Developer Interview with Leendert Oomen – Antraxx

Antraxx

Antraxx is a massively multiplayer, isometric mech shooter – coming to browsers and Steam –  with a heavy emphasis on teamwork, replayability and completely customizable mechs and zones. Boasting multiple game modes and in-depth faction politics and economy systems, it allows you to play the game how you wish.  With a completely 3D engine rendering hand-drawn pixel art with dynamic lighting, shadows, positional audio and a refined control scheme, the player will also be able to create their own zones to share and battle in, providing near limitless sandbox gameplay.

Antraxx

Antraxx takes place in a detailed, 1980’s themed post-apocalyptic world. It is up to you to dominate the battlefields with only your guns and armoured mech to your name. Players fight for the control of special booster points on the map which will allow them to restore energy, health, or even grant them special powers such as invisibility. Each map has its own individual mechanics which must be learned and mastered in order to provide a fresh but familiar experience every time.

With tight, responsive controls, you can pilot your own giant mech to either aid or destroy your fellow pilots. Inspired by classic arcade games and giants of the mech sub genre such as Front Mission, each battle is full of high adrenaline and explosive action. Special additions such as jetpacks, rocket launchers, lasers, teleportation, and cloaking devices allow for you to select your own unique playing style. There are various game modes present in the game, alongside the opportunity for endless creativity with the map creation tools. There is also a heavy emphasis on co-operative gameplay between your faction members and allies.

Antraxx

In addition, no two mechs are alike. You are able to choose various individual parts from multiple default mech builds and combine them into an unstoppable force. Trade resources and your own mechs parts in favour of others, or blow them off of another mech and steal them. Choice really is king in this game.

After spending some time with the Alpha demo (lots of time..it was actually lots of time) we chatted to Lead programmer Leendert Oomen to shed a bit more light on this addictive game.

 

Hi Leendert, thank you for chatting with us!  Can I begin by asking you to tell us a bit more about yourself, the team and why you decided to make Antraxx?

Hello Steve – you are more than welcome!

In 2011 the project and idea was founded by me in the summer. I was just boarded on a plane when I got the idea. I had a vision in mind and just had to write everything down on paper. At the fourth quarter of 2011 I met Sam Hellawell who takes care of the programming side of things since then. Ever since, we have been working on the project on and off due to real life, day jobs and relationships.

The game was previously being developed under the name META4 and I understand that you completely recoded it several times; is the recent change of name indicative of some more wholesale changes to the game or is it a simple change of name?  Why the name change in any case?

Interesting question. We didn’t want to change the name at first. But unfortunately there is a software company with the exact same name that holds the copy trade mark for the name globally. They forced us to change our name by locking our social accounts and such. We’ve always refused to transfer them the domain names and still hold the ownership of them today.

You must certainly be aware of the other big isometric mech game in development at the minute, Brigador (formerly known as Matador); you both seem to be taking at least visual cues from staples of the mech genre like Front Mission, so in what ways do you see your game being different from theirs?

Matador – sounds a lot like META4? – has always been a bit confusing to me. Back in 2011 there wasn’t a single project creating isometric mech shooters. Suddenly when we started META4 there was Brigador.  But I honestly don’t think it’s a bad thing. Creating an original game isn’t easy – we can understand. Not to forget their vision is completely different from ours.

First of all, we’re multiplayer. When it comes to the graphics we are heavily focused on very detailed and complex pixel art instead of 3D renders. Our love for indie games comes bundled with the love for pixel art. I’d say it is something which creates the character to indie games. Its gives a certain vibe to it. If we would have to compare the gameplay mechanics there is a big difference. We focus on interesting gameplay aspects for your mech and how it can malfunction, players need to rely on teammates to achieve certain things and there is even a conquerable world the players are able to conquer with their faction.

Antraxx

Although extremely pretty, the game’s retro pixel art graphical style could lead some to assume this game is also similarly retro in its mechanic and capabilities but you’ve been keen to highlight how you’ve married that art style with some very modern features; online multiplayer, social interaction, map creation and mech customisation are some of the things I’ve seen you mention – can you tell us a bit more about those features and why you felt they were important to the game?

Social online multiplayers have always been a favourite of mine. They are the only games I got sucked in to. It’s the connection and interaction these communities have. That’s the reason Antraxx has a heavy focus on multiplayer and team work.

When it comes to map creation I’d say we all know the successes of games like Minecraft. We love the sandbox concept in games that allow freedom for the players to decide.  In Antraxx it’s all going to be about how you construct your map. Do you want it to be focused on teamwork or is it a free for all map? Placement is very important here. We are also very sure people will find out ways to “manipulate” our mechanics to do things we did not even think of as a possibility. That’s where the fun is at. And even with our small multiplayer demo out we have already experienced players find out things we didn’t think of. Which is a very good thing!

The “diplomatic” options are a feature I hadn’t expected to see in a game of this nature; can you describe how they work and what you feel they add to the experience?

In Antraxx there are two kind of battle systems to work with. As a player you either join a regular match in a game list. This list is a map hosted by another player – perhaps even a friend – to play with.  The diplomatic side of the game all takes place on the worldmap. This map is hosting pre-constructed maps with limited modifications. The only modifications possible are the spots you can place – and modify – turrets and or sovereignty claim units.

When a player and / or faction controls a map on the worldmap there is a chance someone else wants to take it. They will have to destroy all turrets and claim units. Once destroyed it will hit a reinforcement timer. This timer will allow the team to prepare for defense. In case there would be no timer it would not be fun to defend your maps 24/7.

Antraxx

The cool things is that if you are online you are still able to defend your map with our mech and other players of your faction. Less chance of getting reinforced and losing the map. As for the engaging – enemy – team you will have to work with a team that is arranged for both logistical support as well as damage. Some mechs will be packed with remote armour repair while others are full of guns. Quite a complex system but well worth it!

I know at one point you hadn’t completely settled on how you would deal with levelling a character. You mentioned either earning stronger gear, or creating some kind of skill levelling system where your character will grow and affect the gear you apply to your mech; any update on that?

Right now we are still debating on what’s best to do. My personal favourite idea is to unlock the amount of parts on certain levels, next to having a multiplier bonus on mech parts because of your skills and level.

The cool thing about unlocking the parts is that you will start off with a cockpit, legs and 2 guns. No shoulder parts or second guns to fit (4 in total). This will even show visually to other players how experienced you are as a player.

The term arcade can sometimes be used disparagingly when referring to games (wrongly in my opinion); you refer to your game as an arcade style shooter – in a subgenre so focused on tactics, strategy and stats, why did you opt to go down the “arcade” route?

To us arcade means fun and fast. It also means going back to the roots of gaming back when it was barely born. What exactly is it that makes gaming fun next to hyper modern realistic graphics? Gameplay!

Antraxx

Aside from the obvious (Mech Commander, Front Misson etc) what other games have influenced you?

We haven’t really been influenced by Front Mission and Mech Commander. Of course we knew mech games existed and we’ve probably played a few in our younger years. I for sure have. But that was ages ago.

Most inspiration comes from Medabots, EVE online and Habbo. Strange names and references but there certainly is truth in there.

You have released an Alpha demo and are planning a more in-depth beta in October this year; how important to you is the feedback you gain from those?

Feedback from players is more important than anything else. Less than a month ago we decided to double the amount of graphics on the top mech rotation because of the feedback we’ve received. Mechs with 8 angle directions are now being created in 16 angles. And only because players felt like the limitation – which was aimed to be a feature – was not something they were fond of at all.

Antraxx

I noticed references to a kickstarter on your site and social media pages; is crowdfunding still something you’re considering?  How would you want to use that additional funding to improve the game?

We are still going to Kickstarter. Our campaign is scheduled to release on the 1st of October.  Although none of us value money we all know it’s a necessary thing to stay alive. The same counts for Antraxx. We have to get some decent servers running, finish the final core mechanics of the game and are hopefully able to get some help to add new content to the game in a short amount of time.

You are releasing the game on browser and via Steam; any plans on bringing the game to other platforms (mobile, consoles etc.) down the line?

The game is going to be released as a downloadable client via steam and playable through the browser.  Consoles and a mobile application are not scheduled yet and will be considered at a later stage in the game’s development.

 

Antraxx looks set to be a worthy addition to the genre for those of us who grew up playing game like Mech Commander, Front Mission and even games like Syndicate and Metal Slug.  There is a lot of care and attention to detail going into its development and we can only hope it all pays off.  I will certainly be checking out the beta come October.

For more information on the game and its development head over to the website where you can subscribe to the mailing list and have a go at the demo (you may even come across one of the team on there!) and, as ever, keep checking back with Orange Bison for future updates and an eventual review.

Talker, unrepentant chancer and self-confessed geek, Stephen has been a gamer for nearly 30 years. You might think he’d have outgrown comics, movies and games but you’d be very wrong. Having worked in PR and marketing, games retail etc he is now trying his hand at game development and writing and (in a completely unrelated area) property development.

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