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Zeno Clash Interview: Into the Unknown

Zeno Clash Interview: Into the Unknown

We loved Zeno Clash, the new and incredibly surreal first-person beat-em-up from the independent ACE Team. We loved it so much in fact that we’ve played it through several times since we wrote our final review and still haven’t got tired of its unusual art style and fascinating story yet.

That said, the dense fiction and striking character designs did leave us with a lot of unanswered questions – so we decided to take time out from playing the game and have a chat with the team that created it...

bit-tech: Hi! I’m Joe Martin from bit-tech and I’ve just finished a cup of tea – who are you, what do you do for a living and what’s your daytime beverage of choice?

Andres: Hi! I’m Andres Bordeu from ACE Team. ACE Team is a new indie development studio located at Santiago, Chile. I’m one of the founders of the studio, and my official title at ACE is ‘game designer’, though I’m generally doing a bit of everything: a lot of art, level design, sound design, business relationships, PR work, etc. I even did voice acting for the game as Metamoq, Macra amd Xetse...

Zeno Clash Interview: Into the Unknown
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During office hours my beverage of choice is coffee. During the weekend I’m a social drinker; beer and vodka are my common choices.

BT: ACE Team is a new company, right? Can you give us a little insight into how it got going and how the team came together?

AB: ACE was formed several years ago as a modding team. When we started it was only my two brothers and me: Andres, Carlos and Edmundo. Our first public released mod was Batman Doom for Doom 2. Afterwards, we started adding people to the team and went on to make other mods like The Dark Conjunction for Quake 3.

After doing mods for several years a scouting agency got in touch with us asking if there was a possibility of doing something commercial. We said we were definitely interested, and managed to get hold of the Jupiter Engine – the engine used for No One Lives Forever 2. We developed a game prototype with the tech and called it Zenozoik. In some ways it was the spiritual predecessor of Zeno Clash, but it failed to be a commercial title because it was too ambitious for such a small and unexperienced team.

Zeno Clash Interview: Into the Unknown
Click to enlarge

Later on several of us started working at Wanako Games, another development studio here at Chile. There we met our other partner, David Caloguerea. After a couple of years making all kinds of casual games, among them Assault Heroes for XBLA, we decided to leave Wanako and start our own studio where we could create the games we really wanted to make. Thus, Zeno Clash was born.

BT: Now; Zeno Clash. From the start you must have known that it was massively ambitious, so what made you choose it as your first project?

All the mods we had developed were first person shooters, so it was our favourite genre and the one we were most educated in. We felt we could really bring something new to the first person genre, because most of the companies had fallen into tried formulas and very few were trying really innovative things.

We knew that it would be risky, but on the other hand, wouldn’t have making a generic greyish run & gun shooter be even more risky? How would we avoided being overshadowed by similar AAA titles? It made perfect sense to shine through innovation.