In this issue of Mr. PSVR’s Interview Corner, we take a closer look at Down & Out from ZATUN. A game about defying definitions, comedy, and just what you need when you are feeling down about life that is coming to PlayStation VR.
Interview with Game Developer, Unreal Programmer, &Art Director of ZATUN, Rohan Jadav, Punya Aachman, & Rajesh Suthar
Welcome to The PlayStation Brahs. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at ZATUN?
Rohan: “Hi I’m Rohan and I’m a 3D game developer at Zatun. Primarily my job is to provide programming and engine-side assistance to the team.”
Punya: “Hey! Thank you for giving us an opportunity to introduce ourselves. My name is Punya Aachman and my role in Zatun is that of an Unreal programmer. I create gameplay mechanics for characters, setup environment interactions, and code in-game events.”
Rajesh: “Hello, I am Rajesh Suthar, and I have worked at Zatun since 2013 as a 2D/3D artist and the art director. I work on creating concepts, 3D modeling/texturing, as well as art direction for games.”
For those that may not be aware, what type of games have you been a part of?
Rohan: “Nothing in particular that would invite any recognition I’m afraid.”
Punya: “I have worked on virtual reality games & simulations for different platforms like Daydream and Oculus Rift. Before Down & Out, I used to work on first/third-person shooter games, mainly for PC.”
Rajesh: “I have worked on a variety of games before, from MMOs like World of Tanks to 4X strategy games like Warhammer 40,000 Gladius – Relics of War, Warhammer 40,000 Freeblade, etc. I also worked on Zatun’s previous VR game, Sniper Rust VR as well as a variety of other titles on different platforms.”
Growing up, what type of games really caught your attention, and what was that one game that made you realize that you had to get into gaming?
Rohan: “Immersive sims are my favorite genre of video games, and that’s what I played the most as a child. As a child, I loved how well they intertwined emergent gameplay and grounded world-building with minimal reliance on things that would pull you out of the experience, though I wouldn’t have been able to put it in so many words back then. As an adult, I love all of that, plus the deeply philosophical themes they barter in an adult way. And so there’s not a single game that made me decide I just had to make games but rather a certain design ethos.”
Punya: “The game that brought me into gaming, and eventually game development, was the old classic Road Rash. The very curiosity to attempt to “cheat” my way to victory in games by modifying the gameplay a little, like making the bike go faster, making Mario jump higher or increasing bullet damage Counter-Strike, brought me to the world of programming games. Earlier on, shooter games like Total Overdose were my favorites, and I used to be impressed (still am) at the sheer amount of fun and comical action they packed.”
Rajesh: “I used to play Mario and Contra and such games as a child. Honestly, one thing led to another, and the realization that I could work on something I would enjoy while getting paid for it is what led me to game art. It was more gradual than sudden, however, as I have worked on other fields as well, such as graphic design and web design.”
ZATUN’s newest game, Down & Out has been announced and looks very interesting. What can you tell us about it?
Rohan: “Down & Out is a game that defies definitions if I’m allowed to be histrionic. In simpler terms, we had a difficult time trying to put it in a specific bucket and concretely determine the genre, in a good way though. In effect, what that means is no matter what your background is (just look at mine) there’s something you can take away from Down and Out and have a fun time. I’m excited to have the players check our game out.”
Punya: “Frustrated? Feeling down? Need to perk up your day? Down & Out is just the game for you! It presents you with a virtual sandbox to pick up fights with random people, gain areputation on the streets and take part in events. Or play some basketball, ride a bicycle and relax while you roam around the city. This game can be enjoyed by hard-core & casual gamers alike.”
Rajesh: “The game is a unique mix of comedy, entertainment, and action and you should check out the experience that you won’t be able to get elsewhere. It does an excellent job at separating itself from other VR games.”
So there will be side quests in the game as well as being open world?
Dhruv: “Our game world is pretty compact, and we have managed to fit in a decent number of activities for the players to do in free roam. They won’t exactly be side quests, so much as activities, the players will be occupied with when not doing a quest.”
What can you tell us about some of the weapons that can be used in the game?
Dhruv: “Well the game’s primary mode of fighting is using fists. It’s easy to assume that the players will be using their fists most of the time. Although, we do have the baseball bat as an additional weapon that the players have to find in the game.”
So is there anything that you can use the cash that you earn that might be surprising to some players?
Dhruv: “Our game will have a store that will have vanity items that the players can buy using in-game currency. Things like different gloves/skins for the VR hands, collars for the dog, or even a different breed skin for the dog. Although, we are still debating as to what items to keep.”
There is a scene in the trailer where there is some basketball being played, will you as the player be able to hustle at the court as a way to earn money?
Dhruv: “Basketball is one of the free-roam activities the players can do when in free-roam. It won’t be present as a competition for the player against an NPC, rather against themselves, to see if they can beat their previous scores.”
The art style looks like it will really pop in VR. What did you find most surprising when using this type of art style in VR?
Rajesh: “It was a fun experience to mess around with and matching the creative presentation of UI and art assets and what not to the gameplay was a real challenge, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.”
Was there ever a thought about adding multiplayer to allow others just to join in and just go virtually at each other?
Dhruv: “We haven’t really had a detailed conversation regarding multiplayer at this time, although we have given it a thought in the earlier phases of the project. We cannot confirm any details regarding that yet though.”
I see that you can interact with pets. Is it safe to say that those pets can also be used as a weapon or maybe they will attack you depending on how you treat them or maybe based on a quest?
“Pets cannot be used as a weapon. They are your friend in the game and the player needs to take care of them.”
The music in the trailer is pretty catchy. How important was it for sound and making sure everything just not only sounded like you are there but having certain sounds acting almost independently from each other?
“We created some of the music for the game and bought some music from the marketplace/asset store/sound cloud. Getting the music right was very important as the game has a particular look and we wanted to make sure we have the right music for it. We also added different background music for each quest to make it stand out.”
Down and Out is coming out soon on the Oculus Store, PlayStation VR, and Steam. Do we have an official release date yet?
“No, we don’t have an official release date yet.”
What are the top three things you would tell your younger self?
a. It’s difficult, but hang in there you’ll get to work on games and it’s gonna be amazing.
b. Stay weird, you’ll figure out why it’s a good thing.
c. Audiobooks are easier to burn through than physical books.
Punya: “Don’t stop gaming” because …!, that code WOULD compile” to boost my confidence, and of course, “You should’ve started younger!”.”
Punya: “Creativity improves day by day, and learning it is a fun process in and of itself, the knowledge gained from seeing/playing other games could have been done better, and should’ve tried a tad bit harder.”
” Keep playing a variety of genres of games, even outside your comfort zone, and keep learning from them.”
With the library of Virtual Reality games and experiences growing, what would you say to someone on why they should experience Down & Out?
Rohan: “Like I mentioned before, no matter what your background, there’s something to gain from playing Down & Out. Don’t miss out on it.”
Punya: Down & Out might seem like a regular punch-em-up VR game, but it presents the player with a whole lot more. Your actions in the game would define who your virtual self is. With no restrictions on exploration from the start, players can choose their own way of propagating through the tough lifestyle on the streets, with surprises at almost every turn. Play Down & Out VR, and you’ll enjoy it thoroughly, as it will keep you busy and entertained the whole time.”
I really want to thank Rohan, Punya, and Rajesh for taking the time out of their schedules to give us a closer look into Down & Out as well as talking about some Virtual Reality.
Down & Out will be coming to PlayStation VR in 2021.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.