With Game Maker 8 having recently been released, and with the majority of games released via the program looking so amateurish, it was truly a wonder seeing Fionn Hodgson’s Total Anarchy game in action. A GTA clone, Total Anarchy attempts to re-write the rulebook on what can be achieved using the game authoring program, and is indeed a creative showcase for other game creators who want to know as to what the software is capable of. Knowing this, and wanting to find out as to what made Total Anarchy tick, RE-PLAY got the chance to ask the game’s sole creator – Fionn Hodgson – as to how one can go about appropriating the same techniques in order to make what is definitely looking to be a GTA: Chinatown Wars beater (without the support of massive marketing budgets or a huge studio).

I understand that Total Anarchy is being created using Game Maker 7. Is this the first game that you have ever created using the authoring software, and if not, how many other games have you created before in the past?
I’ve been using Game Maker for a good five years now, and this is by no means the first game I have produced with the software. Early games I made before I registered included simple arcade games and shoot ‘em ups which I’ve long since lost. In 2005, I made a couple of 3D first person shooters which I’ve also unfortinately lost due to a computer virus. In 2006 I made two games, Boxville and Pliston which were much more simple GTA clones. A game I’ve made which you can still play today is NEON which is a 3D arcade shooter available on my website for free.

How long has the game been in development for?
The Total Anarchy Engine has been in development since I finished Pliston in late 2006. This essentially makes the project over three years old! The game was originally going to be called ‘Pavilion City’ and was to be released in 2007, but my exams got in the way and production has been much slower than I thought. The game was renamed Total Anarchy just before the start of 2008. The final version of the game has only been built from the start of 2009, when I rewrote the whole engine from scratch in order to add many features and fix bugs more easily.

What programs did you use for creating the graphics and sound?
I’ve used a large variety of software in order to build up my resources. While the vehicles and pedestrians in the game are displayed as 2D sprites, they are graphics created in 3D software such as Truespace and Poser and edited using Photoshop. All of the buildings are rendered in 3D and many were modelled and textured in software like Truespace. A free Game Maker game called Marzipan was used to convert the model formats into a Game Maker friendly format.

Many of the sounds are taken from freeware resource packages and then manipulated by myself to make them stand out. I have some experience as a sound designer and have been able to build many sounds from scratch using synthesis. I’m an electronic musician too so I was able to use my music on the game’s radio stations.

For voice acting, I’ve used my voice, friends voices and have also had the pleasure of receiving contributions from people online which I will credit appropriately upon the product’s release.

When is the game expected to be released?
I don’t normally set deadlines for myself because I tend to not meet them. The game is very nearly finished, with just a few missions left to code and issues to fix. I’m going to say it should be ready for public Beta testing before March 2010.

This is probably the best looking Game Maker game I have ever seen. Do you know as to whether you have any intention of porting the game to other platforms such as DS or PSP?
Unfortunately, Game Maker only exports Windows executables which means that the game will only be available to Microsoft computers running Windows 2000, XP, Vista or 7. There is a Game Maker in development for Macintosh but I don’t know when it’s available. To release games on consoles you also need licensing and I would stand to lose a lot of money as the game is free.

Why have you decided to make the game freeware?
Because more people tend to play free games. This is the product of a hobby, not a profession. I never intended to make cash off it. If I decide to work in the games industry later in life, Total Anarchy will increase my chances of getting employed as I’d imagine It’d look quite good on a CV!

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on Game Maker and wants to make a game that is as technically accomplished as yours?
Game Maker is very easy to learn the basics of and can be expanded greatly. Download the free version first and see if you like it, take a look at a few simple tutorials to see how different features do different things.

Once you gain some experience, the PRO version is a fully capable video game building package. Most games built with Game Maker do have a very amateurish look, which is bad for it’s reputation. This is why a professional looking game will stand out very positively. You can play and publish Game Maker games on YoYoGames.com.

What other programming languages are you adept in?
Currently I’m only fluent in GML, the Game Maker Language which is very similar to the more mainstream language, C++.

What other projects do you have lined up, and what kind of games can we expect to see from you in future?
I have a couple of products in early development and planning that I plan to get cracking on in this year. I’m still working on Utopia Unlimited, a 3D geo-political city simulator which pushes the graphical limits of Game Maker. I also plan to begin work on another GTA Game after Total Anarchy, this will have extended 3D features and be a much more expansive game.

What kind of games do you play during your spare time, and what would you cite as being your favourite games of all time?
I’m obviously a big fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, although I don’t like Saints Row. Other games I am very fond of include WipEout, Fallout 3, Outrun, Red Faction, Sim City, Age of Empires, Max Payne and Mafia.

What made you choose Game Maker as the primary tool for creating your GTA Clone Total Anarchy?
Game Maker is actually very good for building large games because the resources and scripts work together so well. It’s very easy to see how the game is going to work before you even run it! Game Maker also comes with very useful functions including a built in 2D Room Editor which makes mapping a delight and a 2D Path Editor which is useful for making traffic patterns.

Finally, Total Anarchy reminds me of ‘Blade Runner’ and Syndicate, but what I’d like to know is: why did you decide to set the game in the future, and what was your inspiration for having a sci-fi setting? Did this impact your design decisions in any way?
I decided to set the game in the future for a number of reasons. The story of Total Anarchy is set in a darker future of Britain which has developed for twenty years.

The game opens with a “terrorist attack” which the player is involved with. The game then goes back a few weeks for the player to understand what is going on and eventually willingly cause and conclude the attack, which turns out to be a rebellion against a corrupt government holding a mysterious device….

A futuristic setting also allows for interesting architectural design and more exciting weapons. It was also a way of effectively using quite spacey music and sounds. I am a fan of films like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘THX 1138′, so they are also key influences for the games theme.

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