Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk
With the impending release of Robot Entertainment’s debut title, Orcs Must Die!, we wrestled Community Manager Justin Korthof away from his deadline and posed to him some very pertinent questions.
Firstly, why must the Orcs die?
In Orcs Must Die!, you play as a character called The War Mage. The War Mage has, for all intents and purposes, recently become the last member of a magical group of guardians known as the Order. The Order was tasked with defending a series of magical rifts that were protected by giant fortresses.
The fortresses are being invaded by an army of orcs and other nasty creatures, and the War Mage is tasked with defending them on his own. To do this, he’s got to learn how to conjure a variety of traps, and to use various spells and weapons to prevent the orcs from getting to, and through, the rifts.
What made you choose a Tower Defence style game over that which your more readily associated with, namely the RTS?
Well, we never sat down and explicitly said “Let’s make this kind of game!” About a year ago, we were kicking the tires on several game ideas, looking for a project that we could build in a relatively short development cycle. There was a lot of pent-up creative energy in the studio, and ultimately that manifested in an early prototype or Orcs Must Die! that was a ton of fun to play.
The game developed over time to become a happy hybrid of Tower Defense, third-person shooter, and strategy gaming. As much combat as there is in the game, there’s a significant strategy component, which is what I think most people would expect from the folks at our studio.
What influenced the decision to make it third-person?
It was the most natural thing for the game. We wanted to put the player down in the action, and the third-person perspective felt really appropriate for our mix of combat and trap-setting. It gave players a little more sense of what was happening in their immediate surroundings.
Would you say that you’ve taken inspiration from any other Tower Defence game, or that there are any you particularly admire?
Nothing specifically has been a core inspiration. Several people in the office were playing various horde-esque game types, and a small handful of people started kicking around similar ideas.
From your previous experiences with Age of Empires and Halo Wars, which did you bring to Orcs Must Die and how did they help shape the project?
Certainly a good grasp of strategy gameplay. Orcs does require as much of your brain as it does of your trigger finger, so having a background in strategy game development was very helpful there.
Additionally, on the console side, there was previously a mountain of thought put into developing console-friendly controls for Halo Wars. Several lessons learned from that helped to rework the controls of Orcs Must Die! when we were bringing it over to the console.
There seems a multitude of way of dispatching the Greenskins, some rather comic, some quite brutal. Was there an open season on suggesting new and painful ways to off the invaders?
Absolutely. Trap suggestions were always open to the whole studio. We all spent time each week playtesting the game and bringing deadly trap ideas to the table.
Do you have a favourite weapon/trap? And were any cut that you wished had been snuck in?
My favorite trap at the moment is the Wall Blades because of how awesome it is to watch a large group of orcs get reduced to bits of orc parts. But frankly, my favorite trap changes on a regular basis. We were fortunately able to get almost all of our favorite traps into the game. As for any that didn’t make it, we may be able to find homes for them in the future. So they’ll stay secret for now.
There’s also an accompanying comic, does this mean there’s a lot more to the world than purely squishing Orcs that will expanded upon?
The story isn’t terribly complex. We explicitly tried to avoid making the narrative too heavy for the game itself. The comic expands on much of the backstory that we only hint at during the game itself. We have a ton of comic fans in the studio. The idea came up from our art department to develop a comic based on the game. It was a really exciting opportunity to do something that is usually reserved for much larger franchises. We had the chance to do it, so we took it. The results have been great.
We’ll be handing out printed versions of the comic at PAX Prime and the digital version of the book will be available on the official website just before the game releases.
I’ve heard some funny stories emerging from the various previews you’ve given, about players setting up traps backwards and hastening their own failure. Have you seen anything truly ridiculous happen in game?
The best story I’ve got came from PAX East, when we announced and showed the game for the first time. A player inadvertently set up a flip trap facing toward the rift and he was literally flinging enemies into the air at just the right angle that they were landing in the rift itself. Once they were airborne, it was over. Since you can only sell back traps in between waves of enemies, he was frantically guarding the flip trap to ensure that it didn’t throw anyone into the rift.
Finally, as a fan of Orcs, what do you have against them? Why them?
They’re really ugly, really smelly, and they’re trying to take over. What more reason could you need? There are more story elements in both the game and the comic that discuss exactly why Orcs Must Die! But we’ll leave those a secret for now.
Many thanks to Robot Entertainment for taking time out of the busy schedule for taking time to talk to us, and to Sean Kauppinen for arranging the interview.
Orcs Must Die! is due out in late Summer on XBLA and Steam.