During Indie Game HQ’s latest interview we spoke with the dynamic duo at Twin Drills. They provided some back story on the art style, information on newer game mechanics, plans for the future, and explained how Zombie Grinder was born. In addition, Tim and Jordan also expressed their love for us and the fans.
About Zombie Grinder:
Zombie Grinder is the debut game of Twin Drills, an indie game development duo made up of Tim ‘Infini’ Leonard and Jordan ‘Jordizzle’ Chewning.
It’s a multi-platform (windows, mac, Linux!) (also Free!) cooperative multiplayer arcade game, reminiscent in style and gameplay of retro games like ‘Zombies Ate My Neighbors’ and ‘Super Smash TV!’, but with the added benefit of some newer game mechanics – achievements, ranking, player-customization, RPG style stats and so forth.
The game sports a variety of different game modes, from co-operative ‘campaign’ style levels, to wave maps and even the classic ‘PVP’ style game modes – deathmatch, capture the ‘bag’ and so forth. All of these mods are bristling with a variety of weapons and items, all lovingly displayed in Jordan’s classic quirky pixel-art style. (Desura)
Indie Game HQ: First off, it’s good to speak with you today. Tell us a little bit about Twin Drills.
Tim: Not much to say really, Jordan and myself have been playing around making random games and bits and pieces for a few years. When we finally got round to making a proper game (ZG) we needed to choose a name for our ‘group’ – All the ones we wanted were taken so we eventually settled on one that Jordan had a domain pre-registered for, which was TwinDrills.com!
Me and Jordan really just produce games in our free time that we both like to play / like to make, the fact that other people like them is just awesome .
Indie Game HQ: Please elaborate on how Zombie Grinder came to fruition.
Tim: Huuum, this was quite a long time ago, so hard to remember exactly how it came about. Basically me (Tim) and another guy I knew through another site were making a little online coop remake of the Zelda game Links Awakening.
This totally bombed, for reasons I can’t remember lol. However Jordan wanted to make an online game which he had been planning for a while (the initial designs for Zombie Grinder), so he brought the ideas to me, and we choose to recycle the engine to produce it . (Little known fact: Zombie Grinder was originally going to be a side-scrolling beat-em-up platformer).
After a few days we had a nifty demo together that we could play, we worked on this and developed the engine and dev tools for a few months. However college/uni got in the way for me so the game ended up in limbo for well over a year. Last year I had more free time than I expected so I got the project back up and rolling, and since then its just been us continually tweaking, updating and adding fun stuff to the game!
Indie Game HQ: What was the inspiration behind the art style of Zombie Grinder?
Jordan: Mother 3, done!!!
Indie Game HQ: How did adding in gems and sockets affect the balance of the game during development, and how will the balance system evolve through beta and release?
Tim: For those who are not aware, we originally had hats with stats (eg. hat 1 would give 100% speed, hat 2 would give 200% damage, etc).
While this was cool, giving hats a proper use, and leading to people to desperately trying to get the best hats it also had a large downside. It destroyed the original idea of hats and other equip-able items - customizing the character. We ended up just having the majority of players using the same hats that were perceived as having the best stats.
Jordan didn’t like this (Don’t blame him with the amount of spriting he did for hats!), so we decided to remove stats for equip-able items, and instead use the new gem system (If you’ve played diablo – think of that!), where by the user can collect and craft gems that imbue items with different stats (eg, combining a legit ruby with a hat will give the user +10% Health whilst wearing it). Each equip-able item can only be combined with a finite amount of items at a time (usually 2).
Not only did this mean that people actually customized their characters, it also meant they can tailor their character builds more to their liking – tanks / healers / etc.
Balancing wise it works fairly well, the maximum stats with a full set of items with gems is roughly the same amount as the maximum values of any hats in the old system. The increases are high enough to be noticeable but not high enough to be unbalanced.
Not to say we didn’t have our fair share of people who didn’t like it – I think mainly because they didn’t like the OP’d hats they were using, and didn’t want to have to work more for max stats in the new version!
As for how it will evolve – we shall see, we’re quite happy with how its working at the moment, however we always tweak things so we’ll see how it goes .
Indie Game HQ: How has development been for you while the game has been in Alpha?
Tim: Good fun!
It’s been amazing to see people enjoying our work, and being able to chat directly with our community about what things they think should be developed more (IRC has helped amazingly for that!).
Overall a great use of my free time!
Indie Game HQ: What have you learned, and what would you like to implement moving forward?
Tim: Plan harder! lol.
Constantly changing the game based on user input is cool, and produces a game more people like to play, but it also makes it hell trying to constantly change and maintain different features in the engine, slowing development. Should have spent more time planning everything out at the start!
I’m sure Jordan would also say to choose a graphical style that doesn’t require quite so many art assets or development time to produce maps for .
Indie Game HQ: Has the Alpha funding on Desura been beneficial in moving development along?
Tim: We aren’t actually part of Alpha funding on Desura, never have been, that’s why we don’t come up with any of the alpha funding branding on the main Desura page. We do have premium/donator accounts (which have a handful of nifty benefits), that we’ve been selling for anyone who wants to throw us some cash.That said, we’re still far away from earning any money on Desura anyway! (Desura has “payout limits” – we have to get a certain amount of cash before it will be released to us).
One of the things we originally decided on was we didn’t want to charge outright for the game, We would rather more people got to experience the game, than having a large part of our audience put off with a price tag. Using premium accounts allows us to get the best of both worlds, enough money to cover server costs, as well as allowing everyone to enjoy the game.
Indie Game HQ: Do you plan to add more zombie types further down the road? How many types are there currently?
Tim: Yup .
Currently only 4 (if you ignore minor variations like clothing color / entrance style) – Fodder Zombies (wander aimlessly around the map), Normal Zombies (Chase after the player until killed), Explosive Zombies (get to close – BOOM!), Hopper Zombies (Only in the dc_random, a horrible sub-boss-style zombie that’s hard to kill ).
Got plans for a good amount more though! All just a matter of how much time we get to implement/sprite them!
Indie Game HQ: I’ve noticed there’s a level that’s resembles a story mode. Are there more of those to come, and do you plan to eventually add a full fledged story mode?
Tim: We do have a story mapped out and ideas of how we want it to work (the game originally was pretty much all story based, with the wave maps and such just things we added as we were playing around), though we are still deciding if we want to go down that route or just have more simplified drop-in-drop-out style maps. We’re still on the fence about it, and its something I’ve been chatting to a lot of the community about through the in-game IRC channel.
Indie Game HQ: As for the Steam Greenlight process, how has that been? Can we expect to see Zombie Grinder on Steam anytime soon?
Tim: It’s not been too bad, we got plenty of recognition in the first week or so of being up – lots of new players and votes! – but that’s steadily declined as Greenlight’s traffic has reduced.
Both me and Jordan probably need to spend some more time advertising the game. Can you believe that we have never advertised the game itself? Most players have found it via word-of-mouth or via random browsing on Greenlight .
I suspect it will be a long long time before we pass Greenlight, but here’s hoping .
Indie Game HQ: Do you believe that being Greenlit will help boost Alpha funding?
Tim: I can always hope!
As I said before though, its not that much of an issue, I make games primarily because I enjoy them, not to gain profit. As long as there is enough cash coming in to cover server costs, its all good!
Indie Game HQ: What other future plans do you have for Zombie Grinder?
Tim: Loads! Can’t really give you solid ideas, because our plans change constantly from feedback from our users.
I can tell you one nifty thing I’m currently working on (which should be out in the next update), our mini-mmo hub!
Basically the entire “Main Menu” will be removed, instead the options on the menu will be “Enter Hub”, “Options”, “Credits” and “Quit”. When you click Enter Hub you will automatically join the HUB world which we will be running. The HUB world is meant as a place where all users in the game can interact, join up together to start their own games on the normal maps and perform all the actions the original menus provided.
The idea behind this is to integrate most of the options in the menu into the actual game, making is so the user never has to leave the game and go to the menu when changing options. For example, in the hub world there will be a salon shop, populated by NPC’s, where the user can buy items and customize their character (instead of using the “shop” menu item). Similar shops/areas for other other menu items (joining games / matchmaking will now be performed in a “pokemon center” style building).
Hopefully that explains the idea lol, I’m pretty bad at explaining whats in my brain .
Should be fun . Will be interesting to see what the community makes of it.
Indie Game HQ: Thanks for your time. Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
Tim: I wuv you <3. Also if you want me to wuv you harder, vote for us on Greenlight! <3