One of the more interesting games coming out of the indie game scene is Anomaly which takes the tower defense in a completely new direction. Intrigued by what we saw we nagged their PR rep until we got an interview. He finally relented and here are the answers to the questions we sent in.
Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project? What’s the history behind 11bit studios and how did you get started?
Hey, I’m Pawel Miechowski and on a daily basis at 11 bit studios I work on story, script, dialogues, translations and all the stuff related to writing. I also work with actors recording voice-overs to our game. But we’re small team, of 12 people now, so we wear different hats, thus I also take care things like doing the game’s blog, tweeting and writing on Facebook, and presenting the title to gaming media. So the story behind 11 bit studios is pretty simple. The four studio founders and I have been in the gaming industry more or less since the mid 90s. Working at Metropolis and CD Projekt later, we were doing retail games for publishers, until one of our gamedev beer sessions resulted in a strong will for an indie studio. And this way in December 2009 11 bit studios was born. Tech director – Bartosz – started to build the engine then and by April 2010 the engine was efficient enough to start production of the game.
Not to rip off Joystiq’s behind the name feature but what’s the history behind the name of the company?
Bits are always even 4-bit, 8-bit etc. so matching bit with unpaired number of 11 is to point out the unusual approach we have. And by that I mean we want to do unusual concepts, mix some genres, experiment with gameplay.
What led to the concept of a "reverse tower defense" game? What were the biggest hurdles in developing a game in what is arguably one of today's most crowded genres?
Being great fans of TD games, naming the fine Defense Grid here, or strategy games in general, we wanted to twist something. Michal, our lead designer, came up with the idea of being the opposite side in tower defense. The concept was catchy and we started simply developing it. The biggest hurdles? Well, actually it’s the innovation in the genre. What the hell is reversed tower defense? OK, you are the “enemies” wave, but what do you do then? There are some cool flash games when you do the tower attack, but it’s just sending the waves over and over. So we added the on-field commander and equipped him with so-called combat suit abilities. Then we add the tactical map where you actually create the wave’s route and can re-plan whenever needed. And then we decided that each armor unit in the wave needed to have different function – thanks to this there’s another tactical layer – the squad management. So the biggest hurdle to jump over was to introduce that innovation. Not only in communication to gamers, but simply even in the tutorial – some players obviously got the idea quickly, but some needed detailed tutorial missions.
What sort of differences can be expected between the PC/Mac versions and the iOs iterations? Any chance an Android version is on the way?
The really important difference overall is that the iOS version does not have the on-field commander; you just tap the screen to deploy an ability instead of walking with the commander to a designated place. The core mechanics and idea stays the same, and actually it fits touch-screen gaming perfectly. I mean, you do the tactical job and have fun of demolishing enemies, but you just do it in a simpler way compared to the PC. That said, the missions we develop are also adjusted to that philosophy. And there are more levels, but they’re smaller because iPad gamers prefer shorter playing sessions.
Which interface, touch or controller, do you feel suits your game more? Which version of the game was harder to make?
Hehe, we didn’t finalize the iOS version yet, so I guess that one’s been harder to make. Anyway, it’s a tough question. I love playing games on iPad a lot, so personally I think touch screen interface suits it more. It’s pretty intuitive and easy to get into. Apart from Anomaly, any game I play on iPad, even if it introduces some hell of an innovative concept, must have an intuitive and friendly interface, because this is the only way to get familiar with some original concept.
The app/indie market is extraordinarily crowded, what has been the most important thing you’ve done to get your game noticed?
I can’t really point out one thing, and I think the game was just noticed by a small part of the gaming world that is interested in indie games. It is crowded indeed and there’s a plenty of work for us to do to get it noticed widely. I hope it’s worthy. So we’re trying to respond to community whenever there’s time for it (personally, that’s my favourite part of the gamedev job). We’re talking to media figures if they’re interested in reviewing. We’re simply working a lot on a game itself. We’re doing videos to promote it on Youtube and similar channels. And we’re constantly learning how to do such things, honestly. Our PR guy Tom from Evolve PR is totally engaged and helpful on those things, so he’s also one hell of a teacher :)
There’s a belief among some people in the industry that the game market is starting to polarize into two camps. The small/indie games/app games and the triple AAA, super big budget games. What’s your take on this thought? Is 11 bit always going to be about making smaller games or do you see a time where you create bigger games?
I share this belief. So on one hand there are some AAA games that have put the level of development so high, they’re so incredibly polished that even $20-million-budget games are not able to compete with them and fail. In such situation, a gamer that pays $50 expects that level of polish from each game of that price. That leads to a situation where only a few big-budget studios are able to deliver such games, and they vacuum all the air from the $50-game space. On the other hand there are indie games that offer old-school fun, innovation or a wacky story, and they’re usually below $10. Paying $10, the player expects a lot of fun but accepts some flaws – OK, it’s a pretty cheap game, but still bloody entertaining. I don’t know if there’s a way to fill the space between those two camps with something. But it’s just speculation anyway; the market has surprised me too many times.
The game is now available, do you have any tips or tricks for people who pick the game up this week? Are there any Easter Eggs or hidden things that people should be on the look out for?
Sure, I’d say – when playing Anomaly Warzone Earth please experiment with the squad management – buy new units when available and re-form the squad during battles, especially when deploying the commander’s abilities. It really pushes the efficiency up :)
We'd like to thank Pawel for answering our questions as well as Tom for helping to set the interview up.