Ion Assault Interview


posted 9/29/2009 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: 360
What kinds of things will players be blowing up in the game? How did you come up with the designs for the bosses in the game?
There are asteroids, and of course several enemies which come in a large variety. Some try and steal particles, a few have the ability to shoot weapons while others try to charge you. Players will need to figure out how each particular enemy attacks in order to determine the most efficient way to beat them.

The game also features four different sectors all of which feature a different set of asteroids, enemies and of course a huge boss that needs to be defeated in order to unlock the next sector. We first came up with a distinct theme for each sector, so in the first sector players will encounter high tech aliens that use plasma beams as weapons while in the third sector they’ll encounter strange organic creatures that have adjusted to life in space. From that we came up with additional ideas on how these creatures would attack. For example in the third setting there are hatchers which lay eggs and hatch small swarmers.

The bosses are also designed to match the theme of each setting, so again in the third setting we wanted to have something organic and we came up with the idea of the boss being buried in a huge icy asteroid when players first encounter him. Initially players will only be able to see a hint of the creature hidden in the ice but once they start shooting off the ice it will reveal much more.

Are there different types of particles in the game or are they all the same? Is there a set amount of particles per level or are they created/destroy as you play through the game?
The ion particles are all the same but players will be able to use them in a variety of ways. For example, if a player gathers a high concentration of particles their ship becomes the center of a huge ball of destruction. We also have power-ups that give players new possibilities in which they can use the particles.

There are over 16,000 particles in each level and the distribution changes once a player uses them. For example, once shot some portions of the level are void of any particles so players will need to keep moving and absorb them again. It adds a tactical element to the game, especially when playing in co-op mode.

How did you come up with the concept of having the particles serve as a weapon and as a shield? Can you talk about how the controls for that work?
Our Technical Director, who designed Coreplay's engine had a couple of tech demos we looked at and among them was a very basic version of the particle physics system we have in the game now, so we just had to come up with the technical design of how to use it.

Basically the particles can be affected by a source of gravity which is the player's ship, and once the particles collide with other objects their speed and concentration is taken into account when calculating the damage. As for the controls, players will need to hold the Left Trigger to start attracting particles and once released the particles are focused into one shot.

What was the hardest point of developing the game? Can you talk about the process for getting the game on Xbox Live Arcade?
The hardest part for us was to find a partner interested in publishing Xbox LIVE Arcade games. We are the first game on XBLA created by a German developer so I guess that shows that it took Germany some time to catch up and get interested in this distribution channel.

Later in development, the network coding was very challenging because the game is very fast and includes many NPCs units as well as many player bullets.
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