Alan Barasch on Mega Tank
Tanks! The giant metal monsters predicted by H.G Wells in his short "The Land Ironclads" were used to break the stalemate in WWI, and have also made a big splash in video games. Mega Tank features a unique art style with an over the top premise of controlling a skyscraper sized tank in this runner style action game. Many game feature large tanks but creating a game focused on driving the biggest tank conceivable offering unique game play opportunities. We sat down with Alan Barasch to discuss his upcoming game.
Who are you? How did you get into the game Industry? What other projects have you personally worked on?
I am Alan Barasch, a producer, designer and artist.
In 1994, I got a call from a friend who knew I was struggling after quitting a career in advertising. I worked on a Mac in college and he knew I was a "Mac guy," so he asked if I wanted to come interview to be a tester of Mac games in a new division at Interplay. I jumped at the chance, and within a year moved from Mac QA, to Console Lead Tester, to Line Producer. Interplay was a very special place with incredible people to learn from and grow with.
Some games from my Interplay days include Tempest-X on Playstation, MDK on Playstation (worked with Neversoft on that before they did Tony Hawk), Kingpin, and Die By The Sword. I worked with Treyarch when they were just a small team of 8 crammed into an office. Die By The Sword's tech was way ahead of this VR craze we are having at the moment.
Some mobile games I worked on are iZombieland, Voltron, Loco Roco, Wheel of Fortune, and Allies in War.
How did Game Gardeners start? How big is your team?
Game Gardeners started after both Ian and I left EA, after The Simpsons: Tapped Out relaunched. We had made a game called Fly With Me while there. Fly With Me is the original tap to flap game, before Flappy Bird. Was a natural fit for us to continue to work together as we already knew each other's abilities.
Game Gardeners now is just myself. Ian followed his heart and left for personal reasons to work on non-gaming apps. Mega Tank got programming/production help from the team at Kuuasema to get out the door, and onto iPhone.
What is Mega Tank? Can you briefly describe what the game is all about?
Mega Tank was originally an art concept of mine back when doing street art/murals. I did a few giant tanks as murals in the 90's. My first acrylic canvas from May 2000 that I sold at auction in New York City was a giant Mega Tank called the Peacekeeper #1A. Link here: http://www.pooral.com/pm1a.html
The game is basically about Earthmart wanting to recycle the old model robots and make new shiny "cooler looking" models. The old model robots jump in a Mega Tank and set out to crush as many new model robots as possible, to show that they are still worth keeping around. Basic goal is to see how far you can go before they can stop you.
The idea is to build up your tank to unlock the battles and see how far you can go in each. Each Battle has 10 checkpoints, and a boss battle, and when you eliminate the boss, the game cycles and gets more difficult (so Checkpoint 11 is much harder than Checkpoint 1 is.) The real challenge starts after you get to that next set of Checkpoints after killing a boss!
Why did you choose to focus your game on a giant tank? What gameplay features did you design around this concept? Simple answer to this is that giant tanks are cool.
In terms of features, we wanted the tank to be big enough to arm multiple weapons so there were 'path choices' for the users to make in terms of building up their tank. We wanted the game to feel as if you were quite large and squashing an army of enemy robots. So the size, boosting, power-ups and weapons all came out of this basic idea that everything needed to just make the user feel more badass as they built up their tank.
We had to carefully make the first stack tank cool enough that a user felt powerful, but leave enough room for them to grow the tank into something truly epic and armed to the teeth!
There are so many games where you play as a tank. How did you distinguish yourself from the rest? What are some features that makes your game stand out?
When we started the game there weren't that many tank games actually. But this industry demands you move quickly, and if you don't it can leave you behind. Luckily the game still stands out from the other games.
First off, it's a giant tank. Other games have tanks, our game has a -Mega- Tank. (even "mega" tanks in other games aren't so mega in comparison to ours.) Bigger is better.
Our art is unique. People either love the 2d style from my fine art, or they hate it. We are ok with that, because the style does differentiate it from other tank games, and most people love the art. Features wise, the biggest differentiator is that the game is a combination endless runner/castle defense game. Most tank games on the market are 3d and mostly PVP oriented. (we have a PVP mode planned for the Android version but it will play very differently than the 3d PVP tank games out on the market)
What platform is Mega Tank launching on? How has the platform affected how you and your team designed the game?
Mega Tank is currently out on iOS as a Universal build, iPhone and iPad. Ideally the game would be cross-platform but truthfully when we started the project there were not that many good 2d game building tools, so we chose Cocos2d. (this was pre-2dx, pre-Unity 2d, etc..) If we had to do it all over again we'd use Unity for sure so we could go cross platform more quickly.
The truth is the platform didn't affect our design decisions much.
What is the future for Mega Tank and Game Gardeners? Any plans to add more content or pursue another project after launch?
I would like to add more weapons, more power-ups, more decorations, another collectible weapon, 'daily' battles, daily rewards, and a random spawning 'endless' mode.
Something special we plan on adding are 'artist boss battles'. I have some friends from my fine art career like Alex Pardee (http://www.alexpardee.com/) and Greg "Craola" Simkins (http://www.imscared.com/) that do incredible monsters and characters. They both have created bosses to fight against Mega Tank, so I'd really like to get these added to the game.
I am planning on bringing Mega Tank to Android. The PVP mode we want to add is almost an entirely new game, so we are anxious to get that moving and out to the public. If it's different enough, we will likely relaunch the game on iOS with the PVP as the focus.
With Game Gardeners, I also want to kick off some new full products from the artists we work with. We are likely to try crowd funding a few projects from these artists so we can create their interactive worlds. It's a space we see in the market and we are uniquely positioned to work with these artists and create games for them.