Year : 2013 Context : Co-founder at Carton-Pâte Games
Red Is Undead a 3D tower-defence-like game for PC, set in a bizarre world filled with zombies and robots. The game focuses on strategy with the addition of a resource system, micro-management and meaningful decision-making processes to the classical tower-defence gameplay. Unfortunately, Red Is Undead will probably never see the light, as its development had to be halted due to financial issues. We wrapped up what we had in a demo version of the game, featuring about 10 replayable levels and about 75% of the gameplay elements (towers, enemies, spells, etc).
This incredible and slightly stupid tale of zombies and robots begins with the dramatic arrival of a human colony ship Raspootnik on the distant world of New Russia, a well-established human colony. Because the trip from Earth lasted decades, only a very small crew was awake aboard the ship, the others being asleep in their stasis pods. For reasons that are still mysterious to this day (unless you reach the end of the game which hasn’t been coded !), noone on the surface of the planet answered the calls of the Raspootnik crew when they entered the atmosphere of New Russia, and the spaceship crashed onto the surface of the planet, leaving no survivors.
It took centuries for the batteries of the stasis pods to finally run dry, and the entire population of the crashed vessel finally rose again to life … Their bodies weren’t exactly as fresh as they used to be and, as they quickly realized, they had developed a particular taste for brains, but at least they could walk and talk, just like good old times. It didn’t take long before this immense zombie crew started looking outside the wreckage of their ship, looking for those who should have been there to welcome them centuries ago. They found nothing but ruins, traces of an ancient war, and … Robots. Lots, lots of robots. Tiny ones, big ones, flying ones, robots everywhere ! New Russia had been conquered by distasteful brainless robots ! The zombies promptly decided that it was time they reconquered their world … And so the war began.
Unlike a classical tower-defence where you just have to kill waves of monsters to earn gold to build towers to kill the next waves of monsters, until you win or run out of hitpoints, a Red Is Undead level has a bit of a different rythm. The game is split in two phases : Construction and Combat. During Construction, there are no monsters, but you can build towers, and assign tasks to your workers. The primary job of your workers is to gather resources from different spots scattered across the level, which you will use to either build advanced towers or cast spells. They can also destroy obstacles to open up new paths for themselves or for the monsters. Once a Construction phase is over (it has a limited duration), a Combat phase begins : monsters spawns from different points, and you can no longer use your workers or build towers, but you can cast spells, using energy the workers gathered, or upgrade your towers. Killing monsters will earn you Metal Scraps, the resource needed for all basic towers. Once the wave is over, a new Construction phase begins, and so on. The goal is, like in most tower-defences, to protect your base which the monsters are trying to reach. Your base has a limited amount of hitpoints, and each monster will deal damage to it if it manages to reach it.
The idea behind this two-phases system is to emphasize on the strategic planning : in a limited amount of time, you have to decide what resources to collect, what towers to build and where depending on what’s coming in the next wave, because you will not be able to adapt while the monsters are spawning. During combat, only spells will allow you to patch your tower network’s weaknesses, but you can only cast a limited amount of them. Unless you have assigned a lot of workers to energy generation, but then it means you have less resources to build advanced towers … It’s all a matter of choices.
At the beginning, the player starts with only a couple of spells, three workers and the four basic towers (no upgrades). As he progresses into the campaign by completing tower-defence levels, he will gain skillpoints to spend in a very wide skill tree, allowing for further specialization of your strategy. You can decide to buff your towers and to unlock special upgrades, or to invest some points to unlocked advanced spells and improve your energy / energy generation to be able to cast more spells. Or you can unlock more workers, have them work faster and give them new abilities … The idea here is to give the player a means to specialize himself as he progresses into the game. He will be able to make his favorite towers or spells even more efficient, create powerful combinations between towers or even between spells, or just make himself more resilient and his workers more efficient.
This system offers a good progression throughout the campaign and gives the player the opportunity to make more meaningful choices, while giving the game some replayability. Last but not least, the campaign scenario also forces to make some choices which have an influence on both the game story and his strategy. These choices allow the player to unlock unique towers, which are very powerful but can only be built once per level.
The year I spent working on Red Is Undead and building Carton-Pâte Games, our studio, was probably the richest and the most valuable year of my career. Creating your very own game and managing every single aspect of the project was a very challenging and exciting experience. There are financial, marketing, or even technical aspects that you have to take into account, which you can usually ignore when you’re working as a simple employee in a bigger company. Since we were a very small team, we all had to work on more than just one thing and step out of our fields of expertise. I got involved in almost every aspect of the game, from writing the backstory and the scenario to designing the gameplay, the levels, and coding it all.
It doesn’t matter if the project ended up going nowhere. Of course, it would have been a lot more satisfying if we’d been able to create a finished product and publish it, but failing is also a great way of learning. I know I’d do a lot of things differently if I were to embark on a similar adventure again. And I’d be very happy to !