written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
It's a very rare thing when a game puts me in that comfortable space, that feeling like I don't have to go to work or pay bills or put on pants. It's like warm apple pie, my late grandmother's cooking, that feeling like I'm coming home.
In recent years, many indie developers have been not just looking forward, but looking back. While the Triple A developers have been expanding their experiences, quadrupling map sizes, and building these visceral experiences that top the game sales charts come holiday season after holiday season, we can't forget where games have come from. Enter ATKMTN and their game The Attack Pack. This features two games very different from each other, a stealth spy game or a game where you control a grey alien. Both games play very different but retain that aesthetic style reminiscent of days gone by. I got the chance to interview the Attack Pack team about this project, check out our interview
First off, tell us a bit about this project of yours? The Attack Pack is a unique concept wherein we focus our efforts on a few smaller polished game experiences that are more in line with the scope of games we played growing up. A lot of the games we spent hours upon hours playing as kids could actually be beaten fairly quickly, but because they are so fun you would sit there and play them over and over again. We both had these interesting game concepts we wanted to pursue, and so we did, and organically we came up with the concept of releasing them together, side-by-side.
SOS is an episodic spy-thriller; the player plays the game as the Agent, and revisits different missions over the course of his 40 year career with The Agency. The story's narrative framework takes place through the eyes of a young boy visiting his reclusive grandfather (the now-retired Agent) and exploring his study, which is full of war memorabilia. Interacting with certain items in the room will cause the otherwise-quiet grandfather to perk up and tell the boy the story behind the item, which thrusts the player into the game's core gameplay. We're launching with two episodes and have more planned.
The Grey Man is about an cosmic entity that lands on Earth one day. At it's core the goal of the game is to explore Tinder-Boone National Park and capture anything interesting GM comes across ('anything interesting' being humans in this case). It'll also have to contend with some pesky humans who call themselves 'Forest Rangers'; these humans seem to fear very little and will do everything they can to track Grey Man down and capture it to sate their own curiosities.
How long has this game been in development? SOS and The Grey Man have both been in development since roughly November 2012.
What are some other titles out there (past and current) that influenced you during development of the game?
Oh man, where to begin - this is always a tough question to answer because all of our games contain an amalgamation of design elements from pretty much all of the games we've ever played from the 80's and 90's, with some obvious tweaks based on modern game design philosophy. We don't want to ignore what made games from the era of our childhood so great, but we also aren't pigeon-holing ourselves into designing against some of the common sense solutions that have been solved over the last decade and a half.
For SOS, the main games that we were inspired by were the original Metal Gear series on the NES/MSX and the NES action classic Guerilla Warfare, which we played to death as kids. It was one of our favorites. (So was Sno Bros but that game doesn't really fit into either of these games). That was the starting point, but as it evolved we started thinking about things we wished we could have done in those games - little things, big things. For example, we always wished there was a way to kick over explosive barrels, send them flying down a corridor and then detonate them with a well-placed shot. So we added that into the game. The roll is another good example of this. Shortly after implementing it, we realized the crazy potential it had as a mechanic; the entire game started feeling very different at that point, and before we knew we had made it a pillar of the game's design and critical to long-term survival. Metal Slug also comes into play in terms of the gameplay and the audio, and narrative wise we looked to a combination of Ian Fleming and Monkey Punch (Lupin III). Visually we challenged ourselves to create something familiar and lo-def but at the same time give it a modern spin; we wound up taking pages from the Atari 2600's book, but then going with a flat, clean, minimal color palette that feels like it's from the EGA era of PC games and giving it a really in-depth particle/bullet ballistics system that creates gameplay moments that are more close to modern titles without feeling overproduced. Some people look at it and go 'wow, this looks like crap' and others totally get what we're going for.
For The Grey Man we had some very specific inspirations: Another World, the Oddworld franchise, Ape Escape, and Pokemon were all central inspiration for it. You have the narrative aspect that Another World nailed, where everything's taking place with little to no dialogue - letting the animation do the talking. We wanted to find a way, like in Another World, to impart emotion without a strong, on-the-rails narrative or lots of on-screen words telling you what to feel. We also wanted people to empathize with the Grey Man, as it's devoid of humanity's moral code; yet, at the same time, he has a childlike curiosity for this environment he's now immersed himself in. So far we personally feel like we've captured a lot of that in our current build of The Grey Man. Ape Escape was the inspiration for the central game loop of capturing humans; they all have a set location, pattern, name, etc, which are your main success metric. It doesn't take itself too seriously - neither game does - despite having moments of seriousness, just like Oddworld - it has that very tongue-in-cheek sort of element to it. Visually it's got much more of a 16-bit feel, like Genesis or Turbografx games - a lot more lush, a much more vibrant color palette. Audio-wise we've been very inspired by Fantastic Planet's beautiful psychedelic soundtrack as well as Logan's Run and Ashra, among others.
With all of our games it's in the details - leaves falling from trees, shooting a crate and seeing little bits of wood splinter off of it, having a fire that started in a bush from a cigarette catch on a tree and start a forest fire...those sorts of things. We set our worlds up to have a lot of organic interactions and then cut people loose in them. We've always loved stuff like that.
If you got your Kickstarter goal, how long can we expect to see this game come to light? We're currently aiming for May 2014 if we hit our goal. If we don't, we'll likely have to regroup and adjust our timeline.
And in your humblest opinion, why do you feel that people will enjoy this game? A couple of reasons - the main one is obviously that the games will be fun, of course. An enjoyable game is always our goal; everything else is secondary. Other than that we'd point to the time and money investment, which gamers are always talking about these days. The Attack Pack is not a huge investment on either front; the bundle is going to be under ten dollars and you can beat each game in 2-3 hours (though you can easily spend more in both). We'll also be supporting them for anyone who's really into them and wants more, so there will be additional content to enjoy if they stick with us. Lastly, you're getting two COMPLETELY different experiences - SOS is tense, action packed, has a lot of sharp writing and crazy over-the-top moments that you'd find in 90's arcade games, but it also has a stealth element that makes it really addicting. Grey Man's much more experiential and exploratory, with no violence or killing whatsoever. You can blow up a tanker in SOS and then switch over to Grey Man and watch fireflies float around in a field in between racking their brains trying to figure out how to capture a group of wary campers. We hope people will check us out at the very least; anyone who's had hands on time with the games so far has had a blast, and that's really all that matters to us at the end of the day.