Een simpele aankondiging op een ogenschijnlijk willekeurig forum bracht me aan het twijfelen. Creeper World van Knuckle Cracker werd geïntroduceerd als elke andere towerdefensegame. Met een middelmatige uitstraling was mijn interesse in het genre (en het feit dat het op de Mac te spelen is) de reden om het tóch te proberen.
En dat was geen verkeerde zet. Creeper World houdt me al dagen bezig. Het bijzondere is dat er slechts één vijand is. De ‘creeper’ is een blauwe blob die zich voortbeweegt als een stroperige vloedgolf en kapotmaakt wat jij opbouwt. Met een kleine selectie aan afweergeschut is het aan jou om deze blob op afstand te houden en energie te levereren aan een aantal klaverachtige pictogrammen.
Het spel geniet nog geen grootschalige bekendheid, het marketingoffensief gaat in september van start. Een perfecte gelegenheid om dit spel als een van de eersten te pluggen middels een interview met de maker.
Sander: Did you create Creeper World entirely by yourself?
Virgil Wall: “I did create the game on my own as a solo effort. I’ve been writing games as a hobby for many years now. For instance I wrote an artillery game for the HP48SX calculator called Silo when I was in college, a Java game called Space Estate back in 1997, and more recently a free web game called Whiteboardwar: Chopraider in 2008.” (Beschreven in Sanders Speelhal: actie-editie, red.)
How long did it take for you to create the game, from idea to finished product?
“The idea first occurred to me in the fall of 2008. I was working on a different game prototype (unreleased) at the time. I worked the idea around for a few months and developed a prototype in January of 2009. When you look at the game credits, you can see a few screenshots of this prototype.
“The actual game itself took six months to develop. This was an exceptionally short period of time since I was able to use bits and pieces of earlier game prototypes. So even though it only took six months to develop the game, the idea took three months to work through and a good bit of technology had already been built over the previous year.”
Do you use a specific methodology when you create a game?
“I pretty much dive right in. I will develop a prototype first to exercise what I think are the fundamental game concepts. If the prototype produces something magical, I’ll plan the major pieces of a finished product and get started. Along the way there will be course corrections and some new ideas. I’ll go with the flow if it seems worthy. I’ve written software professionally for over 15 years now, so I apply the better parts of agile development and I do unit testing as I go. But in general for me, writing games is about 80% inspiration and motivation.”
I read how toying around with fog of war got you inspired, can you tell us a bit more about that?
“So in 2008 after I released Chopraider, I was looking to do something different. I prototyped up a classic space trading/combat game and was looking to add some things to the prototype that would set it apart. So I implemented a fog of war system that initially covered the whole map/space. But to clear the fog of war, you had to launch little sensor probes from the planets in your empire. To launch these sensor probes, you would select a planet and then click somewhere in the fog of war. The probe would launch and it would ‘explode’ whenever it contacted an uncovered region of space. The explosion would remove some of the fog.
“For weeks I found myself starting this game and spending half of the time firing sensor probes. It was so much fun that I thought it would be even more fun if the fog of war regenerated. That’s when the idea hit me. Now it turns out in Creeper World that the creeper is much more complex than just a simple fog of war, but letting the fog of war be the enemy was the genesis of the idea. At the time I also thought to myself, ‘Why has this not been done yet?’ Then I got to work.”
Having played the game thoroughly myself, I know how much fun it is. Yet, I hear evil tongues mentioning that the graphics are amongst the reasons not to try this game. Are you familiar with this issue? And what’s your take on it?
“Great games for me are always more than the sum of their parts. Graphics, sound, music, story, characters, concept, originality, gameplay, etc. They all matter. Together they can make something great. Something that can not only entertain but also teach, comfort, stimulate or inspire. Creeper World has a really great game dynamic, so I hope people try it and enjoy it.
“Part of the inspiration for Creeper World was to approach the RTS from an ‘anti-RTS’ perspective. The trend in realtime strategy lately has been towards more and more graphics, effects, super weapons, giant scale, etc. All cool stuff, and there are some fantastic games along this trend. Creeper World is an attempt at an anti-RTS. An RTS that says you don’t need a map the size of the earth and an army with 1000 things and a team of 3D artists to make it fun, challenging and memorable. There is something important to be said about minimizing the fluff and maximizing the tactics, strategy and gameplay. Creeper World tries to say this.”
What do you consider to be the best part of the game, and what aspect could have been better?
“The creeper is the best thing about the game. Introducing a new enemy type to the RTS genre has been a real thrill. It’s not just a rehash or a minor tweak on a unit type, it is a new kind of enemy and it is really fun to oppose. I still play the game daily myself and blasting that creeper into nothingness still entertains.
“On the negative side, I’d have to say that Creeper World is written in AS3 and published using Adobe Air. This puts a really tight box around what can be done in the game. It limits the graphics, sounds, computational power, etc. Now it produces a very solid cross-platform product, but it places numerous limitations as well.”
What are your goals, what can we expect next?
“So I’d like about lets say 1 billion people to try Creeper World. That’s a good goal to have :)
“Seriously, I plan to keep exposing Creeper World to larger and larger audiences. I ultimately want it to become a referenced game. I believe that anyone’s success in an endeavor can be measured by the degree to which their labors and efforts become referenced. In 5 years, I want people to say ‘Creeper World was the first game to introduce organic-flow enemies’. For me, that would be success.
“As for what is next I would expect to see a web-based prequel for Creeper World. Just a little game to introduce a wider audience to the game dynamic. After that I’d love to start on a Creeper World 2. Yes, with drastically improved graphics and some more ‘normal’ RTS qualities. For the pc, for the Xbox, who knows. In any case Creeper World has been a pleasure to create and release. It’s fun, original, and a concept whose time has arrived. In the future, organic-flow enemies will definitely spread around and ‘flow’ into other RTS titles. Of this I have no doubt.”