The creator of TowerFall discusses the game’s latest expansion: TowerFall Dark World
The match is down to a tense one-on-one battle, following the tragic death of two players shooting it out on dangerous vice-like moving platforms designed to kill anyone who doesn’t time their jumps carefully enough.
An arrow is shot from across the map and it begins homing in, bending through the air towards its intended target. One of the remaining two players quickly taps their Dualshock 4’s right trigger, grabbing the projectile out of mid air and immediately firing it directly back at their foe, finally taking them down and in the process rewarding the Cyan-coloured Prancing Puppet character as the victor of the match.
This is TowerFall – an old school-inspired game that takes inspiration from easy to pick-up-and-play multiplayer titles like Mortal Kombat and Super Smash Bros, but with an additional level of Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit-era charm, thanks to its beautiful pixelart and retro-inspired visuals.
Vancouver-based video game developer Matt Thorson recently launched TowerFall Ascension’s first and possibly only expansion, TowerFall: Dark World, on PC and PlayStation 4.
Originally dropping as an exclusive title for the ill-fated Ouya Android-based console in 2013, in some ways Thorson has pushed TowerFall farther than he originally intended and the game has reached monumental levels of popularity.
Versions of TowerFall are now available on the PS4 and PC (TowerFall: Ascension) and a recently launched content expansion pack (TowerFall Dark World), brings new characters, a four-player cooperative multiplayer mode and randomly generated levels, to the TowerFall universe.
“At every stage along TowerFall’s development, it has always been the plan to wait and see how our work is received. The heart of TowerFall is the people who play it, and I’m blown away by how far we’ve been able to take it,” said TowerFall’s creator, Matt Thorson.
Launching TowerFall early on the Ouya gave Thorson a basis to build from, and additionally lead to extensive press coverage from a number of notable gaming publications. It was also one of the very few games worth playing on the console.
“Ouya was looking for launch titles, and we answered the call. We always knew getting onto Steam and major consoles was the eventual goal, but we wanted to iterate on it more first – the difference between Ascension and the original Ouya launch version of TowerFall is pretty huge.”
TowerFall Dark World adds four new levels to the game’s versus mode, two additional arrow power-ups and also procedurally generated stages. Thorson also explained that perhaps the biggest addition to TowerFall in Dark World is a new four-player co-op campaign featuring intricate boss battles.
Thorson sees Dark World as an opportunity to address some of TowerFall Ascension’s main criticisms surrounding the game’s popular co-operative Quest Mode, mainly the limit of two players and its extreme difficulty level, which on the other side of the spectrum is a reason some players enjoyed Ascension’s co-op mode so much.
Easy difficulty in Dark World’s co-op campaign is now less punishing and the ability to revive fallen players has also been added.
“Reviving is the crucial change that makes 4-player co-op work, and ties into a lot of aspects of the gameplay. One important contrast from the old lives system is that deaths are no longer such a huge loss for your team, and there’s always a chance for a comeback. This makes for a lot less animosity when teams fail,” said Thorson.
The same development team that helped Thorson create TowerFall Ascension also worked on Dark World, although he emphasizes he had additional time to perfect Dark World and didn’t have to deal with the development crunch his group experienced with getting Ascension ready for launch.
“Ascension felt a lot more frantic. With Dark World we had more of a chance to take our time and experiment. At the end of development it always ends up being a big rush, but we gave ourselves a lot of room to explore new ideas and find a strong direction,” said Thorson.
Thorson also responded to one of the few major points of criticism his blockbuster indie title has had thrown at it since launch – the game’s lack of an online multiplayer mode. While online multiplayer could potentially and technically be possible in TowerFall, he feels adding the feature would ultimately ruin the game’s focus on “couch multiplayer.”
“Great online games are designed from the start to be online games, and TowerFall has always been about couch multiplayer. It felt like, for TowerFall, online play is a feature that would increase sales while decreasing the quality of the game, and that never felt right,” said Thorson
In terms of the future, Thorson hasn’t ruled out bringing TowerFall to additional platforms – a PlayStation Vita version of the game is already in the works – but says it could be time to finally leave his arrow shooting epic behind.
“I’d love to release the game on Xbox One, but there’s no concrete plans for that yet,” said Thorson.
“It feels like it’s finally time to leave TowerFall, at least for a while. I’m excited to work on something fresh.”