Believe it or not, isometric games of all kinds are making a comeback. Whether it’s the rise of the Shadowrun franchise with Shadowrun Returns and Hong Kong or games like Stasis with their horror adventure aspects, it’s not hard to look at a game like Exploding Tuba Studios’ Divide and not get excited. It’s more intriguing because Divide is a twin stick shooter that combines dungeon crawling with stealth and an interesting sci-fi setting.
GamingBolt spoke to Exploding Tuba head Chris Tilton about Divide to learn more about what makes it unique in this day and age.
"I think the top-down nature of dual stick shooters fits well for an isometric game that involves traversal, aiming and interacting. We want the player to feel like they have constant and precise control that can be mastered."
Divide‘s story focuses on mega-corporations and conspiracies. There’s a bit of Shadowrun-esque intrigue to it all but what’s the main story hook in Divide?
Chris Tilton: The player’s main goal throughout the game is to find a way to get David back home to his daughter. On that journey, David will discover many personal details about the double life a deceased loved one had been leading without his knowledge. The Vestige Corporation has their own mysterious agenda for the player to uncover.
The how and why of David arriving in this mysterious world is understandably a mystery. But what can you tell us about David’s personality, how he deals with the events happening and the people he meets?
Chris Tilton: David is meant to be an everyman and it is our hope that one can empathize with someone who has lost someone and is in danger of losing someone yet again. He’s been hit with tragedy and is trying to move on, but gets sucked back in to the world he wants to leave behind. I think he deals with it in ways any one of us could relate to.
Divide is interesting because it not only combines twin-stick shooting but dungeon crawler mechanics. How do these mechanics mesh together, especially with the sci-fi setting?
Chris Tilton: The dungeon crawling influence comes in the form of allowing the player to freely explore large open areas to get information, combat enemies, and get items that allow further progression. However, we still wanted an action game that didn’t have convoluted controls and complex menus to constantly cycle through. I think the top-down nature of dual stick shooters fits well for an isometric game that involves traversal, aiming and interacting. We want the player to feel like they have constant and precise control that can be mastered.
From a progression system, what do players have to look forward to in terms of abilities and upgrades?
Chris Tilton: David is outfitted with Augmented Reality capable lenses to interact with various interfaces found throughout the world as well as a long range taser called an E-Laser to combat various enemies. Software and hardware upgrades can be found throughout the game that range from more firing modes and faster weapon recharge rates to new abilities that allow David to subvert combat.
"The fiction for the “loot” in Divide consists mostly of bits of information that shed light on the story as well as the software/hardware upgrades mentioned previously."
Is it possible for players to specialize in stealth-rated skills? What kinds of different “subterfuge” can be employed to defeat enemies?
Chris Tilton: There’s no progression system that requires the player to spec in one direction or another. Upgrades can be found throughout the game and the player will just receive them as they find them. Certain areas or kinds of areas will feature different kinds of upgrades, and the player can choose to seek them out if they are interested in one type of gameplay over another. You can also just get everything if you fully explore all the locations throughout the game. Some of David’s alternatives to head-on combat include rebooting an enemy’s systems to make an escape, disabling the enemy’s ability to call for reinforcements, or even causing an enemy’s weapon system to explode, which can affect anyone in close proximity.
What kind of weapons are in Divide? Are there any new archetypes unique to the world the player finds themselves in?
Chris Tilton: The E-Laser (Electrolaser) is your main sidearm throughout the game. It’s based on real world technology that involves using air particles to send an electrical charge to a target to incapacitate them. The E-Laser is upgradeable in various ways throughout the game, but it is also not the only way to deal with enemies.
Will there be loot for players to gather and better their character with?
Chris Tilton: The fiction for the “loot” in Divide consists mostly of bits of information that shed light on the story as well as the software/hardware upgrades mentioned previously. In addition to the information found, which can unlock conversations with other characters or provide access to new areas, players will be collecting Hashes and VPoints, two currencies that can be used to further progress or breach secured systems, including enemies.
The personal nature of the story makes it seem like co-op is impossible but is there a way to compete with or cooperate with friends at all?
Chris Tilton: There’s no co-op in our game, currently, but we have had discussions about a second local player being able to contribute. Nothing I can promise, however.
"We’re a small team and I wanted Divide to come out for at least one of the consoles. We had to pick one, and Sony has been very proactive about getting indie developers the tools they need to be on their platform."
Can you tell us more about the music and how you went about composing a soundtrack to properly convey the mood (especially with so many different themes in the story)?
Chris Tilton: I wanted the music to score the game like film or TV show as best I could. What I mean by that is, I wrote a lot of music for specific scenes or sequences and made sure we had a system where I could musically transition from one section to another, depending on the actions of the player. I don’t like it when music just plays in the background aimlessly “just to have music.” It needs to be commenting on the story, the subtext, something. Since I’m the one writing the music and scripting it in the game, I can write very specific music for key scenes and dialog, and also have a suite of music that can transition to a variety of intensities or moods for the more open ended aspects of gameplay.
We don’t expect Diablo 3-style Greater Rifts but the dungeon crawler nature of the game makes us believe some kind of replayability will be on offer. Will there be any additional challenges and the like to keep players occupied once the story is finished?
Chris Tilton: There aren’t any sort of procedural aspects to Divide, but there are different approaches to dealing with enemies, and some areas are more open and can be completed in a different order. There are also plenty of optional areas to uncover. We also have, we think, an interesting take on what a “New Game +” can be, so stay tuned for that.
How your partnership came about with Sony?
Chris Tilton: Sony was courting indie developers from day one of PS4 launch. They’ve been very helpful in getting us set up in their system and getting PS4 dev kits in our hands and have shown that there’s a place for indie games on their platform. Having a place to put our game where it won’t get lost in a sea of apps was very important for a small developer like Exploding Tuba. Sony has been very supportive in getting us and other indie devs onto their platform.
Are there any reasons why the game is not coming on the Xbox One?
Chris Tilton: We’re a small team and I wanted Divide to come out for at least one of the consoles. We had to pick one, and Sony has been very proactive about getting indie developers the tools they need to be on their platform. Microsoft has simply not made that effort, or at least not at the time when we were deciding which platform to dedicate resources to. We’re open to make an Xbox One version in the future, but for now, we’re focusing on PS4 and PC versions.
"I have all the consoles and a PC, but I will often play on console for convenience, so the idea that I can get a newer PS4/Xbox to have a few more visual bells and whistles is appealing to me."
What are your thoughts on the rumors that have been going around about upgradeable consoles (PS4 and Xbox One)? Do you think the concept of console generations is going to become irrelevant in the future?
Chris Tilton: I have all the consoles and a PC, but I will often play on console for convenience, so the idea that I can get a newer PS4/Xbox to have a few more visual bells and whistles is appealing to me. However, not everyone has or wants to spend extra cash on a whole new system for minimal upgrades. It’s not like mobile phones, which have essential features that we use every day, or other upgradeable TV devices like Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire Stick, which are significantly cheaper. There really isn’t an apt comparison for what MS and Sony are considering doing. It will be interesting to see how people respond to it when (if) these upgraded consoles are released. I have to imagine that your average console gamer does not care if a newer version has slightly higher resolution textures.
What are your thoughts on the rise of PC gaming and the somewhat stagnation of console gaming?
Chris Tilton: I’d hesitate to classify the console market as stagnating. Consoles sell better than they ever have, but it’s also great that the PC has kind of risen to be, at least, considered an equal competitor. The rise of indie games on PC has been essential to their acceptance and flourishing on consoles.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Chris Tilton: I’d like to thank everyone who has given Divide a look. It’s a very passionate and personal project to all of us at Exploding Tuba and we’re excited to show more as the year rolls on. Thank you!