Indie Games Summer Uprising begins in a few weeks and among the titles selected is Discord Games’ debut game, Take Arms. Take Arms is 2D, class-based shooter, combining the mechanics of Contra-style 2D combat with the strategy of a Team Fortress 2-type of class-based shooter.
Set in a war-torn future, Take Arms allows players to select among three classes (Striker, Grunt, and Destroyer) for three standard game modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. Games support up to eight players over Xbox LIVE, though players will also be able to play locally using bots, if they so desire.
With Indie Games Summer Uprising around the corner, I was able to talk to Discord’s James Petruzzi about Take Arms, Discord, and the promotion itself.
IGC: Tell us a little bit about Discord Games.
James Petruzzi: Discord began in 2009 when long-time friend Tim Dodd and I started getting serious about making games. We had been tinkering for a few years before that, but nothing really seemed to come together due to inexperience and lofty goals. Our first completed project was a little XNA game called 36 Chambers that was made for Dream.Build.Play 2009. Immediately after entering it into the competition in August 2009, we started working on what was to become Take Arms. Unfortunately, I never thought 36 Chambers was quite ready for release and it never really got any more attention.
IGC: Take Arms takes the conventional class-based shooter and puts it on a 2D plane. Where did this idea come from?
JP: Well, we knew we wanted to do a platformer from the start. I really wanted to do a Metroidvania type game, but we learned pretty quickly how much content and time would be involved if we wanted it to be AAA quality. The idea of a multiplayer game, without all the trappings of a single player experience, seemed like a natural fit for Xbox LIVE. I was originally thinking about a design similar to Counter-Strike, but was concerned about the amount of content and balance that would be required. Having always been a huge Battlefield fan, the idea of predefined classes seemed like a solid fit.
IGC: The three classes include the Striker, the Grunt, and the Destroyer. What made you decide on these three classes and were there others that you originally had in mind?
JP: Those are the original three we came up with. It’s the classic diametric balance with a middle ground that just felt natural. To be honest, very little was changed from the first designs. Originally, the Destroyer had an auto-shotgun and the Grunt’s assault rifle was full-auto, but the balance just didn’t feel right. We eventually changed it to the burst-fire assault rifle for the Grunt, and belt-fed machine gun for the Destroyer we have now.
IGC: With so many intense 3D shooters out there, how have you gone about creating a comparable experience on the 2D plane?
JP: Well, I believe 2D games can be just as intense as the most realistic 3D ones out there. It’s really just about having the good control that gets you into the flow of the game. Once the character on-screen becomes an extension of yourself, you’re cringing at every tricky Medusa head in Castlevania, long jump in Super Mario Brothers, or bullet flying at you in Contra. To that extent, we’ve put a lot of work into making sure the control is quick and responsive. We also found the best artist we could to make sure the game doesn’t look like a lame throwback or realistic wannabe, but an interactive cartoon.
IGC: What kind of environments can players expect to see in Take Arms? Can they expect to see a variety of different map designs and layouts?
JP: We revealed 2 of the 3 environments already in the teaser trailer: Bridge and Trainyard. The third is called Complex, and it’s a forest locale with snow-peaked mountains in the background and abandoned Cold War rocket silo below ground. We tried our best to not only make sure all the maps are diverse looking, but have a unique play style as well.
IGC: Take Arms was selected to be a part of Indie Games Summer Uprising. How does it feel to be among those games selected?
JP: It’s pretty incredible, and I think we’re still trying to wrap our heads around it! We’ve basically been heads down, working hard for 2 years and now it finally appears to be paying off. The other picks are all awesome, and it was a blast to be able to playtest them all. We’re honored to be included in the promotion.
IGC: Indie developers often have a difficult time creating awareness for their games and making enough of a profit to continue making new games. How important are promotions such as Indie Games Summer Uprising, in terms of helping smaller developers meet those goals?
JP: Promotions like this and the Humble Indie Bundle are huge for indies. We have literally no marketing budget, so that leaves me cold emailing every site I can to pick up a story about releasing the Teaser Trailer, or even the Evolution Time-lapse we did. I learned pretty fast how hard it is to actually get word out. The journalists, media, and bloggers are the gatekeepers between you and your audience, and it can really leave you feeling helpless when you don’t get the response you expect. Every tiny bit helps to get your name and brand some recognition out there.
IGC: Your mission is to combine modern game design with classic 2D gameplay. Are there any other genres aside from the shooter that Discord Games may be looking to get into?
JP: We’re mostly focused on platformers at this point, as we both feel there’s a lot more territory to be explored with them. But I wouldn’t mind doing an overhead Link to the Past style action/RPG game some day.
IGC: Coming off Take Arms, is there any advice you can offer aspiring game developers that might be looking to start development on their first game?
JP: I think the most important thing is coming up with a simple, solid design. The biggest problem we’ve always encountered is scope. Our first designs were really pie in the sky, but even after we reigned it in, we realized the stuff that sounded too small to bother with was still a ton of work. When you’re not getting paid you need to keep it enjoyable and feel like you’re accomplishing something constantly, or it’ll just fall apart. Other than that, it just takes total dedication and the patience of a saint.
IGC: What’s in the future for Discord Games?
JP: Well, we’re not really sure yet! If it sells well, we’d love to give back to the community and do a bonus update with extra maps, game modes and other content. More long-term I think we’d love to do a proper sequel, but it’d have to be monetarily justified. We took a gamble and spent quite a bit of money out of pocket to make this one happen, so only time will tell.
IGC: Thank you, James Petruzzi, for talking to us about Take Arms.
As a part of Indie Games Summer Uprising, Take Arms will join the Xbox LIVE Indie Games lineup in late August. Indie Games Channel will continue to follow the progress of Discord Games and Take Arms, along with the rest of the Indie Games Summer Uprising lineup.
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