You wouldn’t necessarily call the gameplay in Grand Theft Auto retro, would you? Well, it’s actually been over 20 years since the original GTA game hit shelves and as a result, it’s had an impact on a plethora of gamers and more importantly, developers. In this exclusive Old School Gamer Magazine interview, Shota Bobokhidze (Lead Developer, Shot X Studios) discusses the role the original GTA played in his new game, “Riskers,” and how it’s old-school gameplay mechanics are perfect for retro fans looking for something new.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was Riskers born?
Shota Bobokhidze: Riskers was born on a hot summer day, when I suddenly felt a little nostalgic and wanted to play something similar to the old-school Grand Theft Auto games. To my surprise, I couldn’t find a similar game anywhere! So being a little disappointed, I thought to myself, ‘How many more gamers would love to play a classic GTA-like game today?’ That was the day I started working on the concept and first prototype for Riskers.
OSGM: What has development been like so far?
Bobokhidze: The development process as a whole was very enjoyable. You know you’re having fun when 12 months of development really feels like two months. The early alpha feedback was also very positive – and that played a huge role motivation-wise.
OSGM: What makes this game special?
Bobokhidze: Riskers is a perfect mix of top-down driving and shooting. The idea behind the game was to take the best elements from GTA and Hotline Miami and combine them into action-packed, story-driven missions.
OSGM: What games influenced Riskers the most?
Bobokhidze: The biggest influence was (by far) classic Grand Theft Auto games – followed by Hotline Miami and Max Payne.
OSGM: As an indie developer, what do you think you do differently than medium-sized or large studios?
Bobokhidze: The biggest difference is the budget, which means you can’t expect the same from an indie game that you’d expect from a AAA title. The scope of the game needs to be kept smaller – forcibly sometimes! – and you need to refrain from adding a bunch of extra features if you intend to eventually ship your game.
OSGM: Why do you think GTA has endured so long?
Bobokhidze: GTA’s brand of open-world gameplay works incredibly well – and it tends to attract all types of gamers. You can do things that you wouldn’t want to even try in real life – like carjackings and murder – and that makes the game ridiculously fun in a twisted sort of way.
OSGM: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Bobokhidze: There was some criticism early on about the overall difficulty of Riskers. In particular, some reviewers complained that missions were unfair and often too punishing due to the lack of checkpoints. After gathering enough feedback, I thought I’d have to reprogram the whole thing! In reality, it took me only a few hours to issue a patch – and the problem was solved in a day.
OSGM: Why do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics like the ones in GTA in new games is important?
Bobokhidze: This is a perfect example of not reinventing the wheel if you don’t have to. GTA is popular for the immense amounts of fun it delivers through straightforward gameplay. If you want your game to be fun, there’s a lot you can learn from a game like GTA.
OSGM: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Bobokhidze: It has to be the first time I got to play GTA 3. Its impact on me was massive; I’m sure many gamers still remember that day as well. The change from 2D to 3D opened up some amazing possibilities for gaming as a whole.
OSGM: How does Riskers disrupt the video game landscape?
Bobokhidze: Riskers tries to go back to the days when gaming was simpler – and more fun! Current games are getting bigger every year – adding more features, larger maps, DLC…. But often the fun factor isn’t actually increased by all the extra stuff – and sometimes it even suffers from it. Too many games require ungodly amounts of grinding to get to the “fun” parts – which I wanted to avoid at all costs with Riskers.
OSGM: Who will enjoy it the most?
Bobokhidze: Old-school gamers, of course. People who don’t have the time to dive into huge game worlds and want to have fun right from the start.
OSGM: How do you want Riskers to be remembered?
Bobokhidze: I hope Riskers is remembered as a game that gives players a taste of the golden age of PC gaming in terms of fun factor, accessibility, and replayability.
OSGM: What are your goals?
Bobokhidze: I want to keep improving Riskers so that it can reach more and more Steam users. Working on the game was a remarkable experience. I learned so much that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise, so I’m grateful for that!
OSGM: What’s next?
Bobokhidze: I want to try a different genre, experiment some more, and come up with another interesting title. I’m a big fan of tower defense games – and there is a lot to learn from, and explore, in that genre.
OSGM: Anything else you’d like to add?
Bobokhidze: I’d like to thank everyone who supported me and kept me motivated to finish the game. Being a solo developer turned out to be a lot harder than I expected.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the upcoming 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.