Lead Designer of Jeklynn Heights Sheds Light On This Spooky Multiplayer Game

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GameZone was able to talk to CEO and Lead Designer of Vex Studios, Ryan Wenke to get some insight into the upcoming multiplayer only title, Jeklynn Heights

GZ: If you had to pick a game to compare Jeklynn Heights to, what would it be and why?

Ryan Wenke: I think gamers from all spectrums will enjoy Jeklynn Heights because we’ve made a point to really blend genres and deliver a product that stands out from other indie games. Aesthetically, some major influences for us have stemmed from Tim Burton films to American McGee’s Alice. We wanted to establish a quirky atypical world from the beginning because we do believe graphics contribute to the overall player experience. The majority of games I’ve played tend to shy away from vibrant colors and bizarre/abnormal scenery, so that was an area I really wanted to tap into. While graphics are important, you just don’t need AAA quality in order to make your game stand out and be a contender with some of the bigger projects in the industry. With that said, gamers will feel right at home if they played Team Fortress 2, the Savage series, or any other game that has capture/acquiring goals.

GZ: What inspired the idea behind Jeklynn Heights?

RW:Jeklynn Heights was more inspired by the desire to bring something fresh and interesting to the industry. I enjoy testing boundaries, and when you have the opportunity to work with passionate developers in an indie environment, why not try something daring and bold?

GZ: Could you go into detail on any of the inhabitants of this spooky and demented town?

RW:All our characters are uniquely designed with their own melee/ranged weapon, in addition to a special attack and taunt. One of our biggest goals was making sure each of our characters’ contribute to the overall ensemble of this crazy town while remaining innovative and different from each other. We have gotten into the habit of assigning each of our character’s a profession that they do within the town of Jeklynn Heights. Their character design is based entirely around this profession. For example, we have a maid named Tessie who lives in the poorer section of Jeklynn Heights. Her melee weapon is a broom, her ranged weapon is a vacuum, and her taunt is her sweeping up dead corpses with that broom. Not only does this create context, but it makes all playable characters enjoyable and memorable.

GZ: What advice would you give to aspiring game designers looking to start their own project?

RW:The hardest part about this right now is that we don’t have a central office location where there’s face-to-face communication. The #1 advice that I would give any indie developer with little to no budget would be to surround yourself with other developers who have the same drives and passions that you do. Great communication is the single most important thing you can have when undertaking any project online. You need to be able to trust your team, understand their capabilities and talents, and more importantly be someone they can approach if any problems or issues arise throughout development. If you establish a core group of people early on, your focus can strictly be on game development and getting the project shipped. Aside from that, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Indie games definitely need to stand out, but do that through quality instead of quantity. Don’t try to create the WoW killer right off the bat – stick to something simple yet innovative, and then work from there.

GZ: Describe what you think sets Jeklynn Heights apart from other games in the shooter genre.

RW:While Jeklynn Heights isn’t solely a game that falls into the “shooter” category, using ranged weapons is indeed a vital part of our game design. What sets that particular aspect of the game apart from others is how our weapons are designed. You won’t find shotguns, pistols, or rocket launchers at all in our title. Almost all of our weapons and abilities are everyday objects that have turned into means of attacking the enemy. For example, you can shoot a vacuum cleaner, a hair fryer (the barber’s ranged weapon), a bee’s nest, etc.

GZ: Any details on a single-player mode, if there is one – if not, any concrete details on how a typical multiplayer session of Jeklynn Heights might play out?

RW:We actually intended to do a single-player mode when we started, but due to our resources it just wasn’t feasible so we botched the idea. This is a perfect example of making sure you set tangible goals! While our focus is entirely on the multiplayer component right now, I can definitely see us pursuing the single-player idea again once we establish this game and our studio. As for the multiplayer run down, I highly encourage everyone to take a look at: http://www.jeklynnheights.com/gameplay. There is a lot of information about game specifics and even a few small videos showcasing core components.

GZ: Is Jeklynn Heights a game that appeals to all (casuals) or would it more appeal to those more inclined to a steeper learning curve?

RW:It’s very important to us that everyone understands how the game works and what you need to do to become more successful at it. You’re always going to get a divide in player base between gamers who are highly competitive and those who play casually. When we begin testing we’ll be able to gauge what areas are confusing, too easy, too difficult, and then begin our balancing and tweaking. Obviously we want this game to appeal to as many people as possible – so we’ll continue to work throughout the testing and development process to make sure we satisfy as many gamers as we can.

GZ:Any plans to bring the game to consoles? Perhaps through the PSN or XBLA? Any plans for a mobile version?

RW:Our number one priority is PC at the moment, so we currently have no plans to bring the game to a console or mobile device. We are seeking publisher/investor interest at the moment so obviously resources can change that would allow us to consider these options in the future.

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Dustin Steiner I'm GameZone's eSports Correspondent and resident fighting game guru. I'm also Event Coordinator for Video Gaming Hard Corps, where we host online and local tournaments in addition to have general fellowship among gamers. Check us out! http://www.videogaminghardcorps.com
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