How Rainbow 6 and ARMA inspired new tac shooter Thunder Tier One

Thunder Tier One ScreenshotKRAFTON, Inc.

Thunder Tier One was a pleasant surprise at the tail-end of 2021. We spoke to Pawel Smolewski about how his passion project came to be.

In a world of first and third-person shooters, sometimes all that’s needed to freshen things up is a change of perspective. That’s exactly what we found when we reviewed Thunder Tier One, a new top-down tactical shooter from PUBG developer KRAFTON, Inc.

We spoke to Pawel Smolewski, the game’s Creative Director and Executive Producer, about how the project began, whether it was ever likely to be added to the ever-burgeoning PUBG universe, and why the team settled on an isometric viewpoint while still conveying the tension of a firefight.

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Thunder Tier One developer interview

Thunder Tier One screenshotKRAFTON, Inc
Thunder Tier One is intense, despite its isometric perspective.

Smolewski is no stranger to the tactical shooter genre, having cut his teeth as an animator for Bohemia Interactive, working on the popular mil-sim ARMA 3. In fact, Thunder Tier One’s development began back then, too.

“It started off when I was working as a dev on ARMA 3 and was trying out new ideas and experimenting with Unreal Engine,” Smolewski tells Dexerto.

“Those experiments led me to try out the top-down shooter perspective which I found both interesting and challenging. I thought it would be fun to combine that perspective with a tactical shooter – and that was the start of Thunder Tier One.”

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Tactical shooters rarely break from first and third-person perspectives, for both gameplay reasons and for immersion. Thunder Tier One is played from an isometric viewpoint but doesn’t play out in a turn-based nature like an XCOM, instead choosing to transplant all the lethality of an FPS into a more detached camera perspective. We asked Smolewski how difficult it was to maintain tension when you’re essentially hovering above the battlefield rather than being on it yourself.

“One of the reasons we decided to move away from a first-person perspective and third-person perspective was quite simply to do something different,” he reveals.

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“Remember that this was originally a personal project and we wanted it to feel fresh and new! This perspective also allowed us to work faster with fewer resources which meant in the early days we could focus less on detail and more on core mechanics and gameplay.”

“The top-down perspective was of course a challenge. We wanted to immerse the players with the character which is far easier in FPP or TPP. It took a lot of work but we got there and I am very happy with what we created.”

Thunder Tier One screenshot showing character customizationKRAFTON, Inc
Thunder Tier One offers deep character customization

So, where did the inspiration come from for Thunder Tier One? Moments of it are reminiscent of early Rainbow Six games, while oft-forgotten original Xbox title Full Spectrum Warrior shines through in moments, too.

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“Both those titles were definitely a big inspiration,” Smolewski told Dexerto.

“Thunder Tier One is essentially a tribute to all of the tactical shooters from the late nineties and early noughties, titles such as Jagged Alliance, the Ghost Recon series, and SWAT games that the team and I loved.”

“It is also inspired by classic nineties action movies, we wanted to create a real sense of nostalgia for players.”

KRAFTON obviously works on one of the world’s most popular tactical shooters in PUBG Battlegrounds, a game that is now starting to spawn a growing media franchise with new spinoff titles. Was there ever a point where Thunder Tier One could have become part of the PUBG universe?

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“No, I started this project before I worked for KRAFTON and it has therefore always been a completely separate and independent product,” Smolewski explains.

“Whilst at KRAFTON, the intention remained to keep it as a stand-alone game with no link to the PUBG Universe.”

Thunder Tier One is available now on Steam.