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8bit Armies, Hordes and Invaders

Gameranx interview

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# 1-Netput May 17 2016, 15:42 PM
Found out about a interview on gameranx:
8-Bit Armies is Petroglyph’s latest game, and it’s easily the studio’s most accessible creation to date. Featuring voxel-based graphics with units reminiscent of Minecraft characters, 8-Bit Armies is incredibly easy to get into, but don’t let those appearances fool you: it’s difficult to master. We reviewed the game and gave it a pretty good score.

We had the opportunity to speak to Petroglyph’s Chris Becker to talk about the game, how it came to be, and what their plans are for its future. Erstwhile contributor TheGuardian provided some of these questions.

Thank you for the interview opportunity! Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Petroglyph.

I’m Chris Becker and I’m a Senior Designer at Petroglyph. My job is essentially to quantify fun and figure out how to put all the pieces together in a way that is engaging for players J

Many members of your team has experience from their time at Westwood Studios. Can you tell us any lessons you took away from developing games like Command & Conquer?

I didn’t work on any of the C&C games personally. I started my career on the original Dawn of War with Relic Entertainment. From there I work on all the expansions and Dawn of War 2, as well as Company of Heroes, and Company of Heroes 2. The biggest lesson I’ve learned for RTS is that accessibility is key. It’s very easy, and tempting, to over complicate the game for the sake of “innovation” but most of the time this turns into a chore for player. It’s important to weigh the depth versus the complexity when evaluating how you want the game to play. Command and Conquer is a great example of the elegance of simplicity – anyone can pick it up and learn the game without even needing a tutorial.

8-bit Armies is a Minecraft-esque adaptation of the RTS genre—at least in terms of how it looks. Can you enlighten us on what inspired you to develop it?

Again, accessibility is key. We really want to make sure players always understand how things are working out in the game. If a player doesn’t understand how or why something happened the way it did, this is a “shelf moment” – a chance that they may tire of the game and walk away. That’s not fun!

8-bit Armies plays very similar to the Command & Conquer series. How much time was spent to make this game familiar to fans of the series?

We really like the simplicity of Command and Conquer. While our intention wasn’t to create a direct clone, we did want to return RTS to its simpler days. We are all huge fans of RTS. We were fortunate enough to be able to self-fund 8-Bit, and this allowed us to make a game we want to play J

When it comes to traditional RTS games, storyline can be a key factor—but it isn’t always. Judging from what we’ve played, there isn’t much in the way of a story. What made you decide to move away from the story-heavy campaign of Grey Goo and Command & Conquer before it?

Developing a full story driven campaign is very expensive and takes a lot of time. The core game is fast and simple, and we wanted something to match that for the single player experience. If the game isn’t fun, the story doesn’t matter.

RTS games usually have different factions to choose from that will give them different rewards. There’s only one in the game right now, with a teaser for a new, fantasy army. What are your plans to add more factions to the game, moving forward?

8-Bit is very tongue in cheek. Engineers can repair fellow infantry – we will keep beating you with this wrench until you feel better. Tanks and harvesters can be loaded into transport helicopters. Part of the simplicity of the game is that it doesn’t take itself seriously, and going forward we want our factions to follow that example. Our goal is that future factions will have high contrast – such as a fantasy faction. We have many ideas for other factions as well – and our fans have been giving us ideas daily. I like the idea of seasonal factions – Santa’s elves with artillery cannons that shoot presents at the enemy. My favorite idea so far is the Area 51 aliens a la Mars Attacks, though that’s probably because we are in Las Vegas so it seems fitting.

Replayability is crucial for most gamers. 8-bit Armies has reward systems based off completing certain objectives. Would you mind going over that for us?

Yes! We really like how that turned out. The intent is that as players’ progress, their army compliment grows. This allows players to go back and replay missions with a head start to unlock more objectives. It’s easy for designers to envision themselves playing against the player, but this can lead to frustrating experiences. We want our players to feel like a bad-ass. They are in control, and they can feel clever as they determine how to progress. Our motto is that the AI won’t complain if it’s unfair.

In games like StarCraft and Age of Empires players are able to control heroes or important characters in the story. Do you have any plans to add hero units into the game?

We do have a hero! In every level there is a hidden crate which contains a commando we have affectionately called Bob. Heroes can be fun, but they also add a level complexity that we also want to avoid. If we do go that route, I imagine they would function something like Tanya in Red Alert, or unique units in Age of Empires, or both.

What, in your opinion, has been the greatest challenge in creating this new IP?

Believe it or not, Art. There is an art to making art simple. I imagine it would comparable to a professional movie studio doing “amateur” style footage for a chase sequence, or a viral video. Jeff Troutman has done a fantastic job leading our team in this regard.

Are there any planned game add-ons currently being developed for your game?

Yes! Stay tuned!

What do you believe to be the greatest selling point for this title?

Accessibility, hands down. Second place would be the homage to Command and Conquer. It’s a game that tickles nostalgia, and is very easy to get into, with virtually no learning curve.

Is there anything you would like to mention about 8-bit Armies that we have not already covered so far?

The sky is the limit. We feel that we’ve created a foundation for an IP that can go many directions. We’re very excited to see where it goes.

What words of advice can you give for future RTS game designers looking to make games like 8-bit Armies?

Stay in school! Seriously. Everything you learn is a tool for future use, and having a backpack full of tools when making games is very helpful. I’m lucky to work with some incredibly smart people. Secondly, work on your own projects – the barrier to entry is the lowest it’s ever been. I wish these tools existed when I was starting out. The best way to grow is to do.

Are there any last minute thoughts that you would like to leave our readers with at this time?

Stay tuned for future content releases! We are adding some new maps, and coop missions for this week’s patch, and we have more coming down the road!


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