Review Fix chats with Nick Smith, Artist at EarthWork Games, who discusses their new game, Forts, a physics-based RTS that adds base building and real-time combat to the classic cartoon strategy game formula of the 90s.The game allows you to choose one of nine commanders, construct a base that can withstand enemy onslaught, arm it with cutting-edge offensive and defensive artillery and blast opponents into rubble. Detailing the game’s creative process and development process, Smith lets us know exactly why it’s a unique game.
Review Fix: How was this game born?
Nick Smith: Back when he was a kid, Tim would play a pen and paper game where players would draw forts and gun emplacements on either side of a ravine and take turns firing at each other. Fast forward to 2003 and, having played a bridge-building physics game, Tim wondered what it would be like if you added guns. This is how the first line of code for Forts came to be written.
Review Fix: How is it different from other RTS games available?
Smith: there isn’t any other game out there that combines the resource collection and tech tree development of an RTS with the real-time physics building and shooting. Players must master their build order and economy, while at the same time constructing the very base they are housed in and defending it from their opponent, who is simultaneously doing the same.
Review Fix: What was the development like?
Smith: As you might have guessed, development has been long. As mentioned, Tim started in 2003, and by 2008 the central game mechanics were promising enough that Nick agreed to provide some art assets for it. This went on for about a year, part-time, before the project was put on hold as Tim started a new business. Come 2013, Forts was resurrected and by 2015 Jeff joined the team to provide music and sound design, and we have been approaching the development in a businesslike way ever since.
Review Fix: What makes the story of this game special?
Smith: The game of Forts is loosely structured around a battle over the last of the world’s remaining oil supply. Three super-powers are determined to out-build and out-battle each other to get to the last motherlode of oil. The theme of the game reflects our world views. Tim’s other business is installing permaculture gardens, and indeed the company name has a double meaning, earthworks being a form of fortification, as well as referencing working with the earth.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Smith: Probably the wildest moment was launch day. For whatever reason, we decided that it would be a good idea to have a release party with all our friends, family and colleagues, and press the launch button on steam live, going so far as to stream the video feed through our facebook page. That was pretty heart-in-the-mouth stuff, especially when the launch process through steam was a couple more steps than we were expecting, but it was good to have all our friends around in our moment of triumph.
Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Smith: Players of both bridge-building physics games and strategy games are most likely to enjoy this game. It caters to both sides of human nature. With the game being so open and the physics engine being so realistic, it allows for a lot of creativity. On the flip side, that primal urge to destroy and impose supremacy over a rival is satisfied by the glorious moments of destruction and fast paced action.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the game?
Smith: Initially, we’d be happy if the game is successful enough to recoup our money and time investment. Beyond that, we would love to be able to fund the supporting of the game throughout the year, bringing DLC and added content to keep the community happy and active.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Smith: Ultimately, we want to be in a position to take advantage of this custom-built game engine we’ve built and produce a follow up to Forts that takes the gameplay in a slightly different direction. We already have some exciting ideas as to where we can take it.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Smith: The main thing we’ve learned while developing Forts is that you shouldn’t underestimate the importance and effort needed to run the bizdev side of things. Making a great game is of course of the utmost importance, but of almost equal importance is how you manage and promote your project, and this takes a lot of time to do right. For anyone making a game, or thinking about making one, think hard about who will do all the setting up of the business, reading of contracts, applying for grants and show spots, etc., and make sure to accommodate it generously in your schedule.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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