Cliff Harris Talks Gratuitous Tank Battles – Interview

Cliff Harris Talks Gratuitous Tank Battles – Interview

Earlier this week we previewed Gratuitous Tank Battles, the upcoming game from Positech Games. Today, you can read the full interview with Cliff covering the multiplayer component of the game, Cliff’s love of tanks and more.
The Reticule – Why did you decide to carry on with the same game style as Gratuitous Space Battles?

Cliff Harris – I always think my games are best when I make exactly the game I want to make. I really enjoyed making GSB, and it was just natural to make a game with a similar general theme. Also, there is a lot that two years on from GSB, I know I could do better next time around, so it was a joy to pull apart and improve all the things I’ve always wanted to change.

The Reticule – Can you expand on how the RTS/Tower Defense hybrid will work?

Cliff Harris – Generally speaking, GTB is a tower defense game, BUT, you can play attack or defense. Defense is as normal, but attack is where each wave, it’s you that places down the attacking units to move along pre-set routes past the enemy turrets and trenches. It’s quite influenced by Plants vs Zombies, but done with a lot of graphical detail and complexity so if you turn off the display of the paths, it should look like a big RTS battle rather than classic Tower Defense. There are also customisable units so you are actually putting together mechs and tanks and soldiers just like in GSB, but deploying them in a TD setting.

The Reticule – You’ve kept the top down approach, was there any temptation to make GTB isometric?

Cliff Harris – I find isometric a bit of a technical fudge. It was top-down or full 3D. I really like top-down games and nobody seems to make them any more, unless they are simple flash or web games. There are a ton of 3D tower defense and RTS games, so I thought it would be more interesting to stick with top-down. I like my games to look distinctive, not just another 3D game. I also think tower defense as a genre works better as top-down.

The Reticule – Do you think GTB will appeal to a wider audience than GSB because of the earth-bound setting?

Cliff Harris – Possibly, I don’t know. The real reason is that I’m a bit obsessed with tanks. I’ve spend 2 birthdays in a row at the Tank Museum. I’ve driven a chieftan and sat in a challenger, clambered around in all the WW1 tanks… various relatives have been tank crew, and I live near the tank training area in the SW UK. I guess I wanted to make this game because of my own fascination with such things, rather than it making any sort of commercial sense :D. I have a constant reminder of tanks. Some days I hear the AS90 firing and see my windows rattle. Tanks are in my blood!

The Reticule – Have you come across any major new challenges with this title compared to your previous work?

Cliff Harris – In GSB, spaceships could fly under and above each other, which simplified a lot of stuff. In GTB, they can’t do that! Also, the units in GSB were just sprites, but GTB has animated mechs and soldiers, and also all units are multi-layered, so you can mix and match turrets and guns etc. This is all a big optimisation hell, but it was fun getting it all working. Decent gun recoil was harder than you would think, and GTB requires a proper level editor too.

The Reticule – What made you decide to use the World War One theme?

Cliff Harris – I think it’s weird that WW1 has never been used as a setting for a nice shiny strategy game. The WW1 games tend to be grognard hex based stuff. People say that’s because the combat is static and the guns are weak. So the solution is to make it a tower defense game, and give the troops lasers. No game is ever made worse by adding laser guns and mechs. Even the Sims, or Wii Tennis. You know it makes sense. One of the original names for the game was ‘Zulu! with lasers!’.

The Reticule – Will there be a story mode or just one-off skirmish battles?

Cliff Harris – A bit early to say. The singleplayer battles are a connected web of engagements that unlock each other, but it’s not a big huge campaign, more a series of one-off battles. I’m planning to give the player the choice of attack or defend at each battle, which would possibly break any really coherent traditional narrative.

The Reticule – Is the multiplayer component being expanded in any major way over GSB?

Cliff Harris – GSB didn’t make much of a deal about high scores and who you fought against. You download a challenge from ‘Dave76’ but you generally don’t care. I plan for GTB to be much more about your online profile for your own personal ‘regiment’ You will see a lot of stats and data from the regiment that you are fighting against, and I hope to have a lot more made of leaderboards and
achievements. This game will definitely have achievements built in from the very start.

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