Hi guys, as you may know we’ve been working pretty hard over the past few months to get the Tribal Towers build into a state where we can finally hand it over to a group of people outside of Ruffian in our Friends & Family Gameplay Test.
This is a new experience for all of us at Ruffian; probably the closest I can think of that we’ve come to this is preparing a demo for E3. The difference with putting a demo together for E3 is that you generally have the publisher applying a fair bit of pressure to get the demo ready for the public or press to play. The publisher tends to be the forcing function that makes you create the demo in the first place – it makes perfect sense from their point of view, but let’s be honest, if it was up to you the last thing you’d want to do is show anyone your game before it’s ready to ship. That would just be madness, wouldn’t it?
So, with that question freshly in mind, you have to ask yourself why are we actually doing this? Have we gone completely mental? If the game’s not finished, what can we possibly hope to achieve from letting anyone play a work in progress version of our game?
This is something I have asked myself countless times over the past couple of months. I’ve managed to keep myself fairly laid back about the entire thing by reminding myself that getting Tribal Towers into the hands of people outside Ruffian is a good thing for the game. We’ll get great early data and player feedback on how the game plays that we can instantly react to, update the build for future playtests allowing us to get a better balance to the game before we release it properly and, just as importantly, it allows us to take our first steps on the long road towards building a community around the game. It’s all good.
This thought process was doing a stellar job of keeping me from freaking out and launching headlong into a full blown panic attack. That is until a couple of weeks ago when we first started getting confirmations back from people who wanted to be part of the gameplay test – people I know and respect. It was at this point that I had to start bringing an extra pair of pants to work each day.
Anyway – with that vividly colourful image seared into your mind – the day of reckoning is finally upon us. Today we’ll be packaging up the build and sending out the download info and the finer details about the game to the first small group taking part in the Friends & Family Gameplay Test. I’m quietly confident that the 4 pairs of pants I brought to work will see me though to the end of the working day…
So, while I’m still Persil white I should probably take the opportunity to give you some information about the game.
Here’s the high-level 2-page overview I wrote to describe the game concept to the team at Ruffian. It’s loosely written in the style of a press release so it’s a bit airy-fairy in places, but you certainly won’t get a game of buzzword bingo out of it. That marketing pish brings me out in a rash.
- THE HEADLINES -
Each generation a merciless Titan demands that a Tower be built in its honour that touches the very sky. Warring Tribes race to build the highest Tower and protect it from their enemy to appease the Titan.
Only the Tribe with the highest Tower will avoid the Titan, Rhadamanthus’ violent retribution. Can you lead your Tribe to victory and avoid the catastrophic wrath of Rhadamanthus?
- THE SETTING -
It is said that many Titans once bestrode our world. And that our ancestors worshipped them as Gods, building soaring cities and Towers in their honour.
But legend tells of a vain, power-hungry Titan, Rhadamanthus, and the terrible, destructive war that he incited. It is said that when the war of the Titans finally ended Rhadamanthus stood alone, victorious. And as the last Titan surveyed the world he now ruled he recoiled to see every city and Tower lying in ruin. Overwhelmed by exhaustion, anger and despair Rhadamanthus lay down where he stood and fell into a deep sleep that would last a lifetime.
Since then, every generation sees Rhadamanthus awaken from his slumber to wander the world, craving adoration and seeking out soaring Towers, the symbols of our Tribe’s worship from a distant past.
Our elders taught us well, when the Titan walks we must build the highest Tower in the land, failure will incur the terrifying wrath of Rhadamanthus and the end of our Tribe.
Those of my generation have never seen Rhadamanthus though the inherited fear has always been there.
And now, as the earth grows restless, I fear it will soon be our time to build our Tower.
- THE SUMMARY -
Set in another world not too unlike our own, fiercely rival Tribes have battled against each other for survival for countless generations.
Their lives and those of their ancestors are spent painstakingly using the natural resources that surround them to build, defend and maintain an astonishingly high Tower to honour The Titan, Rhadamanthus.
Rhadamanthus is cruel and spiteful seeing the Tribes as nothing more than playthings. When he awakens he stalks the land surveying the offerings of the Tribes, the ones who build the highest Tower are spared, while the other Tribes are annihilated by his destructive power.
-THE BACK OF THE BOX -
Experience a game of strategy and tactics that require you to lead your Tribe to gather resources, construct solid defences, build powerful weapons, discover new construction materials, learn new techniques to build stronger structures and build more formidable weapons, and ultimately plan and build a Tower that will touch the sky and withstand the constant assault of your enemies until the time comes for your final judgement by the Titan.
- THE DETAILS -
Many of the mechanics of the game will be familiar to most seasoned players, but it’s the combination of those mechanics that make the game surprisingly fresh, innovative even. It’s this blend of familiarity and new experiences that really makes Tribal Towers stand out as something genuinely new and exciting.
Tribal Towers is viewed from a side on perspective, the game is largely made up of 3D assets, but the game is played in 2D to keep the gameplay easy to understand and control.
The game is controlled via a combination of mouse and keyboard.
Tribes must gather resources to provide the raw materials to build their buildings, defences, weapons and ultimately their Tower.
Resources come in the form of wood, stone and iron. Wood comes from chopping down trees – the only sustainable resource available in the game – stone comes from mining the rocky sections of the terrain and iron must be mined from deep in the earth and brought to the surface.
Each of the materials can be used to create buildings, weapons, projectiles and of course the Tower. Each material will have its own strengths and weaknesses applied to different elements of its use; how quickly and easily they are gathered; how strong they are as a construction material; how effective they are as a projectile weapon; how well they stand up against attack from different types of weapon and different types of projectile, to name but a few.
To gather resources, all the player must do is build the appropriate building; Sawmill, Stone Lodge or Foundry, then tell their Tribe where they want to gather the resources from and their Tribe will do the rest.
Building the Tower is done in a similar way to the Bridge Builder games. The player must piece together each individual strut in a way that is structurally sound. If they build something that cannot withstand its own weight it will come tumbling to the ground with the materials used being broken and lost.
Structures can be maintained during the course of the game, allowing Tribes to repair any damaged struts before the overall structure becomes structurally unstable. Tribes will also be able to replace or upgrade older struts with newer struts made with stronger materials, which will strengthen the overall structure.
Weapons must be built and then manually aimed and fired by the player – Angry Birds style. The weapon will then take a period of time to reload. This delay will push players into creating multiple weapons and will also provide the time needed to manage the resources required to continue improving and strengthening their Tribe.
The player will receive Game Points for building their Tower to certain target heights and also to a lesser extent for causing damage to their enemy’s Tribesmen, buildings, weapons and Tower.
All of the game’s different buildings and weapons are locked at the start of play, and each one can be unlocked and ready to build by spending varying amounts of Game Points; the more advanced the building or weapon, the more Game Points they will cost to unlock.
Each game lasts for 30 minutes, during the last 90 seconds both players will only be allowed to use an additional 10 Girders to repair any damage done to their Tower. This limitation focuses the player on repairing damage rather than building enormous stick thin structures that would never normally last during the normal course of play.
The player with the highest Tower at the end of play wins the game. Simples.
At this point I can genuinely say that Tribal Towers is one of the most moreish games I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved in. The only games I’ve worked on that have come close are the original GTA and Crackdown games.
The 30 minute session time flies by in a heartbeat, you really can’t believe that 28 minutes have passed when the Sudden Death phase kicks in at the end. Every time you finish a game you and your opponent are instantly talking over the details of the match, where you went wrong, what you’d do different next time, new tactics you’ve devised based on things you noticed in the last game, you’re basically itching to play the next game to try out everything that’s in your head.
It’s full of great little moments too; I personally love the art of building the Tower. It just feels really rewarding building it up and up into the sky and strengthening the key parts as you go. I guess that’s my OCD kicking in there, but I know the other guys on the team get just as much of a kick out of building the perfect Tower as I do.
This leads on to my next favourite thing in the game – which is ‘unleashing hell’ on your opponent’s beautifully crafted structure. There’s nothing better than lining up a series of quick fire back to back shots at their Tower then watching as it’s battered into oblivion. With us playing in the same room at Ruffian it’s even more rewarding when you hear your opponent’s pain and anguish when they realise they can’t save their Tower and all they can do is desperately try to patch it up as it slowly bends, splinters and finally explodes into tiny little pixel perfect pieces of their broken spirit. It’s the little things for me.
To wrap this post up I’d like to thank everyone who has put their name forward for our Friends & Family Gameplay Test. We really appreciate you all taking the time to apply. To the guys that will actually be taking part in the first playtest I really hope you all enjoy your time playing Tribal Towers.
Next week I’ll be talking about the inspiration and conception of the original idea for Tribal Towers as well as the going through the course of events that had to take place to take that idea from a high level concept through to our internal pitch process. Towers wasn’t our only idea, it had to win the right to be developed into a prototype and it didn’t get the green light straight away. I had a bit of work to do to get the final sign off from all of the Directors at Ruffian, even the Creative Director can’t make the decision to start work on a game on their own at Ruffian. We work as a team and we make decisions as a team too.
Thanks again for coming along and taking the time to read through my many, many lines of rambling pish. It really is appreciated.