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Fire With Fire: Early Impressions & Developer Q&A
The tower defense genre has largely fallen out of favor among gamers in recent years with MOBAs like League of Legends and sandbox games like DayZ and Minecraft falling into favor in their place. In spite of this shift, the indie development team Skull Skill Studios is full steam ahead on their first tower defense title, Fire With Fire. They don’t see this shift as a negative trend but rather an opportunity for them to debut their fresh take on the genre. I recently highlighted the game in my Kickstarter round-up and spent some time with the game’s alpha build and sat down with Theory Georgiou – a member of the development team – to get an early feel for the game.
A lot of gamers have been pretty burned out on tower defense games since Plants Versus Zombies stole the hearts, minds, hours and brains, of gamers – but in spite of that, I found the vibrant accessibility of Fire With Fire quite appealing. While the UI design does distinctly echo a lot of early flash-based tower defense games, this aspect is given a second-life thanks the vibrant and cartoony look the game has going for it. Like Plants Versus Zombies, Fire With Fire isn’t looking to just win players over with its ‘chibi’ and ‘cutesy’ look but also with a kind of mechanical accessibility.
Each level starts with players selecting which towers you want to have access to and there’s already a lot of variety here. If you want to prioritize building towers that slow enemies over ones that do more damage the further their target is from them – the game very much encourages you take make that strategic decision.
On top of that, there’s a fun balance that Fire With Fire strikes when it comes to choosing between quantity and quality. Each tower you build gives you credits which can be used to upgrade existing towers or unlock new modifications on your chosen defenses.
While this side of Fire With Fire is very true to the genre’s roots, it simultaneously defies those conventions through its unique twist on competitive multiplayer. The game’s multiplayer – which pits players against each other until only one is left standing – let’s players customize and upgrade the creep waves that assault their opponents in much the same way as they do their own defenses.
Overall, I came away from Fire With Fire being relatively impressed considering my expectations from a tower defense game. It’s awfully easy to learn and given the meta-strategic potential that the competitive multiplayer side of things offers – it could end up being quite hard to master.
Fergus Halliday: Thanks for agreeing to answer my questions – so how did Fire With Fire come into development?
Theory Georgiou: Like most indies, I decided to just give it a shot. I have over 10 years of experience making game prototypes as a passion of mine, and I’d do pretty well in any game jam I participated in. It just felt like the natural thing to do. I decided to choose a game genre that I was passionate about, had experience in, and lots of good ideas for already. I struck gold finding Brian, our artist, lurking on deviantart.com and other graphic art sites. I also went on a podcast early in development, just to get some feedback on the prototype, really. The host, Stephen, was impressed, and he jumped on board as our composer. The team just fell together so easily. I knew we had something here.
How far along is that development process?
After about two and a half years of working on the game nights and weekends, we finally feel comfortable allowing people to play. We are currently in closed beta, and our Kickstarter backers are invited to participate in testing the latest build every Monday.
What inspired the game’s look?
Fireworks. When the creeps are attacking, I wanted to give the effect of a vibrant light show display of some kind. Heavy line work always struck me as bringing necessary contrast to allow for vibrant colors to pop! So I asked Brian to incorporate that into the art of the game.
“Using Theory’s idea of bold outlines and vibrant colors as a basis, I’d say that the look also draws largely from the sharp graphic styles of games like Sonic Adventure 2, Puyo Pop Fever, and The World Ends With You. Those games have bright, heavily stylized illustrations and characters that look like they were taken straight out of a comic book. I tried to balance that with dramatic colors as well as the ‘cuteness’ of the Creeps.” – Brian
The tower defense genre is one that many consider to be ‘done-to-death’, why did you choose to tackle it?
It’s frustrating to me to see game after cookie cutter game based on a genre I love. So, in an honest attempt to revive and innovate the genre, we didn’t just throw a new coat of paint on Tower Defense. We took a game a lot of people love and know how to play, and stacked virtually another game on top. The creep wave planning element along with an expanding content library and balance updates allows for this genre to stay relevant and evolve.
How are the Kickstarter and Greenlight campaigns for the game going?
We had a good first week on Kickstarter and Greenlight, better than most considering a lack of media attention. We have dozens of comments on our Greenlight page — nearly all exclaiming excitement for a quality tower defense game that brings something new. The only issue is getting the word out to all the other tower defense fans. There seems to be a certain stigma over making another tower defense, especially a free to play one. But it’s clear we are raising the bar much higher for tower defense to anyone who cares to look.
What’s going to differentiate Fire With Fire from the many other entries in the genre?
Well, obviously the attack element of having control over your opponent’s creep waves, but also the amount of effort we put into the game on a continued basis. We aim to impress and keep players coming back for more.
The focus on head-to-head multiplayer is a big part of Fire With Fire – Do you have any additional modes or gameplay modifiers planned?
We have a single player campaign, which is a lot closer to a traditional Tower Defense, but with a story and some original ideas for maps I’m throwing in. You can expect to see raised platform bonuses, cells only creeps can cross, a scrolling map where you have to keep building new towers to keep ahead of the creeps… Fun stuff like that.
What’s the long term plan for Fire With Fire?
To expand our library of Towers, Creeps and maps. I’d also like to host online tournaments for the more serious players to challenge each other.
Do you have any plans for games development post-Fire With Fire?
Yeah, of course. Each of our studio’s games will be a huge surprise, veering off in new directions from previous games. We want to up hold the habit of introducing new elements and raising the bar on beloved genres.