EGX Interview 2015 – Daniel Leaver on Ironcast

Whilst at EGX this year I was fortunate enough to be overwhelmed by the amazing games featured in the ‘Rezzed’ indie area, among the most visually stunning of those games was Ironcast, a Steampunk mech combat game currently available on Steam. The people over at Ripstone games kindly arranged for me to have a chat with Daniel Leaver, creator of Ironcast who is also the Lead Designer behind Little Big Planet 1 & 2 as well as Tearaway. Here’s what he had to say:

Z1G: So Ironcast here is a personal project for you?

DL: Yeah absolutely, I came from Media Molecule and we made very fun, creative, family friendly games but there’s not much room for the stats tweaking of strategy games. I left to create Dreadbit about 18 months ago, and the first game I pitched was this one.

Z1G: So you’ve been working on this ever since you left Media Molecule?

DL: Yep, it’s had a PC, Mac and Linux release in March, that has enabled us to make a console version due early next year, for Xbox One and PS4.

Z1G: It was a Kickstarter project wasn’t it?

DL: It was. We built enough to create a good Kickstarter, it looked very similar to how it does now actually, just didn’t have much content. All the systems were there we just needed to make levels and weapons and art and sound. The guys from Ripstone, actually I know the bosses there from my days back in media molecule when working on the Little Big Planet series, so they saw it and once the game was successfully funded we didn’t really face any issues.

Z1G: So the production process was smooth?

DL: You know what? It’s not very interesting to say but it was quite smooth. The Hardest part was saying that we were gonna make this in six months, that was the hardest part… you hear a lot of these stories where they say “oh no we’re gonna release it perfect we’re gonna take an extra year”. The trouble is that you make it so expensive that you’re struggling for your next game, so it’s tricky. So we thought, 6 months.

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Z1G: You have that community sense with Steam as well if you do a Steam release first, how’s the feedback been so far?

DL: It’s great, Steam’s a wonderful platform, the tricky thing about PS4 and Xbox is that there’s no forum accessible from the game so if someone wants to write you feedback it’s either going to be really good feedback or really really negative. It’ll either have been such a wonderful experience that they’ll open an e-mail account and then write you an e-mail, or it was so bad that they’d write you an e-mail. But you know on Steam you get more of a variety because you can just tab out and just go “hey yeah yeah cool, this weapons just a bit overpowered” or “I don’t really enjoy this boss”.

Z1G: So lots of constructive feedback. I love the art design here; it’s a lot different to many of the things you’ve worked on. How was it choosing a Steampunk theme for this game?

DL: There’s not enough of it around, I had the idea of a mech combat game which incorporates a certain puzzle quest element to it. With the resource generation mechanic on a grid and then using that to feed into your weapons and your skills and armor and shields and then making decisions based on that. But I thought, Gundam mechs and sort of anime style mechs have already been done and I thought, ‘You know what?’ I’ve been watching lots of Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes… It’s not so much Steampunk, it’s Victorian Sci Fi, War Of The Worlds that sort of thing. Bit of the Time Machine by Jules Verne, it’s more that than anything else.

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Z1G: What about a mobile release? Looking at it I’d say that with mobiles becoming larger and tablets it could work.

DL: Definitely, especially with tablets, this is probably the biggest question we’re asked, people say they’d love to play this on their tablet on their sofa and the answer is: we could do it. We’d have to spend the money to do it but we could do it no problem, the trick is, is it going to make enough money on mobile. We could release it on mobile, …[It’s] really hard work though, you’ve got no real control like you do with Steam to really publicise your game, you’ve got, ‘do Apple feature it?’ and that is pretty much it. So it’s a gamble, it could be wonderful; we’ll see what happens with console and make a decision based on that.

Z1G: So when can we expect a console release?

DL: Early 2016, we’re nearly there now just need to go through the console certification process, make sure Microsoft and Sony are happy with it. So you’ve seen the final build here.

Z1G: And I’m going to keep playing if that’s okay.

DL: Yep that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!

A big thank you to Ripstone and to Daniel Leaver for chatting with us, more information about Ironcast can be found at:

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