Earlier this week we previewed Danger Dodgers, which you can download right now on iOS. I recently caught up with Ed Ormon, co-founder and game designer at Uppercut Games, to find out a little more behind the game and some of Uppercut’s previous work.
First of all, how’s things?
Good! We hit our 5 year anniversary as a games studio just recently, so we’re pretty chuffed that we managed to not implode or burn out. Plus we’re still having fun, doing what we love 🙂
Besides your own games (of course), what have you been playing lately?
Lots of research-playing, while we’re talking about new game ideas. So I’ve been hitting up Spelunky, Nuclear Throne, Left 4 Dead, Black Ops 3, Zombi, Bioshock (the original!), Noct … actually, I’ve played a lot recently, now that I think about it. I also played the hell out of Fallout 4, but put it away as soon as I finished the main campaign. Oh, and The Witness!
Danger Dodgers is a very contrasting type of game compared to EPOCH, and especially Submerged. Was the idea always to go in that direction?
The real genesis of Danger Dodgers was that right as Submerged shipped, the other two founders of Uppercut (Andrew James and Ryan Lancaster) needed to take time off for some brand new babies! So we wanted to make another game that didn’t need them on it full-time, and we also wanted to make something more quickly than Submerged (which took 18 months, in the end). So we threw a few ideas back and forth and eventually settled on Danger Dodgers.
One of the things I like about how we work at Uppercut is that we’re able to keep trying out new things. I love EPOCH and its sequel, but it’s nice to also try a completely different game. And our next game after Danger Dodgers is going to be a different genre, again.
How much of a challenge is it to create a new concept within a mobile games landscape that’s overflowing with content?
A big one! Well, as much of a challenge as it is anywhere, really. We have probably a hundred ideas for different games, so it’s more a consideration of which idea is the right one for the team and the market at this time, and who is the idea going to appeal to.
Crossy Road has had a massive influence on many mobile games of late. Was it something you looked up to or were inspired by, or did you try to avoid the similarities at all costs?
Oh my god, did we ever look at Crossy Road! Matt Hall is just an excellent person and was very willing to give us advice on what we were doing once we told him we were trying something in the Free-To-Play space. So we leaned extremely heavily on Crossy Road’s meta-structure, for example, mostly because I think Matt made the best FTP model ever. I used to rag on FTP quite a bit, but on deeper thought, it’s more that there are aspects that I really hate (fuel mechanics, for example). So Danger Dodgers doesn’t have fuel, just optional, non-game-changing IAP and ad support.
I was a big fan of Submerged. I got the concept and enjoyed just exploring and not worrying about aliens or constantly shooting. What were some of the biggest lessons that weren’t learnt during its development?
If you’re going to try and cross genres, you need to really manage people’s expectations about what you’re doing. Probably the biggest disappointment for us was the number of people who came to the game thinking it was something it wasn’t. And that’s all on us – we needed to focus more on making sure people understood what we were trying to do.
With that said, lots of people DID get what the game was all about, and still do, and that was super gratifying.
As much as I hate asking, what was the reaction like in the office once reviews for Submerged hit?
Submerged was such a polarising game, so we got lots of wildly negative reviews and lots of glowing ones. The negative ones were certainly a bummer, and it forced us into a lot of introspection about how we could have done better (see above).
Having now released a title on Xbox One and PS4, is it something Uppercut are keen to do again? Maybe bring EPOCH along for the ride?
We’ll definitely do console and PC for our next game. We’re aiming for a longer development cycle this time. And one day I’d love to return to the universe of EPOCH – we talk about doing that all the time – but that’s not on the cards just yet.
One last Q, any hints on this next game of yours? Please tell me it’s a zombie RPG side-scrolling multiplayer shooter … or am I reading into your gaming habits too much?
You’re half right, but I’m not telling you which half 🙂
A big thank you to Ed for taking the time to chat. Be sure to check out Danger Dodgers on iOS, it’s free so there’s no excuses people! Also for those curious, Submerged is available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Give them both a go and let me know what you think.