring, making things faster, prepping for development of tools and gameplay. We are also getting havok integration complete as well as our new terrain gen system, which will give us MEGA distance terrain generation, as well as have more control over how interesting world generation looks and be rid of the blocks, once and for all.

How can gamers support you and your team as you continue development on TUG?

Well we are launching on Steam Early Access on Friday the 28th, so that is the most direct way to support us. Or you can go directly to our site now and pick it up at www.nerdkingdom.com. Our community keeps asking us to make aesthetic goodies for them to help support the game, which we will probably get to in the next few months. But one step at a time and each penny we earn in alpha and beta is going directly back into development… not into our pockets or other projects.

Thank you for your time! Best of luck!

Hey, its my pleasure! Thank you for sharing our project with your community!