Launching a small independent studio can be a long and difficult process. In many instances, studios have been founded by groups of friends or students looking to get into the business of game development together. Other times, individual developers start off as one-person teams before expanding from there. Exalt Studios is an example of the latter case.
Exalt Studios was founded by a young teenager from Grassland, Alberta named William Sworin. Seven years later, Sworin is now a young twenty-something residing in Edmonton and Exalt is on the cusp of releasing its first title, Silas. Silas is a hybrid game built with the A8 Engine. It seeks to combine the best elements of first-person shooters and kart racers to create a whole new experience.
To learn more about Exalt Studios, its long journey, and its plans for the future, I took the time to talk to its founder, William Sworin.
IGC: Tell us a little bit about Exalt Studios.
William Sworin: Well, I created the company back in 2004, when I was only 16 years old. I was in high school at the time, and started developing a kart game that eventually turned into Silas. I developed Silas entirely by myself, as I never had any money for employees. Eventually I finished school and then went on to complete Silas in-between making ends meet with other non-game related work. I now reside in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
IGC: Silas takes two distinctly different genres (Kart racing/FPS) and blends them together. Where did this idea originate from and what games helped influence Silas?
WS: Oh, the idea was definitely born out of my love for a couple other well-known franchises. When I started making Silas, I was really into Unreal Tournament and had always loved Mario Kart. However, I was really tired at the time of how, with every release of Mario Kart, the gameplay never really seemed to change. Being a huge fan of the kart genre, I wanted to mix things up. So I took the twitch-based environment of a tournament shooter and mixed it with the crazy fantasy levels of a kart game. Silas was born.
IGC: Take a moment to describe some of the weaponry in the game. Silas features over 18 weapons, so what kind of artillery can players expect to see?
WS: The Rocket Launcher in Silas is really unique in that you can actually guide your rockets around using a laser pointer. So if you shoot a bunch into the air, you can do little air shows with them and then guide them into your opponent. It also switches into a torpedo launcher. Another cool weapon is the deployable turret. You can shoot these little guys out anywhere and they will defend you. The Grinder is also a neat melee weapon; basically you can whip out a huge metal spike roller that flattens anything in its path. You can also expect the usual, like lasers, cannons, homing lasers, a large variety of ground projectiles and traps.
IGC: Silas offers a lot of different multiplayer options, whether players want to race or blow each other to atoms. Describe some of the different multiplayer options that Silas offers.
WS: The game offers Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Survival, Racing, and Pipe Snatch. You can play these online or via LAN. I allow players to install Silas on all their computers and play LAN without any hassle. And if they’re into online modes, there are over 50 ranks to get and over 30 perks. Plus full leaderboards for kills, races, and time trial. There is also a built-in message board and game finder. Basically, the full online experience you’d expect from any modern-day shooter.
IGC: You also devoted a lot of energy to the game’s audio, offering over 30 songs and 100 audio effects. How important is a good soundtrack to a game like Silas?
WS: The music was all done by my good friend Kevin Greenlee. He’s an extremely talented musician, and he composed the entire original soundtrack. If you’re a fan of acts like The Crystal Method, Skrillex, or The Prodigy then you’re going to love the music in Silas. Kevin also makes albums online and goes by the name LoudCore. I believe he will be one of the game industry’s best in the future, as he was only 16 at the time of making the audio in Silas.
The soundtrack is extremely important since it keeps the pacing up, and it just sounds plain awesome.
IGC: Are there plans to continue supporting Silas after the game’s launch? Post-release DLC plans?
WS: The game has an automatic patch-detecting system. So basically if I make an update, everybody will have to update if they want to keep playing online. It will guide them to its download link too. I plan to offer one major update after release, and some smaller ones if required. As for DLC, I don’t think so; anything I make will be free for those who already purchased the game.
IGC: Having completed development for Silas, is there any advice you can offer aspiring game developers that might be looking to start development on their first game?
WS: Be innovative. I personally wish I had more time to make even more unique features in Silas. Unfortunately for the first few years when I was making the game, I think I focused on too much conventional gameplay mechanics and that blinded me to what it could really be. I then had to go back and change a lot of my early material to mix things up.
Start small. Silas was huge, and to be honest, multiplayer is a hard thing to program. I think the best method these days is to make something small and concentrated but really good.
Get the ball rolling early. It’s not easy to make a game while doing a low paying job just to make ends meet. It’s best if you use a business method like Minecraft and Overgrowth used, or make a really small project. After all, the earlier your income starts coming in, the more time you have to make your game that much better.
Overall, indie game development is not an easy road, and there are no guarantees. I made Silas out of the passion of my love for video games. Don’t try and make games to be rich, because most will never be. I doubt I’ll ever find that level of success. But enjoy it, do your best, and really enjoy those times you get to see others play your work. That makes it all worth it in the end.
IGC: What’s in the future for Exalt Studios?
WS: Well, I am going to be creating a new partnership with a friend of mine who happens to be great at programming. We’ve been working on the early design stages of another game for nearly a year now. It’s going to be awesome, but I can’t share any details on it yet. Other than that, I will be supporting Silas with some cool updates.
IGC: Thank you, William, for talking to us about Exalt Studios and Silas.
Silas is set to release this Wednesday, September 14. Those interested in purchasing the game can buy it from Desura, Direct2Drive, GamersGate, Beamdog, or the official Silas website for $9.95. There’s still time to preorder the game in order to receive its 30-song soundtrack for free.
Indie Games Channel will continue to follow the progress of William Sworin’s Exalt Studios and its future releases.
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