Swarm – Developer Q & A
Swarm is a shiny-shiny, new-new IP developed by Hot Head Games (you might have played one of their previous and very good games already) and published by UTV Ignition. Don’t know about you, but for me, a new IP (especially one that looks as fun as this) created with the sweat, tears, and blood of young blobs of goo deserves a new Q&A, and they were kind enough to help us out on that front:
1.- So, going from Penny Arcade and Deathspank to this seems like a huge departure (OK, a SMALL departure at best). Any trouble at all during development? How big was the group working on Swarm?
HHG – The game was in full production for about a year with a team of 12 to 15 people. But the origins of the idea stretch all the way to 2006, just after we started the company. It’s all based on the Ph.D. research of Dr. Mike Hayward, our resident doc and super genius here at Hothead.
It was definitely a challenge to get right at times while we were working on it! It’s a completely new game mechanic. Controlling 50 guys simultaneously has the potential to make the player feel not in control, so we dedicated a lot of time to making it feel intuitive and to flow really well. We would bring in new play testers every week to get fresh eyes on the game and iterate based on their feedback. We’re really happy with where it all ended up and are confident people are going to love it!
2.- Any online co-op or will online be used for leaderboards so we can upload our high scores?
HHG – Technically, Swarm is a single player game, but it’s filled with chances to compete with your friends on the leaderboards. There’s a leaderboard for every level in the game, and we use every opportunity we can to put your ranking in your face and show you how you’re doing compared to your friends.
3.- Do all levels have the same inherent objectives, or are there some twists and turns ahead of us?
HHG – In each level, the goals remain the same: get to the end as fast as possible, keep your score multiplier going by collecting DNA and other collectibles, as well as killing your swarmites (yes, you get points for sacrificing your swarmites), and finally, making sure you get to the end with at least one little blue guy still alive.
That said, each level does have a unique feel to it, whether it’s the art direction or the way the level is designed. For players that really want to maximize their score they will want to get very familiar with all of a level’s nuances; knowing when to run fast, when to collect everything, and even when to kill off almost all their swarm to drive their score multiplier even higher.
4.- Any differences between the XBLA and PSN versions of the game other than the Avatar unlocks?
HHG – On PSN we have a “Global Swarmite Death Count” that tracks how many pudgy blue little swarmites get killed by all the gamers playing on PlayStation 3. It’s going to be fun seeing how fast and how high that number gets! On Xbox, we took advantage of the way leaderboards are structured on that system to provide a weekly version of every leaderboard.
Apart from these small differences, both versions of the game are the same and both play great!
5.- Trophies are part of a nutritious breakfast. What can we expect from Swarm?
HHG – There are lots of trophies to be had in Swarm, and we designed them to all be doable. I personally hate getting a game that has some trophies that are next to impossible. This isn’t to say that the more valuable ones won’t be challenging, though!
6.- I’m getting a Pikmin vibe from Swarm since you’re controlling a big group of adorably tiny watchamacallit, and you need a specific amount of them at certain points to trigger floor switches and whatnot. Was Nintendo’s game an influence on your initial design choices?
HHG – Many of us on the team loved Pikmin and Lemmings, but I wouldn’t say they were a direct influence on the design. The core thing in Swarm, for us, was to make the 50-at-once control scheme feel great, and to make the game as fast-paced and action-based as possible.
7.- How long will this game take Joe Sixpack to complete for the first time?
HHG – Playing through to the end should take people about 6-8 hours. Of course, with the focus on high scores, the game has a ton of replay value as well.
8.- After seeing the video interview posted at PS3blog.net, it was interesting to see that killing your Swarmites actually increases the score multiplier. How did you reach this decision and how much does this play into unlocking extras/bonus levels?
HHG – We had to get players to understand that your swarmites dying is OK! They’re cute little guys, so this is hard for some players to get used to. Once we decided to fully embrace that, the role it plays in the scoring system kind of fell into place.
9.- Will the game run at “FUUUUULL HD” and a constant 60 fps, or will it be a 720p/30 fps explosive experience?
HHG – The game runs at a smooth 1080p on both XBLA and PSN.
10.- Any plans for DLC down the road?
No specific plans locked down right now, but we’d love to do DLC in the future. If enough people buy the game and want DLC, we’ll do it! We love interacting with our fans, so people should get on our forums and tell us what they think and what they’d like to see from us in the future.