It’s been a busy couple of weeks with the venerable Worms franchise, with Worms 3 hitting iOS last week, and today seeing the latest major release in the series as a PC exclusive, in the form of Worms: Clan Wars.
We have a review coming later on today, but last week we had the opportunity to speak to Lead Designer on Clan Wars, Gavin Hood. He did want to make sure we didn’t get his name wrong. Apparently he’s popped up elsewhere under an accidental pseudonym of Gavin Hunt!
TSA: So this Worms game has got quite an apt title, hasn’t it?
Gavin Hood: Uh, yeah! It’s called Worms Clan Wars…
TSA: And what exactly does this entail? [laughs]
GH: Well hopefully the name helps to tell you exactly what the game is about!
One of the main features of it is that it’s geared towards clans, which we’ve put a lot of time and effort into. From my own personal point of view, it’s been quite painful to design! [laughs]
There’s so many things that you don’t think about, until you start testing. Even seemingly simple things like the league system, so clans can be promoted or relegated, that’s quite difficult to balance. You want small clans, when it’s just you and a few mates, to feel like they can compete with the larger clans which can be 100 members and up.
So we have to have a system that takes that into account, and there’s quite a lot of effort that’s gone into the league system. We looked at games like Starcraft 2, and the way they handle their league system, where you’re not forced to play an enormous amount of games, and are still able to do well. That was quite a lot of work.
Also, your clan can have an emblem which you set yourself, and is kind of simple to use. That was a deliberate thing that we did, because originally we had a plan that the emblem might be quite complicated. So you’d have lots of layers of a kind of vinyl, and you’d be able to do a lot with it. But we wanted the game to be fun for everybody, and it would be kind of rubbish if there were loads and loads of terrible looking clan emblems, and only two really good ones.
TSA: They’d be the clans with the most members, surely!
GH: Yeah! So, what we’ve done is make it so that even with the random ones, we think it’s kind of impossible to get an emblem that looks bad. Well, that’s the plan, anyway!
Then, also with the clan section, it’s quite socially driven. Your leader can promote and demote people, he can kick people, and apply to join different clans and things.
TSA: Does that tie in with the companion app?
GH: Yeah, we also have the companion app, which is kind of divided into two main sections: the player page and the clan page. So, every player who plays has their own page, and it tracks all their individual stats. You can compare stats directly with your friends, but the main reason we have the app is obviously for the clan section.
Each clan has its own page, and this is a much more interactive space. The leader can leave messages which everyone can see, those are pushed to the game, where there’s a clan news section. There’s also a voting system, to let you have weekly votes on favourite weapons, favourite formations, worm, and things like that. It’s all based around the clan, so it’s this clan’s favourite things. So there’s quite a lot of social things done there.
The game in general has a feature called WormNET, which is kind of like a series of chat channels, and each clan has their own channel. So if you’re in a clan, you can go to…
As this point, Gavin navigates to the chat section on a nearby laptop, which had been idling on the menu system.
GH: Oh, well this is currently empty, because there are no other members in this clan! [laughs]
But this is where you could all get together and talk about whatever you want. This is all sort of the main aspect of why it’s called Clan Wars. The clan section is even skinned differently to the rest of the game, and it has its own music.
TSA: This is a PC exclusive, but is that because of what you can do with the Steam platform, or are there plans for other platforms in the future?
GH: Well, it kind of came from the fact that the games that we’ve done in the past have become more and more console orientated, and I think it was a combination of a slight decline in console sales and the rise in Steam that we’ve done this.
When we brought Revolution to Steam, it did reasonably well, but we got quite a lot of backlash from PC users, because PC users tend to like their games to be made specially for them. So when we were coming to make this sequel, we looked around at everything we were planning on doing, and there were just a lot of things we wanted to add to it. The clans section is somewhere that we’ve not really been with the Worms franchise before, and we’ve been quite a few places!
To implement something like that doesn’t fit as nicely or neatly onto a console, especially with all the extra social aspects, with the chat style lobbies, and it’s just not really viable to do it on any platform other than PC. So we kind of decided that we’d make it exclusive, and that would allow us to really drive our vision, and deliver the best version of the game we possibly can. Otherwise we’d just dilute what we wanted to achieve.
TSA: Part of this is that you’re able to take advantage of Steam Workshop?
GH: We are using Steam Workshop, yes. We’ve integrated the support so that at launch people will be able to make their own trinkets and customisation items, and trade them with their friends – or keep them private, if they really want, which would be a bit harsh!
TSA: [laughs] You’ve made this wonderful thing, and you just lock it away?
GH: I mean, we’re in closed beta at the moment, and there’s a couple of guys who’ve made some things – which as the developers we can see – but they’ve made them private. So we’re just like, “Why have you kept it private? It looks really cool, you should share it with people!”
So we’re hoping that the customisation stuff will really help drive the community, because even in the closed beta, we’ve had some amazing things made which, for copyright reasons, we couldn’t have made ourselves.
One of the testers has made an Iron Man mask, and that’s really cool. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s kind of cool. Then what we’re hoping to do… what we are doing – I keep saying “hoping” today! – is that we’re supporting the game post-launch. So we’re starting with the idea of allowing them to do customisation items, and then post-launch we’re going to let people create their own speech banks, which should be quite fun for people.
TSA: When you’ve got Stephen Fry doing one, then you’ll know you’ve hit the big time!
GH: That would be pretty good!
GH: We’re also releasing a Mission Toolkit. At launch, it’s going to include a landscape editor, so you can draw your own landscapes and populate them, and stuff. Then, what we’re working on for post-launch, is that this will be expanded so you’ll be able to make your own single player missions. So you’ll be able to have switches and doors, and set very simple logic for the mission. You’ll be able to upload that onto Steam Workshop, and anyone can download and play.
So we’re hoping that once that does launch, the community will again grow the single player side of it. The mission toolkit isn’t just going to be for single player, so we’re trying to keep the “hardcore” worms fans happy, with things like allowing them to make certain kinds of game modes which we know they make with various mods and things in the older games. The toolkit will allow them to bring some of those things forward into this game.
TSA: This is all kind of wrapping to core gameplay, if you will. What changes have you made to the blowing up of enemy worms?
GH: [laughs] Well, at its core, it’s still all about blowing enemy worms up!
With Revolution, we spent a lot of time developing a new engine and implemented things like dynamic water, which allows that sort of unpredictability which is always fun in worms. Something can happen which will trigger a series of events that you could never foresee happening, but turns out to be either fantastic or catastrophic!
That was alongside physics objects, which could bounce around the landscape and be destroyed and stuff, but for both of those things, because they were first developed for Revolution, they were never fully realised. Writing all that new tech left little time to explore what we could actually do with that stuff.
So this time, we’ve been able to really push it and take it quite a bit further. There’s a lot more dynamic water and physics objects, and we have these things called contraptions, which feature predominantly in the single player, so that you’ve got moving platforms and stuff, but while they don’t appear in the random landscapes, if you make your own, you can actually put your own physics objects and contraptions in. So then in multiplayer you’ve actually got moving platforms and swinging bridges, which will change it quite a bit.
TSA: It would make timing that big jump that much trickier!
GH: It will, and it would probably be a good place to go and stand at the end of your turn, because you’d be a harder target to hit on a moving platform. You see?
TSA: That’s far too devious! [laughs]
GH: I think the other main feature we’ve added to the gameplay is that we’ve taken the classes and put so much effort into addressing the feedback we got from what was wrong with them in Revolution.
So we’ve got the four classes: the Heavy, the Scout, the Scientist and Soldier, and now they’re definitely very different to each other. The Scout can move very quickly, but he doesn’t set of any mines and does a lot less damage, but he also has the ability to see what weapons are in crates, and things like that. Then the heavy is pretty much the polar opposite, so his explosions are massive, he does a lot more damage, but he’s quite slow on the landscape.
TSA: And he’s a bigger target.
GH: He’s a massive target, and when dies he explodes with the power and force of one of the bigger weapons from the game. So he’s kind of like a tank now. You don’t want him near your own troops, so you want to deploy him with the enemy, because he’s so slow he can’t get very far, but if he does die around a load of enemies, he’s probably going to kill them as well!
I think with the classes, they’ve been enhanced so that it changes the game quite a lot, and I’m so happy with them, that we took the option out, to be able to play without the classes.
This is now what Worms is, with this fundamental change. The classes are there, and they’re there to stay… he says, until a few years time when… I’ll regret saying that!
TSA: When you come out with Worms Classic!
The gameplay is still very much Worms, it’s just a much more polished and more tactical version of Worms. We have 65 weapons now, and feel that we have weapons that cater to almost every scenario. We have some weapons that feel like they might be a bit of an edge case, but you might just find that you’re using them all the time, when they’re there!
TSA: What’s your favourite weapon?
GH: Personally my favourite weapon, that we’ve added, is the… [long pause] Aqua Pack, just because I think it’s quite overpowered! [laughs]
Unintentionally, but it’s also a lot of fun, and that’s what Worms is all about! It’s effectively like the Jetpack out of Mario Sunshine, a jetpack powered by water, and because of the dynamic water system, it will fill in the landscape, but the water jets also push the worms about, so you can wash worms off the side of the landscape, and things like that.
Personally, I find that a lot of fun!
In the closed beta, it seems like a lot of players are liking the teleport gun, which was added, not as a direct replacement for, but partly because in some of the newer games, some of the hardcore fans have had issues with the rope. There’s not a lot we can do with the physics system in this game. We can’t magically give them the old rope that they wanted, so we wanted to put something in there that didn’t try to replicate the rope, because that would be the worst thing we could do.
TSA: A dedicated rope physics engine!
GH: So what we did was put the teleport gun, which we feel allows people to be as creative as they could be with the older rope.
At the base level it’s very simple to use, like a 1950’s ray gun, you point it somewhere and fire, and it fires a bolt of electricity, and where that hits your worm is teleported to. But it doesn’t run out of ammo until you touch the floor, so if you fire it at a wall high up, while you’re falling, you can aim somewhere else and fire there. So effectively, as long as you’re dextrous enough, you can sort of ping pong around the landscape!
It seems that the beta testers really like that weapon, so it’s another weapon that I guess I like? [laughs]
TSA: With Worms 3 for iOS, alongside Clan Wars, and quite a large catalogue of games, do you think things get a little confusing? When I heard about Worms 3, I just thought, “but there have been so many more Worms games than 3!”
GH: I suppose it could be a bit confusing, and I have read some quite humorous comments about that as well! It’s genuinely that it’s the third version coming to iOS, and that it is specifically for iOS, but I have read some funny comments, and I can’t help but laugh about it.
But I think that because Worms 3 and Clan Wars were both made very specifically for the platforms they are on. Internally there’s not any confusion, so as far as I’m concerned, this is about as PC-centric a version of Worms as I could have made. I don’t know about anybody else, but… [laughs]
TSA: Ah, who cares about them!
GH: And I think that the lead designer for Worms 3 would say that it’s definitely the best version of Worms we’ve ever made for a tablet or a phone.
TSA: Excellent. Well, I’m all out of questions, so thank you very much!
Thanks again to Gavin for taking the time to speak to us. Keep an eye out on TSA later today for our review of Worms: Clan Wars.
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