Saturday, February 13, 2010

At War With My Friends

I've been a Senior Design Director at Microsoft Game Studios for nearly a year now and I've had the pleasure of working on some damn cool things. I work in an incubation group. We get to experiment with new concepts while pitching in on games across the studio. We also build games ourselves as we explore wacky new ideas. I haven't been able to talk about anything I'm doing, until now. One of our efforts just launched on Facebook. It's called Match Defense: Toy Soldiers.

Toy Soldiers is a truly awesome game for Xbox Live Arcade. It will launch during the upcoming Block Party campaign on XBLA, and it's one of my favorite games in a long time. Really. I can't stop playing it. Signal Studios has created a masterpiece. The game looks as good as it plays, and that's saying a lot.

Signal's brilliant upcoming Toy Soldiers game for Xbox Live Arcade.

Not too long after I started, my boss Ken Lobb asked me to think up a basic idea for a Facebook companion game for Toy Soldiers. I was already a huge fan of Signal's title, even at that early stage, so I whipped up a quick mockup for a puzzle game that combines a basic match-3 style game with elements of tower defense. Thanks to Ken and the rest of our team, the final result went way beyond that initial idea. Match Defense is a nifty little experience with some surprising depth. Ken's influence really shows in the layered scoring and a robust combo system that brings to mind some puzzle games of yore.

Sure, you can play it like any other swappy, matchy puzzle game, but you can also build huge combos, or go for pure accuracy, or speed, or a mix of everything. I've seen people debating in the hall outside my office about the best technique. Passionate arguments can be music do a game designer's ears. So can music, but that's not the point here.

This is more than a promotional item for the Xbox 360 game. The games are connected by a continous connection to an ongoing Great War. Scores from both games contribute to whichever side players choose: Allied or Central. Two countries are up for grabs every day. The first side to win eight countries first wins. After that, medals are awarded, the war begins again and players once again choose sides.

We expect to continue refining and tweaking the game, especially after the XBLA game is available. It's an early step, but an interesting one where two different kinds of games share a common connection that is as social as it is technical.

See you on the leaderboards!