Developer Blog: Inspiration and Q&A

Posted on 15th Jul 2010 at 11:14 by Mode 7 with 9 comments

Mode 7
I talked a little bit about our first game, Determinance, on my last blogpost. So, now we’ll advance merrily forwards in time and take a look at the origins of Frozen Synapse.

The key inspiration for Frozen Synapse was Laser Squad Nemesis, a turn-based multiplayer strategy game from some of the team who worked on the old XCOM games. Once, Ian and I dug it out and played a match during the early phases of developing Frozen Synapse.

I’d never really played Laser Squad before, whereas he had been into it for years. We both spent time setting up our units, shuffling them around in early turns and trying to get into positions where we could gain coverage over larger areas of the map. As the turns went by, we slowly advanced on each others’ positions, sending out individual units to scout and then quickly pushing up the rest of our forces to give them support.

Eventually, we spotted each other. I knew Ian was the superior player, so I decided to go for broke. I set up a feint, attacking in the most obvious way possible: as I’m terrible at games, this is something Ian would have expected me to do! At the same time, I sent a small squad around the back and unleashed a flurry of grenades.

Developer Blog: Inspiration and Q&A
Laser Squad Nemesis was a major inspiration for Frozen Synapse

It’s a brilliant game, but one thing struck me about it. Although the early turns were great for building up tension, virtually nothing happened in them. The scouting phase was usually ended by someone getting bored and then exposing themselves (snigger) just to advance the game.

This was something Ian had told me before too: that it was a great game, but was very hard to get to the meat of the fun. What if we could make a game that was just about the feint / attack / counterattack phase, and not the seemingly endless build-up?

That was the premise that we adopted, and next week I’ll discuss how we developed the game from there.

But for now, I’ve decided to devote some weeks to mostly answering your questions, so here goes. It was really nice to see a flurry of comments on the last blog, so if you've got any more questions then be sure to ask in the comments...

Developer Blog: Inspiration and Q&A
If you have questions for Mode7 Games, drop them in the comments!

Question: I'd like to know.... what dev tools you use for coding, audio creation and 2d/3d visuals? Is it your own engine? What do you code in? - Denis_iii

Answer: Frozen Synapse was built on Torque 2D with a lot of stuff re-jigged, including the renderer, so it’s written in C++. Audio is done entirely by me in Ableton Live. Art was done in Photoshop and 3DS Max by our contract artists. All fairly standard, apart from the use of Live, but that’s just me!

Ian wouldn’t let me get away with answering this question if we didn’t slip in a small rant about Torque. His stock line is that everyone who loves Torque is too busy shipping finished games with it to bother defending it on the internet, so you only hear the voices of the naysayers!

Question: How do I get a job in the industry? - Omnituens

Answer: I would always suggest that you don’t get a job in the industry, at least not straight away. I don’t think there’s any substitute for doing your own thing in life: if you want to eventually make games, then make a game yourself. You might have to do this at uni, or while doing a different full-time job, both of which are tough, but it really is the best way.

Even if you do want to end up working for someone else, which is fine, it can really help to show initiative and tackle something interesting yourself. Mods and small games are a great idea: I recently saw some games that students had made as part of a 48-hour game camp-type affair and was blown away by the ingenuity and quality; so were other guys from bigger development studios. It really doesn’t take long to make something that will impress people!

Paul Taylor is the Joint Managing Director of Mode 7 Games, makers of Frozen Synapse.


Discuss in the forums Reply
Cabe6403 15th July 2010, 13:26 Quote
Excellent concept this little blog series here.

Question: Does Mode7 have any plans to release Frozen Synapse on any other platforms? For example: Xbox Live or the PlayStation store?
CardJoe 15th July 2010, 13:51 Quote
Originally Posted by Cabe6403
Excellent concept this little blog series here.

Question: Does Mode7 have any plans to release Frozen Synapse on any other platforms? For example: Xbox Live or the PlayStation store?

Paul's already answered that in a previous inteview ;)

BT: Frozen Synapse features a rather striking and stylised, but also simple art style and with a few interface tweaks we thought it may port well to consoles. Is that on the cards, or are you strictly limiting yourself to PC?

PT: We'd love to be on consoles: there's certainly some perceived resistance to certain kinds of strategy titles; I don't know how real that is.

Essentially, we do need to get some meetings going and talk to acquisitions people – that's something I'm going to work on soon, and if anyone is interested they can feel free to get in touch. That said, we're definitely sticking to our guns on the PC release – that will happen first and be our first priority.

Full Interview Here:
Omnituens 15th July 2010, 14:50 Quote
Wait, what? I asked a question?!

I have done a degree in computer and video games, but no one will even take me seriously as I have not worked on an AAA title. It takes the piss a bit that I have essentially wasted 3 years of my life and alot of money on something that should give me the edge, but unfortunatly hasn't. I have a functioning Source mod under my belt from it though, well, unless one of the many updates to the engine since we finished it hasn't broken it.

I'm currently looking for a mod team to get behind though, hopefully I can find a group to work with who are serious about getting the thing done.
C-Sniper 15th July 2010, 14:57 Quote

Since it is stated that the engine is at least developed on the C++ platform is there a chance that this may be released on mac or linux?

I know I will be picking up a copy for Windows but if either of the two options listed above is available I might pick up an extra copy for one of those.

Question answered on your FAQ. Seems like I will be picking up 2 copies :D

Also, great idea with this blog, and cheers to Mode 7 for being the first ones to partake in it. :)
Sifter3000 15th July 2010, 16:47 Quote
I loved Laser Squad Nemesis; terrific game, but I agree that the pacing never felt quite right. Still, great place to draw inspiration from - when it worked, it was incredibly tense.
sotu1 16th July 2010, 09:05 Quote
Hmm...Is that a schoolboy error I see or is that deliberate? Q&A is question whereas QA means quality assurance....Many industry insiders have stressed that you should never confuse the two in an interview because it just shows your ignorance of what the two are.

@Omnituens - Unfortunately everyone has a degree nowadays. What's more important to dev studios is that you have a demonstrable working elements of a game and you can show how it would fit into other games. Do something small that makes you stand out! Or aim for some of the smaller studios to start off with and get some experience under your belt.
sotu1 16th July 2010, 09:05 Quote
In answer to my own question, yes that is Q&A :)
Ending Credits 16th July 2010, 09:44 Quote
One thing I was wondering is how important playtesting is in the development cycle and whever it's possible to overdo it? (I know in AAA titles beta testing/QA can take up 6 months or so although by that time most of the features are fixed. I don't know how much time is spent during production)
Omnituens 16th July 2010, 11:59 Quote
Originally Posted by sotu1
Or aim for some of the smaller studios to start off with and get some experience under your belt.
Nope - smaller studios can't afford to have anyone than the experienced workers, I've already tried many smaller companies. Large ones say try the smaller ones, and the smaller ones say try the larger.

It's like going round in *$"^ing circles trying to get in.
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