Game of Fame: EPOCH

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In this exciting edition of Game of Fame, DailyTekk gets the skinny on EPOCH, the popular touch-screen FPS game developed by a small group of talented game designers from Australia. Ed Orman, who has been developing games for 15 years, breaks down how EPOCH came into being. Whether you are a mobile game lover or an aspiring game developer, you’re sure to learn something useful, be entertained and come away with a new respect for iOS game development.

Gameplay-wise, in terms of innovations, we really wanted to try and do something on touch-screens that hadn’t been done before. That’s why we focused on the control scheme up front, so we could build something really fluid and intuitive, something that played to the platform’s strengths, and then use that to inform the rest of the game.

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We had a “less is more” mentality. We wanted to make sure the player would have time to see the world and the characters we were creating, as well as time to think tactically. We achieved that by removing arbitrary movement and instead focusing on cinematic, spectacular movement within cover.

When it comes to a game’s style and visual aesthetics, we always start out by establishing the core ideas that we’re interested in. These are going to be the foundation that we will build the game on. Once we have that, it’s time to look for the inspiration we need to demonstrate to ourselves that these ideas can work.

We try to draw inspiration from as many different places as possible: we play games (Gears of War, Infinity Blade, Fallout), watch movies (Appleseed, Tetra Vaal, The Road), listen to music (Prodigy, Pendulum, the Inception score), and look at comics (Akira), architecture and art. It all goes into the melting pot.

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But I’d say the single biggest influence on the visuals–aside from Andrew James’ implementation of it–was the excellent concept art provided by Andrew Ley. Andrew is a veteran concept artist, with credits that include Bioshock and Killzone, and he condensed all of that vibe and inspiration down into the touch-stone image; a single visual that defined the aesthetic of EPOCH.

As a player, my favorite part of the game is flipping Ninja gun robots! More seriously, I dig games that get me into a Zen frame of mind, and EPOCH has that sort of flow – after playing for a while, my brain just sort of meshes with the combat. I can play for hours when that happens.

I went back and had a look at the concepts just now, and the truth is that surprisingly little changed between the concept stage and the final product. That’s partly probably a product of the ludicrously short deadline we had for a project of this scope – we didn’t have time to change our minds once we’d started. But it’s also a testament to our experience as developers, because we were able to have a very clear idea of what we wanted from the get-go.

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The user interface and HUD probably took us the longest to nail down – it went through a stack of revisions over the course of the project. UI and HUD are just … hard.

Something interesting that players probably would never realize is that the story of the A.I. that you uncover in the Arena mode is based on the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus! It’s such a classic tale of hubris, and it fit the post-human robot world of EPOCH perfectly.

The day after we launched EPOCH, the three of us jumped in a car and drove 7 hours to Melbourne so we could speak at the Game Connect Asia Pacific conference, stayed one night and then drove the 7 hours home again. We were all completely knackered from the final month of development, and in hindsight it was a crazy thing to do. We literally fluked the drive home because we were so tired we didn’t realize we were on the right road–we were practically delirious.

And three days after that, I got married!

In developing EPOCK I hope we proved a few things; that you can create something great with a small team of focused, experienced people, that you can design a game that plays to a platform’s strengths rather than just port existing ideas and that the game development industry in Australia is alive and kicking :)

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