Anyone who has seen trailers for Rock of Ages is likely familiar with the game’s premise. It’s tower defense, in which two teams try and annihilate each other by using nature’s greatest weapon: a big honkin’ boulder. No matter what the era, nature’s greatest weapon will always be a giant rock.
It’s a fun idea; one that’s being brought to players from independent studio ACE Team.
ACE Team is based in Santiago, Chile, consisting of 11 team members (including the founding Bordeu brothers) and a couple of partners.They pride themselves on being one of the best Latin American game developers, having previously developed Zeno Clash for PC and Xbox LIVE Arcade. They created Zeno Clash with the Source engine, before moving into Unreal Engine 3 for Rock of Ages.
With Rock of Ages set to roll out, I took some time to talk to Carlos Bordeu of ACE Team. He was happy to talk about the Santiago-based studio, Rock of Ages, the reasoning behind some of the game’s delays, and ACE Team’s future.
Indie Games Channel: Tell us a little bit about ACE Team.
Carlos Bordeu: We are a studio that started as a modding team and of the first members, 3 of us are brothers (Andres, Carlos and Edmundo). From our initials we could form the word ‘ACE’. That is were the name of ACE Team was born – back in the days when we made our Doom 2 mod ‘Batman Doom.’ Later on, David Caloguerea joined us as lead programmer and the four of us became the founders of the studio.
Our first commercial project, and the game we are known for, is Zeno Clash, which was quite successful for us.
Indie Games Channel: Rock of Ages appears to be a simple game on the surface. Take a huge rock and roll it at your opponent, flattening anything in the way. It looks simple, but incredibly fun. Where did you get the idea for this game?
Carlos Bordeu: The idea came from a rather simple doodle I sketched on a loose piece of paper when we were brainstorming for what new project we wanted to do. We discussed about the idea of having this sort of marble game and mixing it with a tower defense and everyone liked it. That was mixed with a Monty Python-type art style and we knew we had something unique.
For a more complete insight about the origins of the game, you can read a blog post we did about it some time ago.
Indie Games Channel: A concept like this feels like it could have stood well on its own, but you went the extra mile and spread the Rock of Ages concept across several historical periods, like Ancient Greece, the Renaissance, and the Romantic era. What made you decide on the historical settings that you did?
Carlos Bordeu: Edmundo, who is the art director, chose a variety of historical art styles that would be interesting and fit the humorous style of the game well. These periods also allowed us to choose great characters from history which you encounter in the single player portion of the game. Nothing like rolling your boulder over Leonardo Da Vinci, eh?
Indie Games Channel: Rock of Ages has undergone some delays, particularly for the PC and PS3 versions. What kind of obstacles have you faced in developing Rock of Ages across three platforms?
Carlos Bordeu: It is our first multi-platform release and our first Unreal Engine game. We aren’t a big studio (just 11 people), so dealing with the challenges of making two console games plus a PC-Steamworks integrated one is quite a task for us. If you think about the certification process that you go through when making a game, small studios have to tackle it with the same technical requirements of any other game. So, in essence, we have to deal with the same requirements that major AAA studios (with large programming teams) have to. I personally think that we are reaching a point where, in many cases, indie and small studios are making games that are like shorter versions of big retail titles. What I mean to say is that the complexity of many indie games isn’t less than many big multimillion projects. The main differences are production values and volume, which are mostly being able to make larger worlds with photorealistic graphics. But in terms of the complexity of AI, design, net code and other things, I feel smaller studios have put out some really impressive things in the market, on par with almost anything.
Indie Games Channel: In addition to the single player and multiplayer modes, you’ve also included an extra diversioanry game mode called SkeeBoulder, which is exactly what the name implies. What made you decide to include SkeeBoulder and were there other additional game modes that you originally wanted to include in the game?
Carlos Bordeu: SkeeBoulder was an idea from Atlus. Credit goes to them for suggesting it to us. I don’t think we had any other game modes in mind… but we did have some stuff in mind for the main game mode that we didn’t do (like more unit types). In the end having too many units to place would make the game confusing, so I think we have a good balance.
Indie Games Channel: Rock of Ages marks your second major downloadable title, with Zeno Clash being the other. Having worked with Unreal Engine 3 and the Source engine, which is easier for you to work with? And are there other gaming engines that you’re looking to work with in the future?
Carlos Bordeu: We’re going to stick with Unreal Engine, and a good reason is because the learning curve for any new technology is big. So, sticking with solid technology is a really positive thing. I think that for obvious reasons Unreal Engine has a more development friendly SDK — simply because of how many games have been made with it (and also the variety). A big part of Epic’s business is clearly the licensing of their technology, and it shows. They also have one of the best multi-platform engines.
Source has its great tools as well, but right now we are more comfortable with UE3.
Indie Games Channel: ACE Team is based in Santiago, Chile. You pride yourselves on being one of the leading Latin American developers. Do you feel that Latin American nations like Chile and other parts of South America can make a prominent impact in game development?
Carlos Bordeu: I think the game development scene has much potential in Latin America and I’m sure we’ll see some really great talent emerge from the region. Countries in Latin America have a very unique culture, so I think other games made in the region could potentially be very unique. The main thing about game development is not having expensive equipment or technology. It is mostly the “know how,” so there is no reason why eventually a big game development industry couldn’t appear in Latin America.
Indie Games Channel: With Rock of Ages about to release, what’s in the future for ACE Team?
Carlos Bordeu: As the programming team closes the PC and PS3 builds of Rock of Ages, the design and art team are already working on our first milestone of our next project. I’m actually surprised by how much work we have here now. But I cannot say anything about this development for now. I’m just sure a lot of people will like what we release next.
Indie Games Channel: Thank you, Carlos, for talking to us about Rock of Ages and ACE Team!
ACE Team’s latest game, Rock of Ages, is set to arrive this Wednesday, August 31 on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Steam will release the game on September 7, while a PSN release is set to arrive shortly thereafter. Indie Games Channel will continue to follow the progress of ACE Team and their upcoming releases.
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