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TowerFall: Ascension Interview With Matt Thorson

When the OUYA launched back in June of 2013, people were asking “what can I do on the OUYA that I can’t do on my Android phone, or PC?” Though, they were usually adding a few F-bombs and other choice expletives to their phrasing… No matter how the question was asked, the answer was usually the same “play TowerFall”. TowerFall encapsulated the essence of what the OUYA tried to accomplish, fun local multiplayer experiences that didn’t rely on shiny graphics to impress.

TowerFall is a four-player, Smash Bros-esque, archery combat game. It’s fun within minutes of turning it on for the first time. There is almost zero time spent figuring out the basic mechanics, and barely any time needs to be spent fiddling with menus (unless you want to). The quick, seemingly simple gameplay makes it something that almost anyone can just pick up and play. I say “seemingly simply” because there is a subtle layer of complexity hidden under the surface that will keep gameplay interesting to hardcore fans for years to come.

The OUYA may still be struggling to reach the masses and gain some positive, post release attention, but TowerFall has definitely made a name for itself. Despite being well loved by those who’ve played it, it still hasn't been able to post any really impressive sales figures. Being exclusive to the OUYA has really limited its availability, until now.

Luckily for those of you who don’t buy into the OUYA as a console, your chance to play this amazing game will finally be arriving soon. TowerFall: Ascension, which is an updated version of the original, now features a full single-player campaign and will be available on PC and PlayStation 4 sometime this year. For those of you who do have an OUYA, TowerFall will be receiving the additional content in a free update three months after the PC and PS4 release. In the mean time, Matt Thorson, the creator of TowerFall, has agreed to answer some questions for us.


Craig Gamache: For those among our readers who are unfamiliar with you, would you mind introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about yourself?

Matt Thorson: I'm a Canadian indie developer living in Vancouver, BC. I've been making games since I was 14 or so, you can see most of them on my site. Right now I'm living in "IndieHouse Vancouver" with 3 other independent devs, which is pretty convenient when you're making a local multiplayer game.

Craig: Until it is released on the PC and PS4 later this year, TowerFall is exclusive to the OUYA. Though this may have limited your sales for the past year, it’s also possible that being a big fish in a small pond (or possibly a big fish in a large pond filled with hundreds of tiny fish that had been hastily moved from another pond) helped you gain more attention than you would have received had you gone directly to PC. Now that your exclusivity is almost over, how do you feel about that move?

Matt: I think you described it well. TowerFall got a ton of attention launching on OUYA. I'm also a fan of starting with a small, limited release and building a fan-base around a game slowly. TowerFall has had many months of additional development and polishing since the OUYA release. That release gained us a ton of valuable feedback, and it also gave me a lot of perspective on the project. Because of that, the version of TowerFall that sees the widest release feels like it will be the best possible version.

Craig: When TowerFall first released, it had a very limited singlep-player element. Aside from some time trials, there wasn't a lot that one could do in the game while alone. ToweFall: Ascension however, will feature a full single-player campaign. Was it always your desire to add this eventually, or was the decision to add it based on something else, like player feedback?

Matt: TowerFall actually began as a single-player prototype, but multiplayer quickly stole the spotlight. Over the course of development, Quest mode went through 5 or 6 iterations, until finally settling on the design you'll see in Ascension. So it was always a planned feature, but the original plan looked a lot different than it does now.

Craig: Will the Campaign be playable co-operatively?

Matt: Yep! Quest mode is 1-2 player co-op.

Craig: Aside from the campaign, Ascension will be releasing with new maps, new specialty arrows, and new playable characters. Aside from the assortment of new content, will TowerFall remain largely unchanged? Meaning, will the basic gameplay be tweaked or altered in anyway.

Matt: The core gameplay will be very familiar to fans of the OUYA version, but there are a lot of subtle tweaks and details that really round out the design and presentation. The balance has been refined a lot - most notably the shield power-up has been nerfed in an interesting way and the dodge cooldown was shortened a bit. I also made a lot of changes with feedback from competitive players. For example the player's moveset is expanded to include dodge cancels, an advanced technique that will only really affect play for the most skilled players, but can change the flow of the game drastically.

Craig: Out of the newly added content, do you have a feature that’s your favourite?

Matt: The new arrow types were a lot of fun to experiment with. It's hard to pick one of the four new ones, but I think drill arrows are probably my favorite - they dig through the first wall they hit, and can even drill around the screen wrap.

Craig: 2013 was an interesting year for gamers, with Microsoft and Sony showing off and then releasing their next gen platforms. In the early part of last year it seemed like that while Sony was pushing indie games, and doing whatever they could to draw indie developers in, Microsoft wouldn’t even throw indie devs a bone. However, since the massive backlash Microsoft received regarding a number of their policies, they have really changed their stance on indie titles. Making every Xbox One a Dev kit for one will really help cut some of the start up costs of indie devs.  Was it because of Microsoft’s initial stance on indies that you chose to release on PS4 rather than Xbox One, and can Xbox One owners ever expect to have TowerFall on their console of choice?

Matt: Obviously I want as many people to play TowerFall as possible. Sony was really proactive in showing me why PS4 was a good place for the game, and helping me find a way to get it there. They've been amazing to work with and there's some PS4 features that are perfect for TowerFall, especially the built-in streaming. I'm completely focused on finally getting the game out PS4 and Steam right now, then I'll start to think about things like updates and porting to other platforms - I know I want to release on Mac eventually but I haven't really thought about other consoles yet.

Craig: How about an easy one to finish us off? Do you have a favourite character to play as?

Matt: My favorite is still the original. Green archer, the Vigilante Thief. We actually gave her some new animations in Ascension.

Craig: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some of my questions. Before I let you go, is there anything else you wanted to add?

Matt: Thanks! I'm just so excited to finally get this game out. I can't wait to read all the feedback and stories, see all the replays and livestreams. My friends and I still play TowerFall just for fun, and I hope other people get as much out of it as we have.



Be sure to check back when TowerFall releases for a full review on Shogun Gamer.



About The Author: Craig Gamache (Staff Writer)


Bio: Craig Gamache is a life long resident of Vancouver, BC, who has felt the need to share his opinion on everything gaming related for the better part of the last two decades. Though he enjoys big budget blockbuster games as much as the next gamer, he has recently turned much of his attention to the indie game scene. [READ FULL BIO]

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