RPGFan Interview Series - Steven Peeler
By: Dave Yeager and RPGFan Staff
February 1, 2013Drox Operative, the latest offering from Soldak Entertainment, doesn't hand you a suit of armor and a sword and tell you to go kill 10 foozles. No, it drops you right into the middle of an intergalactic conflict and doesn't tell you to do anything. As a member of the elite Drox Operatives, it is totally up to you whether you want to help one faction against the other, try to subdue them with force, use politics to make them all get along, or just run rampant and destroy everything in your path. It quickly becomes apparent playing Drox Operative that this isn't just your standard action, click and loot RPG, and the space theme is a lot more than just a gimmick. We had a chance to talk to Steven Peeler, head of Soldak Entertainment, to get a glimpse into the design process that brought us this exciting new game.
RPGFan: How did you get started making games?
Steven Peeler: Thatís pretty complicated. I dabbled some in junior high and high school. I tried twice in college to put a team together to make games, but it never got much traction. After college, I started a part-time game studio with a co-worker. That went fairly well, but in the end we couldnít find a publisher. I finally went and got a job at a real game developer, Ritual Entertainment. After several years there, I went full-time indie by starting Soldak Entertainment.
RPGFan: What development tools do you use for building your games?
Steven Peeler: I mostly use Visual Studio for programming on Windows, Xcode for programming on the Mac, and VTune for profiling.
RPGFan: Describe your design process for coming up with a Soldak game.
Steven Peeler: These days I come up with a unifying theme and write down as many ideas as possible that would fit this theme (brainstorming, research from the internet, and playing similar games). Then I organize and expand these ideas into a simple design document. After this relatively short process, I start making the game. While making the game, we flesh out the ideas more, throw out the bad ideas, and come up with lots of brand new ideas. Many great ideas pop up after the "design" phase, because lots of things arenít obvious until you are actually playing the game.
RPGFan: What are some of your favorite games, and are there any in particular that had a big influence on your own designs?
Steven Peeler: Some of my favorite games are Diablo 1 & 2, Civilization 3 through 5, Master of Orion 1 & 2, and Doom 1 & 2. The influences of those first three series should be pretty easy to see in our games. Doom and other cool FPS games of that time are probably one of the reasons why I got a job at Ritual.
RPGFan: Describe how you first got the idea for Drox Operative.
Steven Peeler: I believe it was a series of smaller steps. First we decided to do a space, action RPG instead of a fantasy based one. Then we decided that we didnít want the "character" to be a person because that would be a bit too similar to our other games and not really a space game (sci-fi, but not space). Some time after that I thought that it would be really interesting to run a single ship within a Master of Orion type of setting. After a little bit of thought, I thought it was a great idea and it conceptually works really well with the dynamic game ideas that we have pushed in previous games.
RPGFan: Drox Operative is a space RPG, and I'm sure I don't need to tell you that most RPGs tend to be in the fantasy realm. Why do you think that is and was the decision to make a space RPG thematic, mechanical, or a bit of both?
Steven Peeler: In the past, fantasy RPGs easily out sold other settings, so everyone stuck to that. Which sold better Diablo or System Shock? Luckily I think this has been changing more recently, so we are getting more variety.

We created a space game instead of a fantasy game for a lot of reasons. We wanted to do something different, we really like space themes, and we thought we could do something different in this sub-genre.
RPGFan: What would you say, besides the setting, is different about Drox Operative compared to other Soldak games like Din's Curse and Kivi's Underworld? What is similar?
Steven Peeler: Who you are and what you main mission is changes greatly between each of our games. In Depths of Peril, you are the barbarian leader of a rival covenant fighting for dominance. In Dinís Curse you are a lone, cursed individual trying to redeem yourself by saving human towns from destruction from the evil below. In Drox Operative, you are a lone Operative working between factions in whatever manner suits you best: keep the peace, push them to wage war, impress everyone with your achievements, or even make the races cower.

Except for Kiviís Underworld, the dynamic world stuff is similar in each of our games. We keep expanding on the idea in each successive game though.
RPGFan: What is your favorite feature in Drox Operative?
Steven Peeler: My favorite feature is still the dynamic galaxy stuff, even though weíve done similar stuff in two previous games. I still think itís really fun to be able to have an actual impact on the game world through your actions or inactions. For example, in Drox Operative you can pay to spread propaganda on an enemy planet. This propaganda can lead to unrest, then riots, then rebellion, and then possibly even a civil war. If a civil war goes on long enough or spreads to enough of a raceís planets, their empire will eventually split in two separate factions. Of course, an Operative can also stabilize situations like this. If a planet is having riot problems and an Operative can locate and deliver the necessary equipment, then the riots can be quelled before things get out of hand.
RPGFan: What would you say to somebody unfamiliar with Soldak Games that is reading this and considering checking out Drox Operative?
Steven Peeler: If you have ever wished that the forest would actually burn down instead of burning forever, that the monsters would do something instead of just sit there waiting for you, or that the bad guys would gather their forces and attack the planet, you really should try one of our games. In Drox Operative, the galaxy moves along with or without you. If you choose to act, you will influence the outcome of who dominates the current sector of space. If you choose not to act, someone will still eventually dominate, but they wonít owe you anything so donít ask them for any favors.

Read more about Drox Operative at http://www.soldak.com/Drox-Operative/Overview.html or download the demo at http://www.soldak.com/Drox-Operative/demo.html.
RPGFan: Are there plans for an expansion or additional features in later versions of Drox Operative? What comes next for Soldak?
Steven Peeler: We are most likely going to do an expansion for Drox, but we are also looking into porting the game (and possibly previous games) to other platforms like Linux and iPads.

©2012 Steven Peeler, Soldak Entertainment. All rights reserved.

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