|IMG: Postal's Designer Steve Wik Talks Game Design, & More
October 20, 2006 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale
IMG: That’s a pretty daunting task!
Steve Wik: It is, especially since the game is all quasi-reality-based. Designing the new title is difficult because, well, you know what reality is, what reality looks like. It’s not like we can make huge vast underground hallways filled with crates, we really have to go for the details, and make our outdoor environments sing. The technical aspects of that alone have always been rough, trying to work around the limitations of a game engine and end up with an environment that’s fun to explore, but is also playable on current generation machines.
IMG: Speaking of game engines, when designing a game, do you keep in mind the technical limitations or cross-platform availability of a game engine and choose technology that will get you the widest possible audience?
Steve Wik: No, I personally try not to get too concerned about that stuff until we’re actually implementing the technology. At the design stage, I try to come up with ideas that will be really cool and fun, and then, if there are issues, we’ll come up solutions. Postal 1 didn’t really have any problems getting onto the Mac. With Postal 2, we were using the Unreal engine, so it was a no-brainer. Once the engine got ported to all platforms, it worked just as well on any platform, so we decided to support everyone. We would like to continue that. With our Mac group, our Mac fans have always been so… grateful that we made a game for them.
IMG: I was expecting you were going to say that we’re a hard group of people to please.
Vince Desi (walking into the room): We’ve always wanted to do Mac support. When Postal 1 came out, there was an immediately negative vibe from some Mac users as well, but only because Mac people can’t be more activist.
Steve Wik: Mac people are more passionate about their platform because they’re more under the gun all the time.
IMG: Maybe Mac people are more passionate about everything…
Steve Wik: But I remember when Postal 1 came out, there were hardly any big name games available at the time. I remember Diablo was out, and Doom, Bungie’s Marathon or Myth series… and we got to be out on Mac too, and we had a lot of really appreciative people.
IMG: You guys have just officially announced Postal III, which is being built around Valve's Source engine. Postal 2 used the Unreal engine. Why the switch?
Steve Wik: The switch to Source is due to technical and... other reasons. When we designed Postal 2, we ran up against some of the technical limitations of the Unreal engine fairly quickly - for example, we had to spend quite a lot of time re-working the engine's AI and pathfinding routines to get the NPCs to behave the way we wanted them to for our game. We've looked at all the upcoming engine technologies, and Valve's is the one that best fits where we want to be taking our next title. Plus we have it on good authority that Gabe Newell is a big fan of our games!
But back to design; one of the things that was poignant when we were talking about the Postal movie was that Postal 2 purposefully didn’t have much of a story arc. I took great pride in that. Postal 2 is an action game, and people can’t whine about the storylines of an action game. It’s a game, have fun, play – if you want a story, read a book! But now we’ve got a movie coming, and suddenly (Postal’s director) Uwe Boll has got to come up with a storyline, and I didn’t envy him that.
IMG: Well, I would imagine that it’s almost an easier job to take something so loose and drive a story around it than taking on Dungeon Siege, or Halo, or any other of these other, linear, plot-driven games. Postal 2 has so much to pick from in terms of details – the game is full of concepts, full of ideas.
Steve Wik: That’s exactly it – there are parts of the movie that I think are great, and parts that want to make me hurl. But, ultimately, as much as I will be publicly vehement about it, and play that role of the disgruntled creator, I can’t say that our video game-based movie is better or worse than anybody else’s video game-based movie. In some ways it’s better – it’s a mixed bag, which is something I expected from the beginning. It’s just so cool that we have this opportunity, and that we can achieve this. We will have that feather in our cap. Regardless of whether people like it or not, we’ve made a movie. And when you look at the other movie games, the company that we’re in, it’s cool! To me, it’s the same sort of role we have in the video game industry. You’ve got all these shiny guys that have made all their money, they’re driving their gold-plated rocket cars, and we’re the scummy guys off the street eating top raman – whether you like it or not, we’re hanging out with you! (sinister laugh)
IMG would like to thank Steve Wik for taking the time to speak with us.