A staple I do in all interviews in order to start things off is to ask that you elaborate a bit on Tower of Guns for those that may not know much about the game?
Joe: Tower of Guns is a fast paced, bullet-hell FPS roguelite. What that means is that it's a first-person shooter in the classic sense of the word (like Doom or Quake or UT99), but it's designed to be completed in a single sitting. It's a difficult game though, so beating it may take a lot of attempts, especially since the entire game is randomized every time you try: the rooms, the enemies, the loot--every play session will be different than the last. The game was mostly a one-man project, although I did have some help from my brother Mike (who did the music) and from a lot of friends who helped test.
Tower of Guns was originally a PC title, when was the decision to move it over to consoles originally made and what were the initial goals in doing so?
Jakub: We didn't know Joe by the time he released Tower of Guns on PC. But we really liked the game, the style, the art, the nostalgia and the humor, so we contacted him, offered our cooperation in bringing the game to consoles and we definitely managed to get on the same wave length. I wouldn't say there were any specific goals, we simply saw Tower of Guns as something that is cool and is missing on the console platforms and we felt the itch to release it on the PSN and Xbox Live.
The game has a certain variety in terms of procedural generation, care to go in-depth a bit more into the random rooms players come across and what goes into that?
Joe: Well, the randomization is very brute-force. I simply supply a pool of rooms that the level chooses from for the player. That let me focus on building a lot of different kinds of rooms that each felt a little different in the way they played, how the player would approach the level, and what sorts of secrets were in them. Each room then has many different ways they can spawn enemies and loot, so even if the player comes across the same room it might provide a completely different challenge.
Building on the procedural generation, could we see this same format possibly used in future titles or what are some game genres you think could benefit from this level of random gameplay variety?
Jakub: Randomly generated content is definitely one of the ways the indie developers can address the raising requirements for the amount of content that should be in games. In order to create worlds of the size of Assassin's™ Creed, or GTA, you need a small army. If you are just a few guys (or even just one), you need to be smart. Being able to recycle, but still surprise. So yeah, I expect the trend of randomly generate games to continue.
Joe: Randomization is a very interesting tool. Jakub has it right, that it allows an indie developer to make something that's still compelling, but it's not just about the generation of more content. Randomization elements allow developers (and players) to better explore mechanics, rather than content. This trend also allows for more scalable design, which is incredibly important with a small team as it means you can flexible add or cut content as the budget allows without compromising the game's core vision.
There's a definite theme of performing runs within Tower of Guns, where did the idea to occasionally reward players with a fun cake area originate from?
Joe: I'll be entirely honest: I don't know. I think I was watching early-adopters play alpha versions of the game on youtube and thought it might be fun to insert a surprise every so often to catch the players off guard.
There were quite a few turrets throughout my various runs trying to bring doom upon on me, what was the ultimate goal in creating these enemies and just how many of these differing turrets are in a typical run along with just how much these enemies vary
Joe: There are somewhere between 40 and 50 different enemies in the game, if I recall correctly. Over a dozen of those are turrets of various types. In a single run you easy fight hundreds of these things, if not thousands. I really liked the idea of the turret as a key enemy because I learned they really helped frame the player's surroundings: With the "bullet hell" amount of bullets I put on screen, having a stationary enemy gave the player a direction to quickly face and concentrate on, and that was only achieveable with a stationary (or slower) enemy. For awhile I had faster moving enemies that also fired a crazy number of bullets, but the result was not as fun as the stationary and slow motion enemies.
I actually quite enjoyed the strange bosses in Tower of Guns, is there any story behind these crazy massive enemies?
Joe: Sort of, but it is the same story behind EVERYTHING in Tower of Guns. When designing the enemies, I really was trying to pretend I was 8 years old again. I didn't want to make a game for kids, but I wanted to make it feel as though it were made BY a kid. So I picked up the following motto: Kids don't care about why something has spikes, only that it has ALL of the spikes. That philosophy drove a lot of Tower of Guns. Its why the game doesn't take itself seriously. It's why there are giant gears and turrets and billion bullets everywhere and why you can find a hundred jumps. I had worked on a lot of games that took themselves very seriously, and I was ready to make a game where "anything goes".
One thing I definitely loved, was the Hugbots. There has to be some sort of story to these weird creatures and they completely help out when you show love back to them right?
Joe: Hah! Those were the first creature I made for the game, and originally they were just a test. My wife loved them though and made me keep them in. They do provide an interesting element for the game, as they act as a base tutorial enemy as the player learns to deal with shooting and moving in the game, but the player does not have to kill them. In fact, good things may happen if they don't!
On top of that, could we expect any sort of sequel, spin-off or other from Tower of Guns in the near future since the whole dungeon gun shooter concept with random adventures was great?
Jakub: Speaking of spin-offs, since the whole game basically looks like a huge torture room and Joe is a skilled writer, it may be a cool idea to publish a book "Fifty Shades of Hugbot". If that does not work then sequel may be the second best idea. Who knows? *
Joe: I'm still holding out hope that a big Hollywood studio will buy the rights to that script I wrote ("Hugbot Highschool, the Musical")
Tower of Guns Site
Grip Games Site