Frozen Synapse Interview

LGR: We are talking with Paul and Ian, from Mode7 Games, about Frozen Synapse. So to begin, who are you and what do you do within the company and for Frozen Synapse?

PAUL: We are Paul Taylor and Ian Hardingham, and we co-own Mode 7 Games. That sounds very grand, but there's only one other person in the company apart from us: our Lead Tester, Art Assistant and Level Designer Robin!

Ian is the Lead Designer and writes pretty much all of the code, as well as doing some boring admin stuff for which I am eternally grateful.

I do a miscellaneous collection of tasks: art direction; biz dev; marketing and PR; audio and music, and some different boring admin stuff!

Sometimes we all have too much on our plates, but that's the nature of a small company.

LGR: What is Frozen Synapse?

PAUL: Frozen Synapse is the ultimate tactical game: it's an indie simultaneous-turn-based strategy title. If you've played games like the X-com series and Laser Squad Nemesis, you'll have experienced the broad genre that Frozen Synapse is in, but it's something of a twist on the format. At the moment, the game is PC only but we're aiming to make a Mac version available and then look at other platforms after we release.

IAN: Frozen Synapse is a cross between Laser Squad Nemesis and Counter Strike - meant to be a deep turn based experience that is fast. To be honest, the trailer explains it much better than my words can.

In fact, a Mac version will always be available (and is right now), but it may not be "officially supported" at release.

LGR: Where did the idea for Frozen Synapse come from?

IAN: A lot of Laser Squad, a lot of Chaos League, a lot of frustration and boredom at how long it takes to get to the tactical meat of most games in this genre.

PAUL: Aesthetically, a bunch of different places: action movies; sci-fi movies; the desire to just play with a cool interface during the actual gameplay.

LGR: What can you tell me about the single player?

PAUL: Not much at the moment! We are focusing on getting the multiplayer perfect right now, then we'll turn our attention to SP.

IAN: Yes, in fact Single Player is the thing we can tell you least about right now.

LGR: How does the multiplayer differentiate from the single player?

IAN: Synapse is a multiplayer game first and foremost, and it's all about being able to get into a game very quickly, and for that game to be new and exciting every single time you play. All maps are randomly generated, and we have a large number of game modes. The idea is that you should always look forward to starting a new game of Synapse, much as you look forward to picking up a new hand at poker.

PAUL: For my part, I want the single player to be more about atmosphere and the player's development, and multiplayer to be about hardcore tactics.

LGR: It seems as if the indie game market has been growing exponentially lately. How do you hope to set yourselves apart from your peers?

PAUL: We've always tried to do something different: we make what I call "medium-sized games". A lot of indies are all about making instant, arcadey games, or very artistic high-concept stuff, and we like classic meaty PC games that had a lot of depth to them, and a great atmosphere that you could really involve yourself with. I think a lot of people out there are influenced by things like the 8-bit aesthetic, whereas we're going for more of a mid-90's PC feel! That was the golden age to us!

IAN: Mid/late-90s PC is the golden age as far as I'm concerned - ambition was through the roof.

LGR: What are your plans for retail? Are you looking at services such as Steam to distribute with?

PAUL: We're not out there actively looking for retail at the moment, but we will obviously consider it when the game is done. We've been talking to digital distributors, and we would definitely love to have the game on Steam, if Valve will have us!

LGR: What sets Frozen Synapse apart from other turn based games?

IAN: The mechanics mean that every single turn is meaningful, and can have a big impact, even if you're significantly behind. Most games take between 15 and 45 minutes to play, and it's not unusual to want to play three or more in a row. I wanted to combine increased depth with reduced game-time... a lot of people told me that it couldn't be done, but I think we succeeded.

PAUL: You know, when people see the game, they immediately go, "Oh this looks like X strategy game from 1994" or "This reminds me of such-and-such old Spectrum game". I've never really seen a strategy game with even comparable mechanics to Frozen Synapse, so we'll be interested to see what people make of it.

LGR: What plans do you have for games after Frozen Synapse?

PAUL: I'm going to make an adventure game all about some adventures that I had with the mother of one of our interns.

IAN: No - we're going to re-make Magic Carpet in the Leisure Suit Larry universe.

PAUL: It's going to be called Magic *Carpet*.

LGR: Have you, as individuals, worked on any titles before Frozen Synapse? If so what were they?

PAUL: We worked on Determinance together: that was our first game as Mode 7. We've contributed to a bunch of other things since then.

IAN: I worked on Jesse James GunFighter, Largo Winch, and Midnight Club commercially...

PAUL: That's not a gag, by the way.

LGR: How did Mode7 Games come together?

PAUL: Ian was working on Determinance while I was still at university and needed some sound and music for it, which I did. I then realized that we needed to get our asses in gear with regard to marketing and organization. So I came in to the company properly at that point to work on the exciting admin and exciting business development side. One of those "exciting"'s was sarcastic.

LGR Nexus would like to extend a special thanks to Paul and Ian for spending some time to talk with us about Frozen Synapse.

Interview by Michael Wafford

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