Old School Gamer Magazine chats with “Brigand: Oaxaca” developer Brian Lancaster, who lets us know what inspired the FPS/RPG hybrid, as well as how he got into the video game development scene.
A throwback that’ll take you back to the days of the original Deus Ex and Fallout, it’s a testament to the power and vision of a one-man development team.
About the Game:
Brigand: Oaxaca is a highly difficult post-apocalyptic RPG/FPS set in Mexico. The story will take you from a banana plantation into dark toxic caverns, to the sprawling city of Pochutla, to the flooded coastline, to deadly demon-infested jungles, and more.
For More on the game, Click Here.
OSGM: How was this game born?
Brian Lancaster: I think it was about 2006 when I bought DarkBASIC Pro off the shelf of a Fry’s Electronics store for about $40 (now it’s free). It’s an old non-OOP 3D engine, but it was easy to learn and I had fun playing around with prefab boxes, making them shoot at each other. Eventually, I had a pretty solid physics engine with collision, gravity, bullets, etc., so I decided to start on a real game.
The fantasy genre was out of the question, as programming bows and arrows take more skill than I had at that time, but gun mechanics are much simpler in games (obviously not in real life). I still hope to one day design a weapon like a bow in the original Thief games, where if your arrow hits a wooden wall you can go pluck it out and use it again.
I’ve had the idea for a game set in post-apocalyptic Mexico for a long time, but the original setting was Baja California, as it’s the only part of Mexico I’ve actually been to (for underage drinking and fireworks). The location changed to Oaxaca after a bit of Latin American history in university. Oaxaca seemed to be a revolutionary epicenter with a vibrant culture and some beautiful coastlines. Of course, I wanted to see those prestine coastlines flooded and corroded by a rising sea level and torn apart by pirates — the typical desire of anyone who sets out to make a post-apocalyptic story.
OSGM: What has development been like so far?
Lancaster: It took about 10 years to finish Brigand: Oaxaca, mostly because I work as an ESL teacher and I only had time on weekends. I spent a couple of years in the U.S. working on it after graduating, another 6 years when I was teaching in China, and then another couple of years after returning to California. It also required pounds of marijuana for concentration, so weed and beer were probably my biggest expenses. I also spent about $100 on 3D models and a couple of music tracks. Otherwise, everything was pieced together from royalty-free scratch.
Of course, I enjoyed making Brigand, except for the constant problems with gravity. I thought gravity would be simple enough, but even after eight years of development, gravity problems kept popping up: fish sliding down cliffs underwater to their deaths, problems with throwing arcs, etc. Hence, I suggest new developers start out with a space game — no gravity, no character animations required, minimal collision detection, the perfect learning genre. Outer space is very simple.
OSGM: What makes this game special?
Lancaster: You can kill almost anybody in the game, including friendly characters, and the show will go on. There are no invisible walls like in KOTOR or Mass Effect (in which an overturned knee-high garbage basket can completely bar your path). Brigand boasts true freedom of action, letting you steal things, jump across rooftops, etc. There are 14 skills to upgrade, over 80 abilities to unlock, and nearly 100 kinds of items to carry with you. It takes an average of 40 hours to complete the game.
All this and the complex branching story that lets you work for various factions makes for a sky-high replay value. One Russian player on Steam played through the whole game twice already (and sent me loads of bug reports for free). I wanted to ship him some American whiskey as a thank you, but sending booze in the mail is complicated.
OSGM: How important is the music in this game?
Lancaster: I did pay for the royalties for a couple of tracks, but I decided not to use them. Instead, most of the music comes royalty-free from Kevin MacLeod at https://incompetech.com. I don’t know how he does it, but serious thanks go out to him.
OSGM: Any hope for a Switch release?
Lancaster: No. I tried to persuade my friend who is richer than me to buy a Switch so I could finally play Breath of the Wild, but I was unsuccessful.
OSGM: What games influenced this one the most?
Lancaster: Deus Ex 1 was my main inspiration for gameplay. The Gothic games by Piranha Bytes influenced the faction system. And of course, Fallout 1+2 inspired the setting (I started working on Brigand before Fallout 3 came out, I swear).
OSGM: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Lancaster: Voice acting is a blast. I got a lot of help from old college friends sending me their recordings by email, and I had to do a variety of accents myself (Texan, Mexican, Haitian, etc.) at the risk of sounding offensive. It was weird at first, but eventually, I stopped being self-conscious.
Cheers to the hilarious Scottish voice of the main antagonist Father McVannon, ably played by a death metal guitarist who I used to live with. Carmen’s voice was done by another old college friend faking a Slavic/Russian accent, and she turned into the most popular character in the game (the only one who the player wanted to keep alive in most of the Youtube gameplay videos I watched).
OSGM: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Lancaster: It’s the entire reason I made Brigand, so yes. Games used to let the player make important decisions. Dialogue options used to matter. Newer Bioware games like Mass Effect are filled with artificial freedom. You have a few different options in dialogue, but none of it really matters other than which character you get to have sex with. And there are invisible walls everywhere, and you couldn’t kill friendly characters.
In Fallout 2 you could join one of three Mafia families in New Reno, become a porn star or a sheriff, rob stores, drive a car, grow an extra toe from radioactive sludge, or build a robot dog.
OSGM: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Lancaster: Honestly, it was joining an RP server in Neverwinter Nights 1 for the first time, taking off my clothes, and running in circles around an orc player, only to get a long speech about racism and anti-orc bigotry from humans. This led me to wonder whether humans and orcs were separate races or separate species, considering you can be a half-orc. But maybe half-orcs are infertile like mules. If half-orcs are indeed infertile then technically I’m not racist, I am just speciesist.
OSGM: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Lancaster: Fans of Deus Ex 1, Fallout 2, old Bioware games from the 1990s, the Gothic series, and perhaps STALKER (though any resemblance to STALKER is purely coincidental). Also, people who like a real challenge.
OSGM: How do you want this game to be remembered?
OSGM: What’s next?
Lancaster: Another reason development took so long is that everything is mod-able. There is a world editor, as well as an original scripting language that can be edited with notepad. I’m currently working on a DLC that should be out in September called Brigand: Panama. It will be about half the length of the original story and it will include new abilities, weapons, items, and baddies. Hopefully, it will encourage some user-generated content similar to the quality mods of Neverwinter Nights 1. Lots of the NWN1 mods were far superior to the official content.
I’m also working on a 2D fantasy engine similar to Baldur’s Gate, where the player can pause the game to give orders to party members. The graphics will be pixel art, however, allowing for easy modding. This won’t be ready for another couple of years, though.
I would also like to make a game that teaches some kind of foreign language while you kill people since that is my day job (teaching language, not killing people). I don’t speak any Spanish, but I have an idea for a historical strategy game set in 1920s Warlord China where I can put some of my Chinese skills to use.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.