In this chapter we cover 2016, a big year of partnerships with some of the most talented developers in the games industry and two of our biggest games in recent memory. Read on for the full lowdown, including interviews with the developers behind Worms W.M.D and Overcooked!
OlliOlli2: XL Edition
Year: 2016 | Developer: Roll7 | Publisher: Team17 | Format: Xbox One
Buy on: Xbox One
As well as developing and publishing full releases, Team17’s games label can also help developers bring their games to other platforms, and that’s exactly what happened in 2016 when the brilliantly talented UK studio Roll7 needed help bringing two of their games to Xbox One.
The first of those was OlliOlli2, the sequel to Roll7’s critically acclaimed side-scrolling skateboard game. With a game as good as OlliOlli, it was a no brainer to get involved, so we helped get the Xbox One conversion developed, including a brand new Free-Skate mode – a little something extra for Xbox players who’d had to wait a bit longer.
XL Edition was very well received, with a string of 8-9/10 reviews, reflecting the quality of Roll7’s design. Pure Xbox called it “the best version of Roll7’s stellar skateboarding game”, while XBLA Fans went even better and declared it “the finest skateboarding experience on Xbox One.” All told, this is yet another release Team17 can feel extremely proud to have played a part in.
Not A Hero: Super Snazzy Edition
Year: 2016 | Developer: Roll7 | Publisher: Team17 | Format: Xbox One
Buy on: Xbox One
Part of the same partnership as OlliOlli2, the “Super Snazzy Edition” of Not A Hero took what was already an incredible modern-retro arcade shooter, brought it to Xbox One players and added the “Me, Myself & Bunnylord” campaign, allowing players to control the previously unplayable Bunnylord across three new missions.
Much like OlliOlli2, Not A Hero was already a fantastic game before Team17 became involved with it, and we’re pleased to say that it was just as well received on Xbox One. If you miss arcade run-n-gun games like Elevator Action Returns or Ninja Cop, then we think Not A Hero is a superb addition to the genre. Check out the trailer and see if it’s for you…
10 Minute Tower
Year: 2016 | Developer: Team17 | Publisher: Sega | Format: PC
Buy on: Steam
10 Minute Tower is unique among Team17 developed games because, over a nine-year span, it’s our only in-house creation not to be self-published. That’s because it’s a very special case, part of a charity compilation called HELP: THE GAME.
Designed to raise money for UK charity War Child, to help children affected by conflict, the HELP: THE GAME compilation featured 12 small games, developed by top game studios in just six days, as part of a global game jam. Some fantastic game developers such as Rovio, Sports Interactive, Sumo Digital and even LA Cops creators Modern Dream all contributed games to the compilation. Team17’s game, 10 Minute Tower, was created by nine Teamsters and was a block-moving puzzle game set in the imagination of a child. Players could take control of a robot, for example, to push heavy blocks, or become an astronaut to defy gravity and leap over blocks.
10 Minute Tower is still available on Steam as part of the HELP: THE GAME compilation, so if you want to play some small creative ideas from a host of top game developers while also helping a good cause then be sure to check it out.
Along with Worms and The Escapists, Overcooked! by GhostTown Games is without a doubt one of greatest and most adored games in Team17’s history. The 4-player co-operative cooking game is loved by gamers and non-gamers the world over. But its success wasn’t always guaranteed, as co-creator Phil Duncan remembers…
“We’d had a lot of rejections from publishers, on the grounds that local multiplayer games were a dead end,” he recalls. “In fact, we initially got a rejection from Team17 as well! But we eventually got a call from Debbie Bestwick saying the team were still playing the prototype some 6 months after we’d originally pitched it and would we like to talk about it some more.”
When evaluating games for the Team17 indie label, we look at hundreds of games per year, so to still be playing a demo six months after submission… That’s a sign that something is pretty special – as the countless positive reviews, YouTube videos, industry awards and messages from fans now attest. For Phil and Oli at GhostTown Games, however, it took some time to realise just how popular Overcooked! was going to be…
“It took a while to sink in,” says Duncan. “We got a few flashes of it during development, a few conventions where players would really respond well – we were voted best indie game at Rezzed one year – but we wouldn’t let ourselves believe it for the longest time. We had so many mixed messages from publishers and industry folk that we just had to put our heads down and deliver the best game we could. I guess winning the BAFTA was a moment where we started to think, OK, yeah, maybe there is something to this…”
If you’re reading this then you probably don’t need to be told how special Overcooked! is. If for some reason, you haven’t played it yet, then why not find a friend who has it and try taking on a few kitchens together. The better you are at communicating, the better able you’ll be to survive the cooking chaos and have a great time in the process. Or maybe you’ll descend into the chaos and become comically frustrated with your teammates. Which can be pretty entertaining too!
After all the critical plaudits and awards, it’s hearing from Overcooked’s diverse range of players that makes the team at GhostTown Games smile the most. “The thing that makes us most proud is when we read emails or messages from people who are playing the game with their kids or their partners together for the first time,” says Duncan. “We’ve had so many messages from people saying ‘my husband doesn’t play games, but we really enjoyed playing Overcooked together’. It’s extremely gratifying knowing we’ve opened the door to a lot of new gamers, and introduced so many people to the joys of co-operative gaming”
By this point in Team17 history, 27 of our first 86 games had featured the word “Worms” in the title. Many were popular, and played for thousands of hours, but which was the best? On a personal level we might all have our own favourites (this writer is particularly partial to Amiga’s Worms: The Director’s Cut) but the overwhelming message we received from the majority of fans over the years is that 1999’s Worms Armageddon was the high point of the series.
With those fans in mind, we’ve attempted to recapture the magic of Armageddon a few times over the years, but when it came time to create “Worms 2016”, the desire to create a spiritual successor to Armageddon was at the very heart of the project. “Some of us working on Worms W.M.D had worked on Worms Armageddon and Worms World Party. So, alongside the fans, it was our favourite too,” says lead designer John Eggett, who worked as a mission designer on Armageddon during his first years at Team17.
Previous Worms games were built very differently to Worm Armageddon. 2013’s Worms Clan Wars, for example, used a full physics system for its dynamic water and objects, which meant that certain gameplay features such as the ninja rope could never behave and feel as they did in Armageddon. But since Worms W.M.D was a true 2D game, the Teamsters could use the actual code from Worms Armageddon as inspiration. “There was still a lot of tweaking to be done even with basing the engine on Worms Armageddon,” says Eggett. “Landscapes and worms were a different scale in WMD. So, we spent a lot of time comparing and adjusting to make it feel as close as we could.”
While the physics of Worms W.M.D looked back to the roots of the Worms series, the return to 2D visuals in the new HD era actually pushed Team17’s artists to their limits, as lead artist Chris Black explains… “With 2D, you can’t really use any sophisticated shaders or lighting effects so everything has to be in the quality of the bare art we created. The brief essentially was to make something beautiful and striking that could be on par or surpass the best 2D games out there.”
“While many would assume creating a 2D game would be easier than creating a modern 3D game, nothing could be further from the truth,” says Black. “This approach took a fearsome amount of person-hours and commitment from the artists to complete all the artwork we needed. Every single part of the game had to be drawn from scratch at high resolution. Then we all had to closely match the style, otherwise pieces wouldn’t work when it was all put together. It is also a game where a player literally stares at one small part of the game so, unlike other games, our art had to be absolutely perfect in its execution too. To maintain visual interest, if you look closely when playing we deliberately left paint strokes, pen marks and other artist details to make it look as if it was hand painted and this gives the game a certain character to it that many won’t even notice.”
In all, each landscape theme featured around 100 hand-painted items, some of which could take an artist four days to paint. “It’s no surprise we went through so many packs of Wacom nibs and most artists developed calluses on their fingers from holding the pen,” says Black, bringing new meaning to the term “tortured artist!”
Eagle eyed players may also have noticed that those beautiful landscapes now randomly generate in a very different way to most previous Worms games. “We didn’t want just a landscape mask with a fringe and repeating texture,” says Eggett, “but we still wanted random landscapes and we wanted each one to look hand drawn. Our solution was to use individual components that would be stitched together. A landscape template is used that determines, randomly, the starting land pieces. Each land piece has nodes that depending on a probability ‘grows’ by picking another land piece until we have a full landscape.” Though this feature isn’t one you’re likely to have seen mentioned in reviews, it remains the one Eggett is most proud of today.
More noticeable improvements for Worms W.M.D included vehicles such as a tank, helicopter or mech that the worms could hop in and out of, as well as a crafting system which allowed players to create new weapons from collectible loot and, ingeniously, gave everyone something to do while they patiently waited for their turn. “Crafting was initially just going to be augmenting existing weapons by adding fire, clusters or poison to them,” says Eggett. “Early on we decided that we could have more variety if we offered crafted alternatives depending on the base weapon. It also meant we could create some totally new weapons such as the OMG Strike or Tasty Worm Lick!”
By building on the physics of Worms Armageddon while adding in original gameplay features and beautiful 2D art, the aim with Worms W.M.D was to create the ultimate Worms game, and we really think we achieved that. In fact, we’re so happy with it that there hasn’t been a new Worms game for almost three years since – the longest gap in Worms history to date – because we want as many fans as possible to take the time to play and see what we’re so proud of.
“It’s a real pleasure to work on a game where the artists can take great pride in what they achieved,” concludes Black, “and I really think W.M.D stands as a beautiful product because those who worked on it weren’t just making a game, they were genuinely driven to make something they could be proud of and pay homage to the Worms legacy.”
Another first for the Team17 games label, Lethal VR was a 100% VR game, made by Three Fields Entertainment, headed by industry legend Alex Ward and other ex-members of Criterion, responsible for Burnout and Black.
Created during the early days of commercial VR headsets, Lethal VR is a relatively simple arcade shooting gallery, but also draws on the developer’s many years of experience creating high-octane, exciting arcade-inspired games. Check out the trailer…
That’s all for 2016! In the next instalment, we’ll be looking at the games of 2017, including The Escapists 2 and Yooka-Laylee! While you wait, why not check out our previous history chapters, starting in 1991 or tell us your favourite T17 game by using #100Team17 on Twitter!