As we close in on the launch of Block n Load, I had a chance to pick the brains of David Solari, Vice President of Block n Load.
Kieran Clarke – What are the origins of Block n Load – how did it take shape? Did previous title Ace of Spades play a big part in the original formation of the game?
David Solari – Absolutely, Ace of Spades played a really significant part in the origins of Block N Load. We were inspired by Ace’s complete freedom to build and destroy in session and in real-time, but we wanted to take things to a different level. So Block N Load is a whole new game developed from one key element used in Ace of Spades.
The creation of the build phase in Block N Load emerged from the idea that we wanted to create a game where using blocks can be as powerful tools as bullets in the quest to secure victory. It’s one of the keys rules we drafted right at the beginning, and we’ve stuck to it.
KC – Block n Load has been dubbed a mix between Minecraft and Team Fortress 2, how do you react to comparisons?
DS – Well one of those games is currently the greatest phenomena in our industry, is loved by all and has proven to be wildly popular across every platform it’s launched on. The other continues to be one of the most popular titles on Steam. I think we’re more than happy to have Block N Load described as the love child of those two games!
KC – What other games, if any, had an influence on the development of the game?
DS – All three games you’ve mentioned in earlier questions – Ace of Spades, Minecraft, and Team Fortress 2 – were inspirational in the planning and development of Block N Load. The other that shaped Block N Load is chess, believe it or not. It remains the perfect marriage of strategy and tactics.
KC – How much has the game changed over the development period in comparison to the original idea for Block n Load?
DS – Surprisingly little regarding the core vision. However, a couple of our guiding principles did drive us to implement big changes. One good example centred on the principle of, ‘building must be as powerful as bullets’. This basically means that, for this game to stand out, building has really got to matter and make a difference. So we always asked ourselves how can we make building stronger as shooting is always inherently powerful. This drove us to make a major change where we reduced the build time on all generic building materials (cardboard, wood and brick) to zero (they used to have build times of half a second and a second respectively. We also divided the brick cost of the blocks by 10. The result was huge. Immediately people were building massive structures and defences in a fraction of the time. It really changed the game hugely for the better, and this change only went in a month before we went into the beta test.
KC – Building from the last question, how instrumental has the beta phase been getting the game to where it is now?
DS – The beta phase has been invaluable. I could give a pretty endless list of what we have changed due to beta feedback, but some of the biggies are that we are doing a lot more to discourage AFK’s and leavers. We knew the game had some MOBA characteristics and our completion rate was hugely increased as a result of addressing the AFK issue. We are also experimenting with backfilling in the unranked game mode. A couple of other big examples to come out of beta are a tutorial and the inclusion of VOIP.
KC – How many hours have you put into playing the game? Who is your hero of choice, and do you have any gameplay secrets you could share with us?
DS – Well about 447 hours, and that’s in Steam alone with, probably, another 150 or so before we put it up on the Valve marketplace. It really is a labour of love! My favourite hero is our ninja, OP Juan Shinobi. I play him very much as a base killer and usually have a pretty poor K/D/A, but I still score strongly on objective damage. Other people play him more as a killer or a sweeper. Couple of tips I can give for those fresh to the game… You can use OP’s teleport to give you a soft landing if you fall from a great height. Also, if you get in real close and use his suriken alt fire to put 3 throwing stars in someone’s head, it does a ton of damage – although that one is likely to get nerfed in the coming updates. Finally, if you level him up you can use his shrine for a quick heal. Ultimately, I love him for his mobility, but I’m quite fond of Sarge and Eliza as well.
KC – Are you thinking any further ahead than PC release for the game? Perhaps a console release?
DS – We’re just a handful of weeks from the launch of Block N Load on PC, which is what our attention is currently focused on. Of course, we’d love to see the game appear on other platforms – we think the gameplay is as well suited to a control pad as it is to a mouse and keyboard.
KC – Are we likely to see new heroes, maps and other content in the wake of the launch?
DS – If you’ve played the BETA you’ll know that we’ve rotated maps every couple of weeks, depending on player votes. It’s a great way of keeping the Block N Load experience fresh, and it’s absolutely something we’ll be continuing post-launch. In fact, we’ll be actively looking for new map ideas from players. It’s worth saying this is all free as we don’t ever intend to charge for new maps because we believe this splits the player base. That’s not best for our growing fanbase.
Of course, we also have lots of plans for new core content, especially things like player made maps, a full replay mode, a zombie horde mode etc. We want Block N Load players to put forward ideas for what they’d like to see in the game, and then we’ll put the best up for a community vote.
David gives a great account of all things Block n Load, and this made for a fantastic dialogue. Being able to see how things started with the game and talking about the future plans makes the imminent release of Block n Load all the more exciting.
Getting a glimpse into the development of this increasingly popular game outlines the passion and commitment put into the project. From finding inspiration in chess to balancing building and bullets, this conversation with David Solari should make a lot of people excited for Block n Load’s April launch.