Interview: DeadPoly’s Solo Dev on Falling in Love with Making Games
DeadPoly took advantage of the growing popularity of low-poly games, releasing in January 2022 to a positive reception and offering up a genuinely enjoyable ‘zombie survival looter shooter’ platform. It was created by a solo developer, with the project starting out as a side gig before becoming a full-time pursuit – and that itself interested me greatly.
In recent years, some low-poly games – like BattleBit Remastered and Unturned – have exploded in popularity, and I’ve started to really enjoy them.
I caught up with Kamron, the lone developer working on DeadPoly. I was eager to learn about his story, from how he was inspired to make DeadPoly to the path he took in creating it- and where it all goes from here. I’ve sunk a few hours into DeadPoly and can personally say it’s bursting at the seams with potential, but now I wanted Kamron’s side of the story.
‘An Amazing Ride’
I started where all things should: at the beginning. In my quest to understand DeadPoly’s development cycle, I began by asking Kamron about his development path, trying to probe deeper and find out if he had any regrets or anecdotes about his time as a solo dev.
‘I’ve wanted to create video games since I was a little kid. Eventually, I ended up downloading Unreal Engine and bashing my head against a wall until I started to have something somewhat playable. The vast majority of the people playing the “closed alpha” version of the game felt it was mostly ready for an Early Access release, so I went for it.
Honestly, I assumed it would just be something I fiddled with from time to time as a hobby, but a few months in it was pretty apparent to me that DeadPoly could be something awesome. Every day after release, the day job felt more and more taxing because I wanted to be working on DeadPoly, so near the end of 2022, I ended up quitting and pursuing DeadPoly full-time. It’s been an amazing ride, and I’m just stoked that I got to do it for however long it ends up working out.
Most of the hurdles have just been learning curves for game development stuff since DeadPoly is the only game I’ve ever worked on, for the most part. Multiplayer especially has been a brutal tug of war trying to solve performance issues for large-scale online play. There’s a very long list of things I wish I had done differently, which is what ultimately brought me to the decision to rewrite the entire game from scratch.
The players of DeadPoly deserve the best game I’m capable of making, and I’ve learned A LOT in the last couple of years, and I think the rebuild version of the game really shows that. DeadPoly is finally starting to play and feel like the game I had originally set out to make.’
‘My Love Letter’
It was a classic enough entry into solo development, but I was wondering what inspired DeadPoly specifically.
‘Gaming in general, really. The drive to create my own take on the games I’ve spent so many years playing. Rather than writing more and more mods to fine-tune an existing game to what I’m wanting to play, I just decided to try and make my own.
The references definitely got out of hand, but DeadPoly sort of became my love letter to everything I enjoy in life. Other games, pop culture, and music, all of it has a place somewhere in DeadPoly because it’s a survival game based mostly in the real world, where all of the things exist.’
Oh, the references. DeadPoly – an open-world zombie-slaying, base-building adventure – features a bizarre array of references to real-world, pop-culture brands. There are Stormtrooper and Iron Man helmets, TMNT backpacks, and even a trader called Tallahassee who wants to buy ‘Twinkle’ bars from the player.
Changing The Perception
From my time researching DeadPoly, I learned that a lot of the base content was picked up in Unity asset packs – specifically the Synty Polygon Apocalypse Pack. I’d seen talk online of people referring to DeadPoly as nothing more than an ‘asset flip’ game. I was eager to learn more from Kamron about that particular note and about the in-development ‘rebuild’ of DeadPoly.
‘The rebuild is changing everything. A lot of the models are DeadPoly-specific now, as I’ve been lucky enough to find some amazing freelance artists. DeadPoly would never have been possible without Synty’s stuff, it was the gateway to making a game with as much stuff as DeadPoly has (and will continue to have going into the rebuild).
I’m slowly learning 3D Modeling, but it’s a long process so having models available off the shelf has been a huge time saver towards both the rebuild and the Legacy version of the game. From a gameplay perspective, the vast majority of models in the game have actually been modified, but most of them are in a way the players wouldn’t notice because that was the purpose.
Out of the box, there were a lot of things like stairs that didn’t work, weird setups where you had to crouch to walk up and down stairs, doorways that were too small to fit a character through, areas of buildings you couldn’t actually access, and just general gameplay issues like that.
Meshing is kind of a big problem in most survival games and many models don’t account for that, so those all have to be cleaned up too. I’m excited to finally get the new character models out into the world and see how it changes the perception of DeadPoly. I’ve never really been bothered by the ‘asset flip’ comments because I expected it going into the whole thing, but it’s still a cool thing to finally be getting more bespoke stuff for the game.’
An Inspiring Wrap-up
As my chat with Kamron came to a close, I wanted to get his thoughts on his success with DeadPoly – how did he think it had really gone, and what could he offer to solo developers thinking about getting started on a similar path?
‘Hilariously better than expected. Never in my wildest dreams would I get to do this as my day job. Still feels surreal, and I’ll never be able to thank the players of DeadPoly enough.
DeadPoly is just getting started, for real. The rebuild is slated to release before the end of the year, which feels crazy, but it’s moving along very quickly.
For aspiring developers: Never take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from. Don’t make up reasons to not do the thing you’re wanting to do, and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t. Make a game you’re excited to play, and the rest will fall into place.‘
Whether you’re going to play solo or with friends, DeadPoly is an entertaining open-world game with challenging aspects, stacks of references, satisfying combat, and unlimited base-building potential. In my opinion, it’s criminal that it doesn’t have more active players, as the quality of the game is reflected in the 3,500 ‘Very Positive’ reviews on Steam.