Being shown at this year’s Gamescom event in Cologne (Germany), and inside the Steam booth, was a colourful little side-scrolling platform-blaster by the name of Awesomenauts. Initially evading my attention, this latest offering by Ronimo Games eventually managed to reveal its charms as the show wore on. However, and after having recently been released on Valve’s Steam distribution service, Awesomenauts has managed to carve out a serious reputation for itself as a fun multiplayer game. Knowing this, and with Ronimo Games programmer Ted de Vries at hand, I was only too keen to take him aside and ask him as to what makes Awesomenauts so unique in the DOTA-style genre. Enjoy the interview.
What are you doing at Gamescom, Mr de Vries?
Ted: Well, I’ve been showing off Awesomenauts – a DOTA-style game, for those who are familiar with the term.
For those who aren’t necessarily familiar with the “DOTA” term, how would you describe it?
Ted: DOTA-style games are tough to describe in a few sentences, but they all revolve around having lots of different champions to play with, who all have a number of abilities. What makes DOTA-style games difficult to learn (from a new player’s perspective), is that you have to learn to play with multiple champions. In the case of DOTA, you have almost 100 champions who all have different abilities, and this makes it really difficult for new players to understand the game in a few hours.
But with Awesomenauts, we only have 10 players (at the moment). So in essence therefore, Awesomenauts is designed as a “casual” DOTA-style game.
Apart from Awesomenauts being a DOTA-style game, what is the aim of the game, and what do you do exactly?
Ted: So after selecting your champion, you enter the game, where you are in a team of 3 champions (all controlled by humans). You have a base, which is protected by a few towers, and your goal is to simply destroy the other base whilst protecting your own. You have to go through the enemy towers first, and once they’re all down, you can progress to the base and destroy it. After you’ve done that, you’ve won. Obviously, the goal of the other team is to defend their base, and to destroy your base in the process.
Awesomenauts is a 2D side-scrolling platform blaster. Are all DOTA-style games 2D side-scrolling platform blasters, or is Awesomenauts unique in that sense?
Ted: No, Awesomenauts is definitely unique in that sense. So far, all DOTA-style games are top-down (in perspective), and we wanted to ensure that Awesomenauts was different in that regard. When we started development for Awesomenauts, we really did like DOTA-style games, but we really didn’t want to make a DOTA clone. In the end, we decided to make it 2D and have it play more as a platformer.
How are DOTA-style games different from “tower-defence” games?
Ted: In DOTA-style games, you play as one character. In tower-defence games however, you construct towers so as to defend yourself against waves of enemies.
The game reminds me the old Treasure classic Gunstar Heroes, as well as the more recent Nintendo franchise Smash Bros – in that you have 3 players battling against each other in the same 2D arena. Considering its 2D side-scrolling platform blasting mechanics, what was the inspiration for Awesomenauts?
Ted: The main inspiration for Awesomenauts was that when we first got the idea for the title, we had been playing lots of games like DOTA and League of Legends. At Ronimo Games, we mainly makes 2D titles, and we really thought that the DOTA genre would benefit from a 2D-style offering. Of course, the games you’ve mentioned are also games that we’ve played, and it’s obvious that Awesomenauts would play like them as we’ve all played those games.
How long has Ronimo Games been established for, and what other games have you produced in the meantime?
Ted: Ronimo Games has been established for 5 years now. Before Awesomenauts, we released Swords & Soldiers – another 2D side-scrolling strategy game which was quite unique at the time of its release. Swords & Soldiers was first released on Wii-Ware, and then later on Steam and the PS3.
At the moment, Awesomenauts is only available on Steam/PC, but what other platforms are you considering releasing the game on?
Ted: So Awesomenauts was released on Steam recently. But prior to that, we released the game on XBLA (Xbox 360) and PSN (PS3).
How difficult was it for you to release Awesomenauts on PSN and XBLA?
Ted: It was pretty hard, especially as we are a small studio of only 10 people. It’s tough to develop multi-player games for 2 platforms at the same time, as it’s extremely complex and time-consuming, so the game took a while to get up and running.
Did Microsoft ever have any exclusivity contracts with Ronimo over the release of Awesomenauts, or even have timed-release exclusivity?
Ted: No, never. From the moment we wanted to make Awesomenauts for consoles, we wanted to release the game on both platforms.
What other platforms are you thinking of releasing Awesomenauts on?
Ted: At the moment, we are concentrating on making the game better. But if an opportunity does present itself, then we will think about it, but at the moment we want to concentrate on making the game better on all (available) platforms.
What is your strategy for making the game “better”?
Ted: DOTA-style games usually have new content added in the form of levels and champions, and that’s what we want to do.
Will this “improvement” be in the form of DLC?
Ted: At the moment, it will be in the form of DLC and updates.
Some developers prefer to make improvements to their games via patches and DLC, while others prefer to make wholesale changes via a sequel. Although it offers an entirely different type of experience, a game that could have arguably benefited from a concerted DLC strategy is Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 title. Why do you think some developers prefer a DLC approach, as opposed to a more sequel-driven approach?
Ted: I guess when developers release a sequel, consumers expect a lot more content than if you were to update the game via DLC.
What other plans does Ronimo Games have apart from improving Awesomenauts?
Ted: That’s something I really can’t speak of right now. We want to focus on Awesomenauts first, and then start new projects.