Attempting to build a game that appeals to what are arguably the two most rabid fan bases in gaming – the block-building creative types and the adrenaline-junkie shooter crowd – is no easy task. Exato Game Studios aims to do just that with Guncraft, an upcoming FPS with a crafting twist. In simple terms, you could call Guncraft a meeting point between Minecraft and Call of Duty, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Though when SteamGameFans sat down with the Executive Producer and Co-Founder of Exato, John Getty, we found there’s much more under the hood than the premise hints.
To hear the man behind Guncraft describe the experience, it’s clear this isn’t some transparent crack at stapling two of gaming’s hottest genres back-to-back for mass market appeal. The voxel-based first-person-shooter unapologetically draws inspiration from both pools, siphoning elements in such a way that the resulting concoction feels natural rather than uncomfortably crammed together. Somewhere between the obvious mechanics of Minecraft and Call of Duty, Guncraft comes alive, and that’s where the fun begins.
“We have 100% destructible environments,” Getty demonstrates, firing his assault rifle. The resulting shower of shattered blocks leaves cube-shaped holes across the hillside. With the press of a button he pops into build mode. “100% constructible too.” He lays down a quick structure one sandy-colored block at a time before lobbing a grenade and obliterating it just as quickly, carving an impact crater on the spot. The beauty of Guncraft is that at any time during a match, any player can construct whatever seems appropriate, building it up piece by piece or selecting from an array of prefabricated structures.
Prefabs range from wartime facilities like watchtowers and bunkers to architectural necessities like staircases. Whatever you might need at the moment can be conjured up in a snap, as long as you’ve got the funds to break ground and enough space. Selecting the structure and placing the transparent outline begins a bottom-to-top construction process where the building materializes in a matter of seconds. It’s a great feature that allows for everything from quick cover in a pinch to fortifying a vantage point to maintain pressure on enemy ranks.
“We just finished the ability for players to customize their own prefabs,” Getty remarks, “which is something we’re incorporating into the next version of Guncraft.” A large part of the game’s appeal is the constant stream of content from the community. Using the included level editor, any player can build a prefab structure or level, potentially populating the map rotation with their creations. “If we feel a map is well balanced and one team doesn’t have an advantage in their base, then we’ll incorporate it into our own maps and give them credit. We really like to reward our players as much as we can.”
We take a quick spin through some of the community maps Exato has selected for rotation. Spawning in the heart of an urban paradise, skyscrapers towering in every direction, it’s easy to get lost in the obsessive detail. Every block of every building has been carefully pulled from the endless well of creativity that is the community. Once we’ve toured the metropolis, we jump into a fan-made replica of PAX, the annual videogame and culture event. We bob and weave through booths and display cases, spitting bullets wildly from our sub-machine gun as mock monitors and lighting rigs shatter around us.
Guncraft’s potential for creativity doesn’t end with structures and maps. Plans are underway to fulfill the game’s titular statement – allowing the community to craft their own weapons. “You’re required to place a muzzle, which is where the muzzle flash happens and then you can place a handle, which is where they grab it,” Getty demonstrates with a three-dimensional chain gun he built block-by-block in a matter of hours. “After you have that and everything’s designed the way you want, you go into your assigned stats and scale it up and down to make it whatever size you want.”
Utilizing the separate editor, players can not only customize the stats of their signature weapons, but the aesthetic as well. “My gun does 16 damage and it shoots incredibly fast. It shoots 25 rounds per second and it has a hundred-round clip. I can go into the firing range now and just unload.” Since every gun will have 100 points to disperse across a variety of statistics, there is no concern with balance in competitive play. Of course, that’s not going to stop the developers from having a little fun. “I made a gun called the Dragon Cannon which is one of those Chinese mortars and it shoots five missiles forward like a shotgun blast. It just annihilates the level. I made that before we balanced the guncrafting system so it’s really cheap. I could take it into a game and demolish everything. Other people can’t do that.”
Though the current system balances the statistical component of each weapon automatically, there’s simply no amount of programming that could ensure each design is visually suitable for public play. To solve this issue, the team at Exato Game Studios is relying on old fashioned manpower. “We’re going to moderate everything,” says Getty, fully aware of the dangers of putting such a powerful tool in the hands of anonymous internet denizens. “Right now we’re going to do it ourselves, but eventually we’re going to be implementing the peer review system which will allow players to see a model and they’ll be able to vote yes, vote no, vote ban on the aesthetic.”
Of course, creation is only half the appeal of Guncraft. All that potential content supplements the meat of the game, the first-person action that plays similarly to the big-name shooters on the market, if only mechanically. Players can create multiple classes comprised of primary and secondary weapons, lethal and functional grenades and equipment, and several perks and killstreaks. Those familiar with Call of Duty will find all the usual suspects therein: thermal vision, radar jammer, sentry turret, hover drone and AC130, in addition to vehicles like tanks and helicopters that can be piloted with lethal effectiveness.
Unlike the bombastic mainstream shooters, Guncraft can at times seem weightier than its million-dollar cousins. Every tank shell, bunker buster or whizzing round from an AC130 scars the map, leaving craters and leveling structures after every engagement. While some shooters have promised destructible environments, nothing can compare to the atomic-holocaust wasteland that Guncraft guarantees, where one match can completely alter the geography of the region.
Like most of the equipment found within Guncraft, game modes incorporate the tried-and-true staples found in every shooter. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch make the cut, but Exato has taken steps to put their own spin on genre favorites. “This is Onslaught which is our Horde mode, essentially, our co-op mode. Four people against endless waves of robotic enemies,” Getty explains. “During the preparation phase you would typically build up your walls and defenses, building up some kind of barricade to slow down the enemy so you can shoot them down.”
There’s also the diabolical Lava Survival mode, in which the entire map is steadily flooded with the fiery liquid. “The lava rises proportional to the game time,” Getty illustrates, using a hookshot device to swing between the buildings above the rising molten death. “So in this mode, your goal is to be the last man standing. When you get killed you freeze and get knocked back for ten seconds, so people can spend that time digging you underground.”
That’s the kind of refreshing variety Guncraft brings to the table, and it’s why we feel it’s shaping up to be something special. Though it’s clear Exato Game Studios has drawn upon the marquee elements of several genres, the end result is something more than just the sum of those parts. The extensive creative options and community driven framework they’ve built have the potential to deliver something exciting and truly unique.
Getty and the rest of the Exato team have high hopes for the future of the game. “We haven’t got on Steam just yet, we’re on Greenlight and we’re really trying hard to push through that.” Guncraft is currently in open beta, which you can sign-up for now, and new features are continually added as development continues. Though there’s no official release date, the crew is optimistic about when they’ll finally be able to bring Guncraft to the market. “We’re aiming for spring, so it’s a few months tops. It’s really soon.”