The Vita launched a few weeks ago with one of the best launch line-ups of any console ever. Not only did it have the usual mix of shooters, action, and puzzle games it launched with some fairly unique titles that showed off everything the platform could do. One of the most unusual was Army Corps of Hell and we were able to get a few questions off to the folks behind the game to see how they came up with such an unusual title (and game).
Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project?
This is Yuichi Tanzawa from Square Enix. I handled the overall direction of the game.
Where did the concept for Army Corps of Hell come from? Were you at all concerned that some people might be riled up by the "Hell" portion of the game or not?
First and foremost, we wanted to make the worldview something that’s unlike a typical Square Enix title. I think the imagery of heavy metal music and gushing blood, while the King of Hell (and his goblin minions) thrash around to defeat his enemies has a tremendous impact; and it’s a worldview that would be interesting to core gamers who would buy the PS Vita during its launch. We hope you enjoy its dark but humorous unique worldview!
Given that the PS Vita is a brand-new platform with no “standard” control system, how did you come up with the controls for the game?
The PS Vita has a left and right stick, so in terms of the controls the game can be designed with the console hardware in mind. However, unlike a typical action game, this game requires the player to switch during their play between the different types of goblins. While fighting, we had many discussions about the placement of the controls and lots of trial and error. We came up with the idea to assign each type of goblin using the ○, △ and □ buttons towards the end of the development stage, and so we changed the controls accordingly.
Did you feel like you had to use things like the rear touch pad or did that just come naturally while developing the game?
The rear touch pad is used to play with the items (instruments). Controls such as “striking” a drum could be done with a button, but something like “strumming” a guitar is something unique to a touchpad. I’m personally looking forward to many more games that make use of the rear touch pad in the future.
Army Corps of Hell is one of the PS Vita’s launch titles; does that create any additional pressure on the development team?
I wouldn’t say additional pressure, but since there were many other launch titles being developed, we had a sort of good feeling of tension. During the Tokyo Game Show, there were many playable PS Vita demos available which ignited a sense or rivalry within the development team. I think that influenced the game in a good way.
One of the things that really jumps out when you see the game is the artistic style of the game. What were the design team’s influences in reaching the current design, and did the original style evolve during the development process?
There isn’t a particular item by which the team was influenced, but we arrived at the current style from pursuing art that would make the qualities of “fighting a giant enemy while commanding a massive group” stand out the most. If we had made the King of Hell more muscular, it would make the player want to have him fight on his own; so we settled on a sort of wizard design with fine lines. After the “hell” concept was fixed, the style didn’t change very much from there.
The goblins in the game have a bit of personality. Do you have a personal favorite of the ones you’ve created? Were there goblins that you had to pull due to balancing or scope issues?
I personally like the Spearmen. There’s a risk that they may not return after going out, but that’s what makes it “game-like” and I like that aspect. We had to cut the goblins down to 3 different types because that would be the maximum, considering the player must actively switch between them while fighting enemies. But there were many ideas during development, including goblins that rode animals and ones that carried bombs to self-destruct. If we ever have a sequel, I’d like to actualize them in some form.
Do you have any recommended techniques for people that are just picking up the game? What about tricks for advanced players?
It’s important that you switch between the Soldiers, Spearmen and Magi according to your situation. It isn’t impossible to create a lopsided army of, say 100 Magi, but it is better that the army is comprised of a more balanced crew, at least in the beginning. The Magi can attack long-distance enemies without actually touching them directly, but they are also useful in retrieving downed goblins or keeping distance with enemies because their speed increases when in battle formation. By understanding each goblin type and the characteristics of battle formations and utilizing them effectively according to each situation, you can get through stages with higher difficulty. Please try out different combinations.