Cepheus Protocol is an independently developed top-down open world RTS inspired by XCOM, Company of Heroes, and Parasite Eve.
The team is led by CEO and Game Director Robert Smith, who leads a team of diverse individuals from various backgrounds from all around the world who are utilizing Character Creator 3 in their RTS game due to release in May 2020.
“Character Creator solved a lot of problems for us creatively, as we didn’t have the character modelers needed to populate a city.”Robert Smith – CEO / Game Director
Q: Hello Robert, good to have you on our feature stories. Kindly introduce yourself, and your studio background.
My name is Robert Smith and I am the creative director and studio head at Halcyon Winds. I started the studio almost two years ago with a desire to create high-quality indie games that focused on good storytelling and creative ideas. We began the development of the Cepheus Protocol in July 2018, with a desire to create an RTS for a new generation while updating the old genre with new ideas and refined gameplay.
Q: Halcyon Winds has been working on Cepheus Protocol for about 2 years now. What inspired you to create this type of game, and what have been the biggest challenges as an indie developer?
I’ve been a fan of RTS games for quite some time. However, it is a genre that I feel many gamers have forgotten about and is a genre that lacks real innovation in the past decade. So, with that in mind, I had a story that I wanted to tell that I felt would be interesting to explore in an RTS setting, which would allow us to expand on the genre while making something that few have seen before.
There have been many challenges that we foresaw and some we did not. Finding the right team and maintaining it has been one of our greatest challenges, and something I feel many studios can relate too.
We have a wonderful group of developers at the moment that I feel have found their grove and helped make Cepheus Protocol into a special game. Other challenges we’ve faced include the typical issues that any developer faces such as funding, time management, engine difficulties, and all those unforeseen things that tend to crop up every week that no one could have anticipated. Ultimately, we’ve adapted to these challenges pretty well.
Q: Character Creator (CC3) was used during development, in your opinion how does this tool differ from other avatar creation tools? What are the advantages of using CC3 with Unreal Engine?
Character Creator was the first actual program we stumbled on; it solved a lot of problems for us creatively as we didn’t have the character modelers needed to populate a city. It started out as an alternative tool to populate side characters only.
Over time, it grew into a role of even authoring and allowing us to tweak main characters as we grew to understand the toolset inside the application. The integration plugin made Material setup and implementation a breeze, allowing us to author high detailed characters with relative ease to later import into Unreal Engine 4.
The way we use the tool, we didn’t use the LOD and focused more on the Material merger tool to substantially reduce draw calls that allowed us to bring in loads of characters to populate our worlds in terms of infected and the CERC units. All of our characters have now been created and authorized by the Character Creator software.
Recently, we have been using the new artificial intelligence Headshot plugin for Character Creator 3, which allows us to rapidly create a character base head, before using the SkinGen plugin to create more intricately detailed avatars complete with pores, blemishes, skin textures and more.
Q: After your experience with your own game studio. What advice would you give to other up-and-coming indie developers who dream of creating a successful studio/game like yours?
Finding the right developers and leads that not only share your vision but also have the talent and drive to see that dream come into focus is extremely important. There are a lot of people who want to be game developers and at times can feel like a revolving door when it comes to how much of a wakeup call it can be for those people who don’t realize just how hard this industry is.
I would suggest spending time to vet any potential team members you might decide to bring into your studio and take the time to ensure they work well with others and share in your vision.
I would also suggest that anyone wanting to get into this business prepare for a lot of headaches, disappointment, struggles, and very long sleepless nights. Don’t get me wrong, when it all starts to come together, game development is amazing and I can’t imagine doing anything else, but at the same time it is extremely taxing physically and mentally. When it is at its hardest, try to remember why you want to make games and keep focused on the larger goal, while being consistent and driven to never give up.
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