Kickstarter Interview #2: Death, Inc.

by Brooks Weaver. 0 Comments

T o continue and conclude our two-part Kickstarter Interview series, we draw our attention to a joyous game from the good ole’ United Kingdom called Death, Inc .  That’s right, I just used “joyous” and “death” in the same sentence.

Now, I’m not some sicko who gets his kicks from death or hurting people and small animals.  But what I am is a fan of this new game from Ambient Studios .

In being a fan, and a video game blogger, I wanted to know more about this new game so that I could (a) get some insight as to why I should back it on Kickstarter (and yes, I already have), (b) find out whether I will want to purchase / play it when it comes out later this year and finally (c) let you (yes you ) know more about it so that you can make an informed decision on whether you will want to buy and play it when it hits digital stores later this year.

To accomplish my three, daunting tasks above, I got in touch with Mike Green of Ambient Studios and inquired about the various aspects of Death, Inc.  To complement the Q&A below, Mike and Daniel have conducted two Q&A videos to date that featured some of the questions that I sent to Mike for his and the team’s feedback.  Those questions are highlighted in this blog with a “ * ” for Q&A Video #1 and “ ** ” for Q&A Video #2.


[W2W] Why Death, Inc.?  What was the inspiration behind the title?

[MG] “The main inspiration behind the game was that we wanted to create something that harked back to the " Bullfrog " games of old. They were of their time, but they had a lot of humour sometimes in an incredibly dark setting.

We wanted to recapture the spirit of those old games, but create a modern equivalent with innovative features for the next generation of gamer.”

[W2W] How has the idea of Death, Inc. changed over time?

[MG] “Death Inc. hasn’t really changed that much since we decided the player would be the Grim Reaper. The original premise was “Wouldn’t it be cool if you can play as the zombies”, but almost immediately thought that there’s far too many zombie games.

We loved the unique gameplay that came with controlling a horde of characters and we just needed to stand out as much as we could.

We thought about some alternative ideas - at one point the game was going to be about controlling a computer virus, with the player infecting different electronic systems. But then we quickly realised that that concept was waaaaay too similar to Introversion’s fantastic ‘ Darwinia ’.

We then focused on infection and before too long we decided that we should use the ultimate plague setting… The Black Death ! Which at the time was prevalent in 17th Century England. We loved that time period, but thought the tone was a little ‘dark’ and needed an injection of humour. So that’s when we introduced the Grim Reaper and his goal of creating a "company" that would be number one in the Soul Reclamation Industry!”

[W2W] Where did you get the idea for the artwork?

[MG] So I grabbed Tim (Holleyman) the Art Director for this one and he said:

[TH] “There are a number of influences for the art style - tilt shift photography was the starting point. It’s a great look and a number of games are already using it really well. I love the simplicity and atmosphere of Journey .

Colour and lighting are really important.  There are a couple of artists at Pixar, Dice Tsutsumi and Noah Klocek , who are a huge influence.

Finally some painters, Gustav Klimt and Anders Zorn are amazing!”

[W2W] How big of an area will the game represent?

[MG] “So the game takes place in a re-imagined 17th Century England, which means we have the whole span of the country to find historic sites of interest!

We haven’t totally nailed down the number of levels we’ll be creating yet. But the plan is to cover as many interesting locales as we can - each with a unique mission to undertake.

The levels themselves will be quite large, much larger than you might find in something like Starcraft or Age of Empires .”

[W2W] ** Can the infected craft structures (blockades, shields, etc.) in order to attack or defend themselves while progressing through each level?

[MG] The infected can’t craft structures, but we have this idea for Special Abilities...the thought is that these buff your troops temporarily with additional powers or abilities.  But there would be nothing stopping us from adding an ability like ‘shield’ that protects your troops temporarily, or add other structures into the level.

[W2W] * How will those affected by the plague react the same and/or differently?

[MG] “So pretty much anything that is alive in the game can be infected. But they don’t just turn into mindless drones. Some will ‘remember’ the roles of their former human selves.

Infected archers will have ranged attacks, giant soldiers will turn into infected units with high health.

Each unit will have a variety of different strengths and weaknesses, giving players a lot of choice in deciding how they’ll want to tackle different combat scenarios. You can even infect animals, sometimes with explosive consequences.”


[W2W] What game engine(s) are you using?

[MG] “We’re building Death Inc. with the Unity engine , which is a fantastic fit for us.  It’s a great set of tools which means that we can just get on with implementing the cool features and awesome visuals of the game without having to worry about building asset pipelines etc.

It has saved a huge amount of time and the Unity team are constantly adding new features.  They’re also supporting new platforms which in turn makes life alot easier for us if and when we decide to support a new device or console. It gives us a great head start.”

[W2W] Will there be a co-op option or a verses option to the game?

[MG] “We would love to have a multiplayer component added to the game.  We have some ideas for versus modes and I think a Cooperative campaign could be an incredible experience. If we get over our Kickstarter goal then multiplayer is something we’d definitely consider, especially if it’s something that the backers want. It’s a lot of extra work for us though so we’d need to cost up exactly how long we think it’s going to take to make.”

Death Inc. Kickstarter Q and A - Feb 15th from Ambient Studios on Vimeo.

[W2W] * Will the game be connected to social media?  If so, how will this compliment the gameplay and will it be optional for those that want to play the game locally?

[MG] “I think adding social hooks into a game is high on the agenda, especially with the business simulation aspect of the game. I’d love to see how well my business is doing compared with my friends, or even offer to help them out with a few extra souls! (With interest of course!)”


[W2W] Why are players going to "paint" their mobs from one location to another in order to control them in the game; i.e., does Grim have an artistic side?  I ask because I'm not sure if you are going to include a back story of some kind.

[MG] “Grim does indeed have an artistic side.  During the course of the Kickstarter we’ll be revealing more of a comic that our wonderful art director Tim has been creating.  This will tell you more of Grim’s back story: who he is, what his interests are and why he left the monolithic Ministry of Mortality.  BE WARNED: there’s an image of a Reaper riding on a zebra.

As for the painting mechanic we use to control the troops in the game, that was a result of us trying to experiment with different mechanics for moving a swarm of characters on screen. We tried out the traditional, RTS (real-time strategy) method of selection (draw a box around your troops) and click to move. But it just didn’t feel right.

We’ve all come from very creative studios and we questioned why we needed to copy what others had done before. I think it was the right decision as it turns out painting down commands into the world is fun! Almost therapeutic! You can avoid obstacles in levels easily, you can turn cranks, create tactical maneuvers with just a few simple swipes (which could be a precursor for bringing the game to mobile devices). Things that are a lot trickier to do or even impossible in other RTS games, are a lot simpler to do in ours.”

[W2W] ** Will you be awarded with different amounts of points for progressing through each level either by stealth or by a full-frontal assault?

[MG] “So we have this idea for “Black Hearts” found within each level (which unlocks rooms in Grim’s office in the nether).  I would love to have additional challenges focused on collecting the hearts, that turn the gameplay in each level on it’s head a little.  So replying a level, where you need to reach X objective without losing any troops, or ‘Kill everyone in the level under the time limit’...stuff like that!”

[W2W] How are you going to show level and overall game progress?

[MG] “So the business Simulation aspect of the game will show the player their progress throughout the game. The bigger the office space, the more successful the company.

You’ll also have a map of 17th Century England, which will display the available places you can infect. As your business progresses more areas will unlock to play.”

[W2W] ** For the players that are colorblind, could you add-in a gray tone mode which has Grim’s different paths depicted as different kinds of patterns instead of colors; i.e., dots, dashes, etc.?  Having this mode, in my opinion, will broaden your audience.

[MG] “Absolutely.  The only reason it’s not in at the moment is if we change our minds on the UI (User Interface) design.  Once we decided we’re happy, then we’ll add support for color blind folk.”

[W2W] * Will Grim have a sidekick?

[MG] “Grim has no direct sidekick in the main RTS game, but back in his office in the Nether he’ll be able to hire employees to help him make Death Inc. the greatest company in the soul reclamation industry.

These characters will be pretty cool with their own backstories and different skill sets. They’ll help research improvements in the main RTS game and you can also send them off on missions to help bring in more souls.  During the course of the game you’ll be able to upgrade and improve them which in turn will make them more efficient at their jobs.

One of the neat things that we’re trying to do with our Kickstarter rewards is to really involve the backers, so from £25 ($39) you can have a villager named after you in the game, but if you donate more then you can potentially become one of Grim’s employees!

We want the look and backstory of these special employees to be designed in collaboration with the backers who choose that reward. It should be pretty special!”

[W2W] * How will you be able to customize or upgrade Grim; i.e., will it only be objects in his office that will provide "upgrades" or will there be additional ways to upgrade his capabilities?

[MG] “At the moment, you can fully customize the office space. By upgrading and improving your employees you can in turn use them to improve and research new abilities or improve the stats of your troops.

We’ve no plans as of yet for being able to customize Grim visually, but we have talked in the past at having a ‘Bling my Reaper’ part of the game, where you can customize him more. That probably won’t make it into the initial game, but it would be a cool stretch goal!”


[W2W] * Do you have any future expansions planned?

[MG] “We have a lot of ideas for expansions! The soul reaping industry is out of time and space, which means we could potentially go to any era, and any country.

Personally, I’d love to see prehistoric cavemen and dinosaurs fighting infected versions of themselves, or even an ancient Egyptian campaign!

Each era would of course need different types of troops - each with their own unique abilities and defences. Which in turn means you’ll need new rooms for upgrading those troops in the business simulation side of the game.”

[W2W] * Will Death, Inc. be available on more platforms than PC?  If so, which one's are planned?

[MG] “Death Inc. is currently being developed for PC, Mac and Linux. If we get over the amount we’re asking for, then we’d love to consider other platforms. We’ve already had a lot of interest from backers who would love to see the game on tablets, OUYA and the Wii U. So if we’re successful, then you never know!”

This concludes the two-part, Kickstarter Interview series.  In the weeks to come stay tuned for more blogs to come out on Next-Gen Consoles and the numerous new games that are about to he released.

As always, thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts on Kickstarter and Death, inc. in the comments section below.


Leave a Reply