Perth Games Festival 2014 is this weekend, and is set to showcase many great games being made in Perth!
In an effort to highlight some of our local talent prior to the day, we’ve reached out to several developers who will be attending the festival to talk about their games. Gnomic Studios are one of the more well-known studios is Perth, best known for their survival-arena game, Square Off. To tell us more about their upcoming multiplayer project and sequel, Square Heroes, we caught up with Aranda Morrison and Mark Menell, two lead developers of the game.
As a Perth-based developer, could you tell our readers about the history of Gnomic Studios??
Aranda: Early in 2009, Scott and I decided to make a game for the Dream Build Play competition. We’d already been tinkering around with various small prototypes, and we chose to make a zombie defense platformer, partially inspired by CoD: Nazi Zombies. With about 7 weeks until the competition deadline, we realised our project was way too ambitious so we stripped out all the graphics, removed gravity, and kept playtesting and iterating until we had a very simple survival arena shooter that was pretty fun to play. That game became Square Off and placed in the Dream Build PlayTtop 20. Since then, it was released on Xbox 360, ported to Windows Phone, iOS, Android and OUYA.
What was the primary source of inspiration behind your new game, Square Heroes?
Aranda: The most common feedback about Square Off was that people wanted to be able to play it online with their friends. We decided that if we ever made a sequel, we’d need to support networking so we could realise the massive fun-potential of the multiplayer deathmatch modes. Luckily, I met Mark at the Lets Make Games end of year party in 2012, and he joined the team in the role of network programmer. This is when the project really kicked off.
How would you best explain Square Heroes to someone unfamiliar with the game?
Mark: Square Heroes is a side-on shooter where you fly around as your Square character with a jetpack and an arsenal of weapons to blast your friends out of the sky! The game has the competitive online multiplayer of twitch shooters like Quake and Counter Strike, the local multiplayer fun of Goldeneye, and an art style reminiscent of Worms.
As this is a sequel, could you tell us how the series has evolved from your previous game?
Aranda: Square Off is primarily a co-op survival game with a few PvP deathmatch levels included. We found that the deathmatch modes were actually the most fun to play with your friends, so we focussed on that aspect in Square Heroes. Other than the online support, we’ve added bots, an XP levelling system, more character customisation with unlockable weapons and hats, Team Deathmatch and Gnome Hunt modes. There is also a new “Arms Race” mechanic where you race to collect loot and reach the more powerful weapons before the other players.
Is there a single-player component to Square Heroes, or is it entirely multiplayer focused?
Mark: Yes, the single-player Tournament – the square avengers are competing in the inter-galactic Tournament against the champions of other galaxies…
There appears to be a lot of customisation options, could you tell us more about that?
Mark: You can earn XP and achievements, and then level-up your character which unlocks weapons. Unlocked weapons can then be selected at the beginning of a round when player’s choose their load-outs. You can also choose colour, hat and melee weapons to fully personalise your character. Your character is saved on the cloud, and can be retrieved on a friends machine (say) if you want to battle them locally!
What do you feel makes this game stand apart from other well-known titles in the genre?
Mark: Online multiplayer that just works. Multiple local players, as well as online players at the same time – enabling couch vs. couch gaming. The unique arms race mechanic.
Aranda: Obviously, Scott’s amazing art style sets it apart, but we also feel that it’s one of the more skill-based 2D arena shooters out there. A lot of effort has gone into making the online play work nicely and the weapons feel balanced and interesting.
What has been your biggest challenge so far since you began working on the sequel?
Mark: The technical challenge of building a fast-paced multiplayer game that you can play over the Internet – this is why we suspect there are so few other Indie titles that do it successfully. In fact, I wrote a blog about it which you can read about: here
You’re going to be at the Perth Games Festival this month, will we be able to play it there?
Mark: Absolutely! We are planning to have 8 players at the same time!
What is your current release date, and what platforms will the game be available on?
Aranda: We plan to release the PC version by October 30th (this month!). We also have a Linux version working and Mac version not far off so a release on these platforms won’t be too far away either. We’re excited to see some cross-platform online-multiplayer rivalry going on!
* If you like what you’ve read about Square Heroes, please be sure to go and vote for it on Steam Greenlight!