Dariusz G. Jagielski continues to work toward playfully adding to the vast number of simulator games out there with his first project, Computer Virus Simulator. Hopefully offering a different gameplay experience in the process—one where you can play as a computer virus, in something of a twist on the Tron formula.
Worldbuilding Goes Viral
Cliqist: What is the inspiration behind Computer Virus Simulator? Why did you start making it?
Dariusz G. Jagielski: I started the project in 2014. At the time there were no 3D platformers being developed, indie or otherwise, and I’ve really wanted them back.
Guess, I’m a bit too late now with that. It’s okay though.
As for the inspirations, there were several. Levels are being developed in a really open manner that rewards exploration. Main inspiration behind that part was Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and other early 3D shooters.
The art style was inspired by early 3D games, such as any games made with Freescape Engine, Stunts, Skyroads and Alpha Waves/Continuum in particular (which was the actual first 3D platformer made for home platforms—why people say it’s Super Mario 64 is beyond me). Obviously the other reason for the art style was that making art for it is really easy. For example, levels are built from basic 3D primitives, aside from pickups or enemies/NPCs.
What is the appeal of 3D platformers to you? Is it exploration, like you mentioned? Are there other aspects about them that interest you?
I like the exploration aspect, yes. Another thing I like is a good challenge of some of the platforming segments. But most importantly, I like the humor that I think is inherent to the experience. To that end, The Virus [the game’s playable character] is often making various jokes and has banter with its creator. I’ve made it so the dialogue is displayed at the bottom of the screen and never interrupts gameplay, so the people who are speedrunning the game, or are just [playing] for platforming challenge alone, won’t have their time wasted.
And in fact they never even have to look at dialogue.
What is the plot behind the game? Is it about the interaction between a virus and its creator?
There’s no overarching plot, not really. I think about the game’s plot as more like a series of arcs in a webcomic, or seasons in a TV show (the game, however, will not be episodic). Yes, there will be some recurring characters, but overall every mission will feel different lore-wise.
How would you describe the game’s world and its cast of characters?
The only really defined characters at this point are The Virus and The Creator. The Creator is the kinda guy that will send The Virus to do anything for the right amount of money; he also isn’t beyond raising hell for anyone who tries to screw him over. He’s also a genius.
The Virus is the first fully sentient computer virus ever created. At times he’s a bit silly and naive, but he also can be serious and very menacing when needed.
Would you say they’re like villain protagonists, or more morally gray?
I don’t know really at this point yet, something in between?
How are you approaching music and sound in your game?
The music consists of amazing public domain chiptunes made by Drozerix—seriously, check the guy out, he’s awesome—and sounds I make myself.
How did you find Drozerix’s work? Did you just search for a certain sound you wanted, or had you already listened to that artist’s work before?
I researched the kind of music I wanted that I could also legally use in a commercial project like this.
Building an Audience and a Community
Do you want this game to be accessible to anyone, or is it for a niche audience?
The art style may be limiting it to a more indie/retro-focused group, but gameplay-wise it can be just picked up and played. Though for now I recommend using mouse and keyboard, controller support isn’t that great right now, and while I plan on improving it, it’s not a priority.
If we talk about gameplay alone, then it’s a cool 3D platformer with a big focus on modding (the level editor used to do the main campaign is the same one players will have access to once the game releases).
Why did you decide to have modding as a part of the game?
This stems from the Doom/early 3D shooter thing I talked about earlier. People still play original, 1990s Doom and Doom II just to see all the crazy stuff people make. Same thing for Skyrim—people buy it mainly for mods now. The main story of Skyrim is great, but mods are better. And Bethesda/id Software knows it, seeing as they try to cash in on modding with the Creation Club and added SnapMap to Doom 2016 (but the less I say about SnapMap, the better). Modding support can give long tail to a game’s sales—selling new copies regularly long after its original release— and I really look forward to players doing crazy stuff with [the game] that I didn’t think was possible.
Why a Virus is the Way to Go
Did you ever have any concerns that people might have negative associations with your chosen title? With the “computer virus” part?
Yes. That’s why I also send each build to VirusTotal [a website that can check for virus infection] and provide scan results along with the download.
Why deal with that extra concern instead of changing the title, or part of the game’s concept? What drew you to the idea of playing as a computer virus?
Because no one made a game like this, and while the art style may make the game stand out enough, I need it to stand out as much as possible so people will really remember the game. And seriously, playing as a computer virus is just plainly fun.
Could you talk more about the gameplay mechanics behind playing as a virus, and how that could be entertaining? Is it the potential for in-game combat? Other aspects?
Well, if you have played the game, there is combat in it. Gameplay-wise, The Virus can jump, wall jump and hover in the air and smash forward. The smash move is mostly a mobility tool, but it can also damage some of the enemies. It also damages The Virus, though with standard damage for that sort of enemy, and it’s deliberate to avoid making it overpowered.
There are also certain pickups that grant The Virus the ability to shoot. There are three main types of them:
Damage gun—the only one implemented as of now—which just damages enemies. It can also damage certain enemies that can’t be killed with the smash attack, such as Bad Pointers, for example. (Bad Pointers are spiky cubes in the game, whose appearance should give the player an indication that maybe they shouldn’t touch them.)
There’s also Infection Gun—which makes any enemies shot with it die after a while, spawning one to three AI-controlled viruses that will smash nearby enemies until they die too—and Friendship Gun, with which The Virus basically make enemies such as AV Agent attack anyone that is after The Virus. All those weapons also have shotgun variants which basically shoot three bullets in a V-shaped spread.
Thinking About Today and Going Forward
Do you have thoughts on the state of indie game development in general?
I think now we see a lot of great games and a lot of shovelware titles. It’s just like it always was—shovelware isn’t anything new, it exists on mobiles, it existed with popular consoles like Wii or DS, why should indie games be exempt? But we’re seeing plenty of great indie titles, things like Dead Cells, Undertale, Celeste. I don’t believe in any sort of indiepocalypse. If anything, we’re going through the indie renaissance.
Any thoughts on crowdfunding?
I think it’s a hard one nowadays, especially with all those bad Kickstarters that happened over the years. I think Patreon-based crowdfunding is the way to go in the future since with Patreon you have X amount of money every month, which provides a stability that Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaigns can’t give, since there is always a risk that the developer may make bad financial decisions, not because of malice, but because of the inexperience in handling finances. And the funds just fizzle out.
What matters most to you about Computer Virus Simulator? Is there one thing your game just has to have?
I think it’s the modding part of the game. Not only is it good for the overall business side of things as I’ve explained before, but modding communities are one of the greatest and most awesome people. They’re really close-knit communities and I want to build one around CVS, and then future games. That’s why I make use of the mod.io platform for level sharing in my game. Steam Workshop is nice and I originally planned to use SW for my game before I learned about mod.io, but SW limits your game’s modding to just Steam. With the mod.io platform I can deliver modding to any player of my game.
Any thoughts about the future? Any other updates about your game you’d be willing to share?
A trailer with music by Drozerix has been released, along with a playable demo.
Thanks to Jagielski for his time.