Recently, we had the privilege to speak with Liron Peer and Roma Levin, the indie game devs of Mashmashu Studio and the makers of the new RTT game, Nordic Warriors. We discovered the team at Mashmashu a while back when they won AAA Game Character Bundle in our contest The Great Sounds Giveaway. Being able to catch up with them and learn about their approach to game development and get a personal introduction to their latest game was a great opportunity to gain some industry insight.
Important to note that Mashmashu Studio is just Liron and Roma (both with full-time day jobs) who have created the entire Nordic Warriors game in their spare time. Their tag line for the studio is “the power of two” and it’s no wonder, clearly a talented and dedicated pair. Our conversation covers their game design process, their approach to sound design and highlights some of their triumphs and challenges as an indie studio throughout the multi-year experience developing Nordic Warriors.
Q: First of all, tell us a little bit about your game that was just released, a quick overview perhaps and what inspired the project.
A: Nordic Warriors is a real time tactical (RTT) game inspired by the classic game “Myth.” It’s set in a world descending into an existential struggle for survival. You’ll need to take advantage of the terrain and your hero abilities to heal and lead your units as you blast, smash or slash your way through the unfolding apocalypse.
Roma was a fan of the “Myth” game series from the 90s. It was the first PC game he ever purchased. He had always waited for the next Myth game or “Myth-alike” game to be released, but sadly it never came. So we finally decided to make one of our own.
Q: What software/game dev platform and programming languages do you use for creating your games and why do you like it/why not?
A: We used Unreal Engine 4 to develop the game. It fit us for several reasons, such as its license, the fact that you develop on C++, and the fact that it’s an open source code base, which gave us the flexibility to fix/change things if we needed (which turned out to be true). Overall the programming languages we used in Nordic Warriors are a combination of 95% C++ and 5% UE4 blueprints.
Q: What do you hope players will take away from your game?
A: We hope to give them a nostalgic experience in a new and modern way. Particularly for those who loved the old Myth series, we hope to bring gamers that same gameplay enjoyment again. And for those who are new to the RTT (Real Time Tactics) genre, we hope to bring something new and different from the mainstream games we have these days. Like most good game developers, our bottom line is to create a fun and engaging experience for the players… to create a game that players will enjoy and want to play again and again.
Q: What is your workflow like and who do you work with to build your games? Third parties or outsource and what roles do they play?
A: The studio is really only the two of us. Roma is responsible for programming, Liron is managing all the art and visual look of the game, as well as taking care of other things that are related to the game. For every aspect that we couldn’t create ourselves, we either hired a professional for specific tasks, or purchased online assets that we implemented ourselves into the game. We both worked from home for 4 years while working on this project.
Q: What are some obstacles you had to overcome in the process?
A: We had to solve a lot of issues regarding the engine. We sometimes had to change things or make compromises. We were also on a very limited budget like most indie game devs, so budget and resources definitely had an impact on decisions we made. Many times things didn’t go our way technically and creatively. Often tasks took twice the time as we thought. We’ve found that in order to be a game developer you must be persistent. We never gave up and always managed to find a solution!
Q: What is something in your game that is important but maybe nobody really notices?
A: In Nordic Warriors the player is able to control the speed/time of the game, by slowing it down or speeding it up, which may help to dodge enemy projectiles in slow motion, or save time while walking large distances. For some reason, not many players use this option. (Editor’s note: In our gameplay experience with Nordic Warriors we found this to be an invaluable feature and made the game even more fun to play.)
Q: What are the biggest technical challenges you face as a game dev?
A: Since Roma was the only one who worked on development, solving technical roadblocks was a challenge. Working with Unreal Engine 4 like any game dev platform, caused us to face several technical issues along the road. There were several times where Roma had to solve issues inside the engine by himself and create his own version of the engine, so he could keep working on the game. We’ve even developed plugins for UE as a result. In addition, since we didn’t really have past experience developing a full game, we ran into several technical challenges… Sadly, we can definitely say we wasted a lot of precious time on these issues while developing. That’s part of the learning curve though.
A: Though we released the game already, we still continue to develop it and add new features that we originally had planned to and simply didn’t have time during development. We think the most enjoyable part is watching other people play the game (such as streamers), that’s when the game really comes into life and you realize you created something that people enjoy. That’s really the goal.
Q: Have you ever had to sacrifice a feature you really, really didn’t want to give up to keep a game on budget or meet a deadline? Tell us about it.
A: Yes, of course, that would be the multiplayer option. We know this is a very popular feature and most games today support multiplayer, but we knew that as a small studio, including it could extend development for at least another year and that will require a very large budget to support, so we knew we had to release the game only with a single-player mode. These days we’re working on adding a multiplayer mode, without having the “pressure” of meeting our release deadline.
Q: Give us an idea how do you differentiate yourself from other game developers?
A: We always tried to listen to our audience when developing Nordic Warriors. From an early stage we had beta testers who gave us their feedback. We shared a free demo and got a lot of suggestions, which most of them we implemented into the game. We never ignored the players’ requests, because we always saw ourselves making the game for them, not for us. Of course, since we’re only two people with a very limited budget, we couldn’t include everything people asked us to add, but since we’re still continuing to develop the game, even after release, we know we’ll do our best to meet most of our goals.
Sound and Sound Design for Nordic Warriors
As mentioned before, Mashmashu Studios won Epic Stock Media’s in a contest we hosted sometime ago. In their game they were definitely able to use some of those sounds so we were excited to be able to get some insight into how they approached sound design for Nordic Warriors.
Q: Tell us about your process for sound design?
A: Since Nordic Warriors is aimed for an adult audience, we also aimed for a serious/dramatic soundtrack. We looked for Norse/Viking inspired music themes with a mixture of Medieval epic dramatic atmosphere. Sound effects and voice overs were also inspired by this same theme. We used several websites that sell sound packs like Epic Stock Media and the Unreal Engine marketplace. There’s a great selection there of game assets with 16bit format and clean high quality sound.
Q: Tell us about the tools you use for sound design and mixing in your project. Do you use your dev platform or platform tools to help facilitate sound design?
A: Unreal Engine has several features to control sounds. You can mix several tracks together, control the balance between them, create delays or adjust the speed. So we built everything related to sounds and music right inside the game engine. We used the engine’s tools to have maximum control over the sounds in the game. This way, if we needed to change something at a later stage, it was very easy to do without major implications on the game itself. We considered editing the sounds in an external software which would have caused us to re-edit small changes and implement them again in the game. When all the sounds are inside the engine, it’s very convenient (saves time) and any change is very easy to do.
Q: Any tips or tricks for sound design workflow? If you have used Epic Stock Media products in your project, please describe and tell us about it.
A: Working with pre-made purchased packs was definitely a cost and time saver. That was our first option for every sound we needed. For about 2 characters we had to create custom voice packs. The narrator of the game was also a custom sound design project, since we had a very specific script we needed.
We used several Epic Stock Media products, mainly for their high quality, large variety and fair price. In Nordic Warriors we used several of the Epic Stock Media AAA Game Characters like: Demon, Dwarf and Wizard, plus Ancient Game for magic sounds and gameplay and Organic Nature for environment and background sound elements. (See a complete list at end of article)
Q: What’s the best game of all time and why?
A: That would be Tetris. A simple yet sophisticated game that you can play forever and ever and never get bored. Yes, it’s addictive. Brilliant.
Q: What’s your favorite game soundtrack and why?
A: That would be the Victory theme of Myth II Soulblighter. We had to work hard to hear this music 😊
Nordic Warriors Gameplay Notes
We got some hands-on experience with Nordic Warriors and we loved it. On start, we were instantly greeted with units, an objective and a familiar feel. You get gameplay with true RTT game action, battles, hacking and slashing, gore, and easy to use controls. As RTT gamers ourselves, we enjoyed the missions the game takes you on. From defending towns, to fighting our way to new levels. We look forward to future upgrades bringing added variety to the types of mission objectives available in the game.
The graphics are up to professional levels and we were super impressed as we’ve learned that Mashmashu is just a two person indie studio. It shows that making a top notch game is possible without an army of resources. The interactive tutorial was very helpful to understand how to play the game and walked you through with an AI assistant. Overall you can tell the developers put their heart and soul into Nordic Warriors. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable gameplay experience.
Nordic Warriors FTW
Many thanks to Liron Peer and Roma Levin for allowing us to get a glimpse inside Mashmashu Studio. It’s truly impressive to see the inner workings and dedication of this game development duo. It’s easy to see that Liron and Roma are both driven by their passion for game development and players will certainly pick up on that in their own gameplay experience with Nordic Warriors.
Nordic Warriors is the first full-length game from Mashmashu Studio. They’ve developed several mobile app games and a few plug-ins for Unreal Engine. Have fun and keep an ear out for some of Epic Stock Media’s sound effects in the game. Nordic Warriors is available on Steam here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1174670/Nordic_Warriors/