Interview: Intrinsic Games - Amoebattle for DSiWare
Posted by James Newton
Your questions, answered
A while ago we invited you to submit your questions for Amoebattle developer Intrinsic Games. We pitched the best ones to the indie developer and now we have a whole stack of answers.
@Squiggle55 - What sets Amoebattle apart from other games in the genre?
Traditionally, most games in the Real Time Strategy genre are for the PC - for the most part, they have required the keyboard and mouse setup, and the popularity of the genre has been somewhat limited to the PC market.
Amoebattle is bringing the genre to the handheld market. It's built from the ground up for the Nintendo DSi, taking advantage of the system's touchscreen and dual screen features - what fans have been wanting ever since the DS was first revealed. And it's the full RTS experience - not just a Tower Defense or a Galcon-styled title. You'll have full control over each of your units.
One major difference in Amoebattle is that we removed bases. This was a decision we made early on in the development of the game, and it really benefits the game. We realized that it was more frustrating than fun trying to scroll back and forth between a base and your units on the DSi's 3.5 inch screen. It also encourages players to move around the map and explore, finding hidden algae (the amoeba food) that can give you an advantage or a different path. Plus, amoebas aren't necessarily known for settling down, so removing bases went along well with the nomadic-nature of amoebas.
@Alexneon - Will it have online multiplayer?
We're not planning to have online multiplayer in Amoebattle at this time.
WAIT! Don't leave!
There's a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost was the decision to create a great campaign. Despite the complexity of developing an RTS title and the amount of content in Amoebattle, we're just a small indie team, and so we have to choose our battles. Rather than trying to do everything and ending up with a mediocre - or worse - campaign and multiplayer, we decided to focus our efforts on a creating a really solid single player campaign. Furthermore, there's a lot of additional requirements and work necessary to use Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, beyond what we could handle in a reasonable timeframe. We haven't created a multiplayer DS game before, which itself brings its own set of challenges, and so jumping into online multiplayer just wasn't feasible.
@Slidecage — How long of a game is it - how many levels/maps? What replay value is there - multiple endings etc.?
There's going to be a total of 11 missions, each more progressively difficult than the last. The first 4 missions have been tuned to be accessible, but a little challenging, for newcomers and casual RTS players. The next 3 missions will be challenging for more experienced RTS players, and the final 3 missions will be a challenge to RTS veterans. Each mission takes roughly between 30-50 minutes to play through.
In terms of replay value, because bases have been removed, enemy movement can also be a bit random. While the objectives remain the same, how and when you'll encounter enemy amoebas, and the resulting strategy and tactics used, might differ. Additionally, as you progress through the campaign, you'll unlock new types of amoebas, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Once unlocked, you can use that amoeba in all future missions, allowing you to try out different strategies and tactical options on missions. Go for brute force with the Shark Amoebas, or stay afar with the ranged Wasp Amoeba - it's however you want to play.
@quickfingers — How would a fan of Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics enjoy this game?
First, just to clarify, games like Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics are considered part of the Turn Based Strategy genre. Amoebattle is a Real Time Strategy title, closer to Starcraft and Command & Conquer.
That said, because Amoebattle removes the concept of bases, it lends itself to being a much more tactical game. You can't amass a ton of resources and spawn a bunch of amoebas, so managing each individual amoeba becomes more essential. Terrain and troop placement also plays an important part in the game - certain types of terrain can give your amoebas a defensive bonus or can slow down enemies, and you'll want to keep any melee units in front and range attackers in the back. You'll have increasingly powerful amoebas at your disposal to fight against the corruption that threatens the microscopic world as you complete each mission
@Derp — Any button shortcuts for commands or is it all touch screen?
While the game primarily uses the touchscreen, you can use the Control Pad and ABXY Buttons to control the camera, and use the L/R Buttons to toggle the drop-down menu, which gives you access to items like the Replicate and Mutate options and Control Groups (yup, there's control groups!). In fact, Amoebattle was developed with the use of both the touchscreen and buttons in mind.
@Argus — How long did Amoebattle take to develop?
We're still in the midst of production for Amoebattle, but we're probably looking at a 18 month timeline for the development.
What's it like to develop for DSiWare?
It's quite interesting. The DS and 3DS can offer some really neat gameplay experiences, and we try to take advantage of the unique features of the hardware. DSiWare lets us try out new ideas and take risks because of the downloadable nature of it. Because of our experience working on the DSi with Divergent Shift, we decided to continue developing for the platform. It does have its share of problems - there's a lot more requirements to release a DSiWare game than a game on the App Store, for example, and the development costs are higher - but there's only a handful of developers on DSiWare, giving a game like Amoebattle a chance to really stand out.
Are there any plans to bring Amoebattle to other platforms?
We've talked about it and discussed various options, but our focus at this point is on the DSiWare version of the game.
What other projects should we expect from Intrinsic Games in the future?
We're going to continue developing interesting games that are unique, different, and engaging.
Those of you who have visited the Intrinsic Games website might have seen that we're teasing one more project. We'll have more information and an announcement when the time comes, so be on the lookout for that!
Thanks to all the users who submitted questions.