Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
How The West Will Be Won: Michael Bayne on Bang! Howdy
View All     RSS
September 26, 2018
arrowPress Releases
September 26, 2018
Games Press
View All     RSS
  • Editor-In-Chief:
    Kris Graft
  • Editor:
    Alex Wawro
  • Contributors:
    Chris Kerr
    Alissa McAloon
    Emma Kidwell
    Bryant Francis
    Katherine Cross
  • Advertising:
    Libby Kruse

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


How The West Will Be Won: Michael Bayne on Bang! Howdy

October 2, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

Michael Bayne is the Project Leader for Three Rings Design’s new game, Bang! Howdy, currently in its beta stage. After entering the casual games market nearly a decade ago as the founder of, Bayne worked with Hasboro to build, and went on to form Three Rings with co-founder Daniel James. He also led the engineering on Three Rings’ last hit, Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates.

Gamasutra: Where did the idea for Bang! Howdy come from? What inspired you to combine real-time strategy and the Wild West?

Michael Bayne: I was taking a sabbatical after our three and a half year push to get Puzzle Pirates out the door and was thinking about new gameplay ideas. One day, on a hike in the forest, I had the idea to make a strategy game where the units were different kinds of bugs. It seemed to me that people had an intuitive idea of bugs' capabilities and they'd make a natural mapping between their idea of a bug and the unit it represented.

For example, an ant could be a basic soldier unit, a wasp a powerful air unit, a spider a ground unit and so on. Further, I wanted to work in their natural special abilities. An ant could carry leaves and use them to build bridges over small gaps. A caterpillar could eat through grass creating blades to be carried by the ants. Spiders could spin webs to lay traps for other insects. A stink bug could... well you get the idea.

At the same time I was thinking about a way to get around the problems I saw with both real-time strategy and turn-based strategy mechanics. I felt that RTS’s had become overly complex and too fast-paced and had lost the approachability of turn-based strategy games where things were discrete and easier to understand. On the other hand, turn-based strategy games tend to suffer from the problem of being no fun when it's not your turn.

With both these ideas in mind, I started working on a prototype that involved these insect units and the discrete cool-down timer-based mechanic that we're using. The game mechanic was working great but I was getting bogged down in the details of turning the insect world into a balanced set of strategy units. So I decided to give the bugs a rest for a bit so that I could explore the game mechanic and rewrote the prototype using a standard set of war game strategy units: soldier, tank, helicopter, artillery, which I called "Bang!" because of all the shooting. The first prototype was called "Bugs!" I guess I had a thing for punchy names with exclamation marks at the time.

We played the prototype at the office a fair bit and it was a heck of a lot of fun. There were a lot of things we wanted to experiment with in our next game after Puzzle Pirates, and trying them in the context of a casual strategy game that would hopefully not take too long to bring to market seemed like a good idea, so we decided to move ahead and turn the prototype into a real game.

None of us were particularly interested in propagating the same tired strategy game themes: war and men-in-tights fantasy. So we brainstormed for a while on what sort of theme would provide a rich source of inspiration. After thankfully rejecting ideas involving Atlanteans versus mermaids and Santa's Elves versus the Easter Bunny, one of our artists, Jon, suggested combining cowboys and steam-punk robots in a sort of
fantastical Wild West. This immediately made me think "Bang! Howdy Pardner," a line from a hilarious Peter Sellers movie called “The Party”. We later shortened the name to "Bang! Howdy" after deciding to go with the theme.

GS: Would you say the premise for Puzzle Pirates was thought up in a similar way--i.e. mechanics first, theme second?

MB: Not entirely. Daniel first had the idea of combining casual puzzle games with a massively-multiplayer virtual world and the pirate theme followed soon after. But everything else was designed with those two ideas already firmly in mind.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

Related Jobs

Experius — Culver City, California, United States

Unreal 4 Designer/Engineer
Cryptic Studios
Cryptic Studios — Los Gatos, California, United States

Level Designer, Magic The Gathering MMO
New York University Tisch School of the Arts
New York University Tisch School of the Arts — New York, New York, United States

Assistant Arts Professor, NYU Game Center
Deep Silver Volition
Deep Silver Volition — Champaign, Illinois, United States

Studio Design Director

Loading Comments

loader image