An Interview With Mindware Studios (Tomas Pluharik)
Last year Mindware Studios delivered its inaugural project (Cold War) to Windows users, while last month they finally delivered the full client to Linux users. We have managed to strike up an interview with Mindware Studios to learn more about the company itself, their future outlook, stance on Mac/Linux clients, and other technical details to share. In this interview we had a word with Tomas Pluharik, the lead designer of Cold War and the executive producer on some upcoming Mindware titles.
Feel free to post any additional questions or comments in this thread. Next week over at Phoronix.com we will be featuring an interview with Mindware Studios' Patrik Rak (Chief programmer).
Phoronix: Thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions. First off, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your position at Mindware Studios?
Tomas Pluharik: Hi, my name is Tomas Pluharik and I was the lead designer of Cold War. Now I am working as an executive producer on several Mindware Studios titles.
Phoronix: Since many in the gaming community haven't heard much of Mindware Studios, are you able to tell us some more about the company itself? Such as the number of employees and what is the mission statement/goals of this company.
T.P.: Mindware was founded in 2001 in Prague (Czech Republic), by enthusiastic experienced Czech developers. Currently we have more than 20 employees and a lot of contractors. Our goal is to create AAA computer games as an independent developer (not so easy in these days ). Our focus is to employ less AAA class experts rather then hiring armies of newbies (maybe we/I are not so patient to teach other basics ).
Phoronix: With Cold War being your inaugural project, what had inspired Mindware Studios to create a game based upon this real-life situation with the Cold War and U.S.S.R.?
T.P.: We have been looking for strong theme nobody used and still we are familiar with. We all lived in communism for longer then we wanted so expression of this was easier for us. Cold war is nice mixture of adventure of not so ordinary hero (more ordinary man like you), our realistic experience from communism and fiction story of what could happen if.
Phoronix: The game engine for Cold War is using Mindware's MENG engine, could you please shed some light on the benefits or technical features of this engine, and why it was developed over going with something like the Doom 3 engine or Unreal Engine 3?
T.P.: This engine is running on more then one platform and was built proprietary for the game. This allow us to make easier what we want and make port to Xbox, Linux and MacOS very easy. Currently we modified MENG and it is strong backbone technology of our prepared projects. It supports most of the modern features, as Patrik has mentioned.
Phoronix: Some gamers have criticized the game as simply being a clone of Splinter Cell. Do you have anything to say that, to clear up any misconceptions on the part of gamers?
T.P.: There are two points I want to clarify. At first the idea and development of Cold war started even before Splinter Cell was announced (and probably developed), problem is that we did not have Ubisoft's money to push the development so fast. Second point is that Splinter Cell is "supertechnology inhuman agent linear game" and Cold war is more "improvising Indiana Jones of journalism". Good gameplay example is that when you start solving problems like Sam Fisher you always have some super high-tech thingie or somebody will fire from orbital laser cannon, but when you get into troubles like Matthew Carter you have to improvise with ordinary things (build gadgets from garbage etc.). The approach to playing is completely different. We took inspiration more from Thief series when we created primal design.
Phoronix: When playing this game myself, Cold War had offered a fairly unique style of gameplay from first person to third person mode as well as the comic-like cut scenes. What had inspired Mindware Studios to go against the status quo of traditional gameplay by offering this different style, and can we see similar styles coming in future Mindware titles?
T.P.: Well, during design of the game we were always asking to make it a bit different then the other games (some mainstream editors didn't get it ), we wanted not to make just another stealth game with super agent. In Mindware we are always trying to find out something new in the game design. We are independent developers so we have to invent new things to get the audience interested (players, publishers, reviewers).
Phoronix: Though Mindware Studios was founded back in 2001, your only title thus far has been Cold War. Are you able to share what types of projects that your company is presently working on, and any hints at what we may see coming out in the future?
T.P.: Officially we are working on three projects. The Painkiller for PS2/PSP, Voodoo Nights, and one secret title. That is all I can say now.
Phoronix: With Cold War, you had launched a Linux demo of this game even before selecting Linux Game Publishing (LGP) as your Linux publisher. Will all future Mindware titles have Linux-native clients?
T.P.: Our coders are Linux fans so I expect that yes.
Phoronix: Likewise, will there continue to be Macintosh ports of your titles? Such as Runesoft had done with Cold War for Mac OS X.
T.P.: Because of architecture of MENG engine, the port to MacOS was quite easy. From marketing perspective the port of Cold war was a probe. We will see.
Phoronix: What was the biggest struggle during the development of Cold War, or the MENG engine itself, for the Linux platform?
T.P.: Besides standard developers lamentations on money, time, publishers, and reviewers?
I think that the biggest struggle was that we decided to rebuild the technology once completely from the scratch, because we decided to go for the Xbox platform. It took us lot of time but gave us better technology for the future.
Phoronix: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. Is there any other information you would like to share with the Linux gaming community?
T.P.: Play the game!
Look for our other interview with Patrik Rak of Mindware Studios on Monday, August 21.
Is there any more info on "Voodoo Nights"? I couldn't get very much info on it from the sparse website, but it looks great.
A bit more information on Voodoo Nights will be shared in our interview with Patrik Rak.
Great interview. The bit about being a Splinter Cell clone was good.. cleared up what I originally thought also. It's -great- to know that they are planning to bring future titles to Linux also. If only that desire would catch on quicker
Nice write up, albeit a short one.
I would like to ask...
1. Did the sheer number of distributions make the Cold War Linux port more difficult to stabilize? Was this anticipated or was it a problem that did not creep up during development?
2. It does seem, at least in my perception, that Cold War managed to get only lukewarm reception from the so-called "mainstream editors". What in terms of design of the game did not communicate well to these editors?
3. Was there any features that did not make the cut during development of Cold War? Would there be any feature or gameplay elements that you would opt to modify?
4. What was the primary goals and targets set during the start of Cold War? Did the game meet your expectations and did it achieve the targets set?
At http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=7197 are the responses of Patrik Rak to the same set of questions... many of his statements provide a different perspective on the situation.
Thanks. That was a good interview Michael!
Hope to see more interviews from Linux-interested Game Studios.
Wow, I'm astonished to see an interview with Tomas Pluharik here! I remember him back from my Hidden & Dangerous days-
I never realized that he is now one of the leading heads of Mindware Studios.
Interesting interview. I only tried the demo of Cold War once but couldn't really get into it. I'd love to see another game of H&D type in the future!