Developer Blog: Inspiration and Q&A

Written by Mode 7

July 15, 2010 | 11:14

Tags: #determinance #dev-blog #developer-blog #frozen-synapse

Companies: #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.
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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.
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