Posted March 16, 2015 by Peter in EGX

EGX Rezzed: Interview with Sander de Visser (Convoy)

Convoy logo
Convoy logo

The end of Mad Max 2 was incredibly strong – the chase across the desert, the fleet of bandit vehicles trying to take down Max’s tanker, with just a couple of outriding vehicles for defence. I thought it was awesome when I saw it decades ago, and I got that same feeling when playing Convoy, by Convoy Games, which was in the Leftfield Collection at Rezzed.

I got to speak to Sander de Visser, and it turns out I’m not the only one with an appreciation for the movie. “I am very much a Mad Max fan, and like that idea. [With] a couple of friends, we’ve been talking about if the world would end, how fun would that be. It wouldn’t! But that’s sort of this idea, it’s really appealing to me.”

Convoy is set on a planet which, while perhaps being a step short of post-apocalyptic is most definitely post-civilisation. With your spacecraft having crashed there and needing replacement parts, you are forced to head out and deal with the three factions fighting for supremacy in the wasteland.
Convoy screen
“We’ve got the raiders who are the typical enemies from the Mad Max place, just crazy and out for themselves. But [they] also just shoot you or ram you – ramming isn’t actually in the enemy AI yet, but that’s sort of the idea,” Sander explains, mentioning one of the game mechanics a colleague has also said will be going in shortly.

“Then there are the Torvak, which is a technological corporation, Borg inspired thing with robotic looking high-tech guns, high-tech cars, and high-tech shields as well. And we have the Privateers who are the pirates, and when you encounter them you can usually drive yourself out of their combat, and if they do attack they have this different, almost random [selection of] vehicles.”

You head out with several vehicles yourself, primarily the Main Convoy Vehicle (MCV) and two outriders to begin the game with, which come in light, medium and heavy varieties, and can be increased to a maximum of four. These can be found in encounters, bought from trading camps, customised with specific load-outs, and regularly wrecked in combat or narrative misadventure. The only vehicle that truly matters is the MCV, which is far stronger than the others, less able to fight back, and results in the game ending if destroyed.
Convoy screen
Most of the game is viewed on a world map, with an icon for your MCV as it heads out looking for components. “Whenever you start a new game you have four quests, four objectives you have to complete for parts for your spaceship, but these parts are different each time [...] and the way you get these four parts is also different.”

These locations – and any other active quests – are easily tracked by clicking them from the right hand menu, and displayed on the world map. There are also random, optional encounters too, which can vary from discovering long abandoned ambush points, to being asked to carry illicit good for bandits, to finding stranded vehicles; all of these are also avoidable if you want to try and beeline through the main campaign.

However, there is not as much luck with the final encounter type, which occur randomly when passing through occupied territory and usually involve the factions actively wanting to deal with you. Even though an average game is expect to last around half an hour, a lot can happen in that time. “No two games should be the same basically, ever,” Sander explains.
Convoy screen
You will often find yourself heading into combat, in running road battles between your group and your rivals. These are portrayed with some gloriously old-school graphics – not following a specific pixel art path or a retro look, but using colours and designs that make me think of mid-90s shooters… and also proving efficient for setting up the combat area filled with friends and foes.

The MCV itself cannot be moved, forever following the road and having to cope with being a large target (although it can be equipped with shields, EMP guns, rocket launchers and the like – all with cooldowns however). Instead, it relies on the vehicles running with it to do the bulk of the fighting, which need to be given locations to head to and targets to shoot.

These are done concurrently, allowing an enemy to be selected while moving into position and attacks to begin as soon as they’re in range. But positioning can be a matter of life and death, as regular markers warn of upcoming obstacles – walls, cliffs, canyons, and land mines all being common during my session. That said, these are also threats to your enemies and this also opens up tactical choices for you too. Believe me, ramming an enemy buggy sideways with a large defender, forcing them off of their line and into a wall (and instant death) never got old.

And yes, knowing that soon the AI will know how to do the same in return is a worrying prospect.
Convoy screen
Not every contact will end up in a fight though. The encounters are branching choices, a lot of which are surprisingly difficult moral choices. Sander is keen for this to be the case. “We don’t want to have this black and white moral system, that you see in other games like the paragon/renegade Mass Effect thing. I mean there is no such thing as good and evil in the world, at least not with this hard line [...] Every decision could have this moral implication.”

I noticed the player before me run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, and after a while one option presented was an engineer suggesting how to make some biofuel… out of other crew members. However, as the events in the game are randomised, the consequences can be too – a good action won’t give you a good consequence every time. “It may or may not be something you want to do. [For example] if you find somebody you can just shoot them through the head. It may give you something or nothing at all… why did you do that? There’s definitely consequences.”

“It is a matter of luck, like a good choice will usually give you a better result, but it could be something different as well. It’s a fine line between random results and a logical response to what you should get. So if you piss somebody off, they will most likely not like you very much and they will be more likely to shoot you.”

Combat is intended to get harder as play goes on, and between this and the events wearing you down there are no guarantees you’ll win every session. However, with the short games, random events and legacy play unlocking new starting units Sander hopes that won’t be a problem. “One of the designers of League of Legends explained even if you’re losing in a game you should still have a lot of fun. [...] A game should never offer an experience that’s not fun, and that includes the losing as well.”

Convoy is due for release on Steam next month.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.