Interview with Dean Razavi, the producer of Outpost Delta.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Outpost Delta!
I’m the owner of a small indie studio in NYC, and I’m also a freelance producer for other studios and an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Game Design at CUNY Hostos.
Outpost Delta is a twin-stick Metroidvania set on an abandoned space station. You play as Delta, the station’s automated defense drone, which has recently been reactivated to repel an invading alien army. On the station, you’ll find various weapons and tools to help deal with the threat, and even gain control over the station’s gravity.
Outpost Delta was just released by Hidden Achievement, a game studio based in Austin, TX founded by a couple of AAA-vets, and is now available on PC (Steam), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4!
Was the project self-funded or was the team able to secure funding before getting started?
The project was self-funded by Hidden Achievement. The studio takes on quite a bit of high-profile contract work to fund their projects. The heads of the studio have worked behind the scenes on a lot of big-name games.
How was your process to get the game on all major gaming platforms?
Releasing on console is quite a different ball game than on Steam or mobile. At a bare minimum, the experience of playing the game with a controller better not feel worse than playing with a mouse and keyboard! Generally speaking, our process required us to:
- First, get approval from each console to release. Each console requires some combination of screenshots, description, documentation, and even a playable demo before they’ll agree to have the game released on their platform.
- Second, obtain all of the necessary age ratings. While the International Age Rating Coalition provides some ratings for some consoles in some countries, Outpost Delta released in 8 languages in dozens of countries simultaneously. This meant applying for the ESRB-equivalent in about a dozen countries, sometimes requiring a bilingual ghostwriter for those applications who could translate communications with those agencies for us.
- Third, make sure we’re abiding by all technical certifications for each console, whether that’s specific requirements in terms of save-transferring, specific text that must be displayed or behavior when a controller is unplugged, or any number of similar pinpoint items
- Fourth, get the trailer videos ready – this was a way bigger task than you’d think! Each platform has its own requirements depending on where the video will be shown – in what context, and in what country. Multiply the number of contexts by the number of languages by the number of age ratings by the number of platforms by…..we ended up with over 50 versions of the same trailer, each slightly different.
- Fifth, make it through certification. Console certification teams will find bugs that your QA team never dreamed of testing, which led to several rounds of back and forth with them before we were ready.
As a producer, what was your biggest challenge to get to the finish line during the pandemic?
Fortunately, this team was already fairly remote – I’m based in NYC, but the majority of the team is in Austin. We were already in a place to be able to work primarily on Slack, through calls, etc.
What we didn’t account for was console QA. Each platform is sensitive about moving and storing their dev kits, and the NDAs and contracts governing what you can and cannot do with them are extensive. With our developer isolated in one house and our QA isolated in another, there was no chance our QA could robustly test the game on each platform without risking the health of our developer. Practically speaking, it meant our developer was responsible for console-specific QA, which is never ideal.
What was your one favorite thing about making Outpost Delta?
Tess Snider and Jason Maltzen – the heads of Hidden Achievement and developers on Outpost Delta – know their stuff inside and out, and were able to make some amazing level design tools for the game. Playing with all of the things they had added was like being in a level design candy store. It suddenly shifted the design paradigm from “I have no idea how to make this, I’ll just do something simple” to “look at all the cool things I can make with these pieces”.
What’s the one advice that you’d give someone who wants to start making games?
Start making games! You can make games without it being a money maker. Just make your own personal games that no one will ever play. They’ll be terrible. That’s ok! You’ll make another! If you don’t know where to start, take a class with Playcrafting, or find a tutorial that speaks to you online. Approach games with the lens of a new hobby, rather than a career, and you’ll learn infinitely faster.