Last week we got some hands-on time with Dropzone, a brand new IP from Sparkypants Studios that walks the line between a MOBA and a traditional RTS. If you want more details on what it’s like feel free to check out my hands-on preview. We also had the opportunity to chat with Jason Coleman, President of Sparkypants Studios to find out what the process behind developing such a unique product was like for him and the dev team.
GameSpace: In our demo, it was mentioned that you would all spend a lot of time watching players and observing the game. Can you go into more detail on that aspect of the development process?
JASON COLEMAN: Having developed at Microprose, Firaxis, and the original Big Huge Games, rapid “iterative development” is a key to our development style. At Sparkypants, we took it to the next level. After taking a few weeks to develop the initial prototype, we would have a Daily Game where two people play Dropzone with the entire studio watching. We would then develop a “punchlist” of action items based on player feedback and observation, and we would work to get as much of the Daily Game items completed for the next day. So the game naturally evolved with us viewing the game as players first, then as developers. We still make the Daily Game a priority, whether it’s an at-desk Daily Game with the entire studio playing one another, or the original version with two colleagues going head-to-head while the whole studio watches.
Dropzone Launch Trailer
Is Dropzone an RTS or a MOBA?
GS: Do you consider the game more of an RTS or more of a MOBA?
JC: We mostly stay out of that particular holy war, but our intent has been to evoke the feel of a traditional RTS (minus the turtling) in a modern package and positional play of a MOBA. Those that have only watched Dropzone tend to think of it as a MOBA, while those that have actually played Dropzone predominantly feel it captures the RTS side of things. Whatever the case, it’s a new type of thing.
GS: Dropzone’s matches have been designed to be fast-paced by nature. How do you balance the hyperactive aspects of the game with its more traditional RTS elements?
JC: The meta-game is a big part of Dropzone and much of that happens before a match starts by way of planning, weighing character stats and building out your squad. Map awareness is another big aspect of the game, so it’s important to keep an eye on the minimap and remember where you sent all three of your Rigs. We support just about every interface you would expect from MOBAs or RTS which means it helps a great deal to queue up orders, know keyboard shortcuts and learn when to engage versus letting pilots do their thing.
What are Dropzone’s influences?
GS: What were some of the influences behind the looks of the Pilots, mechs and creatures in Dropzone?
JC: While we have two Art Directors on Dropzone, Ted Terranova is the Art Director most focused on pilots, mechs (Rigs) and creatures. Ted was the art lead for buildings on Rise of Nations and is the creator of Rivet Wars, a super cool board game with mechanized units based in WWI. Largely, we let Ted and his team run with their vision and they naturally pulled in all kinds of influences, from Starcraft to Aliens to Starship Troopers.
GS: What kind of expectations do you have for the first year of Dropzone? Where would you like to see it go?
JC: As players, we love the game and we still love playing Dropzone every day. Dropzone is the rare game that we could see developing in interesting and fun new directions for a decade or more. So obviously we’d like to build a community that helps us get it there and enjoys the game as much as we do. We love to see pros playing the game and we love the community contributions. We typically implement one significant patch each week, and we look forward to evolving the game based on the feedback from a wider audience.