Rushing the Kingdom: Ironhide Game Studio Interview

by Brooks Weaver. 0 Comments

Blog 0084 Feature Graphic

sto·ic: ˈstō-ik/  “A person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.”

There’s nothing quite like a warrior who defends a kingdom.  That warrior could be male, female, a wizard, a knight, an archer or even a mechanized-robot-with-rocket-launchers-and-compartments-that-unleash-volatile-liquids-to-stop-the-hordes-before-they-reach-the-castle-gates.

(Shew, that was a mouthful.)

Regardless who is defending a castle, one attribute that they must have above all others, if they plan on having any chance of being successful in their defense, is to be stoic.  Whatever comes their way, they must stand true, hold their ground and fight honorably until their last breathe or all of their adversaries have been vanquished.

The last I checked, this is the 21st century and defending castles isn’t exactly a normal thing to do.  Or is it?

If you search “Defend Kingdom” on Google, you will most likely get a result that takes you to a game called Kingdom Rush from Ironhide Game Studio.

Google "defend kingdom" to get "Kingdom Rush".

Google “defend kingdom” to get “Kingdom Rush”.

The first of now two games in the series, Kingdom Rush is a tower defense game that you can play online through your web browser (via Adobe Flash), on your smartphone or on your tablet – and yes, for both Android and iOS (Apple).

It tests your “stoic-ness” by putting you in command of different kinds of towers (archers, engineers, wizards, etc.), as well as, numerous “heroes” to defend the kingdom against various hordes that want nothing more than to “rush” the kingdom and break your defenses on their way to fame and glory.

If you’ve ever witnessed a siege on a kingdom before (think The Lord of the Rings, not Monty Python and the Holy Grail – although the later one is hilarious), you will have noticed that typically you would have troops working together to breach the gates in any way possible.

Well, as the two Kingdom Rush games (the second one being called Kingdom Rush: Frontiers) are in fact ‘games’, Ironhide took a lot of liberty when it comes to how you defend gates.  And in doing so, they have created one of the most successful and enjoyable tower defense games…ever.  To give you an idea of it’s appeal around the world, when they released the Flash version of Frontiers online for free, within a month the game had been played over six million times!!

Given that my wife (who is awesome at the game, by the way) and I have been playing the series ever since it debuted on iOS back in 2011, I wanted to know more about what was behind the series so that you could also be informed about this series.  Contacting the Uruguay-based indie developer, the following is what we discussed:

W2W: Please state your name and what do you do for a living?

IHS:We are the three founders of Ironhide Game Studio – which is now 14 strong.  Gonzalo Sande – Lead Artist, Pablo Realini – Lead Programmer and Alvaro Azofra – Lead Graphic Designer / Game Designer.  Prior to working at Ironhide full-time, we used to work in the I.T. industry.”

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The founders of Uruguay-based indie game studio Ironhide Game Studio.

W2W: How did you get into making games?

IHS:We always had a passion for games, and dreamed of developing our own.  By 2010 we saw that Flash games were very popular and since we knew how to code in Flash we went ahead and tried our luck.  When we started Ironhide four years ago we had almost no idea how to develop games, so we learned on the fly.  In 2010 we published two simple games (Soccer Challenge World Cup Edition 2010 / Clash of the Olympians) and they did good for us.  With the success that we had with the first two games, it became quickly apparent that it was much better than programming software and creating websites, so the next step was to create a bigger, cooler game.  We wanted to challenge ourselves and the Flash portals.  The result was Kingdom Rush.”

W2W: What is the Kingdom Rush series (Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush Frontiers) and how did it come to be?

IHS:Kingdom Rush is a silly, fun, epic tower defense game set in a fantasy medieval setting.  It’s inception was quite crazy!  Back in the day, with not much experience, we were brainstorming about our next game.  While doing random concepts, someone asked: ‘How about a tower defense game?’  Acknowledging that there was lots of competition out there, we decided that if we are going to create such a game, we would have to include all the features that we never saw in the genre.  So we did just that.  In other words we jumped into the KR boat without much idea of what we were up against or the amount of work we had before us.  But we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve.”

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Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush Frontiers logos.

W2W: What is the inspiration behind the series?

IHS:The series has a lot of our personalities within it.  Additionally it is inspired by any and all fantasy fiction, role-playing games (pen and paper – based games included), strategy games and of course tower defense games.  Everything we like about movies, comics and games – we have tried to put all of it into the games.”

W2W: The artstyle of Kingdom Rush and Frontiers is very detailed and “occasionally” interactive; i.e., animals that streak across the screen via explosive diarrhea, sheep that explode when you tap on them too many times and Star Gates that malfunction.  Who is behind the art of the game (characters and environments) and how did it come to be?

IHS:Gonzalo is the force behind the art style of Kingdom Rush.  As we didn’t want to make a blood-thirsty, serious, dramatic tower defense game, we ended up doing everything cute and small so that everything fit on the (mobile) screen; i.e., 700 x 600 – pixel resolution.  It was important to us that the gamer didn’t have to pan around the battlefield.  And since we love casual games that are fun and silly, the art style goes with that same theme – all of the one-liner jokes that are included are meant to compliment the art style and gameplay.”

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Kingdom Rush Frontiers gameplay mosaic.

W2W: Besides the art style, one of the most definitive aspects to the Kingdom Rush series are the one-liners that are associated with each tower when you either select them or upgrade them.  What are the inspirations behind the one-liners, and why did you chose to incorporate them into the game?

IHS:The awesome voice over (V.O.) is made by Sean Crisden and a few of his colleagues.  The main reason we added one-liners was because they are lots of fun.  It created the opportunity to give the towers and characters some personality while also making them funny.  Writing the V.O. scripts is a part I really enjoy during development.”

W2W: Besides awesomeness and magical fury, what tools do you use to make games and the music within them?

IHS:We use Flash for Art & Animation, Photoshop for concept and stage design, XCode with a cocos2d framework for iOS development and Apportable porting technology to take the games to Android.  In regards to the music, we worked with two different studios.  For KR, we utilized the talent of Taking Off.  And for KRF, we worked with Hyperduck SoundWorks.  Each group has their own style, but both really fit into the series and gave each game a unique feel.  We give a lot of artistic freedom to the composers, just a few guidelines, and they nail it every time.”

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Set up your towers and defend the kingdom!!

W2W: Each level within the game follows a similar cadence – with each wave comes more difficult adversaries.  How are enemies chosen for each wave and how did you choose / test their order?

IHS:Level design is made by hand.  There are no algorithms that create the waves, instead there is a designer making everything happen; i.e., lots of trial-and-error is involved.  We found that this approach was the best since we could create custom experiences tailored to each level and circumstances while making the level feel more, let’s say, ‘natural’.”

W2W: Why were “Heroes” incorporated into the series?  Are there any heroes that didn’t make the cut?

IHS:We always saw heroes as cool characters to play with and didn’t want to leave the game without them.  The first KR was meant to have heroes from launch, but it was just too much work for a team of three.  So we cut out the whole module and later added heroes as an update.  For KRF, we made the game around the heroes in order to improve the user experience.  There aren’t any heroes that didn’t make the cut.  We hate to discard stuff, so we just fix it until it fits.”

Some of the many heroes at your disposal.

Some of the many heroes at your disposal.

W2W: Like the one-liners mentioned earlier, the Kingdom Rush series is filled with numerous references to other movies and franchises (like Star Wars, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, The Lord of the Rings and even Warcraft).  What made you want to incorporate these references into the game?

IHS:We believe that fun should be on every possible element.  If we can draw a smile on a player’s face because he / she recognized the Easter Egg of the ‘explosive sheep’ (Warcraft), or because of a movie one-liner (‘Say hello to my little friend’), then it adds to the fun and our mission is accomplished.  Kingdom Rush is not a serious game and doesn’t want to be.  As developers, we love when games do that kind of thing, so we like to bring the same sensation to the players.  We put popular stuff in that we like or that makes us laugh.”

W2W: Each tower design, and it’s upgrades, are very intricate.  What process does each tower go through to bring it to life?

IHS:Tower design, like hero design, goes through a series of iterations (brainstorming).  We think about cool roles and situations, document it, see if they are ‘do-able’ and then go ahead with it.  Normally we do not need to adjust much, but sometimes we adapt some powers because it doesn’t work as expected, although it’s a rare case.  In all KR history, there was only one tower that didn’t cut it, and it was re-skinned to be the Totem tower on Frontiers.  But that tower will make a reappearance on a ‘future game’.”

Some of the towers you can use and upgrade in Kingdom Rush Frontiers.

Some of the towers you can use and upgrade in Kingdom Rush Frontiers.

So whether you play the game for FREE on Armorgames.com, download it on your Android or iOS device or, now, download it on your desktop via Steam, Kingdom Rush is an immersive, all-out battle-rific experience that everyone should experience!

Thank you for reading, and please follow Brooks on Twitter for more links to articles about the interactive entertainment and personal technology industries.

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