We mentioned ORC: Vengeance late last week – a gloomily handsome iOS dungeon crawler in the Diablo tradition that’s one of the finest examples of its genre on the platform right now. Sniffing an interesting story behind the game, we sat down with one of the game’s creators, Ryan Rutherford, to find out more about where the game came from.
Hookshot Inc.: What’s your story?
Ryan Rutherford: We wanted to make games people wanted to play, and have fun doing it. We decided to go indie, and formed Big Cave Games. The App Store had been growing significantly each month, and decided to build our first game for that market. ORC is that first game.
OK. Straightforward and to the point. So, describe your game in 15 words or fewer.
ORC is a gritty Action RPG driven by visceral combat built for touchscreens.
You still had two words left over. Let’s add ‘And Orcs’ to the end of your description. Hope that’s OK. So, what made you think: we have to make this game?
We both wanted to make an Action game. Ideas and inspirations came from everywhere, and early on we realized we were on “the same page” with a lot of ideas. An isometric game just “felt right” for the touchscreen devices, with simple taps to navigate and gestures to perform specific moves. Looking closer at the App Store, Action RPGs were few and far between, yet in high demand. Combining the desire to make an Action RPG along with market wants, we had a lot of motivation moving forward.
How long have you been working on Orc?
ORC development lasted 11 months. However, that included many weekends and “night shifts”. All in all, a big longer than originally estimated…
You use quotation marks a lot! When you say “night shifts”, is that a euphemism for something else?!
DON’T ANSWER THAT.
So, I’m going to come right out with it: In what ways is the game better than Diablo?!
Well, you can play ORC on your phone!
Diablo is an amazing franchise. Each release has been excellent and has continued to push the genre further. ORC brings some interesting adjustments and mechanics to the genre, too. The focus on one main character and his story, the cinematic moments, the progression through the world, how you use skills, etc. While ORC isn’t as large in scope as Diablo, we feel ORC brings some new things to the table that will only help the Action RPG genre grow.
What did you do before making this game?
Both of us have worked in the PC and Console end of the industry for many years. We both ended up at id Software, working on RAGE. When RAGE was finished, we left to form Big Cave Games.
We should definitely talk about RAGE sometime. Also: who would win in a math fight between you and John Carmack? You don’t have to answer that. So, how did you go about designing the game?
Early on, we began throwing around ideas to each other for all sorts of games. It was very important we work together on a game we wanted to make. We decided on the isometric Action RPG and began to work out the mechanics for controls, pacing, combat, etc. The game had to fit the touchscreen device and feel natural and original.
We wanted to tell a story, and chose the Orc Warchief as the main character.
He is very handsome.
Once that was established, we had a very nice foundation to the game we could build from. Every design decision was built around this foundation, from the story about the Orc Clans, the visceral combat, the gritty look to the world, and so on. That foundation was incredibly important to staying on the same page and keeping the game consistent with itself.
What is your favourite moment in the game?
Almost half-way through the game though, there is a moment where Rok meets up with another Orc. He leads you through a dark cave to a lost temple that contains an ancient secret. It’s a great moment that kicks off the second-half of the game. Finally you meet another Orc, and the story progresses further. His torch flickers in the dark cave as he leads you through, and then helps Rok fight off the undead. The chapter packs a lot of cool stuff.
Why did you decide to go with a tap to move control scheme?
It felt natural. This is a touchscreen device, so let’s touch/tap to control, not try and mimic a controller.
The controls have taken a few players a little bit to get used to. But we have had a lot of players come back and say they now love the controls, and couldn’t imagine any other way.
Yeah, they’ve really grown on me too.
The touchscreen is still a “new” device when it comes to controlling a game. Developers will continue to find ways to bring every type of game to the touchscreen and make it work. This may take some time for players to get used to, as change takes time. Let us not forget that everyone hated playing an FPS with a controller just a few years ago.
OK, Ryan. Time for some BUSINESS talk. Let’s pull on our power-suits. The game seems very thoughtfully monetized. Are you expecting to make money mainly from IAPs or the app’s price?
Mainly from the app’s price. The IAP is there to quickly get the latest gear without spending too much time exploring the world, selling loot, opening chests, etc. It’s strictly an option for the player.
Name one way in which being an indie developer is better than your previous job, and one way in which it’s worse.
We can make any game we want at Big Cave. That’s the ultimate goal for most creative people – to create what you want with no restrictions. It’s amazing to come up with a new idea and chat about it, and think “hey, we could do that.”
Now, going 11 months without a steady paycheck has been challenging! You also take on so much more responsibility. Creating the game, working with contractors, marketing, building a community, and so on. But that is also very exciting and rewarding, as we are building our game and our company. It’s just a lot more to take on and manage.
What two pieces of advice would you give to someone wanting to get into independent game dev?
1. Be realistic of your goals. As an indie, you will be taking on a lot more responsibilities. These added responsibilities add a lot of time and all come with a learning curve. Schedule yourself some added time for the “unexpected” events that will occur. You may need to contract out some help, so be realistic of your talents and what you are good at, and what you may need help with.
2. You will need to stand out. The indie market is just as competitive as any other part of the game market. Make something unique but not too ambitious. Work with a publisher to get your name out and to kickstart your indie career. It is well worth it.
Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with the Orcs.
Buy the game here.