[A Monty Python-inspired Tower Defense ball-rolling game? Chilean team Ace Team talks to Gamasutra about their history, acclaimed IGF-nominated first-person action title Zeno Clash, and their unique new Python-y Atlus-published digital title, Rock Of Ages.]
Chilean game developer ACE Team originally started back in 1999, creating unique mods for the Doom and Quake games. In fact, it was working on Zenozoik - the game which eventually became Zeno Clash, its first big hit - back in 2003. Development was then put on hold for a few years, after Andres and Carlos Bordeu were hired to work at Wanako Games.
In 2007, ACE Team was reinstated, and work once again began on Zeno Clash. Two years later, the first-person brawler was released on PC to critical acclaim, and eventually also found its way onto Xbox Live Arcade. A sequel was announced shortly afterwards.
Amidst the revelations at E3 this year, publisher Atlus announced ACE Team's next release, Rock Of Ages - a sort of tower defense meets Marble Madness mash-up. We talked to Carlos Bordeu about the game, ACE Team's relationship with Atlus, and Zeno Clash 2.
What is Rock Of Ages about?
Rock Of Ages is a game where you play as both a boulder and an army who has to defend its castle from the opponentís boulder. The game progresses through different periods of art history and has some humor inspired by Terry Gilliam / Monty Python animations.
The concept appears quite unique. What was your inspiration?
The birth of Rock Of Ages (or 'Boulder' as we originally called it), was quite simple. The game was born from a very simple doodle on a piece of paper. Everyone in the studio was brainstorming for new game ideas.
The objective within the studio was to create a game that was more accessible than Zeno Clash and more arcade, but still very unique and creative. We also wanted to do something in a completely different genre. We had a lot of game ideas but we settled on a mix of a marble game and Tower Defense.
We had the gameplay decided before we picked what visual style we would go with for the game. A lot of guys here are big fans of Monty Python, and after going through some options, this quickly became our first choice.
From what we've seen, the game is visually very striking, with characters looking like they have been ripped straight from ancient tapestries. Why did you opt for 2D characters in a 3D world?
We chose 2D characters for a 3D world because they meshed very well with the humor and also because they fit well with the gameís design. The flat 2D characters don't block the rolling boulder and are easily run over by the player. By making the characters 2D, (and the obstacles 3D), the player immediately knows what stops them and what doesn't.
Players will be rolling their rock through various periods in history. How did you come up with this idea, and how will it fit into the overall concept?
When we were going through several paintings for references we realized we were looking at art from many periods of history. It felt natural from there to break the game apart into different periods of art in history. Itís pretty funny to be making a game where fine art collides with the concept of a boulder that runs over stuff.
You've announced that Rock Of Ages will feature multiplayer action, but what will be offered in terms of single player modes?
The single player mode will have levels with an AI opponent, some special levels and even bosses (with a small story supporting the game's progression). We will be showing more of this in the future.
The name is quite fantastic - did you come up with it first and fit the game around it, or just get lucky that it fit the concept?
For a very long time we just simply called it 'Boulder'. I must admit that the name came as a suggestion from Atlus U.S.A. It's quite funny because at ACE we originally just called Zeno Clash 'Zenozoik', and when brainstorming for options it was someone at Valve who suggested the gameís final title. We haven't come up with the final names for either of our two games.
Atlus published the Zeno Clash Xbox Live Arcade release. What made you stick with them for Rock Of Ages?
We stuck with them because we had a great relationship during the development of ZC:UE, but Atlus U.S.A. also stuck with us. We presented Rock Of Ages to them and they were very interested in the game - to the point where they featured it on the badge holder at E3, and when you get that type of support from a Publisher it is evident you are working with people that believe a lot in your work.
Given that Atlus tend not to publish for PC, does this mean we should not expect a PC release?
"Available for digital distribution in 2011" does not exclude the PC. I don't want to say more as Atlus has still not confirmed the official list of platforms.
Zeno Clash's combat was successful is making the player feel very powerful. Is this something you hope to carry across into Rock Of Ages?
I think making gamers laugh, and providing them the surge of adrenaline that comes from speeding through an obstacle course to defeat the opponent is what we most wish to convey with this game. Playing the levels should be a mix of strategy, action and speed-running.
How is development of Zeno Clash 2 coming along? Has work on the sequel halted now that Rock Of Ages is under development?
Zeno Clash 2 is a very big project for a studio like ours and even though we've done some work, right now our priority is with Rock Of Ages. I think that giving the studio time to come up with new ideas will be very beneficial for our work. Zeno Clash 1 was born after a long time of testing ideas and we don't want to make a simple extension of the same game for the sequel. ZC2 will happen... but when we feel we can deliver something that is a significant leap compared to the original.