From id to Indie: Dungeon Crawling comes to iOS with Orc: Vengeance

We take an exclusive first look at Big Cave Games' brand new action-RPG Orc: Vengeance, and speak to the brains behind the game.

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Dungeon crawling is traditionally reserved only for the brave, the bold, and the willing--a causal undertaking it is not. But for Ryan Rutherford and Andrew Welch--the talent behind studio Big Cave Games and its upcoming action-RPG Orc: Vengeance--dungeon crawling needn't just be reserved for the hardcore, mouse clicking PC audience. There's just as much demand for such a grand and absorbing experience on iOS as there is on PC, they say, and Orc is the game that's going to convince the world.

And they should know. Welch and Rutherford have the kind of game making experience that studios dream of. Welch, a self-taught coder, worked at Ion Storm on the infamous Daikatana, before jumping ship to work with John Carmack and the brilliant minds over at id Software. Rutherford, who attributes his own interest in games to Half Life and its "Worldcraft" level design tools, worked at Treyarch on the Call Of Duty franchise, before also jumping ship to work at id Software on Rage. But it wasn't long after Rage had shipped that the pair decided to go it alone and form Big Cave Games.

"These days, AAA titles require huge teams and can take years to make", says Welch. "When we started at id Software, there were still around 30 employees. By the time we left, there were around 200. iOS titles and the app store channel were an alluring platform that would allow just a couple guys and some extra help to create really cool games. It didn’t hurt that there were early stories of people making loads of money, but I think we went into it with realistic expectations. In the end, it was about simplifying things and making the game we really wanted to be working on."

"iOS is an indie game developer’s dream come true."

And so they created Orc, an action RPG for iOS--a platform Welch calls "an indie game developer’s dream come true"--that stars an Orc warchief who's out for revenge against an ancient evil known as the Dark One. An Orc isn't the classic hero character you might expect, but for Welsh, taking an "unconventional approach" resulted in a much more endearing character, one that makes the player feel more powerful, and more imposing than a traditional hero ever could. It's that power that forms the basis of Orc's narrative, and of course its combat, which takes place in gritty, isometric, 3D dungeons.

If you've played any sort of dungeon crawler in the past, or more recently Diablo III, you'll know what to expect from exploration and combat--just replace the clicks with taps. Tapping anywhere on the screen moves your character; tapping on an enemy launches standard attacks; and tapping objects lets you choose to pick them up or equip them to your character. It's simple stuff, but the innovation comes when more complex commands are required, such as when launching special attacks like dashes, dodges, and sweeping circular sword swipes.

"One of the unique features to ORC would end up being its touch-based gesture attack system", says Welch. "From the start, we didn’t want on-screen controls covering up the graphics we'd spent so much time making. Tapping to move and attack seemed intuitive, and that was easy to envision. The gesture-based attacks would come later as we played the game and realised it all just needed to be better. Iterating on gameplay was key."

And so, a series of swipes, double taps, and zigzags allow you to launch different attacks, or buff your health and armour. Not all attacks are open to you straight away, with many needing to be earned as you progress through the game and level up. Not all gestures are opened up to you either, but can be unlocked by purchasing them with gold found along your travels, or by using real-world cash. Yes, there are in-app purchases to be found in Orc, but more often than not we found it was easy enough to earn new abilities and weapons, just by playing the game.

In fact, all the key elements of your character, Health, Attack, Defence, and Vengeance (mana for your special attacks), are linked to XP and level, rather than your purchasing power. Weapons and armour have levels too, which provide different buffs for your character. There's a wealth to choose from, so that everyone from skull smashers to sword slayers is catered for.

Backing up the action is a full narrative, voice acting, and a deliciously detailed 3D world, which is powered by the Unity engine. "We had no interest in writing our own engine", says Welch. "The only way two guys could make a game like ORC was with proven technology and a set of tools that allowed us to work fast. Unity is really an amazing development tool. The ability to extend its tools, its super fast iteration times and its ease of use means that the game was much easier and more enjoyable for us to make."

"We had no interest in writing our own engine. The only way two guys could make a game like ORC was with proven technology and a set of tools that allowed us to work fast."

It's not like development has been a total breeze for Welch and Rutherford, though. Dealing with a new platform, and making in trade offs in the visuals for older generation devices with less memory or processing power has proved difficult for the pair. So too has adapting a genre that is typically played for hours at a time onto a device that is typically played in much shorter bursts. And sure, you can while away the hours in Orc, but Welch hopes that players will appreciate a "robust checkpoint system" that lets you "play for 5 minutes, or sit down and play for 50".

So too does he hope that gamers will appreciate the benefits of iOS, just as much as he does as a developer. "The iOS platform is very appealing in a lot of ways. The App Store has a low barrier of entry and an excellent update system. Combined with a massive install base, it became pretty clear early on that we should begin on iOS. Mobile games really are where it’s at now. With one button press, you can buy a new game to play anywhere at anytime. The pick-up and play anywhere method is very different to the sit-down and play of consoles and PCs. It’s also a lot easier for someone to justify spending a few dollars on a game versus spending $60 for a console game."

Like any small indie, Big Cave Games has a lot riding on the success of its first game, though, if our time with it is anything to go by, it shouldn't be worried--a view very much shared by Welch. "Regardless of what happens, we are extremely proud of the game. If ORC is even a mild success, we can keep making games like this. It’s every game developer’s dream scenario--creating games they want to make and play, and doing it on their own. Leaving a great company like id in a terrible economy to pursue our dreams was a huge risk we were willing to take. We’ve gone for longer than we like to think about without a paycheck. So in that respect, it’s make or break."

Orc: Vengeance is due for release on July 26th for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad.

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Discussion

20 comments
sirkibble2
sirkibble2

Hope it does well. I don't have a tablet so I know I won't be buying it but for their sake, I hope it does really well.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

"Dungeon Crawling comes to iOS with Orc: Vengeance"

 

. . . Uhm.... Dungeon Hunter, anybody??

kkushalbeatzz
kkushalbeatzz

I'm not buying unless it comes out unfinished, is brimming with network errors, and makes the developer want to make the game easier.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

Cool, I hope it works out well for them.  Personally I don't play or plan to play ios games but that's great for those that do.

karoliner72
karoliner72

Give the developer som kudos, this is the platform that basically everybody has i.e the Smartphones and Tablets. I really look forward to this game and will buy it first day. I play on all sorts of devices, My PC, 360, PS3, PS Vita, My Iphone 4s and Ipad 3.

 

I think playing on the Ipad and Iphone works really well, you just have to get used to touch screen controls which doesn´t take long. I have no problem with playing FPS and Racing games on touch screen anymore.

 

I am glad more and more big developers starts up small dev studios and concentrate on smartphones and tablets. Lots of money to earn in those devices.

diyth41
diyth41

Is he choosing to move around that slowly? Because thats like... slower than the first Diablo. Or is that combat walking speed? Still seems like an odd choice either way.

Bozanimal
Bozanimal

Wow, really? The first three comments are all whining?

 

Personally, I find it encouraging that there are still developer entrepreneurs with single-digit employees out there looking to make great games on a variety of platforms. The iOS is filled with more shovelware than the Wii, and it's nice to see developers with credibility working on something more compelling.

 

As a first game this looks incredibly polished. Best of luck to Big Cave Games.

Mr_BillGates
Mr_BillGates

And Android continues to get ignored by majority of developers.

oflow
oflow

ipad gaming...no thank you.

fatee
fatee moderator

Diablo 3? Is that you? If it is, stay away!

karoliner72
karoliner72

 @TohouAsura

 Well apart from Dungeon Hunter 1 and 2 there aren´t many dungeon crawlers on the platform. Dungeon Hunter 3 we shouldn´t even include here since it´s an arena based game and not a real dungeon crawler. So this game is more than welcome for me for the IOS. Also usually you don´t play as an orc in dungeon crawlers so it´s a nice addition. I do hope though that they let you choose which controls to use. I am more in for control buttons that is on screen than tapping on enemies to fight. Both control schemes would be nice to have though so you could choose.

oflow
oflow

 @Bozanimal not whining just dont want to play games on an ipad. like i said no thank you.

Cleave83
Cleave83

 @Bozanimal looks good but movement looks a bit slow. appropriate for a hulking orc i guess but still..

karoliner72
karoliner72

 @samanoskay

 Not the games market. Just look at the IOS game market and how many exclusive IOS games that even is on the Android Market.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

 @nugasaesacnume Untrue. Android has outsold iOS devices this year, and it will continue to do so in an increasing rate. Many developers have taken a liking to Android, and while there are no ways to stop the user from downloading stuff for free, there's also alot of room in Google's rules of the Play store rather than the AppStore's tyrannical rules.