Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is one of the most successful and influential games of the last decade. Since the open-world action RPG released in 2011, Skyrim has been ported to numerous consoles and re-released with different enhancements. Its developer even got in on the joke that Skyrim has been ported to every device imaginable by announcing Skyrim: Very Special Edition, playable via Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, at E3 2018. Though Bethesda is biding its time working on Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6, Skyrim continues to inspire games like Kelechi Apakama’s Stormrite.
Apakama lives just outside of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and is in the midst of earning a Masters in Computer Science at the University of Oxford. However, he sees computer science as something to fall back on, having aspirations to become a full-time game designer. He started as a hobby before going to university, developing a text-based game via Python to “make something that looked kind of cool” that he could show off. From there he moved on to mobile games, growing in scope before inevitably making the jump to PC games; specifically an open-world RPG inspired by his “favorite game ever.” Game Rant spoke to Apakama about Stormrite‘s origins, aspirations, and upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
Stormrite’s Humble Beginnings
A few of Apakama’s initial ventures can be found on the Google Play app store: February 2019’s Pixel Invaders, a 2D “endless space shooter” in the lineage of vertical-scrolling bullet hells like Batsugun; and December 2019’s Kick It Up!, based on his “one passion in life” for football (soccer), featuring one 3D model on a stationary level playing “keepy uppys.” The latter gained a bit of traction, he said, and with extra programming knowledge picked up from his studies, Apakama felt confident he had the skillset to make PC games like he’s always wanted.
He prototyped a few different ideas, including a third/first-person shooter hybrid that he “didn’t really feel much passion about,” and another larger-scale soccer game that he lacked the team to tackle. Stormrite was the “most promising” prototype that took off, beginning development using Unreal Engine 4 (with plans to transition to Unreal 5) as well as software like Autodesk Maya and Photoshop in January 2020. Just a month later, he uploaded a clip of his progress to the subreddit r/unrealengine, hoping to become more involved with the Reddit community, and it garnered more attention than prior posts related to his mobile games.
Indie Development Challenges
Apakama worked solo for the first six months, but announced he was looking for team members to help upon releasing the game’s first public test in August 2020. He had begun to focus a large amount of energy on Stormrite following initial lockdowns from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. However, with a knowledge base almost exclusively centered around programming, he needed more help developing the aesthetic for the dark medieval-fantasy kingdom of Redreach and its inhabitants.
First came lead artist and 3D designer Kim Niemann from Australia, who was enthusiastic about the project for some time and approached Apakama right when he was about to reach out. Apakama met American 2D/concept artist Joshua Castillo on Twitter soon after, and about three months ago he recruited New Zealand native Alex Ogrodowczyk to be a character artist and armor designer — whose first contribution was the demonic demi-god Requiem seen in much of the game’s marketing. Because of all these mingling time zones, Apakama said much of his work gets done in the evenings when they can communicate via Discord, email, and more.
“I would honestly say Stormrite is the one thing in my life which has been helped by being placed in a quarantine situation. It kind of forced me to work on that, because I couldn’t leave the house or be distracted doing anything else. […] So I wouldn’t say it’s really affected us at all. Apart from my sleep schedule, but that’s fine.”
With just one programmer and three artists hired on the team, others have also touched the project. Video game composer Andrew LiVecchi has composed two tracks for Stormrite‘s soundtrack thus far, and one of Apakama’s writer friends has taken on some of the narrative work. The lead developer feels a good story is one of the main selling points for any open-world RPG, and he hopes to get more writers on board to help flesh that out further.
However, the biggest challenge he’s faced is performance optimization. Stormrite‘s world is…
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