Once upon a time I used to boot up Warcraft III and hop online to play tower defense games. Now tower defense is its own genre, and it's one I still find myself enjoying from time to time. When I went to East Coast Game Conference this year, Sons of Ra caught my eye because it reminded me of those good old days of Warcraft III tower defense. Thankfully I got a chance to talk with Mark Hurley, the designer and artist for the game. He was more than happy to quickly go over the game with me, and provide some insight into the development.
TechRaptor: Mark, I just played Sons of Ra. For those that don't know about the game yet, can you just explain it real quick?
Mark Hurley: Sure. Sons of Ra is, essentially, a two player competitive tower defense game where you are both kings of Egypt fighting for control to become the one true pharaoh. As a competitive tower defense game, you can both build up your defenses and send out your units to attack your opponent. Each of you has your own individual keeps, and before the match begins you can pick your patron deity that defines your magical abilities during the game.
It was a team project that we've been working on for about a year now. We're a four person dev team with two artists and two programmers, and I'm really happy with what we have so far.
TechRaptor: So, when I played the demo, you have three gods in the game right now. How many do you have planned for the full game?
Mark: In terms of plans we... do you want ambitious plans, or what we're currently projecting? Because right now we're planning four, but we have a total of six we were considering. If I had to guess we'll have four, maybe five, of those six. The main thing we're probably going to do is stick with a fewer number but make each of those gods individually more exciting and interesting.
So, right now, most of them have one ultimate blessing that's really unique and interesting. Like Anubis has a special embalming priest, a unit that will move across the lanes and, for every unit that's killed in its radius, it will turn that unit into a mummy that will fight for his side. So we want to have a blessing as interesting as something like that, and we want to make sure each blessing really works in that way. So we're probably going to err on the side of fewer gods, but more interesting in terms of how they play.
TechRaptor: What went into designing each of these gods?
Mark: The idea behind the gods were that we wanted to find a way of complimenting people's play style, because everyone plays tower defense differently, especially in a competitive environment like this. Some players like to turtle, some players like to be really early aggressive. So it was very clear to figure out how we were going to create the gods to reflect that.
For example, with Montu. Montu is very aggressive and has abilities for directly destroying and killing enemy units. He has blessings for increasing the strength of his own units and making them faster, so it's easier to do that aggressive plays early on. You have characters like Isis that are much better at doing that sort of turtling play, and also protecting her units from incoming damage . You saw in the game we played that you had a line of towers and I was able to use my tower lock ability, place it on top, and stop all your towers for a moment, forcing you to not rely on your defenses and switch to a unit focus, and that really threw off your game and let me sneak through your defenses.
For each of the gods we're trying to be faithful to what the god is based around. Obviously Anubis, embalming, god of the dead, but we also, again, have to think the context of play and how this is going to play in terms of different strategies, how is this going to play in terms of towers, and I think each of them, so far, have worked out pretty well. We're probably going to do minor tweaks. I think a lot of us are not happy with probably one or so blessing on each deity, and we're probably going to be messing with them in the future and making them more interesting.
TechRaptor: I just want to note, publicly, I do not appreciate you telling people how to beat me.
TechRaptor: No, I really don't care.
Mark: Oh, I know. I was trying to think of a funny thing to say back but I couldn't.
TechRaptor: It's okay, I'll tell them you said something witty.
TechRaptor: We played locally, but are there plans for online multiplayer?
Mark: Yes. Currently the game is on schedule to release on Xbox One and PC, and we are currently with the Xbox Creators Program for releasing there. The issue is that the Xbox Creators Program does not have the ability to do networked online play. I do not know the exact reason, but I think it has to do with privacy and moderation concerns, especially if kids are playing. You have to apply for [email protected] in order to have access to online play. We are planning to apply, but obviously with an application there's a potential for us to be rejected, and if that were to happen, we would probably pivot and focus more on the single player mode we're working on right now, but we do have plans for multiplayer in the future if we can get it on Xbox.
TechRaptor: Right now, when I played it, each god had the same units and towers. Will it stay that way, and just the blessings be different, or will there be different units?
Mark: For now only the blessings will be different. The issue with changing the units means that players are not going to have a specific unit combination we're thinking of right now, with the shield bearer being a more tank focused unit, the archers as long ranged DPS, spearmen as the sort of basic grunts. We have talked a lot about it, many people have brought up the idea of gods defining your units and towers as well, but... it's still in the conversation, and it could be added later, but we're probably only changing one unit if we were to go with it.
TechRaptor: So when can I play Sons of Ra?
Mark: Right now we are planning to release in summer. I would say probably mid to late summer, we haven't specifically set it down, but that's going to come down to, again, the online multiplayer element. So if we can get into [email protected] we may delay the game a bit just so we can make sure everything on the network play actually goes through. If that doesn't come through and we're still in the Creators Program then we are planning for that summer release date this year.
TechRaptor: Alright, well thank you for letting me check out your game, it's very cool and I'm glad I got to.
Mark: Thank you for checking it out, I really appreciate it.
We'd once again like to thank Mark for taking the time to talk with us.