With their latest game title The Deadly Tower of Monsters hitting digital store shelves today, game developer ACE Team took a little time out of their schedule to discuss the project and their game development roots.
We started out as three brothers who did mods as a hobby. The mod team's name was composed out of the initials of each of the three brother's first name (Andres, Carlos, Edmundo - ACE).
We did a full total conversion for Doom II called 'Batman Doom', in which we changed all [of] the game into a Batman themed [first-person shooter]. Later we worked on a single player total conversion for Quake III Arena called 'The Dark Conjunction'. Slowly we moved from mod development into more professional work and debuted as a fully formed company with our debut title Zeno Clash.
A lot of us are big fans of the classics, as well as people in [the publisher] Atlus.
Originally we had pitched the project [to Atlus] without the B movie aesthetic (with a more "generic" fantasy style). It was when we suggested the retro art style, that we all felt we really had a project that was super exciting (and that we found out that there were Flash Gordon fans in Atlus, haha).
In very simple terms you have to climb the tower to reach the upper levels and [overcome] ever increasing obstacles and enemies. But the game is a story based adventure with a very strong sense of humour in an "open world-esque" environment, where the tower is the main location. You have several ways of navigating the world (free-falling, jumping, hovering) - so there's a big layer of platforming that's very interesting when combined with the vertical design aspect of the game.
Think about something a little like Supergiant's Bastion, but with a funny setting and a retro B movie art style.
We started out with a very simple prototype that had the main objective of proving the vertical design aspect of the game. Once that was approved we had to iterate a lot on the gameplay to make sure that all the elements came together nicely (level design / combat / platforming).
However one feature that wasn't originally planned from the start was the Director's commentary. This was suggested early on in production, but we weren't sure about how it would work.
We [are] big fans of the 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' series (where three viewers make fun of bad old Sci-Fi films whilst watching them) and thought about how maybe something similar could be done, but using the director's commentary [style] used in the re-release of DVDs of old films. This came to be one of the most unique and interesting ideas executed in the whole game.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters isn't twin-stick ([it] controls more like Bastion), but if you consider Rock of Ages we've also done marble-game meets tower defense.
We don't try making new things just for the sake of it. We make something new because we feel passionate about an idea and think that we can bring something new to a specific genre. By doing this we always have the challenge of starting with something completely new, but on the other hand we can remain super creative and not use the same ideas and recycle them over and over. ACE Team has the reputation of being a creative studio and a reason for that is because we don't limit our work to a few or similar group of genres.
We used the head design of 'The Giant Claw' (1957) in one creature, but the most obvious references are King Kong and Mechagodzilla (which served for inspiration for the "Mechameleon").
As I was saying before, creativity is the number one aspect we focus on with our titles. If you look back, many of our titles have ended up being on the extreme end of being "different". Maybe sometimes too much, haha.
But I think we're always going to be doing games that innovate or are unique, mainly because that is at the heart of this studio's design philosophy. We like to inspire our work on things that are not traditionally seen in the videogame industry.
Something that will surprise [gamers]. We're actually already hard at work on the next title. [It] seems like we never take a rest!
I'd first like to thank ACE Team for taking the time out to answer my questions. and John Hardin from Atlus for facilitating the interview.
You can purchase The Deadly Tower of Monsters right now via the PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 4 console or through Steam for PC, with a special launch discount currently running until February 3rd.
Also be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming review The Deadly Tower of Monsters shortly.
Interested in The Deadly Tower of Monsters or have questions for ACE Team? Let us know below.
The Quake III Arena mod (The Dark Conjunction) developed by ACE Team is the only single-player mod ever made for the game.
To date ACE Team have developed 5 full games (Zeno Clash, Rock of Ages, Zeno Clash II, Abyss Odyssey and The Deadly Tower of Monsters).