After a long absence from the App Store, developer Matt Rix will soon be back with Snow Siege, a game that's the result of a new collaborative effort between Rix and Owen Goss called Milkbag Games. I met up with Rix at GDC this week to talk about the new game and how it all came together.
Rix made a big splash on the App Store a couple of years ago with Trainyard, an excellent game that had you connecting little colored trains with rails on a grid. Since then, Rix has worked on several projects and prototypes but hasn't released a new game for iOS. He admits feeling pressure in trying to follow up Trainyard's high quality, and notes that he "gets really sick of it" when a project goes on for too long.
While game development can be fun, polishing a title for release often isn't. As a result, Rix found himself looking for a new project rather than finishing the ones he'd started.
Last year, Rix teamed up with fellow developer (and Ontario, Canada resident) Goss, the creator of Finger Tied and Landformer. Rix said he hoped "working with someone else might make me stick to something." Rix has also been working on a framework built for the Unity engine called Futile (which developer NimbleBit has famously embraced for their games), so the duo started making a game together.
Snow Siege is scheduled to be released this year. The initial game Goss and Rix started bore a close resemblance to another game Rix made called Baskeball Cannoncube, which itself has roots in a silly comment on Reddit. But the original game, which was about a cube that could shoot basketball hoops, eventually translated into a snowball fight game, and it morphed again and again, as Rix and Goss threw ideas back and forth, into the wild mix of genres that Snow Siege is right now.
So here's the run-down. Snow Siege is a tower defense game with action elements. The defenses that you build (against an invading horde of 2D snowmen) are all represented and chosen from a deck of cards. A number of cards go into your hand during every build phase, you get a certain number of points to build with, and then you can spend those points to build defenses. Blue cards are shields that block enemy attacks. Red cards are weapons and used for attack. Green cards represent support units which provide a variety of helpful abilities.
Snow Seige has one last twist. Once you choose what cards you'd like to build with, the defenses appear on the board in the form of ... wait for it ... Tetris pieces. With plus-shaped pieces, lines and various angled blocks, you can drop pieces onto the board and build them up as you like, either slotting them together Tetris-style or dangling them dangerously out across each other. There's even a little bit of strategy to building a rickety structure -- if a group of snowmen takes out a support block, the blocks overhead will fall and could give you a "crushing bonus," rewarding you with lots more coins and points.
As you might imagine, the game starts simple, with just a few snowmen that are easily defeated. However, Rix showed me a battle from later in the game that was incredibly chaotic, including hordes of snowmen marching on a huge fort, driving tanks and even helicopters. Your defenses can get beefy too, with missile turrets and lasers that will shoot automatically and even target certain enemies for you.
Snow Siege looks like a lot of fun, but complicated. The card mechanic is a strange addition to a game that's already got puzzle blocks and shooting weapons. But Rix said it's in there to simplify things, actually, and he and Goss hope that the simple act of collecting cards in a deck makes the choices of what and how to build a little easier and more understandable.
At any rate, the pair has plenty of work yet to do. Rix and Goss are both talented game creators and they've got several interesting ideas up in the air already with Snow Siege. Hopefully they can juggle those ideas without dropping any.