Monster Madness

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Hi everyone, the response to my blog entry in August was great, and I finally have some spare time. So here’s an entry about our latest PixelJunk title: PixelJunk Monsters!

Everyone here at Q-Games loves real-time strategy games, from Warcraft through to Command & Conquer and Company Of Heroes, etc., but the Japanese public simply don’t buy that genre yet. So one thing I really wanted to do with Monsters is take the simple RTS concept of building and researching and having base defenses (a concept that has been used in Warcraft tower-defense mods and more recently in its Flash incarnations) and wrap it all in a completely different style and mode of gameplay that the Japanese public (and hopefully the West too, of course!) would really get into.

RTS’s are historically controlled by a roving cursor (either a mouse, or an analogue controller) and right from the start I decided to take that away and replace it with a cute character you control. You run around as this little defender-of-the-forests type chap, collecting money and building defensive towers along the paths to your base. You can only build towers where we have placed trees in the stages, which gave us enormous control over the design and balancing of each map. As a result we have over 20 very different stages, all of which are unique and addictive to play.

Another major help in the design was the addition of gems that the monsters sometimes drop; using these gems you can research more advanced towers, or upgrade existing ones. If you like though, you can upgrade existing towers by doing a little rain-dance-type performance in front of them too. The longer you dance, the more powerful the towers become!

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Out of all the games I have made over the years, PixelJunk Monsters was probably the hardest to balance and tune! In the end, it took a whole team of planners (Japanese for game designer) to play the game non-stop for a month and record their data into a database from which we adjusted money/gems/toughness of enemies etc., accordingly. They were all thoroughly addicted by the end of this process and even after completing the game in its entirety numerous times they still boot it up for “one more go.” The online rankings are going to be pretty competitive for this title and there are separate tables for cooperative and single play. The cooperative mode actually gets people to talk to each other as they play, and seeing as girls love this game (no, honestly, they do!), Monsters could become an important tool in every lad’s arsenal!

On a completely different (but important) note, some people might be looking for flashy graphics with thousands of polygons and in-your-face transparency/effects everywhere but if every game is like that things begin to look the same; so for this title we have purposefully gone for a style that hearkens back to the pre-PlayStation era. By using a ton of meticulously hand-drawn 2D art instead of 3D modeled graphics, we have tried to re-create the feel of some of those older classics (we still go overboard on shader effects though, as they are so much fun to program!).

Our next title will be yet another completely different style (as was PixelJunk Racers). In fact, this freedom of style and expression we are discovering is one of the great things about developing indie games. With your continuing support (i.e. please keep buying our games, they only cost approximately 1.5 beers!) we’ll continue fiddling and experimenting with new concepts and styles for as long as we can come up with the ideas and cash to support them!

PixelJunk Monsters will be available on PlayStation Network globally in January.

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