PressA2Join recently had the chance to speak with Tower Of Guns creator Joe Mirabello of Terrible Posture Games and Jakub Mikyska of Grip Games who brought the game to the Xbox One.
Cherry: For gamers that are yet to experience Tower of guns, what can they expect?
Joe: Well, don’t expect a traditional modern FPS. Tower of Guns is randomized, crazy, bullet-hellish, retro-feeling, and it doesn’t take itself seriously. During a really good attempt you might find thirty extra jumps (like, double jumping, but thirty times), a shotgun mod for your rocket launcher, an item that spawns cat faces everywhere, and perhaps a secret gun with some special powers. In moments like those you’ll turn a corner and see a wall of several hundred bullets all crashing towards you, your certain demise spelled out across the screen, and you’ll shrug and say “I got this.”
Cherry: What is your favourite combination of weapon and perk?
Jakub: Any gun with “Uber” perk, because “Uber” makes everything better.
Joe: I really enjoy the RapidFire perk combined with the Ol’ Painless. It makes the way you play the game much, much, different.
Cherry: Having worked as a game artist on other games, how restricted were you in terms of what you could do and what was it like undertaking a project on your own and having complete freedom?
Joe: Well, I had a pretty good foundation in technical art within the Unreal Engine, and with that came a lot of freedom to create any look I wanted, but freedom can actually be a bit paralyzing, since the options can be so overwhelming. I spent quite a bit of time exploring art styles and visual examples to see what felt good for the project and I ended up setting a few important restrictions on myself. First, I adopted a style that I knew I could replicate fast, as I knew I would never complete the project if I adopted an unsustainable (for a solo developer) art style. And second, I kept the artwork technically optimized so it used as few resources as possible. That was mostly for pragmatic reasons: this meant I didn’t have quite as many art assets that required authoring (and so I had a tighter control over my scope) but also I knew I wanted the game to place a heavier weight on projectiles and overall “chaos” within the scene. I hadn’t yet decided my final minimum spec, but I knew it was prudent to aim low on a few budgets, such as shader complexity, so that savings there could account for how much focus I was planning on putting on bullets.
“I kept the artwork technically optimized so it used as few resources as possible”
Cherry: When did you decide you wanted to make tower of guns and how did the idea come about?
Joe: Having worked on RPGs and MMOs my entire career, I was always a bit sad that I’d never gotten to work on an FPS, which was the genre that first got me interested in game development. So, I knew that’s what I wanted to build when I set out down the “indie road”. However, FPS games are generally considered to be graphical showcases, and very very costly (in terms of tech and budget), so I knew I would have to take a very different approach if I were going to make something on my own. Working on my own was actually important for me–I’d just come off of a project with hundreds of coworkers, a canceled MMO that I’d spent five years working on as a core art contributor, and I felt the need to step back and take a bit of a sabbatical from triple-A game development and just make something on my own–at least as much as I could. I did end up getting music help from my brother and I had a lot of friends, family, and fans help with testing. And of course I had help with porting the game once it came to that. 🙂
Right around the time I “went indie” I had been playing a lot of Binding of Isaac, as well as revisiting the classic Doom, and I really was interested in seeing what a combination of the two would feel like. The roguelite genre is actually very well suited to super small, indie developers because of the way the scoping of the project can be handled, and so it seemed like an interesting fit. The rest of the components of Tower of Guns came during development, as I experimented with various ideas and mechanics. Tower of Guns was nothing if not a big experiment, and I’ve been really humbled by the reception.
“FPS games are generally considered to be graphical showcases, and very very costly”
Cherry: Your stories in the game are pretty random, can you give us a peek at some of the stories that didn’t get through?
Joe: Hah, I wrote so many stories that I can’t even remember which ones made it into the final game and didn’t. I remember I wrote one unused story with a killer clown and another with a dude who looked like Alex Trebek (but totally wasn’t) who ran a gameshow in the Tower (that totally had nothing to do with Jeopardy). At first, I was just jotting ideas for why the player could be in this Tower–as delightfully stupid as I could make them, since I knew I wanted a non-serious story. No individual story felt fitting on it’s own, but I realized that all of them, together, as randomized micro stories, felt faithful to the game’s “weird” attitude. There were a few ways stories came about: I started with the script sometimes, sure..but other times I started by just drawing faces on scrap paper until I had a character I was inspired by. And, later on, I had only so many face icons that I’d brought into the engine and so I needed to think of creative ways to recombine characters into new stories…so some of the weirder ones started that way. Tower of Guns purposefully had no rules about what the stories could or could not entail–the game is there to be a very silly, crazy, goofy game and I wanted the player to feel like I’d created a playground first and foremost for them to have fun in.
Cherry: The game definitely has a borderlands feel to it, was that the intention?
Joe: It wasn’t intentional OR unintentional. Tower of Guns definitely has a “poor man’s borderlands” art style, and I was inspired by that technique (which I *think* Afro Samurai started, actually) but that’s only because that art style is incredibly quick to create, which was crucial for me as a (mostly) solo developer. It’s also built in the Unreal Engine, like Borderlands, so there’s a similar core technology–and even some core Unreak mobility and systems code that the two games almost certainly share (so jumping and physics might feel similar at times). Any other similarities weren’t really planned though and I’d place Doom, UT99, Binding of Isaac, Cave Story, Contra, and a slew of other games higher on the list of influences for ToG’s actual gameplay. That’s not to say I didn’t like Borderlands–I loved the games. And Borderlands certainly has perfected that art style better than anyone else.
Cherry: The many secrets in the game are so deviously hidden, how did you become so good at hiding things?
Joe: Haha! Thanks! SOME of the secrets might be hidden deviously. Some are hidden terribly. My trick was just to build a lot more secrets in general than other games these days, so there are a lot of both! Secrets were one of those things that I really miss about retro PC games; there’s a moment when you find a really hidden secret, something super elusive, and you feel like the developer made something special JUST for you, because most players would never find it. I wanted to try and invoke that feeling a little. If I did this even a fraction as well as Doom or Dark Forces or Duke3d did, I’d call that a success.
“I wrote one unused story with a killer clown and another with a dude who looked like Alex Trebek”
Cherry: How did the hugbots come about I loved how killing them ramped up the difficulty, although I couldn’t kill cute robots with hearts above their heads.
Joe: Haha! There’s a long story about that, but in short they were a test enemy and my wife wouldn’t let me take them out. Their relationship with the game’s difficulty is kind of a troll mechanic, but it does serve a good purpose, as it lets the player decide if the difficulty increase is worth the gamble for loot that the hugbot might drop. I make no judgements about anyone who decides to kill or not kill the hugbots, as there can be good reasons for doing either.
Cherry: Apart from Tower of Guns, What has been your favourite game to work on to date and why ?
Jakub: One Epic Game. It was a rip-off of Monster Dash for the PSP and PS3, but with a lot of personality and spoofing some of the gaming’s and cinematic’s most epic moments and clichés. It had a great sense of humor and a nice colorful visuals. When thinking about it, it was like a 2D version of Tower of Guns.
Joe: I think I might have to go find Monster Dash and play it now–that sounds like my kind of game. For me, it’s hard to say; usually I’m most excited about whatever my next project will be, not previous projects.
Cherry: What’s next for Grip games and terrible posture games?
Jakub: Our next game is going to be Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut, which is another fantastic game that we are bringing from PC to consoles!
Joe: I’m always working on something–although I’m not quite ready to talk about my next project yet!
“Our next game is going to be Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut”
Cherry: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us 🙂
Tower Of Guns is now available from the Xbox Store for $14.99 or your regions equivalent.