TowerFall Ascension on PS4: Behind the Arena

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TowerFall Ascension on PS4: Behind the Arena

TowerFall Ascension on PS4

TowerFall Ascension launched on PS4 earlier this week, introducing PlayStation gamers to an addictive, challenging, and delightfully pure arena game. With an electric, competitive design and an all new, co-op Quest mode, TowerFall Ascension is a great reminder of why local multiplayer is so much fun.

I touched base with TowerFall creator Matt Thorson to hear more about what inspired TowerFall, how it feels on PS4, and what it was like working as a small indie developer. My thanks to Matt for spending time on PlayStation.Blog!

PlayStation.Blog: What inspired your original vision of TowerFall? Did you always have a competitive element in mind since the game’s conception?

Matt Thorson: I tried a lot of things with TowerFall early on, with a focus on single-player gameplay. But the competitive modes just clicked, and it was obvious I had to follow the game in that direction. I realized, once I started designing the versus gameplay, that I had been thinking about local multiplayer for years. I was happy to finally have an outlet for those ideas.

PlayStation.Blog: What’s it like working as a small indie team?

Matt Thorson: Leading a team and being the backbone of the project was stressful. It’s a heavy weight knowing the whole project can stall if I lose motivation or get stuck on a problem. But it was also incredibly rewarding and just a lot of fun to see the game take shape. It helps that everyone on the TowerFall team is brilliant, capable, and a joy to work with.

PlayStation.Blog: How did you come to the decision to launch TowerFall Ascension on PS4?

Matt Thorson: The game did really well on Ouya and it felt like it was time to expand to a larger audience. We continued working on it because there was a lot of stuff we still wanted to add, and PlayStation was super proactive in helping me figure out how to bring the game to PS4. It felt like the natural next step for TowerFall.

PlayStation.Blog: Why do you think competitive, local multiplayer works so well in TowerFall — and in games as a whole?

Matt Thorson: Local multiplayer is just a great way to bring people together. These games can allow players to express themselves socially through play, and get to know each other by interacting in the game. And those interactions can bleed into the real world. It’s really simple, but so powerful.

Being local rather than online makes those interactions even more personal — these are actual people sitting right next to you, not a vague representation of a person somewhere else in the world. The energy in the room is a big part of TowerFall.

TowerFall Ascension

PlayStation.Blog: How did you settle on the retro sprite style of TowerFall Ascension?

Matt Thorson: The retro style started as a constraint for me, so that I could draw all the graphics myself. When Pedro took over for pixel art, we kept the low resolution and what he did with it is just perfect for the game. I love how he made it so dark and gothic — my original art was a lot less moody.

I love pixel art as an aesthetic. It would be nice to see people appreciate it as more than just a nostalgic artifact of previous generations. It definitely ages better than most 3D styles.

PlayStation.Blog: Tell us about the new quest mode in TowerFall Ascension! How challenging was it to implement this addition?

Matt Thorson: Making Quest mode was scary because I had already tried four or five different variations on single-player modes and failed. But I gained a lot of understanding of what makes TowerFall fun by working with the versus mode, and that knowledge helped us make something I’m really proud of. I think it stands on its own as an interesting part of the game. Quest mode lets you see the same mechanics from versus mode in a new light.

PlayStation.Blog: What new power-ups have been added in TowerFall Ascension? How do they compare to the original power-ups?

Matt Thorson: There are four new arrows types and one new orb pickup that affects the entire arena in a crazy new way (you’ll know it when you see it). My favorite new arrows are probably the drill arrows that burrow through walls toward players — they completely change the game.

When I created these new power-ups, I had a more complete understanding of how players think while they play TowerFall. So they were designed to shake things up, to encourage players to change their strategies, and surprise each other even more.

TowerFall AscensionTowerFall Ascension

PlayStation.Blog: What was it like working with PS4? What sort of advantages does DualShock 4 provide you as a designer and the players you’re designing for?

Matt Thorson: Bringing TowerFall to PS4 went smoothly — Sickhead Games down in Dallas handled the majority of the work. DualShock 4 quickly became my favorite controller to play the game with — the d-pad is perfect for TowerFall.

Once I realized how useful the controller speaker was, we experimented with that a lot, too. It’s a cool way to give feedback to specific players. For example, when you die or run out of arrows, the sounds play through your controller as well as the TV, making it that much more clear what is happening. In a game as fast and chaotic as TowerFall, this feedback helps a lot.

PlayStation.Blog: What’s your favorite local multiplayer game? Did you draw inspiration from it, or try to design in a different direction?

Matt Thorson: Smash Bros. Melee. I’ve played thousands of hours of that game, and studied every aspect of it. TowerFall draws inspiration from a lot of places, but the influence from Melee is most apparent once you know to look for it.

Unlike Smash Bros., I designed TowerFall with the hope that it would develop a hardcore player community, but I wanted to capture the same pick-up-and-play instant fun, the focus on spatial positioning, and dramatic kills.

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  • One of my favorite multiplayer game is Castlevania harmony of despair, the game seems to have endless fun I wish it was more like SOTN style but it’s still a lot of fun to play with your friends. Besides that I like playstation allstars battle royale it’s a fun but seem to loose it’s touch cuz lack of support for it, I still like playstation allstars battle royale way more than Smash Bros. Melee. This game TowerFall looks like a lot of fun, I plan on trying it out.

  • Ryan, maybe you can answer this since the Playstation Update comment thread has been abandoned by the staff.

    There’s a CoD: MW bundle on the store this week, but it’s impossible to find out what versions of the games that bundle includes. Does it include the variety map pack for MW1? Does it include the stimulus package for MW2? Does it include the DLC1 for MW3? If it’s simply the bare bones versions of those games without those packages, it’s not worth buying and you’re better off buying the bundles individually (hell, even then this “sale” is only saving you $2 per game… which is pretty sad when the same games are on sale on Steam right now at 50% off). But I’m mainly a console gamer (with a Mac, so those PC games can’t play on my computer) and want to play them on my PS3 anyway. However, I’ll be pretty upset if I buy the MW 1-3 bundle and find out afterwards that instead of saving money I’m going to have to spend even more $ to buy the extras separately.

    I’d really appreciate it if you could help me out and answer this before I throw down $60 and potentially get screwed from the lack of info about the sale prices. Thanks a million!

  • Come on. I didn’t get a next-gen console to play games like Tower Fall and Mercenary Kings that look like they were meant for a regular or super Nintendo. Meanwhile Sony is still releasing games like EverQuest Next Landmark only on P.C. What is the deal?

  • Love that you mentioned your reason for local play…However not everyone if fortunate enough to have friends that can come over and play games like this. I myself am over 30 and at best can get together with friends for lunch every 6 months…Let alone have them come over to play video games.

    I think you are really alienating ppl that are not “young” or “busy”. Life no longer allows for me to play games locally. Would have loved to experience this.

  • Oh and Beyond, Ryan!

  • more crap on ps4

  • I want to play this on my vita, it will fit so well for that platform.

  • Such a great game.

    The local vs online multiplayer has been stirring up quite a bit lately. I get the whole couch multiplayer is fun and feels cool part, but it’s really a bummer not being able to play the game with my friends and family that live across the country. I think the virtual couch that exists with parties and voice chat is still a fun time. It really would be nice to play this with my brother that lives 14 hours away.

  • @hahpurr I got a PS4 for playing FUN games… and this give a lot of fun. If you want AAA games, you already have plenty of them (Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, Call of Duty, FIFA, NBA, NFS, Infamous and Metal Gear next week, etc)

    @LURKING_WOLF Only crap I see here is your comment.

    @Sub-Zero Totally agree. This game would be perfect with online multiplayer.

    I bought the game and it’s a BIG surprise. Great game.

  • #6
    Kind of agree, they promised us so many titles and they keep getting delayed….
    Your comment isn’t any better honestly… Metal Gear is crap (Less than 2 hours long) , recommending Call of Duty.. really? That’s the worst series to drag out in the history of the gaming industry…. Infamous will be the only good game out of PS4 taking FULL advantage of the console.

  • Your reasoning for local multiplayer is fine and all, but sadly times have changed and devs need to as well. I’m sure I am far from alone on this, but my friends and I have pretty busy lives and can’t sit around together for gaming sessions much anymore. We’ve got families to take care of, so our free time at home is usually spent online playing games with each other, not on a couch side by side. Having local multi is fine, but leaving out online multi is not fine.

  • @subadictos Sports games are crap. I don’t play them. As for all the rest I pre-order them and beat them all. Except for Battlefield 4 because the game is 2 glitchy and my save point never shows up on campaign mode. I got a PS4 to play the best, the biggest, and the most detailed games. I am really anxious for Infamous, but I am sure that I will beat it once and maybe twice before another good game comes out. The AAA titles are 2 few and far between and these games that they use for filler between them all look like they came from 20 or 25 years ago when I first started gaming.

  • This needs online.

    I appreciate the offline modes, but online modes are also welcome!! Especially for an Indie game like this.

  • I really love this game so far. Glad I got it on sale with PS+. It’s a very addictive game! Wish there was more!

  • I really hope this game gets DLC! It would be amazing! Like maybe a new character or two :D

  • This game makes me wish I had 4 controllers for the PS4. It is still great fun with the 2 players that I have been playing, but it is clear to me that 4 players would be even better. Those controllers can be so expensive, and I have other games to buy, and TowerFall is the only game that justifies 4 controllers. Anyway, highly recommend this game to everyone I know.

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