11bit Studios: Anomaly: Warzone Earth Interview

I had a chance to have a more in-depth discussion with 11bit Studios Senior Writer Pawel Miechowski about their multi-platform success, Anomaly: Warzone Earth.

AD: Was Anomaly originally developed to be on many platforms or was its success in one market a reason to push forward to into others? Currently Steam/PC, Mac & iOS are supported, will any support for Android devices be added in the future?

PM: The idea behind the studio was to create multiplatform projects and actually our engine was developed for that purpose (the Liquid Engine). The first version we were working on was PC&Mac and when this one was getting close to final, we’ve started to develop the game for iOS devices. The engine is capable of development for Android, but currently we’re looking how this platform performs and we do not rule out working on this version in a near future. Other versions are in the works too, but it’s too early to say anything definitely. Multiplatform development is often advised for indie developers – I totally agree with it. It has impact on sales and helps with visibility.

AD: Tokyo and Bagdad are the two locales your travels take you over the course of the single player campaign and squad assault modes. Are there plans to add any downloadable content for new squad assault missions or new units or a full-fledged expansion?

PM: Currently an update is on the way to Anomaly WE on App Store. Apart from the several fixes, it’ll deliver a new Squad Assault mode and it is placed in Baghdad setting too. Additional downloadable content for iOS version is in the works and it’ll introduce some new improvements to the concept and some new locations, although that levels are desert-based too. Much of the “processing capacity” is used for the development of other versions that I mentioned, so we do not have enough powers to produce extra content for PC/Mac version now. However, we’ll do in the future. We’re also planning content for the possible sequel and there are brand new ideas and brand new locations considered.

AD: As new towers are introduced throughout the campaign you are tasked with changing your tactics up as you progress. Level 11 is well known for its increased difficulty due to a new tower unit being introduced. Why do you think this unit poses so much of a problem for people?

PM: Good question. I think we’ve made a mistake with this mission, it was a bit easier at the design stage. But still good tactics is to approach that tower carefully, deploy abilities only behind obstacles, re-form squad often (i.e. to move wounded units to the rear) as well as re-plan the route often and if you use this tactics, this mission appears to be not that difficult. But if it’s not clear to players and they do not know how to apply proper tactics, that is our fault. Previous missions do not require that complicated tactics so players got used to straight-forward fight and then “boom!” – there’s this one which requires deeper tactical engagement. I think I’m going to post a video where it is shown how to complete level 11.

AD: Touch screen controls were recently added into the Steam version for gamers with Windows 7 which provides a similar experience throughout all of the platforms that Anomaly is available for. How important was this for you as a developer to know that anyone who has played it can sit down and play it on any platform with little adjustment?

PM: Well, far more important was to prepare controls as good as possible for each platform, literally to polish each controls system to maximum. Especially that the game introduces innovative gameplay system that had to be clearly explained to a player at an early stage of the game. Most of the players choose mouse and keyboard to play Anomaly, so the touch screen improvement added into Steam was more like a demonstration of technical possibilities of the game and some kind of an announcement of upcoming iOS game.

AD: Were there any particularly design or technical challenges that needed to be overcome to make the numerous platform releases possible?

PM: Technical issue was to adjust graphics for the iOS devices which are less powerful than a PC. Although iPad2 is a big step forward, it’s a machine capable of displaying graphics stuffed with many effects and actually we’re developing such update to Anomaly for iPad2 owners. Anyway, to give an example – the idea behind the PC/Mac version was to make all light dynamics and that couldn’t run on iOS devices, so we had to recompute that and code as lightmaps. Full-screen postprocessing effects had to be limited too. When it comes to design challenges, the biggest was to adjust gameplay system so it would work well on iPhone. For this reason, there is no Commander in iOS version, instead the players is the Commander and performs all Commander’s actions just by tapping the screen. In fact, the entire game for iOS was built from the scratch to be a fully-fledged App Store game. Interface, in-game menu etc. were adjusted to fit platform standards. A player using Apple mobile devices has got used to friendly, intuitive controls accessible by one tap only so we’ve tried to meet this need in our game. I hope it works well.

AD: You’ve created a game that is often referred to as a “Tower Attack” or “Reverse TD” how did this concept come about? Were there any inspirations from titles already released?

PM: Yeah, there are some small flash games where you can play tower attack but it’s just like sending waves onto towers. We’ve wanted more. So when the lead designer was playing a lot of Defense Grid, he came up with the idea that it would be really cool to be the real attacking side with all the consequences, like building a squad out of various possible units, choosing path for it from multiple choices, upgrading the units with earned cash. I think that a really brilliant idea was to implement the option of free squad re-forming and free route re-planning that is accessible any time during the game. That way the squad became a fully interactive troops and a “Reverse TD” was born.

AD: Where does 11bit Studios go from here?

PM: Going into consoles, but there’s not much to say about this yet. DLC for iOS version is in the development and we’re already prototyping new projects as well as ideas and mechanics for future improvements to Anomaly on Steam. Anomaly WE performs pretty good so we’ll definitely develop the brand. And weekend plans of 11 Bit Studios are mostly about… upcoming football derby match between Polonia and Legia in Warsaw!

Be sure to check out our review of Anomaly: Warzone Earth as well. Thanks to Pawel Miechowski and11bit Studios for taking the time to answer some questions!

About @artayd2

@artayd2 can be found traversing hills of toddler entrails while searching for the last pint of unicorn blood to quench his ever present thirst.
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