Zach Barth talks SpaceChem, Ironclad Tactics and the PlayStation Vita
Zachtronic Industries is a development studio most famous for its hit puzzle game, SpaceChem. However the team are also working on a new title called Ironclad Tactics. I sat down with Zachary Barth to discuss SpaceChem, Ironclad Tactics and whether we could see either title on the PlayStation Vita anytime soon.
Velocity Gamer: For those who haven’t heard about them, how would you describe both SpaceChem and Ironclad Tactics?
Zach Barth: SpaceChem is a design-based puzzle game about fake chemistry and space monsters. It’s different from other puzzle games in that each puzzle has many different possible solutions.
Ironclad Tactics is a fast-paced, card-based tactics game that takes place in the Civil War… with robots! It has elements of both card games and tactics games, but has a real-time streak that requires players to make quick, tactical decisions.
VG: What was your inspiration for SpaceChem?
ZB: SpaceChem was inspired by some older puzzle games that I made (The Codex of Alchemical Engineering, Manufactoid). The chemical pipeline mechanics were inspired by a park in Seattle.
VG: Do you believe that SpaceChem has any educational merit in teaching players real chemistry?
ZB: Although most of the molecules in SpaceChem resemble their real-life counterparts, the mechanics are quite different from actual chemistry. However, I think the game is good at demonstrating some programming concepts (flow control, conditionals, loops, and multi-threaded programming) and engineering concepts (pipeline engineering, process optimization, and system design) in a really fun way.
VG: SpaceChem is priced at only £3.83 on the Google Play store. However, it’s £6.99 on Steam which, if my maths is correct, is a 45% increase. Is there a reason for the price difference between mobile devices and PC?
ZB: Although the mobile version contains the same core puzzles, there are some things that are missing due to the lack of processing power on mobile devices; namely, the boss battles, the story, and the upload to YouTube feature.
VG: How large are the decks in your upcoming title, Ironclad Tactics?
ZB: An Ironclad Tactics deck contains 20 cards.
VG: Do you think that having around 80 cards will allow for enough unique deck combinations?
ZB: Absolutely! In Ironclad Tactics, there are four kinds of cards: infantry, ironclads, parts, and tactics. One of the core mechanics of the game is that any part can be equipped to any ironclad, which opens up a lot of potential for different strategies. It’s probably also worth mentioning that you can add up to 4 of each card to a deck; it’s not like there are 80 single cards that can be used. We’re also planning to release updates and content-packs that allow players to unlock new cards, so that the game stays fresh for players who thoroughly explore the design-space.
VG: How did you decide on the art style for Ironclad Tactics?
ZB: The art of Ironclad Tactics is reminiscent of other hand-drawn games, like those by Vanillaware and Klei Entertainment, and possibly even more traditional animation like you’d find in a Disney film. The actual decision process probably resembled something like:
“How about this?”
“Sure! That looks great!”
VG: How will the multiplayer work in Ironclad Tactics, will it feature asynchronous multiplayer or will it be a more conventional system?
ZB: Due to the game’s simultaneous turns and fast-paced nature, it’s much more “conventional” than the asynchronous games that seem to be trending now. We’re building in multiplayer features that span the gamut of player preferences, from players who want to play co-op with their friends to players who want to fight against strangers.
VG: We’ve recently seen a host of independent developers announce ports of their games for the PlayStation Vita, what do you think the allure of that system is to indie developers and could you see either SpaceChem or Ironclad Tactics working on Vita?
ZB: I don’t know much about the Vita, but it’s exciting to hear that it’s shaping up to be indie-friendly. A port of SpaceChem is unlikely, but perhaps Ironclad Tactics would be a good fit!
VG: Finally where do you think technology can take gaming in the future?
ZB: I think that the games people make are highly dependent on the technology that is available. Sometimes the technology is made for gaming purposes (GPUs, the Oculus), but often it’s there for another reason (cell phones). If wearable computers become a thing, I think we’ll start seeing more AR games. Games will go as far as the media available let them!