Ready Developer Gone – We steal a minute to talk to Out Of Tune Games

Crooks Like Us is a cartoony party game coming to Steam Early Access in March. We’ve previously exclusively revealed the price of the game. However, we spoke to developers Out Of Tune Games about much more than just that. Now you can read the full interview below.

RPG) To me, Crooks Like Us looks like a cross between Payday and Overcooked/Moving Out. Is that an accurate description? What games really influenced development?

Out Of Tune Games) “Overcooked and Moving Out are definitely apt comparisons.  We decided early on to go down the route of slapstick, cartoony non-violence so something like Raving Rabbids might be more appropriate than Payday.

We have two key features that set our game apart: 

  • The ability to steal everything in the room and throw it up into a wonky stack is an interesting risk/reward mechanic where higher stacks are harder to control and make you a target to other players but come with much bigger score multipliers. There’s a tenuous link to Death Stranding here but the movement and abilities are very different and give the game a unique feel. It’s satisfying waiting until another player has carefully constructed a giant stack then smashing into them, sending items flying (which of course you can then grab for yourself).
  • The second feature is the switch players can make during games between offensively grabbing items and defensively getting back into a van. Whilst in the van players have an overview of the level and have access to powerful gadgets like dropping anvils, banana skins and moving walls covered in boxing gloves which can send opponents flying across the room. I suppose this ‘van-play’ mechanic is a little like Worms or even has elements of some tower defence or RTS games. It’s cool during team games where some players can concentrate on grabbing items and some can play the support role protecting them from other crooks.”
RPG) On the Steam wishlist page “Cross-platform multiplayer” is listed as a feature. Could you tell us which platforms players will be able to play each other from?

OOTG) “We currently have builds on Windows, Mac and Linux as well as a browser build.  All of these versions can interconnect with each other.

We are planning console builds further down the line, including Switch, Xbox and Playstation builds.  

Our plan would be for all versions of Crooks Like Us to connect between each other if the platform allowed for it.”

RPG) Crooks Like Us is the first game that Out Of Tune Games will be releasing. Could you tell us a bit more about the history of the studio? How did you guys meet and how did the game idea come about?

OOTG) “We were originally solo game developers and freelancers and met to discuss taking part in a programme called Platform, funded by Northern Ireland Screen.  We knew that teaming up would give us the ability to work on a larger scale game and the funding enabled us to focus on making games full-time for a year without having to worry about the next freelance job.

The original idea for Crooks Like Us came about during the creation of a number of themed, one-week prototypes.  It was originally quite a different type of game, more like Keep Talking And No-One Explodes. I think the theme was ‘Co-Op with a Twist’, or something similar, which no longer describes the game at all but shows how ideas evolve and change over time.

It had some fun elements to it but we are much happier with what it eventually turned into after we pivoted and refined the design to what has become Crooks Like Us.

You can see a video of the original concept here (it was called The Man In The Van)”

An early build of “man in the van”

RPG) Which part of running a small indie studio has been the hardest for you? Does this line up with what you were expecting before starting to work on Crooks Like Us?

OOTG) “We were originally meant to work out of a shared game development space called the Pixel Mill, based in Belfast. Due to Covid, we were unable to meet up for the first few months and then only briefly for a few days. Just as we were getting into more of a routine of working in the same office further lockdowns forced us, like so many other people, to return to working from home.

We are incredibly lucky to be able to continue to work from home without too much of a hindrance to our productivity but not being in the same space has definitely been a challenge at times, especially with never having worked together before. Many of our more vocal game design arguments would probably have ended much sooner had we been able to sit over a pint and work them out (or murder each other).”

RPG) The game launches in March. What features are left to be completed? Are you confident that you can reach that launch window without any major issues?

OOTG) “We are going to be launching into Early Access in March. Most of the major features of the game are already in place and are constantly being tested and refined. We’re trying to squeeze as many levels and gadgets into the first release as possible but it’s a balance between quality and quantity. We will most likely end up with a level or two and some gadgets that are 80-90% completed by March that we can polish up and add as a free update at the end of April or so.

After the initial Early Access launch the focus will be on more levels, more gadgets, more character customization options and maybe even implementing some of our more ridiculous game mode ideas. Some of the level ideas are more out there too; we currently have an early prototype of a level set on Mars with a lower gravity setting meaning the stacks and loose items are much more floaty which may or may not ever see the light of day.

The Early Access version will have a single-player component but the focus is more on the multiplayer gameplay. If the response to the game is positive and there’s a demand for a more fully-featured single-player experience we will use that to approach publishers and try and secure some funding to flesh out that aspect.”

RPG) Could you give us a  hint as to the price point that Crooks Like Us will release at?

OOTG) “We are looking to release the game at around $20 (the price point of similar games). The early access version will have a reduced price to encourage gamers to join us on our development journey.

To allow gamers to connect and play with their friends, players will be able to join in games from a free demo version of Crooks Like Us. As long as one person in a group has the paid Early Access version of the game they can host sessions for other people to join. Of course, the player with the full version has access to many more gadgets, customisation options, levels and game modes but we felt this was a fair way to let people have some fun with the game.”

RPG) Given the success of services like Xbox Games Pass, how do you see the future of the gaming industry? Do you see games services overtaking traditional consumer purchasing similar to what we’ve seen with TV and film streaming?

OOTG) “It certainly looks like many companies are looking at this as a possibility. For small indie companies marketing can be a huge challenge as typically we don’t have massive budgets to run large PR campaigns. Getting on a streaming service can provide some ‘free’ PR if you can manage to become a hidden gem or gain support from larger streamers and YouTubers. For a game like Crooks Like Us it could also be a good way to let people play together if the game is part of a larger subscription.

One potential issue with game streaming is that many musicians complain about the low amounts of revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Also, streaming services certainly offer great value for money in terms of the amount of content on offer however it can lead to a dip in the creation of consistently high-quality content.”

RPG) If there was one thing that you could go back and tell yourself before you started working on Crooks Like Us, what would it be?

OOTG) “We made a decision to re-pivot the type of game that Crooks Like Us should be after we had expanded the original one week prototype into a more fully-featured vertical slice of the game. At that stage, the game was more of a co-op experience played from a 1st person perspective with more of a focus on stealth and puzzle-solving. We took a long look at our strengths as a studio and decided that we wanted to create more multiplayer, chaotic, mechanically interesting games that offered players something that felt different from anything they’d played before. We want to create games that feel slightly discordant, a little out of tune, that leave players with something memorable in the back of their minds long after they’ve finished their play sessions.

At the time the change of direction was a huge risk given our available resources.  We would go back and tell ourselves that the risk would work out and that we would create something that would make people laugh out loud whilst simultaneously screaming at their closest friends and family, a game that initially seems simple and can be enjoyed casually but that has layers of hidden depth for players wanting a more skilled experience.”

RPG) How hard was the development of Crooks Like Us affected by Covid-19? How did you overcome any challenges the pandemic presented?

OOTG) “Being in the same space when coming up with game ideas is so much easier than doing it remotely.  During the few times we did meet up, which were in single digits, the ability to have a debate about certain features, draw on whiteboards and even grab lunch together was invaluable.

Ironically the testing of multiplayer games is much simpler when the devs are side by side. When testing how lag is affecting the playthroughs or trying to determine why certain physical objects are behaving differently on different players machines it can be a real pain when you can’t see the two screens side by side. We frequently have to test online features by playing multiple games on the same computer and flicking controls between each session window. Being able just to load up a lobby with 3 or 4 players in the same room would have saved so much hair from our heads when trying to iron out fiddly little networking bugs.”

RPG) Finally, have you begun to think about your post-launch plans? What comes next for Out Of Tune Games?

OOTG) “Post-launch the first focus is supporting the continued development of Crooks Like Us and upholding the early access promises of more content for players who are supporting the studio.

After that workflow is integrated into our weekly schedule we may revisit some of our earlier one-week prototypes to see how we could use some of those early concepts as the basis of a new game, especially with the experience we have now gathered in the last several months working together as a full-time team. We have had conversations about one of the prototypes in particular and are excited to expand it in a slightly different direction which we think could be a lot of fun to play. Prototyping new game ideas and seeing how people react to them is the best part of the design process and hopefully, we will have something new to unveil come summer 2021.”

This giveaway has now ended.

In conjunction with this interview, we’re giving away another free copy of Crooks Like Us, thanks to Out Of Tune Games! To enter simply complete the following three steps:

  1. Follow @readyplayergone on Twitter
  2. Follow @crookslikeus on Twitter
  3. Retweet this tweet

You must follow both accounts and have retweeted the tweet by the time the giveaway closes to be eligible. The first eligible winner will be chosen at random at 12PM GMT on March 3rd.

This giveaway has now ended.

So will you be picking up Crooks Like Us? Will you simply try and win it in our giveaway? Which game do you think Out Of Tune Games will launch next? Let us know in the comments section below!

For more news, reviews, and features from us, check out Ready Player Gone. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Want to join the team? Click here to find out how!

Disclaimer: All giveaway and review codes were provided by Out Of Tune Games.

Ryan Archer
Ryan Archerhttps://pixelhideout.com/
Previously interviews lead at Ready Player Gone. Currently working at pixelhideout.com

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