During my time at EGX Rezzed, I was able to catch up with Paul Kilduff-Taylor of Mode 7 Games, and Macieck Strychalski & Sean Wright of SMAC Games. Mode 7 Games have recently branched out into indie publishing as a way of helping out other indie developers with their projects, and Maciek and Sean are the first to be a part of this with their upcoming game, Tokyo 42, that had a demo which was available to play at the show alongside a build of Frozen Synapse 2, the sequel to Mode 7 Games’ title. George: We’ll start with Paul; here at the venue, you’re showcasing Frozen Synapse 2. I’ve seen a lot of people, both in the media and consumers, make the comparison to titles like Rainbow Six and X-Com. Would it be right to assume that these were influences for the project? If so, what other influences are there? Paul: So, the primary influence has always been Laser Squad Nemesis, and the main thing that we looked to solve in the first game was the issue of set-up times. So in that game, if you play the campaign, you [jump] in and can immediately find where all the enemies are. So Ian’s original design was about piloting you into an interesting situation straight away. So we want to retain that, but this time what we’re looking at is much more expansive, grand strategy games like Crusader Kings 2. A lot of the time on PC, what people really want is incredibly in-depth experiences with a lot of detail, a lot of variables that they can change, and the ability to have this long-form strategy as well, so we thought we’d kinda marry that with the original top-down Frozen Synapse gameplay. “Primarily, it was Maciek’s haircut.” George: Obviously there’ll be a lot of elements from the first game feeding into the sequel. What can you tell me about in further detail that’ll be in the sequel on top of the first game? Paul: The marquee feature (of Frozen Synapse 2) is this gigantic procedurally-generated city, where you can go into any building, and you can do a mission at any point throughout this city. We think we’re the first game ever that’s had a procedural city where it’s had that level of accessibility and real content. The buildings are real, they have owners and units within them. On top of that, there’s this faction system; within the city, there are different AI factions that’ll effectively play the game along with the player, so they make their own decisions, they have their own personalities. They can get annoyed, happy, sad, based on your actions and the actions of each other. Finally one of the major additions for people who know the original game is all of these different unit classes. We have flamethrowers, gas grenade units, melee units, all of this stuff that’s really playing around with the system, to try to add massive amounts to the tactical methods and abilities available. So the whole thing has an overhaul over this entirely new structure. George: Tokyo 42 is looking incredibly promising. What led you to making the decision of working with Maciek and Sean to get the project off the ground? Paul: Primarily, it was Maciek’s haircut. It’s one of the most beautiful quiffs I’ve ever seen on a man. Maciek chuckles at the remark. Paul: No yeah, we decided that we wanted to move into working with other devs because we’ve been doing this for ten years and we have some experience in some things, we think. So we went looking, attended the Develop’s Interface event which was held in London, an event for developers to pitch their games. Maciek: Mhm, it was Speed Dating. Paul: Speed Dating, yeah! And I saw their game, the instant they opened their laptop I thought that the art was absolutely phenomenal, and they started to describe the features of the game. I think what they sold me on was the cat, there is a cat that you can trigger in the game to hunt down your opponents, and just, the insane level of detail these guys had put in to what was just a prototype, just made me think that I wanted to work with these people on this game, it’s really exciting. Loads of potential in the gameplay, just, incredibly exciting. “It’s very easy to reach the fridge.” George: What lies ahead in branching out to publishing? Are there any other projects that you’re looking at right now, or is it a ‘take things as they come along’ situation? Paul: So we’re working exclusively with these guys (SMAC Games) right now, because we want to treat it with the same level of dedication as one of our own games, and they’ve asked us to be quite involved with certain aspects of it which is really cool, so we want to give that our absolute full attention. And then when that comes out, there’s definitely other projects that we’ll be looking into, because we’re part of Indie Fund so I’ve been involved with funding other games at a lower level of involvement that’s just financially, and that’s something that we’re always interested in talking to developers about. George: Maciek, Sean. You’ve described Tokyo 42 as being the lovechild of GTA1 and Syndicate. What else has inspired the project? Maciek: Well, this is our first game, so in many respects there’s a lot of first-principle stuff we’re applying in the design of this game. We’ve taken a lot of the things we love, and instead of trying to make something completely new, we’re taking elements from games that work as starting points. Aesthetically from my perspective, in terms of the graphics, it’s a mix between Where’s Wally, or more specifically eBoy, which is a cool version of Where’s Wally, and Monument Valley. Monument Valley works beautifully, eBoy and Where’s Wally look mental and are just great, so somewhere halfway between. In terms of the gameplay… Sean: Yeah, we really wanted to have that eBoy experience where you’re essentially in a multiplayer-type setup, where you would have the enemies walking around and you can see them but you don’t know who they are. So there are these mysterious characters trying to kill you and you trying to kill them, and that was the first principle that we went through, and it’s evolved from there. Maciek: We took bits from games like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman – Syndicate is a core one with the crowds and the factions, GTA in terms of the open world and how you interact with it, Worms with the physics-based weapons, Sensible Soccer with the responsiveness of the movement, Cannon Fodder because that’s just one of the originals, the list goes on. “…if the game wasn’t incredible to start with, it wouldn’t have had the success it’s had.” George: So I’ve noticed a heavy focus on, well, cats… Each of them men giggle to each other. George: …in the marketing. I can only assume you’re fans of cats? Or is this just some form of irony? Sean: No, we love cats. The three all laugh again, this time with more enthusiasm. Maciek: Not to say anything against dogs. We don’t want to chase away dog fans. Sean: No, we like all animals. And actually, there’s kind of a split, and we might just bend to the consumers and the guys on the forums, and – this isn’t finalised yet, but – potentially introduce dogs. Maciek: Oh yeah, so this is exclusive. Inside information! George: Goodness, well, I shall inform the masses with the promise of dogs. Paul: Disclaimer that dogs have not been officially announced yet! George: I’ve been told by Paul in the email that he sent me that you guys have been working on this game in your kitchen. How does this environment affect the development process? Sean: It’s very easy to reach the fridge. Once more the three men laugh quite heartily. Maciek: Of course, it’s not quite what it sounds. It’s a mixed-use space. We have dining tables, and desks, so it’s not as if we’re sat next to the microwave whilst it’s cooking. Sean: But we can rotate in our chairs and grab anything. George: Tokyo 42 has had a sort of media boom. There are pieces on Polygon, Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, IGN. How are you guys feeling about all of the publicity? Maciek: The first thing to note there is actually that Paul’s done all of the editing on that. He’s our experienced hand in the industry so he kind of, his touch there was kinda the driving thing behind the success of it’s publicity. People like him, they may be well-known as genius games developers, but it turns out they can also do the PR side of things pretty well too. Paul: We do have that structure, to know how to get all of the information out there. But It’s always all about the game. And this game is absolutely amazing and looks so good, so from my perspective it’s always working purely off of that, y’know getting the game to press. These two may talk about it as us having done all of the work but it’s so… well, if the game wasn’t incredible to start with, it wouldn’t have had the success it’s had. “I mean… he’s a genius. Multi-instrumentalist.” George: Oh yeah, it’s definitely looking quite fantastic. The trailer alone shows that there’s a lot of potential and a lot of promise with this project. Sean: Another key component of that trailer was the music, and I think a lot of people really enjoyed it. The guy that the music was composed by is actually a friend of ours who at the moment is living in Cape Town, his name is Vicente Espi and he did the music for the trailer and he’s going to be doing the audio in the game. I mean… he’s a genius. Multi-instrumentalist. Paul: He was really awesome to work with on the trailer, we had a nice back-and-forth on that, we were actually working on the music and the trailer edit simultaneously. It was interesting for me, because normally we’d write our trailer music ourselves, so it’s been really interesting and cool, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the soundtrack. He’s a bit shy and retiring, so if we say in this interview that he really needs to get a Twitter, so that people can actually find him, he’ll have to do it! George: So, Frozen Synapse 2, Tokyo 42, obviously in very early stages. Looking really good for where they are at the moment. Any predictions as to when you’ll be finished with each project, and have them ready to go out to the public? Paul: With Tokyo 42 we know, we’re on quite a structured timeline with these guys, as it’s their first game so we’re trying to give them an idea of structure, so we’ve got the project queued up for the first quarter of 2017. With Frozen Synapse 2, we should have a beta out in a couple of months time. And then we’re going to be flexible based on the reaction to that scope, with the city stuff and such a large scope there with what you could add, so we’re staying quite open with that. I think we originally said the end of this year for full release. I don’t know if that’s definitely going to happen, that’s the general aim. You can check out the original Frozen Synapse on Steam, and have a gander at the trailer for Toyko 42 on the official website. Paul can be found on Twitter at @mode7games, and likewise you can find SMAC Games at @Tokyo42Game. Vicente’s music can be found on Soundcloud.