So I’ve been doing some interviews for [UPDATE: a sadly now-defunct site called] The Kartel, and if I do say so myself, they’ve been going quite well. Below you’ll find an audio interview with Supergiant Games’ Greg Kasavin (whose game Bastion is out now) and ACE Team’s Carlos Bordeu (whose game Rock of Ages will be out next month).
Fresh from the success of their unapologetically trippy first-person brawler Zeno Clash, ACE Team announced Rock of Ages, a “tower offence” game about arranging great works of art from five periods–Classical Greek, Medieval, Renaissance, Rococo, and Romanticism–and then crushing them with a giant boulder. Carlos Bordeu (the C in ACE Team) sat down with The Kartel to discuss the game’s art-history-by-way-of-Terry-Gilliam look, and how the team’s process has changed since Zeno Clash.
Carlos Bordeu: In a sense, the development of Rock of Ages tended to balance itself out since we moved from Valve’s Source Engine technology to Epic’s Unreal Engine which, being a different beast altogether, required our entire studio to be actively looking for ways to improve our processes and methods while distributing this knowledge with the rest of the team. Learning to maneuver in Unreal forced us to do many small-scale local tests for several parts of the game in order to get the best gameplay and graphical experience we could deliver.
In terms of our work force, we had a more balanced team. There were three programmers who worked on Rock of Ages, instead of David alone who almost entirely had to make Zeno Clash for the PC.
TK: The visuals in Zeno Clash don’t look quite like anything else, but in Rock of Ages you’re explicitly working from the styles of other artists. Has that been an adjustment?
CB: The process itself involved doing a lot of research about artists and styles we are fond of and distilling what we consider the most valuable and in tune with our game vision and we go with it. However we do believe that a certain “ACE Team” style has been applied to the game overall, and we’ve not just simply tried to only reference the art periods. Certainly using classic art as a reference for the game has given us a chance to once again produce visuals not very commonly seen in videogames.
TK: Did the chronological order of the game’s levels lend itself well to introducing new game mechanics, and to a difficulty curve?
CB: Although the main game concept consists of placing your defenses, and then going to destroy the opponent with your giant boulder, the game progression is set up to slowly introduce the the player to different defensive units to maintain the focus on learning new strategies while you advance.
The level design also plays a very big part of the game’s design. Some strategic units work extremely well on certain types of levels, but not so well on others. Not all the same units are available on all levels which means learning a specific strategy and repeating it for all the game will never work. The boss levels [such as the confrontation with Michelangelo’s David in the original trailer] are also a pretty big deviation from the traditional gameplay during the campaign.
TK: Could you talk a bit about the story in the single-player campaign? How does the myth of Sisyphus figure in?
CB: To be quite honest, the story is quite *as Dr. Evil would say* inconsequential. It jumps from one place to the next in a very dreamlike fashion, always in the style of old Monty Python movies and Terry Gilliam short animations.
But yes… Videogames in general are about being resilient in the pursuit of a goal, which usually means doing the same thing over and over until you conquer it (a bit like the Greek myth of Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a hill forever).