It can be tough to talk about Orcs Must Die! 2 without first talking about the game's predecessor, Orcs Must Die! so we'll start at the beginning as it's as good a place as any to start an interview.
Orcs Must Die! is a strategy game which combines Tower Defense game mechanics with that of a third person shooter. Instead of taking control over the battlefield from a top-down perspective, players step into the role of a lone apprentice (from a third person viewpoint) who must shore up a castle's defenses to prepare for the orc invasion with traps and sentries. After setting up the defenses, the player can then wade into battle with the apprentice, who uses spells and weapons to fend off the invaders. The objective of each map is to simply stop the orcs from reaching the heart of the fortress and destroying it.
Developed by Robot Entertainment and released on both Steam and XBLA, Orcs Must Die! remains a pretty enjoyable game and is a distinct take on Tower Defense games. With the success of the original, Robot Entertainment has set out to develop a sequel that rehauls the game's leveling mechanics and adds multiplayer so players can go up against the orcs in co-op.
Gameranx reporter Jacob Saylor has reached out to Robot Entertainment to talk about the upcoming sequel to Orcs Must Die! Justin Korthof (@sixokay) of Robot Entertainment reached back and gave us these answers.
1. How are things over at Robot Entertainment? What's it been like coping with the success of the first game?
Things are very busy at Robot. We've been very fortunate to have such a great following build up around both Orcs Must Die! and Hero Academy, and now we're just working very hard to keep that momentum going. We're really heads-down on the sequel to OMD, and we've got several exciting new things planned for Hero Academy this summer, as well. It's a very busy, very exciting time for us.
2. Regarding Orcs Must Die! 2 – Could you perhaps sum up how development has been coming along?
Development on OMD2! has been really quick. We got to work as soon as the first game came out, focusing much of our attention on the co-op aspect of it. It was the number one feature request from the first game, so we knew we had to really deliver a strong co-op game for the sequel. As for release and post-release, we're not there yet. We've had some interesting discussions about possible DLC for the game, but at the moment they're just discussions. Orcs Must Die! 2 is a big game and we're building it very fast, so we're entirely focused on making sure that we release the best product we can later this summer.
3. Because Orcs Must Die! 2 is slated for release this summer, development must be coming along pretty well. Can you give us some insight as to what sort of trials you faced in developing the game?
Obviously integrating Co-Op was a huge one. We know we have to deliver a strong co-op experience, and that means changing up a lot of what we did with the original game. There were so many moments in the first game where the excitement came from being forced to split your attention between two or more sets of enemies. We've had to think hard about ways to design levels that accommodate multiple players and still make you feel like you have to work to pay attention to everything going on. The Co-Op has had an effect on nearly every aspect of the game – programming, design, art – and has forced us to rethink how we approached problems from the first game.
4. One of the questions many people have been wanting answered addresses the newly-announced cooperative mode in the second iteration. Care to full us in?
Sure. As I mentioned before, we knew we needed co-op in this game from the outset. When we set out to write the story, a narrative surfaced that gave us a really cool opportunity to use the villain from the first game as your co-op partner in the second game. From there, it came down to designing two primary characters that felt and played differently, but were equally interesting. The Sorceress was all about mind-control in the first game, and about getting others to do her fighting for her. Those character traits remain in her game mechanics this time around. While the War Mage is still very much a blunt instrument who can run into a pile of orcs and hold his own, the Sorceress is more geared toward staying back and doing crowd control from a distance. She's more nuanced. It can take a little getting used to, but when you learn how to leverage her magical abilities well, she's an incredibly strong character to play as.
5. Since the second game is bringing about a second character, what can we expect in terms of differentiated skill sets?
She's very magic-oriented. You'll notice in screenshots and videos from PAX that her Mana Bar is incredibly large compared to the War Mages, and that her health bar is smaller. This keeps her out of most direct combat, but that extra mana opens up a ton of new possibilities for her. Her base weapon is a sceptre that allows her to fire magical bolts and missiles, but it also has an alternate fire that will charm any enemy unit. This means that if things get really messy, you can charm the nearest Armored Ogre to do your fighting for a while.
6. One of the main features in the first Orcs Must Die was that of traps. Would you outline a couple of your favorite, new traps from the upcoming Orcs Must Die! 2?
We've brought back every single trap and item from the first game, as well as added a ton more. We've also blown up the upgrade system compared to the first game. There are a ton of new exciting traps, but what's particularly interesting is many of the new trinkets and magical items we've added. Unfortunately, we're not talking about those too much at the moment, or I'd tell you more. We do also have a handful of traps and items that are character-specific. For example, the Sorceress has access to a wall trap called the Acid Sprayer that coats enemies with burning acid. The War Mage can't use that trap. When you're playing Co-Op with both characters, you start to spend a lot of time working out how you can each maximize what you're bringing to the fight based on your specific character.
7. It appears that Orcs Must Die! 2 will bring new enemy types into the mix. This is a given with most sequels, but what was your mindset going into this portion of game development?
New monsters are just plain fun. Again, we've brought back every enemy type from the first game, but we've added almost as many new enemies, too. We've even gone back in some cases, like with the Hunter, and added new classes of existing characters. For the new enemies, our art team set to work really early sketching out ideas. Some of them were enemies that we didn't get to put into the original game, but many came from discussions with the design department about new roles that enemies could fulfill. For example, the designers wanted an enemy type that could break into smaller enemies when he was killed. From there, the art guys dug into developing various concepts of creatures that could fill this role, ultimately ending up with our new Earth Elementals. They're big, beastly enemies to start, but as you attack them, they break down into smaller, faster enemies that you have to contend with.
8. The first game took place, generally, in castle-type environments. It's obvious from the trailer there is some shift in ecosystem, but what else is in store?
We've created two main environments for the new game. The first portion of the game is set in a series of Dwarven Mines, where the War Mage has taken up employment since closing the rifts at the end of the last game. We also have more Fortress levels, though we've done a lot of work on them to make them feel different and new compared to the ones in the original game. Beyond that, I can't say much about the Fortresses without giving away story elements.
9. Does Robot Entertainment have any plans for what's next, or the possibility of downloadable content after release?
We're always looking to the future. The DLC for Orcs Must Die! was really well received, and in fact many online were asking for even more. We've been kicking around some really fun ideas for DLC for the sequel, but that's still a ways out. We won't start in on that work in earnest until the first game is in a great shipping state.
10. Is there something we haven't covered that you'd like to speak on? Shout-outs? Anything?
We just can't thank our OMD! community enough. They've been extremely supportive of the franchise, working for months to milk out high combos, they've built a whole library of online tools to help people better customize levels, they've been instrumental in helping us understand ways that we can improve the game for the sequel. It's been a very rewarding experience working alongside our best players to keep pushing the game forward.