Features & News

Interview: Vlambeer (Serious Sam: The Random Encounter)

October 19, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

The Serious Sam Indie Series is one of the most innovative concepts we’ve seen in the last few years. It’s an excellent way to promote Croteam’s upcoming Serious Sam 3, but it also gives smaller development houses a chance to work on an established intellectual property, and apply their own individual spin on it.

Serious Sam: Double D was a rousing success for Mommy’s Best Games as I declared in my review, but now, it is Vlambeer’s turn. Serious Sam: The Random Encounter is an RPG set in the Serious Sam universe. The very idea is completely and utterly mind-blowing, I know, but isn’t that the point of this series to begin with?

Speaking with Vlambeer, I ask them about their wacky concept and how complete polar-opposites can come together and create something truly exciting and memorable?

Q. From what I can gather, the amount of enemies Sam faces in the Random Encounter is double the amount in other RPGs. How can that possibly work? How have you managed to capture that in the game, and achieve a semblance of balance?

“It’s a bit more than just ‘double the amount’. Traditional RPGs tends to have 4 to 12 enemies in a single battle. Serious Sam: The Random Encounter has battles that throw over 500 enemies at you per battle, not counting any enemy reinforcements that might show up later during that battle.

To be able to handle that, we had to take a look at the core systems of the turn-based RPG: ‘pick an attack, pick an enemy to use it on and watch as events unfold’. First, we removed the restriction of aiming only at enemies and allowed players to aim their attacks independent of where their enemies are at. You’re completely free to shoot a grenade a few feet in front of your enemies so that you’ll hit them as they run towards you, or maybe aim your laser rifle in such a way that the headless kamikaze will explode right next to that group of mechanoids.

Finally, we gave the player some ability to influence what happens during the combat phase. You don’t just watch a pretty rendering of what options you took, no, the battle comes alive for five seconds. Enemies run at you, screaming, shooting, flying, swimming; your party fires their weapons as you planned and you can dodge incoming projectiles or adjust your aim a little bit.

The result is tactical, overwhelming, hectic, chaotic and filled with explosions. Which is what Serious Sam games should be about.”

Q. Why did you decide not to use a levelling system in Random Encounter? It’s incorporated into so many different types of games now, even FPS. Do you not feel it suits the Sam series?

“No, we don’t think it suits the Serious Sam series. Actually, we would argue that in many games, it’s not an improvement to have a levelling system. The Random Encounter is a RPG, sure, but above all, it’s a Serious Sam game. Like our own games, Serious Sam is about the shooting things in the face, not about stats. We don’t give you +2 intelligence, we give you a laser rifle.

We would argue stats in shooters aren’t necessarily a good thing either. Shooters should be about you shooting things, doing more damage if you hit them in the face. They shouldn’t be about some random dice roll in the background deciding whether you hit or missed and how much damage you did.”

Bet you never thought you'd see a Serious Sam RPG?

Q. Story is integral to an RPG and it’s not something commonly associated with the Serious Sam series. How have you managed to merge the genres effectively? Can you tell us a bit about the story?

“The Random Encounter has an epic storyline that spans three games, many locations and two time zones. No, honestly, the game has only 210 lines of text and the story isn’t complex, although all the above is true. Like said, we tried to make a Serious Sam game.

The game starts as Sam steps into the timelock during the events of The First Encounter and The Second Encounter. Sam returns through the timelock at the end of his adventures. Since Mental wasn’t in the past, Sam is then sent to kill Mental where Sam would be least expected: in the future.”

Q. This is your first take on an RPG. After working on the Random Encounter, would you consider working on future RPGs, or did the experience put you off for life?

“We really have no idea, we work on a lot of stuff simultaneously and usually our projects start with a really weird idea that we prototype and then like so much we keep on working on it. We don’t have any concrete plans to work on a new RPG of sorts, but we might revisit the genre sometime after we’re mentally restored from doing this project.”

Q. What do you feel about Croteam’s Indie Arcade concept for promoting Serious Sam 3? Do you think other companies should consider adopting this approach when releasing their game?

“It’s an amazing concept without a doubt. It allows for new and interesting ideas about an established IP to surface to a larger audience and basically, it’s just a complete win-win idea. 

Since Serious Sam has its roots as an independent game, it might be that its fans are a bit more open to things like these. I doubt the average Call of Duty player would be able to appreciate something like The Random Encounter.

However, we would like to play a Call of Duty game made by Jonatan ‘Cactus’ Söderstrom, or something.”

Q. What’s next for Vlambeer? What other projects have you got in store that you’d like to talk to our readers about?

“A lot! When Serious Sam is wrapped up and out there for everyone to play, we’ll probably be checking what everyone thinks of it for a while, while trying to work on our other projects. We’re wrapping up on the iOS version of Super Crate Box together with Halfbot. We’re also still working on Ridiculous Fishing for iOS with Zach Gage and Greg Wohlwend. 

On PC, we’re working on a polytheistic hip-hop inspired action rogue-like shooter for Brandon Boyers’ Venus Patrol and we might invest some time in a prototype we’ve made about hunting Yetis.

More importantly, though, I think we’ll take a two-week holiday.”

Q. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, and we can’t wait to see more from you in the years to come.

Serious Sam The Random Encounter launches on Steam and other Digital Platforms on October 24th