Lurkers Lair is a small indie dev with 2 games to it’s name, and only 1 person behind all of it.
The first release was Awaken: Underwater Odyssey, a under water shmup with upgradeable ships.
Their second game, Void Raiders, is out today (March 18, 2016) on Steam.
To learn more about the man behind the games, I reached out to the one employee of Lurkers Lair - Pavel Hurka - to talk about Void Raiders, the previous release Awaken, and his story of being a solo game dev shop.
Unique Drops - Let’s start with your experience in game development. Have you been doing it a long time, or is it something you're still relatively new to?
Pavel Hurka - In fact, both. I don't remember when exactly I started with game development but as far as I remember it was tied to the first Doom release. I learned about that game at elementary school from my classmates, but unfortunately I was one of the boys without PC, without money to get a PC and without parents willing to get one. Fortunately I was the owner of the Atari 800XE and my best friend had one as well and we were fortunate that his older brother was quite a good programmer! With these ingredients we were left with the option to make the games we want to play ourselves, for our already outdated computers.
Sure these were silly attempts, but with help of my friends brother we learned the basics of basic programming and how computers work. A couple of years later I got my first PC and lost the motivation as now i could play all the games i ever dreamt about and took a break from "game development" till 2014.
UD - Did you attend school for game design or programming?
PH - Not at all. I was not good enough in school to get to a university which had anything related to computers. But can't say I learned everything myself; the internet is a powerful tool and there is tons of tutorials for everything you might need while developing video game and I would never be where I am now without help of the people who enjoy writing these guides for dummies like me ;-)
UD - Could you elaborate on what you did to teach yourself how to build games?
PH - I first went through basic crash course in case of Stencyl. Game Maker was bit trickier, but I watched few tutorials from Shaun Spalings and Heartbeasts Youtube channels and I was ready to go. Still, if you want to make a game you must first understand it’s never ending learning process. You are constantly looking for solutions to your problems and have to learn new tricks almost every day.
UD - How did those lessons and tools tie into the two games you’ve developed so far?
PH - I used Stencyl for Awaken as it was an ideal tool when coming back after almost 20 year break to begin with. I moved to Game Maker: Studio for Void Raiders as I needed much more performance and control over the project for this game. I'm planning to move over to Unity as I found out it's not that threatening to newbie like me as it seemed in the beginning. For one or two smaller projects I have planed after Void Raiders release, I'm going to stick with Game Maker.
UD - Tell us about your two games, Awaken and Void Raiders.
PH - Both games are about shooting stuff into oblivion and I think everyone likes shooting stuff right?
Awaken is about piloting your small submarine through hail of bullets fired at you by enemy squid-like ships and shooting everything that has tentacle or two.
Void Raiders is "twin-stick" top down shooter. You can pick character which suits your liking best and delve deep into randomly generated dungeons. Your characters get better over time so you can customize their abilities, collect various artifacts, upgrade their gear, complete missions and achievements in order to get even better equipment and take on even bigger challenges.
UD - For either game, did run into walls and hurdles during the development process?
PH - Well, yes. There was plenty of moments like that in both cases. I will not bother you with technical stuff as there was a lot of problems especially during Awaken development and I don't think anybody would be interested reading about them as technical difficulties are usually really boring.
With Awaken, a big moment was the decision to implement modular ship construction system. It had little impact on core gameplay itself, but giving player opportunity to build/customize his own ship was a great moment for the game.
And Void Raiders? There are "eurekas" almost every other day, but I really was screaming that word when I got my first version of random dungeon generator running properly.
UD - Now that you’ve gone through a couple games, what does your process look like coming up with the concepts and designs?
PH - It’s a gargantuan mess in my case. Really, I start with only rough outlines of what type of game I would love to play and start working on something (painters would call it a sketch) and if I like what comes out of it, I start expanding initial idea. For example in case of Void Raiders, I originally wanted to make Alien Breed/Space Hulk inspired top down arena shooter with some soft rpg elements, and the idea of the game was running around small levels (similar to deathmatch maps in quake) and staying alive for as long as possible with help of perks that player would choose each time he levels up while facing endless tide enemies which gets stronger as clock ticks. After a prototype was made, I started thinking about adding talent trees and multiple playable characters. After that, I came up with randomly generated dungeons, mission objectives, items, artifacts, mouse aim and now it's completely different, and I believe, much better game than original idea was. That is my process.
UD - Give us a glimpse into your game history. Do those influence your game design now?
PH - Doom, played Doom a lot. Heroes of might and magic 2 in hot seat mode, Blood, and can’t forget about Carmageddon. It was best xmas present I ever got! But there were just so many of them and yes, I hope they all influence my design in a good way.
It's kind of strange but I think most influential for me was reading PC gaming magazines when I was kid and had no opportunity to play these games. I remember how I was imagining how great these games are, and how great they must play. These were golden and most influential ages of "gaming" for me even though I was not able play at all. And my favourite games? Doom, Dungeon Master 2 and can't forget X-COM: Terror from the deep.
UD - For some of those game, what are some of the big take aways you remember from them?
PH - Doom 2 - Well, because it was reason I wanted PC that bad and in addition it's still one of the best FPS shooters available even now after that many years.
HoMaM2 - Multiplayer. Probably best turn based multiplayer experience I’ve ever had, but I think it's so nice in my head because all of the memories about matches we had with friends when kids.
Blood - I really liked main character, atmosphere, environments, music, everything about this game is just perfect. For me this game is what Duke Nukem is for most of the gaming audience.
Carmagedon - Because who never wanted to hit pedestrian on crossing?;-)
UD - What kind of games do you play now?
PH - Anything thats fun, really! Well, almost anything, except sport & horror games. But I have a little preference towards games with at least hint of RPG elements.
UD - You mention you really like RPGs. Do you have any particular favorites?
PH - Dungeon Master 2 because of its atmosphere and gameplay. It's not hard, not easy; it's a game that really suited my skills to enjoy it greatly when released. And if I would have to name 2nd favourite rpg game it must be Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall as its freedom of movement and amount of stuff you could do was overwhelming in a positive way and I have some great memories about playing this game.
UD - How about more recent titles - any stick out in your mind?
PH - Darkest Dungeon as it's really challenging and I love its art style. The atmosphere of the game is just great and feeling of inevitable death can be almost touched by your own hand while playing this masterpiece.
UD - Finally - what's the story of the name Lurkers Lair?
PH - This one is related to my personality. I'm constantly lurking through forums/social networks soaking all the information I can get like a sponge, but rarely make a comment. This often creates awkward moments as I often know stuff I should not and I’ve been caught few times and called "lurker". That's why Lurkers Lair.
UD - *Bonus question* - our friend Martin Millar brought the game to our attention as he wrote the soundtrack - how did you guys pair up?
PH - Martin Millar found my game on IndieDB and messaged me that he is interested in making music for Void Raiders. There was a surprisingly big competition for this task and I had to decide who am I going to pick for this task. Obviously I picked Martin as his track was one of the best of many submissions, and I liked his attitude most.
A big thank you to Pavel for taking the time and sharing his story with us - please make sure to check out Void Raiders and keep an eye out for more projects from Lurkers Lair!