Nine months ago Phil Busuttil and David Thatcher departed UK-based Ninja Theory – of Enslaved and DmC: Devil May Cry fame – to form the two-man indie team TriCat Games.
Now that their first game – though not the game they started developing first, but we’ll come to that – R.A.B.B.i.T (Rope Assisted Ballistic Bunny in Transit) is due to be released on iOS imminently, we couldn’t resist a chitchat with TriCat.
R.A.B.B.i.T is “an endless grappling-hook game”. Where did the inspiration come from?
The game is primarily inspired by the ninja rope mechanics from the Worms series, but with a game loop like Flappy Bird and other modern mobile action games. When we sat down to discuss what our second game would be, we went back and forth on a couple of ideas that weren’t really going anywhere. The suggestion of rope-swinging mechanics came out of one of these discussions, and we immediately dropped everything else and decided to see if we could make that work.
Regarding the game being endless, this was always going to be the case. Targeting the mobile market, our intention has always been to make short-burst replayable games where the challenge is different every time you play. Grappling-hook mechanics seemed like a natural fit for that style of game, so we just had to work out how our levels were built.
How did you flesh the concept out to a full game? The different modes, for example.
Initially there wasn’t going to be much more than the core gameplay loop, as the game was meant to be a 6-week project. So, like Flappy Bird, there was a title screen, you started the game, died, and then restarted it. When we decide that we like a mechanic however, we tend to want to polish it to the best of our ability. So we thought about other gameplay modes we could add.
These modes mostly came out of how we dealt with level generation. Creating a single, potentially-infinite scrolling level got ruled out quite early on for technical reasons, so the game’s ‘endless’ mode is actually just a series of short levels that you complete in sequence. Once we decided on generating discrete levels with a start and end point, it made sense to have a mode where you could enter you own level seeds (Much like Worms), and also a selection of pre-made levels.
At one point we were planning an ‘RPG’ mode, where you gained EXP for completing levels, and lost it when you died, challenging you to play well to maintain your level. When we gave the game to some friends in the pub one Friday night, however, and we watched them fighting over an iPad to play the basic survival mode, we realised that that was compelling enough, so we lost interest in RPG mode.