Developer Interviews #8: 10tons’ ‘Tesla Force’

A few weeks back I posted my early access preview for Tesla Force, a great new rogue-lite top down shooter. The game involves famous scientists and novelists teaming up to fight horrible lovecraftian demons! It’s a lot of fun, and is currently available in early access on Steam. I was lucky enough to ask the team lead Olli Alatalo some questions! Let’s jump in and find out more about Tesla Force!

Credit: 10tons

So Tesla Force is a sequel to Tesla Vs Lovecraft. What inspired you to make that original game? What improvements did you add to Tesla Force?

“I think it goes back to Crimsonland. The original game was released in 2003 and we made a remake in 2014. I wanted to take that game and add a twist to it. During early design, we tried out all kinds of things, like armored cars drifting across the desert, and wizards shooting fireballs at monsters. While throwing out ideas, I saw a T-Shirt design of Lovecraft & Tesla posing as investigators of the Occult by Travis Pitts. I (and countless others on the internet) thought it was just a perfect pairing (you can find it here)!
After some development cycles, we decided to make them go head-to-head, for some additional dynamic. Tesla stands for science, optimism, and the future, while Lovecraft stands for nihilism, fear, and anxiety. In our times, these themes constantly fight one another.”

“With Tesla vs Lovecraft, we just wanted to squeeze some more juice out of Crimsonland’s concept. Make powerups flashier, make guns bigger and monsters more intense. The game is very arcadish in a sense that you are mostly just reacting to the incoming horde, there’s not much a long term strategy there.”

Credit: 10tons

“As for Tesla Force, we wanted to add a bit more strategy and choice. We are expanding the game with two additional characters, Mary Shelley and Marie Curie, both giants in their respective fields. Another big change is the game length. In Tesla vs Lovecraft, each game would only last 5 minutes tops, followed by a reset. This made your build kinda throwaway. It allowed us to freely throw powerful perks at the player without ruining the entire game. This time, however, we’ve moved those power boosts on powerups. Now that the play can last over half an hour, choices made are more meaningful. We try to add as many interesting choices to the game as we can. We want to make the player think between taking a risk/reward and taking the safe route. Of course, we also have a much-requested feature of procedurally generated levels. That should keep the game fresh longer.”

What experience did the team have before they started the Tesla/Lovecraft series? Any other projects you’ve worked on?

“Well, I’ve been part of 10tons for almost 10 years, mostly porting existing games to new platforms, and working on additional content and features. I made some additional levels and game modes for Crimsonland, added gamepad controls to various other games and collaborated to make our internal game engine compatible with Android, Xbox One & PS4.”

Credit: 10tons

Tesla Force is currently early access. What do you plan to add before full release? On the Steam page, you mention that the other two characters will be playable in the full game. What will these characters add to change things up? Also, what other weapons are you looking to add? Anything you can share?

“We’ll be listening to player feedback, especially when it comes to balance. Since there are so many variables, the game is bound to be unbalanced with some combos. We’ll be adding the missing two of the four playable characters, as well as some story segments and permanent upgrades. We haven’t quite yet finished with the unreleased characters, but if Curie is anything to look at, we want each character to have at least one fundamental difference that will make the player reconsider their choices of weapon, abilities, and perks.” Here Olli is referring to Curie, one of the playable characters in early access, who can dual wield many of the guns found in the game.

Credit: 10tons

“Of course, there will be new weapons, perks, and such. New weapons that we are planning should be a bit more complex than the weapons we currently have. For example, a boomerang gun that shoots projectiles than come back at you. Why hit once, when you can hit twice!”

The visuals are very refreshing – the dark gothic Victorian towns and then the bright neon explosions etc. What made you blend these two very different colour palettes together?

“It’s all for gameplay reasons. In a game as hectic as ours, we need to use all the tools at our disposal to make dangerous objects to stand out from the static background. If you look at what a typical Lovecraftian games look like, we stand out a bit. But after all, we are not a typical Lovecraftian game either. Our artists did a great job combining these palettes to create vibrant visuals. Playing this game is like riding a rollercoaster, we wanted to have all the ups and downs, and the color scheme supports that. In the beginning, you are in a grey, ‘dull’ and static looking city, but once you stack-up powerups and perks, you can fill the screen with fireworks. Works every time.”

Credit: 10tons

Will there be more playable worlds in the final release?

“We have three chapters, each with various sub-themes, such as farmland, cave, dark forest, the astral plane, graveyard, city, and docks. Currently, we have no plans to add new sub-themes, but we’ll keep fleshing out the existing sub-themes. We are using different generation algorithms & assets for these places, so they’ll be generated to look and feel unique. Towns are all about narrow corridors and blocky buildings, while farmlands can have vast clearings and destructible trees.”

The game constantly keeps you moving by scattering new mech parts across the map. Was this an active choice, to encourage the player to keep moving as the enemies can be very overwhelming?

“Sure, we always wanted the player to have something to run towards to, in an offset to all that running backward inherit in the arena shooter genre. In Tesla Force, this is amplified by mission goals, which you need to reach as well. You’ll be left with a choice between getting more powerful, and getting your mission done.”

Credit: 10tons

“The Mech itself is inspired by Pac-Man. As the monsters are numerous and respawn very frequently, the mech provides the player with an opportunity to turn the tables. Once you activate the invulnerable mech, you’ll become the hunter. Just like in Pac-man, when that powerup allows you to eat the ghosts. It can be quite cathartic to be able to overrun your enemies after so much anxious backtracking.”

Do you plan to add more mission types, weapons, or perks after the full launch of the game? What’s the plan for supporting the game post-launch?

“We wanted to go through Early Access, to be able to better respond to player requests. It sends the message that ‘We are not quite yet done with the game, please hang around to discuss’. Previously, we have released numerous patches to our games post-release, to address bugs and such. That’s the line we would like to keep. Currently, we have no plan for launching paid content afterward. We did release For Science! DLC for Tesla vs Lovecraft, but that was an afterthought when we looked at our available resources and the next project. For Science! did relatively well, and was received very positively, but it turned out to be much more work than anticipated.”

Credit: 10tons

Are there other genres the team wants to try out? Would you be interested in attempting other genres in this universe?

“Tesla vs Lovecraft and Tesla Force are very arcade, and the only scratch the surface of the world they are set in. There is so much we could do with this world and story. It could work as an adventure or a full-blown RPG game as well. But those are humongous projects…”

What would you say is the main feature that sets this game out from other roguelikes?

“Perhaps the one thing I dislike in roguelikes is their harshness to players. There are a lot of death traps and things that will get you killed on the first misstep. That can lead to vicious cycles where you can’t reach far enough in the game to reach progress points. We wanted to make a game where your death won’t go unrewarded. Each time you die in Tesla Force, you’ll get progress points, that will eventually lead to more features being unlocked. You also keep whatever crystals you collected, and you may use them to purchase temporary/permanent upgrades.”

Credit: 10tons

“So whenever you fail, your next run is likely to go better. Another big difference is the genre. Most roguelites are platformers or tactical shooting games. There are not many roguelites as arcadish and adrenaline-driven as ours. Once you pick up those Multi-Barrel and Fire Bullets powerups, you know you are invincible, at least for a moment. This kind of big power swings are not so common in the genre.”

What does the team want to work on after Tesla Force is done?

“There’s still much to do with Tesla Force, so we haven’t yet thought much about what comes after. When we are done with Early Access, we still need to work on console & mobile versions. We have a continuous discussion about new game ideas that we keep throwing around at the office, to see if anything sticks. Sometimes old ideas re-manifest in a new form. For example, Tesla Force was kinda what Tesla vs Lovecraft was at one point brainstormed to be, a group of scientists & novelists fighting otherworldly horrors. But as for myself, I might want to make something little less action-oriented for a change. I’ve worked for 5 years with these two games.”

Credit: 10tons

That’s everything you need to know about Tesla Force! It’s available now in early access on Steam. You can find the trailer above, and follow 10tons on Facebook here and Twitter here.

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