Thunder Tier One is a tactical action title that draws inspiration from classics in the genre like XCOM. Its blend of satisfying shooting elements and situational awareness has endeared itself to players looking for a brainy tactical shooter, and its popularity has garnered it some significant attention. Coupled with a highly-praised co-op mode, Thunder Tier One has a lot going for it, and will continue to receive support from developer KRAFTON, Inc.
One of the minds behind Thunder Tier One is Pawel Smolewski, the Creative Director and Executive Producer for the title. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Smolewski has worked on some significant entries into the gaming space, including ARMA 3 and PUBG: Battlegrounds.
Smolewski spoke to Screen Rant about his vision for Thunder Tier One, the gaming industry as a whole, and what sort of experiences helped create the intriguing action title.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! I think the first thing that jumps out about Thunder Tier One to people experiencing it for the first time is its perspective. Looking at screenshots, sometimes the game looks more like a tactical RPG, while others make it look more like an action title – what drew the team to this sort of presentation?
Smolewski: We have always thought of the game as more of an action title rather than a RPG, and when developing it we drew inspiration from the tactical shooters that we grew up on. We chose to use a top-down perspective as we wanted to experiment, and create something that was different to what we had been doing until that point in time. We took things we loved and presented them in a different realm, it was a great challenge for the team and that is why we liked it.
A lot has been made of the game’s co-op mechanics. Was that always a primary focus for Thunder Tier One?
Smolewski: Co-op was initially the main focus for us as we wanted to create a game that we, as a small team, could play together. So most of what we designed had both PVE and multiplayer in mind.
Are there any future plans for Thunder Tier One’s content rollout? Players who enjoyed its current version have often stated a desire to see more from the game.
Smolewski: We are currently working on making Thunder Tier One accessible to modding! We are all passionate modders and want to share this side of game development with others. It’s going to be fun to see what the community comes up with, they’ll be able to create and edit game modes, maps, weapons, characters and much more.
You described Thunder Tier One as a “tribute to the games I played 20 years ago.” What sort of challenges did you face honoring those titles but making them compelling in game industry that has evolved rapidly over the past few decades?
Smolewski: Our challenge was taking the essence, aesthetics and the general impression that you get from those games and transferring that into the convention we had created – the top-down tactical shooter. It was tough to combine so many influences and incorporate them into our totally new product, but it was important to us to develop a title that would resonate with players and create a sense of nostalgia. We didn’t want this game to feel like a successor to others, but we wanted it to be clear that it was heavily influenced.
At first glance, there isn’t an obvious connection between the approach to Thunder Tier One and your other work on PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS. Is there anything your work on the latter helped change or innovate in the former, even if it’s not immediately noticeable?
Smolewski: You’re right, there isn’t an obvious connection as Thunder Tier One is its own game that exists in its own universe and is completely separate to PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS. However, my time working on PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS definitely impacted my approach to Thunder Tier One. I first started this project in 2016 and I now have a better understanding on how to approach game design, and how to create a game that is a realistic shooter with quite a raw feeling to it.
PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS also has really deep gunplay and there are elements of that in Thunder Tier One. Players will enjoy many different types of weapons and gain an understanding into gadgets and attachments which will help them complete their missions. There are also similarities in the mechanics and player movements of both games.
My approach to PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS has also been positively impacted by my work on Thunder Tier One. There are technical solutions to gameplay issues in PUBG:BATTLEGROUNDS that were first tried out on Thunder Tier One.
You’ve said that Thunder Tier One’s initial concept was born out of a discussion around 2016. That’s five years and change of development, iteration, and tweaking. What was making the game like compared to other work you’ve done in the industry? Is there anything you felt you could get away with in Thunder Tier One that was a result of its beginnings as a personal project?
Smolewski: At the start we very much focused on creating a game that we as a team would enjoy playing ourselves. We didn’t initially pay too much attention to visuals and quality of life improvements, we focused more on the game mechanics. We weren’t thinking about preparing a product for market, it was more of a fun personal project.
Of course the game then developed and we collaborated with KRAFTON which meant we had to shift our strategy and change the way we worked. We stepped out of our own comfort zone and focused more on user experience rather than ourselves.
The reception to Thunder Tier One has been pretty positive. Was that something you were confident in ahead of release, or was it more of a game that you thought was pretty cool, but might not “land” for a lot of people without your background in gaming?
Smolewski: Thunder Tier One started out as an experimental project among friends. It was a place for us to try things out and have some fun. As the project developed we collaborated with KRAFTON and began to prepare it for market.
Initially, this game was created with a very specific and very niche audience in mind as it is a unique title unlike others. We are all fans of the genre and wanted to give something back to it, but I must say we are happy to have received so much positive feedback from both the core and wider audience. We’ve combined several different and distinct concepts and players are enjoying it.
Anything you’d like to say to the players who have supported Thunder Tier One thus far?
Smolewski: We’re really humbled by all of your support and truly grateful that you have decided to join us on this project which has been such a special journey. We hope you continue to enjoy our world and can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with once we introduce modding to Thunder Tier One!
Thunder Tier One is available now on PC.
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About The Author
Cody Gravelle (1572 Articles Published)
Cody is Screen Rant’s Game Reviews Editor. He joined the team in 2018 and has been reporting on games pretty well every day since – except on weekends, where he’s typically playing them instead. Despite being in a field ostensibly about critiquing and enjoying quality games, his most played game of 2019 was Fate/Grand Order – something unlikely to change in 2020 and beyond.