Thunder Tier One: Developer Interview

Once upon a time (that is, late last year), I tried out a game called Thunder Tier One: a top-down, tactical shooter with a solid authentic flavor and solidly smooth gameplay. The experience was more than decent and the developers even held a speed running competition. Suffice to say, it was pretty dope.

At the end of July, there was another gameplay preview and overall, it’s holding up well enough to make me disappointed I’m having to wait for it. New modes and a new mission marked the major additions, but besides getting another opportunity to experiment, I got an interview with the creative director, Paweł “pawel” Smolewski:

Hi, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

Sure, I work for Krafton where I am Creative Director and Executive producer of Thunder Tier One, as well as Head of Action and Gunplay Unit for PUBG: Battlegrounds. I have been in the gaming industry for almost 10 years, starting off as a Character Animator at Bohemia Interactive working on ARMA 3. I then moved onto People Can Fly Studio before undertaking my current role.

And in your words, how do you describe Thunder Tier One?

Thunder Tier One is a top-down tactical shooter where players will lead an elite military squad across various scenarios. We have various different single and multiplayer modes, and a campaign mode where you battle against a dangerous network of terrorists wreaking havoc across fictional Eastern European country Salobia.

We will also make the game open to modding, and are really excited to see what new features that fans themselves are going to come up with.

This project has involvement from ArmA developers, correct?

That is correct. Thunder Tier One started as a personal project when I worked on Arma, initially I was just experimenting but soon came up with the idea of creating a top-down tactical shooter. I introduced the game to two of my colleagues at the time who were interested in getting involved so we began to work on it together.

The project then paused for a while, due to each of our busy working lives, however at the start of 2020 we picked it up again and I pitched the idea to Krafton. Krafton really liked the concept, and agreed to help our small independent team introduce Thunder Tier One to a wider audience.

Some games with a focus on mods falter on two fronts: a poor general gameplay experience and reliance upon mods and mod-makers to improve the game’s content. What separates Thunder Tier One from those sorts of titles?

Overall we have a really strong gameplay experience, and that is because we have put so much effort into getting the base mechanics right. This has been our top priority, Thunder Tier One will be open to modding however we won’t be relying on it to make the game as good as it can be. Our aim is to make the game as fun as possible for players upon release.

Many games seem to conflate slow to somehow mean the same thing as tactical. What’s Thunder Tier One’s approach? What’s the personal stance you take?

There isn’t a strict academic definition of what makes a game a tactical shooter, but in general it comes down to the finer details of the game.

For Thunder Tier One, we consider it to be a tactical shooter because we have worked on things like ballistics models, bullet penetration, realistic damage models and so on. We’ve also focused on making the game more immersive and down to earth than arcade shooters.

Thunder Tier One has a really impressive sandbox, enabling you to do things like shut off lights by destroying the power generator that drives them. Why did you go to such lengths and does this have an impact gameplay from the player-versus-environment side of things?

I guess the simple answer is because that is what we wanted to do! We’re all gamers ourselves, so we work hard to create things that we think we will enjoy playing. We take pride in the little details, the things that we believe make Thunder Tier One stand out. For example, there are hinges on doors that you can shoot off with guns rather than knocking through them. Details like that may not have an impact on gameplay but we enjoy going to these lengths.

In terms of the power generator, it will have an impact on PVE gameplay because it affects the visibility of both players and AI. A lack of lighting can act as a camouflage, so use it wisely!

Firearm balance ranges from weapons being borderline skins to sometimes having an authentic presentation of real-life characteristics. Where does Thunder Tier One sit? What are some good examples of that?

We try to maintain authentic real-life characteristics as much as possible as realism is one of the key features of Thunder Tier One and it is something we are very proud of. Of course there are some cases where we have to tweak things in the best interest of gameplay, for example the effective range of weapons and muzzle velocity – in real life you can shoot some weapons up to a 1000 metres, in Thunder Tier One you are only going to be shooting as far as approximately 50 metres. So we have to scale parameters to match those engagement rates, but that is fine as long as we find a good balance.

Would it be possible to get the current weapon list out of you for all the gun nerds?

We will happily provide a weapons list in the future but I am afraid we aren’t able to do so yet. Make sure you join our Discord channel for the latest news.

Since my team won the speed running competition – what updates were made specifically to the levels? Was there anything you guys altered specifically because of chosen player routes?

There have been some balancing changes done to levels, and we also reworked some locations. From a mission flow perspective we are still adjusting AI parameters to make some missions more challenging, and make some slightly easier.

How helpful was the speed running competition in regards to helping you make informed decisions?

It is always really helpful to see our community play the game, seeing them work through challenges and take on missions and game modes is how we continue to improve Thunder Tier One. It is also lots of fun to see what fans come up with, we really enjoy it.

The replay functionality was beyond impressive the last time I got my hands on the game. How useful is it on the developer side of things? Can you gather useful telemetry with ease from a replay file?

We’re not really using it actively at this stage of development because we are mainly focusing on features and balance. However, it does prove super useful if we want to record something specific – I think it is a feature fans are going to really enjoy.

What should we be looking forward to after this last gameplay preview?

We are looking forward to sharing our future plans with everyone. To stay up to date, join our dedicated Discord community or follow our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook pages. – Discord – Twitter – Instagram – Facebook

Top-down shooters aren’t necessarily for everyone, but good ones have genuinely great feel regardless of whether or not you’re strictly interested in the sub-genre. Tactical games, meanwhile, can be pretty boring or even simply just not fun if they’re too slow paced or just clunky.

Thankfully, Thunder Tier One is pretty much one of those perfect blends. It’s got that good feel and it’s not weighed down by nature of being a game that strives to be realistic or authentic: instead you mostly get the highlights of both. If I was trying to think of a “problem,” the only thing that really is a slight hang-up is the way aiming is handled: a lot of top-down shooters really only have a single vertical level with which everything takes place.

Thunder Tier One doesn’t, and you can in fact aim “up” in this top-down shooter. Not a bad thing, not even that hard to get used to, either, it’s just what makes the game different from all the rest and worth mentioning in absence of another space where I’ve taken the time to talk about the title.

So I recommend keeping an eye out: Thunder Tier One isn’t really just good or even just okay, it’s got that little twist which can in the right situations, make it a lot better by nature of being unique – in a good way.

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