This year’s Play Expo in Manchester was a large event, but few had quite as much to show off as Team 17, who are best known to gamers as the masterminds behind the Worms franchise. This year, they showcased five games, including Flockers, Schrödinger’s Cat, Overruled, The Escapists and Penarium – which made their booth one of the busiest places to be in the whole convention.
Team 17’s PR executive Bethany Aston was on hand and kindly gave us an interview regarding the newly released Flockers; we also talked about the company’s new focus on indie publishing and life beyond the Worms series.
Power Up Gaming: Thank you for your time today. Firstly, would you be able to describe Flockers to us in your own words?
Bethany Aston: Basically, it’s a modern take on the classic A-to-B puzzle genre. You have to try to save the sheep who are trying to escape from the Worms’ weapons factory. It’s up to you to try to keep as many of them alive as possible along the way.
PUG: In reviews, Flockers has often been compared to Lemmings in terms of gameplay. What would you say separates Flockers from Lemmings and makes it unique?
BA: While we definitely draw inspiration from classic titles such as Lemmings, Flockers has its own physics engine which allows you to push certain objects and roll them onto switches. There are also features, such as anti-gravity amongst others, which add variety.
PUG: Well, we’ve just been playing demo and we’ve noticed that there is a lot of cartoon violence in there. Would you say that this is a more mature game than something such as Worms that Team 17 is known for?
BA: No. While there is more visible blood in there, it is much more cartoony and over the top. You have the option to turn the blood off, but there are various rewards in there that allow you to change the colour of the blood which makes it less dark.
PUG: That’s probably good since there are so many brutal ways to kill the sheep.
BA: *laughs* Definitely.
PUG: So there seems to be a large community aspect to the game, allowing players to share levels online…
BA: Yes, Steam Workshop is integrated into the PC version. You get a level editor with the game, so you can start creating and sharing new levels straight away.
PUG: Do you expect that the community will extend the life of the game in that regard?
BA: Well, it is a fully featured game in its own right. There are 60 levels plus hidden bonus levels beyond that. We reckon a full playthrough would probably take you around eight hours if you know what you’re doing. It’s more of an addition to the main game and it’s nice to see what people have created as well.
PUG: Excellent. So there’s no shortage of content then. While playing the demo today we only got a couple of levels in but the difficulty was already starting to ramp up. Do you think that people will be able to progress quite easily through Flockers, or do you expect that players will need a lot of trial and error and need to retry a lot of levels?
BA: To finish a level you only actually need to get one sheep to the exit, which isn’t too bad. The challenge comes from replaying the levels, learning how to get more sheep to the finish and getting a better score. There are also hidden items such as the golden fleece which is a score modifier, so there are always things you can do differently each time you play.
PUG: A non-Worms game from Team 17 is quite a rare thing. Are Team 17 considering branching out into new franchises in the future?
BA: We have done a few new things over the past few years. We’ve done some remakes of older titles such as Alien Breed recently, but this is the first brand new IP for a while. We are doing a lot more indie publishing at the moment. We’ve taken on nine different games, some of which are here today at the show, and we’re trying to help indie developers get their games out there. We try to help them make their games the best they can be. Team 17 has been in game development since 1990 so we have a few years of experience and advice to offer them.
PUG: It sounds like you’re quite heavily involved invested in indie publishing at the moment. Do you see this as an area of growth for Team 17?
BA: Yes, we started this side of the business in November 2013 and we have taken on a lot of games since then.
PUG: So, how do you come across indie developers? Do you allow them to come to you or do you actively seek them out online and at events?
BA: It tends to be a mixture of both. There are developers that we have approached directly, and some of them come to us. The developers behind Scrödinger’s Cat, for example, applied to us, whereas games such as The Escapists – one of our managing directors came across their Kickstarter campaign, and we approached them. It is generally an even spilt.
PUG: You mentioned The Escapists, which is being published by yourselves. Are Team 17 involved in the development of this game at all?
BA: Well, the game has been developed by one guy [Chris Davis], who has built the entire game by himself. It’s made on a development platform called Multimedia Fusion, so our team is working with him to get the code working in Unity so it can be ported to the Xbox One next year.
PUG: Last question: Is there anything coming up on the horizon that you can reveal?
BA: We’re concentrating on our indie release schedule at the moment. We’ve just released Schrödinger’s Cat onto PC and The Escapists is coming to Xbox One next year, along with LA Cops and Hay Ewe, and we also have some teasers coming out later this year.
PUG: So it sounds like a busy few months then! Thank you for taking the time to speak to us and hope you have a great floor show this year.