Friends, I'm pretty excited about this interview.
For those who dwell under rocks, Direct Contact is a first person shooter currently in development. What studio you ask? Well, that's precisely why I'm excited to share this game's backstory with you, because there is no studio.
This game is the saga of just one person, Erling David. A man who hails equally from Norway and Brazil, Erling had recently gained a large portion of the attention he deserves after recently being feature on the GLID gaming channel. At the time of this publishing, the views are over 300k!
This projects looks to rival many AAA releases with much larger budgets, despite having been entirely funded and almost solely constructed by just one man with a vision and the raw passion.
I met Erling David (ED) via a gaming discord where I first saw Direct Contact as a handful of demo videos, project updates, and existing as a small channel of a larger server. Eventually I made my way to his server, which had a longer history than just this game. Not being an native speaker of English, the project had some small syntax errors, and I became involved by simply helping edit some grammar for an English speaking audience.
Conversations continued and as I got to know ED, I grew to be a huge cheerleader of the project. As I'm you'll see in this interview, this game is dream in the making of one of the most genuine and earnest folks you an meet playing games, with a goal that lofts much higher than any sort of financial gain.
Erling David of Direct Contact
with Papa Rooster of Tactical Tales
Tactical Tales: Since the release of the GLID video, it seems like everyone has come to know what Direct Contact is and where it's going pretty well, but there is nearly nothing out there on how it got to this point outside your loyal discord members. Can you take us through how you got into gaming, developing, and working with the Unreal engine in general?
Erling David: That's actually an interesting question. I got into gaming very early. Back in 1992 my Dad bought me an Amiga on Christmas. I remember back then how how damn big the system was, it was almost like a computer! This was in Norway, I was born in Brazil, and had I still been there at the time I don't think I would have had that privilege if my Norwegian father didn't move us there.
There was this game for it, like a click and play game, and you can imagine how that was back in the day; but it let you make your own game in a way. You could modify objects to like move them around. I wish I could remember the name.
TT: Kind of like an early RPG Maker?
ED: Yeah, but way even before RPG Maker. This is before like Nintendo and all that came out. I wish I could remember the name, but that's when I got started in stuff like that.
TT: So, even from the get go, putting your own touch on the games you were playing was a big interest?
ED: Oh yeah. In 2017, I had like 6,400 hours in Arma 3. That game was pretty huge for me. And I played Arma 1 and 2, but 3 released in 2013 I think, and that was the year I was going to move to Brazil, and so moving around I bought this laptop just to play Arma. I think I did all those hours on THAT laptop! You can imagine, most people want to go to Brazil for the beach and shit, but here I was like 'fuck that! I want to play Arma!'
TT: I imagine you knew the community of tactical shooter guys pretty well then?
ED: Yeah, I did. I was into it with Arma 2, but this discord started with Arma 3. I think the Direct Contact server started in 2017. There are still some people in the server from those early days, actually.
I started the server for my start in hosting servers and making my own maps. Folks were joining to test out the things I was creating.
TT: So you were pretty deep into creating environments and writing your own missions?
ED: Yeah. And that was fun, but then it hits me that, like, "I can make my own game." But I didn't know how, so I googled around and found Unreal.
TT: So wait, you had never made a game before and just found Unreal and started running with it?
ED: Yeah! So I'd buy a game on steam and always think to myself, "fuck, I can make this." But how? So I just google "how to make a game," and the first thing that comes up is Unity. So I check out Unity and see a comparison on, I think it was just YouTube, and it was compared to Unreal. And I'd never heard of Unreal at that time, which is crazy because I'd played it so much. But so much of my paradigm at that time was Arma, because that's what I was always working on.
So off a YouTube comparison I go searching for Unreal Engine and found it for free, actually. Not like pirated, but a legit one.
So I open it up and it's the first time in my life I see a blueprint! Arma mods were with like C++, and don't ask me how I figured all that out.
TT: So how'd you learn Unreal from there? Did you take a course?
ED: No, I really just started learning off YouTube and the forums.
And right away I had these big plans for a big game. I hit the marketplace they have for these engines where they have models and frameworks and started messing around with that. But it was challenging because my laptop was old!
But I managed to actually start making something. And it got to the point where I was up day and night working on this. And I'll tell you, my girlfriend did NOT like that. You know, normally life comes before everything, but I got to this point where I said to myself, "Hey, I really want to do this."
So I was up late, watching tutorials. I started not even knowing how to make a blueprint. I didn't know the terms like flow or bullion or integer or anything like that. And so I was learning as I went by watching these videos and looking up questions on the forums.
So one month becomes two, becomes three, becomes a year. And after about a year I started my big project, which I called Hostile Takeover. I bought this framework on the Unreal marketplace called the Survival Game Kit. It had a lot of basic stuff, things that would save me having to do from scratch.
TT: I'm not a dev myself, what comes with a game kit?
ED: It's got character models and weapons and things like that. It's like a framework for you to start working around. There are actions as well for you to like, pick up stuff and equip stuff.
I think I picked this up in 2018, and I started building Hostile Takover on this framework. And I worked on that for a solid year and really started to think, "man, this is really looking cool!" Around then I started implementing my door system and I wanted to make this mission that I had designed in Arma.
That's actually the mission I had sent to GLID, which I began on around 2019.
TT: So the demo of your house map in GLID, that's not just your first Direct Contact map, that's from as far back as your Arma mission days?
ED: Yeah! It's actually like the third version.
It got to a point in 2019 where I decided to scrap the whole framework for the game I'd been working on day and night and just start over.
TT: So after like a year, year and a half of effort into this game, you just bin it?
ED: Yeah, yep! I ditched it all, to tell you the truth. Well, one, I broke that framework. But also, I sent that demo to Bigfry TV. He started the game up, and THANK GOD it didn't work. It didn't even launch.
Bigfry is a big game reviewer, and had that game actually launched he would have ripped it apart. He's pretty critical. I remember talking to him on the livestream and I was super nervous. It could have been bad.
And while I was happy to have something then, of course, I know I have something much bigger now.
TT: So in 2017, you pick up Unreal for the first time. You put all this effort into building up this game, Hostile Takover, for over a year. You send in your demo to this guy who is known for picking apart games and it just flat out doesn't work. You scrap the whole thing, and in, say, 2019, you start working on Direct Contact?
I kept some of the codes from the door system, but pretty much everything I scrapped completely. And I started from square one on how to do this.
Bigfry was this guy that I kinda looked to for answers, because I didn't want him to shit on my project! And a lot of indie games were getting rough reviews at the time. So I wanted to start again with a framework that I knew was going to be solid. I was seeing the mistakes others were making on their submissions and I knew I didn't want to have those in my games from the start.
TT: We get that! A couple of us are big fans of the Critical Drinker on YouTube and kind of look at his videos tearing down terrible scripts as a lesson of what not to do when we right.
ED: Yeah that's exactly what it was for me. I wanted to learn from the mistakes of others. Not that others were bad developers, but I could use their experience for myself. Things like just making sure you cannot fall off of a map! He always does that in indie games, runs to the edge of the map just to see if it will let you fall off.
So in early 2020, I have this experience and I really kicked it into a higher production state. I made this friend who was this moderator on a forum who got into heavier conversation with me about the game. He's actually the guy that gave me the name Direct Contact. I think in 2021 is when I applied that name officially.
TT: So everything we've got now that we can see in the demo really only started in the middle of 2019? The GLID demo is the effort of just two years of development and only you working on it? ED: Well, yeah. TT: Man that's a lot of progress for just one guy!
ED: You know, I actually still have that post from when I told this small community that I was scrapping Hostile Takeover to start Direct Contact. I remember there being this week that I was super into just moving my own codes over from Hostile Takeover into the new project.
And to tell you the truth, in that week I almost became physically ill. I had put so much time into Hostile Takeover, the feeling of scrapping it really got to me. But I knew that to make what I really wanted I had to start over.
It was a real headache, and a bit of a disappointment, but I've worked hard to get to this point. And now, I tell folks who've followed me, at the core of it all I wouldn't really be doing this if I didn't feel good about what I was doing.
TT: What did you bring over from Hostile Takeover into Direct Contact? What was it that you didn't like about HT that you wanted to fix for the new project? ED: It was really the framework. You remember when Call of Duty came out, the World War II one from a couple years ago? I got this friend who was talking to a dev, and the dev said that "we're making this game that's going to be all about boots on the ground." So I buy and play this game, and look down, and you know, I don't see no fuckin' boot on the ground. And that's when this thing hits me that this what the framework I had. Like, the way it was set up wasn't the actual, literal objects. There weren't actual boots on the ground. I thought, "how can you play a tactical game if you can't see which body parts on yourself can get hit?"
TT: How did that realization affect your game? ED: Well, so there are a lot of games that use line-trace. You draw a line from the camera to the target and the shot sort of follows that path. So when you are in cover, and you lean out and scope in and shoot, you will shoot where you are looking. The line-trace of that bullet goes where you look. It is animated like the bullet comes from the gun, but it's really coming from the camera, your forehead.
From the outside, you could be behind cover, and your barrel is behind the cover, but your head is out of cover. And with line-trace, you can still shoot, because you can still see, even though your gun can't see.
So, I wanted my game to be made that the bullet is actually coming from the barrel. It's a lot easier to make a line-trace, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted the round to actually come from the gun.
TT: Is the round an actual projectile?
ED: Yes. When you fire there is a round that will travel from the barrel up to the point of aim.
TT: To include things like height over bore concerns and zero distances and changes in point of impact versus point of aim?
ED: Yep! GLID actually pointed that out with the the realistic bullet drops and the ricochet. A lot of games that use other methods aren't using a physical bullet that registers a hit kinda and you can program in an overpenetration but it's not the same as an actual bullet.
TT: So the ricochets. Are those animations or are those the bullets?
ED: Yes! Those are physical bullets. You can get hit by a ricochet and it will actually kill you. The rounds in my game have an actual weight and velocity. That's one of the things GLID gave me feedback on, we think there may be too much velocity right now, but we'll work on that. But yes, the rounds will actually bounce, or if it hits the ground a certain way it will just stay there, depending on the angle.
This is a point where I'm hoping to stand out in tactical games. If it's in the game it's a real thing, not just sort of programmed to look like the thing is there.
TT: Was that something built into whatever new framework you started with?
ED: No, Direct Contact is built on my own framework.
TT: So, nothing out there accomplished what you wanted to actually "put boots on ground," so everything we've seen so far is entirely the Erling David framework?
ED: Yes basically.
TT: That makes a lot of sense to me hearing this now, because the movement of your game feels very different than anything else I've seen out there. Some games "feel" like Call of Duty or "feel" like Tarkov, but yours feels unique to itself.
ED: Thank you! I really appreciate that.
TT: Where would you say Direct Contact is now in comparison to where you want it to be and what you would be happy with? What's your "what I want it to be in 5 years" vision? ED: Well, first off, after starting over once I am confident that THIS is the game that I want to put out into the world. I've put a lot of time into this. Hell, I lost a girlfriend over it! I've worked so much to learn, that's what HT really was for me. But DC is the game that I really believe in.
This is a project that, if I don't finish, I'm going to be really disappointed in myself. I really just want to have something complete that I'm happy with, that I want to play and others want to play and enjoy. You know, after the GLID video, I now have all these emails from people who are emailing me with some very personal stuff. I got one where someone had lost an uncle in Libya in a conflict and asked if I could put his name on a character in the game. Views and such are great but those sort of emails, to me, are really amazing. So now after the views from that video, I have a lot of motivation. I'm not going to stop now, that's for sure! But my goal really is to have something that's really just a great game. The goal for me is the quality. In 5 years? My goal in 5 years is to stay steady and hope that it's still a game I really believe in. That's what I really want. TT: Well, we've got faith in you. Being built from the ground up by one person will undoubtedly give this an organic feel that's completely different from an experience players can get on games founded on previous frameworks. There is a huge potential for this to be a hallmark thing in the way that people could say of future games, "this feels like Direct Contact."
ED: Thank you, I really think I have something here, and I just want to make sure it's good in the way that I've always wanted to play a game. And I think that this really could be the right moment now that independent games are gaining support. The support I've gained recently has been amazing.
TT: Well, I want to make sure you have the last word. What message would you like to give to your followers to end on?
ED: The community has been great. All the donors and people joining the discord has encouraged me so much. Thank you to everyone who came to support me!
Erling isn't even 5 years into teaching himself how to use the Unreal Engine and is well on his way to developing a game to rival many of the tactical favorites among the milsim crowd.
In a world of battlepacks, DLC, NFT's, and all sorts of big-studio money grabs, it's incredibly refreshing to see that a man with pure passion to develop something he can be proud of can take an engine he got for free, scrawl through forums for the knowledge, and come out with a project that's truly unique. This interview was conducted on a discord call and the audio transcribed into text. We talked for maybe 90 minutes in total. I wish I could have included every last detail, but the truth is that it would have made for quite a long article. Likewise, I wanted to ensure that the genuine and special goal of this game was highlighted. That the boots really are on the ground.
Plus, quite a bit of time was spent with us talking about the music we used to play, our hobbies, other games we really liked playing, and plenty of other personal items that were tangential to the interview. ED is, I want to emphasize, a truly genuine guy. Overnight, from the GLID video, his Patreon and discord has blown up. Never once in our conversations did he talk about finances. Past, present, or future. If he talked about how many people were joining his community, it was in the light of how much he appreciated that people were believing in his project.
You can't get more grassroots than this. If you're interested in getting involved, here are a couple links. Thank you for reading, both Direct Contact and Tactical Tales appreciates it greatly! Direct Contact's Discord Server: https://discord.gg/fNSMjAduGv Direct Contact's Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/DirectContact/