Like many prototypes, Defendy Rocket started out as something very different. Phil started working on a game during the Christmas break in 2014; called Bounce Blocker, it was based on one of the two bonus games from International Karate+, where the player uses a shield to deflect balls bouncing towards them. This was a game that he'd always enjoyed, and it was something that he hadn't really seen done since. When adapted for touch-screen controls, this mechanic became a floating bat that moved in a 180° arc around a central character, where the position of the bat was determined by the position of the player's finger. Rather than bouncing in from the sides of the screen, the balls came in from all directions; one hit hit was all it took to end the game.
A screen capture of Bounce Blocker's prototype:
A friend has a thing for cute, fluffy creatures so, of course, it had to die a gory death:
Whereas IK+'s bonus game was fun and tense, after some discussion we agreed that Bounce Blocker didn't work for a number of reasons, the main one being that controlling the position of the bat with your finger meant that large sections of the screen were often obscured by your hands, so balls would frequently slip past unnoticed. We also didn't feel like it was any fun; the translation of the gameplay to touch controls left things feeling like a crap Breakout clone where the only aim was to bounce balls away, and there didn't seem to be any way to make this more interesting. The idea was dropped.
After some discussion about what went wrong with Bounce Blocker, we came up with some ideas for touch controls that were more fun, including drawing lines towards the balls in order to destroy them. Phil then hit upon the idea of a game in the style of Missile Command, where you have direct control over the path of your missiles. Drawing a path with your finger feels natural and intuitive, and as long as the enemies are descending from the top of the screen your hands should never really be in the way. Phil started prototyping this during his lunch breaks and in the evenings throughout January and February of 2015. When he decided to leave Ninja Theory at the end of February, the original plan was to have the game ready for release before he left. When I decided I was going to leave as well, and we agreed to start a company together, the game was put on hold until we were ready to start work on it in earnest.
From the outset Defendy Rocket was intended to be simple and quick to make, with a fun and compelling gameplay loop that would hook players immediately. It was also always intended to be a free, advert-supported game; free to play, but not Free-2-Play. No stamina system, no paid-for currency, nothing to stop you from playing the game (This was always going to be one of TriCat's central pillars). UE4 was Phil's engine of choice largely because he'd spent a lot of time familiarising himself with it at Ninja Theory, but also because it allows us to make an entire game using visual scripting via blueprints, without the need to ever go in and touch the code. UE4 also has the advantage of being powerful and flexible enough that we can continue to use it should we decide to increase the scope and scale of our games. Secondary to all of the above, the game was meant to be a way for us to address all of the questions relating to making and releasing games: Making mobile games with UE4, integrating advertising, building for iOS and Android devices, and dealing with Apple's submissions process.
This is what Defendy Rocket looks like at the moment. Bear in mind that this is still a prototype, so everything (most notably the art) is very rough! Even the core gameplay is set to go through a number of changes. We had a long discussion yesterday about what we saw the final game being. The upshot of this was that we want to modify the enemy missile speed and introduce time dilation while you're drawing trails. We're also going to add multiple enemy missile archetypes to mix up the gameplay. The player's rockets will also be considerably faster, so that predicting where impacts will occur should be slightly easier. Since recording this video this morning, you can already now fire multiple rockets; all of these changes allow us to shift the focus of the game over to building and maintaining a long combo, which was something we discussed from the start, but which was previously quite difficult to fit into the mechanics. We're also currently working on putting in proper art, and I have ideas for a dynamic music system that will hopefully keep things sounding fresh, and give the player a sense of reward for staying alive for longer. Finally, there are plans to try implementing a metagame where you can purchase gameplay and cosmetic upgrades.
Our aim is to finish and release Defendy Rocket around four weeks from now, although there will no doubt be more questions that arise in this period, possibly pushing this date back a little. With any luck we can minimise the impact that they have on development!