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PAX Prime 2013: Interview: AirMech & Cake

InterviewPAX Prime 2013

The Carbon team have found a comfortable place for themselves in the indie scene. Formed by developers from Fat Princess, the team’s since been at work iterating on AirMech, a title which brings core strategy to all audiences. We hung out in the Carbon booth and chatted with Creative Director James Green, mostly about a shared nostalgia for Herzog Zwei and had a cursory look at some concept art for their next project codenamed Cake, a spiritual successor to Fat Princess.

Back in the ‘90s we had to rely on video rental stores to try the new games at an affordable rate. James found Herzog Zwei entirely by chance, with all of the games he was interested in renting already checked out, he ended up settling on Technosoft’s odd departure from their main line of Thunderforce. This chance discovery lead to numerous sick days and ultimately the creation of his team’s current work on AirMech.

Herzog Zwei‘s an incredible early strategy for the Genesis. It fuses Technosoft’s shmup smarts into a mech game where players can transform, fighting by air or land, and can deploy cargo that can be carried in the mech. AirMech borrows this forgotten, well undervalued concept and modernizes what works. It’s one of many underplayed gems of Genesis, even overlooked upon its initial release. A solid cult RTS that came before the genre had been properly defined.

James said it was enough to bring one of his favorite console experiences to a new audience. There’s clearly an initiative at Carbon to appeal to all types of players. They target the low-end of PC hardware so everyone with a laptop can play and constantly evolve the formulas around bringing new players in. Several members of the team stressed how they were looking closely at the Minecraft generation and what could be done to appeal to what they consider the future audience of videogames.

Beyond AirMech and spending the lion’s share of our interview talking Herzog, James showed us concepts for their next project, illustrated by the lead artist for Fat Princess and AirMech. The project follows the playful soul of Fat Princess but looks to explore new ideas. James described it as a sort of amusement park where the team could experiment with a variety of arena games. Some early story concepts revealed a competition between brother and sister, to see who could be earliest for school, with each sabotaging each other’s efforts and the parents ultimately locking the kids in for the summer after finding their competitive nature too fierce.

And so they both have game types catered to their unique design in Cake. Perhaps the boy’s levels will take on a sci-fi bent and the girl’s will be fairy-tale esque. It’s a whimsical, fun-loving setup that matches the character aesthetics. We were shown many other concepts for potential characters and how using larger character models would help to better animate and detail them.

While still in it’s formative stages, Cake’s looking to make an appeal to Fat Princess players and anyone interested in Carbon’s laid back design. It furthers what Carbon are already doing with AirMech by lowering the barrier of entry while still creating mechanically sound concepts that appeal to devoted players. They’ve wrestled with the idea of a Kickstarter but ultimately James admits it’s more of a distraction than anything, a solid month they could be putting into developing a game instead. More on Cake and Carbon once we’re able to show their working concepts but for now, we’ve bought into their early pitch and look forward to seeing how it comes together into a full game.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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