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Trenches: An Interview with Thunder Game Works

I was able to snag an interview with Michael Taylor, CEO (Chief Executive Overlord) of Thunder Game Works. He and his company have released new game on the App Store called Trenches. I found that the game had great graphics, an indescribable charm, fun gameplay, and lots of replayability. As such, I rated their game a Must Have, and you can see the review of the game here. The interview we had is provided below, and if you haven’t gotten the game yet it is certainly something that’s worth your money.

NoDPad: Hello Michael! Can you give me a brief overview of what Thunder Game Works’ goal is and what the company does?

Thunder Game Works: Jeff, thanks for the time today.

I knew when I started Thunder Game Works that I wanted to create something special.  I endeavored to find the very best talent from around the globe.

I can’t tell how many people I talked to … good grief.  In the end, we’ve brought together what I think as an indie dream team.  Our core team consists of development, art and marketing … each one of them crazy talented in their chosen discipline.  I’ll tell you I’m continually impressed with the rabbits they’re able to pull out of hats …and I don’t even like rabbits!

If I could characterize Thunder Game Works in a word it would be “responsive”.  We love to hear from our players.  It’s funny, in the short time Trenches has been out; we’ve received enough feedback that it actually changed our anticipated release roadmap.  Players kept saying we love [this thing] … so we’re doing more of that.  It’s such a hoot to be so engaged with our players.  We like to think of our players driving the boat … not us.

ND: Impressive. What compelled or drove you and the company to start making games for the iPhone and iPod Touch?

TGW: Apple has created a market place that brings the game developers in open contact with the iPhone gaming community, which we highly value as we are making our games, and essentially our livelihoods, based on this community. The low entrance barriers and the ability to create a great gaming experience with easy distribution was very appealing.  It was a natural fit.

ND: I agree, Apple’s definitely created a great atmosphere for developers and gamers to easily communicate. Continuing on, how is Trenches unique and different from other games in the App Store?

TGW: Trenches is really designed as an amalgamation of a lot of really tried and true concepts currently on the AppStore. Trenches employs elements of line-drawing, side-scrolling and gesturing.  Aside from the things that are the same, there’s lots that’s different … where do I start?

Technically, Trenches employs many very cool geek features … like a complex AI rules engine, remote data feeds and adaptive difficulty.  The AI engine is built in a way that allows us to monitor the global community and react to “easy win” strategies.  Once detected, we’ll get right to building the counter-measure.  So, it might work for a while … then one day … you’re dead meat.  My personal favorite is the remote data feeds … these give us the ability to tweak the resource rates, unit characteristics and other gameplay elements through a network update that doesn’t require us to endure submission.  When Trenches loads, it searches for new unit data and loads it.  It really provides us near unlimited tuning capabilities.  This means players of Trenches will continually experience ever-evolving intricate nuisances of gameplay.

Aside from that, we’ve put a lot of love into Trenches … spending extra time in the recording studio and working to perfect the art.  Did you know that each solider on the Trenches battlefield has at least three different death animations?  That’s the kind of polish that we wanted to bring.

My favorite part of Trenches has got to be hitting a group of enemies stuck in the wire with Artillery.  I just love seeing bits and pieces of my enemy flying through the air … man, that never gets old. <grin>

ND: Limbs flying through the air, that’s one of my favorite parts of the game too! I’d also like to know, what is the rock-paper-scissors relationship like between the different units in Trenches, if there is any?

TGW: Initially, Trenches was designed based on rock-paper-scissors, just to make the first cut of the unit balancing easier.  Once in place, we started working to perfect each unit in itself.  Through the network updates, we’re continually tweaking the units … their cost, rate of fire, damage … everything really.

I think in the latest version (and versions to come) the initial simplistic rock-paper-scissors concept is going to become more and more difficult to detect.  Of course, I still wouldn’t send a machine gunner to take out a sniper.  I did try that once … turned out the sniper got promoted all the way up to a Sergeant, before I realized what happened.  That sniper became the finger of death on the battlefield.  I lost. <grin>

ND: Awesome, I guess many buyers of this game will love the quick unit tweaking. Also, will there be more content added via update to the game? If so, what will they include, and will they be free or DLC?

TGW: We’re absolutely committed to providing additional content for Trenches.  We’re designing three main categories of content; new features like multiplayer, new Battle Types for Skirmish mode and new unit balancing as gleaned from the global community.

As for free versus DLC … we really haven’t decided.  We are listening to the community though, if it’s DLC … it’s got to be worth the price.  We’re listening.

ND: Wonderful! What was the inspiration for Trenches, and why did you think it would make a great game for the iDevice?

TGW: We wanted to create a side-scrolling attrition-style combat game … games like Knight’s Onrush, Cartoon Wars and XenoWars.  Players (like us) love the castle defense style games.  It seemed like a natural fit.

People love games like Cartoon Wars.  As do we.  But Cartoon Wars (no offense intended) lacks a little charm, character and refinement.  We knew we wanted to deliver more.

We also love the cartoony graphics of games like Minigore and Fieldrunners.  They’ve got great graphics.  We wanted to deliver on this, but also add in multiple sequences … to keep Trenches gameplay fresh and visually interesting.

ND: And you’ve achieved your goal – the game is quite fresh and interesting. As I’m sure our readers are anxious to know, what’s your favorite setup or strategy in the game, and why?

TGW: Ha!  I’m likely not the best person to ask this question of … that is if you’re looking for real Trenches battlefield success. <grin>

That said, in a run up to building Trenches we did a lot of accurate historic study of World War I.  You know … the historically accurate battle tactics of World War I are curiously very effective in Trenches.  So much so that we’re working on a counter to it.

Our Minister of Propaganda tells me I can’t tell anyone the strategy … that is, until we place a counter measure to it.  I can tell you this though … as silly as it sounds, if you research trench warfare tactics … you’ll find it.  I did.

ND: I’ll be sure to look it up. Do you plan to bring any other titles to the app store in the future? If you are, can you give our readers a general idea of what they will be like?

TGW: We are absolutely bringing more titles to the AppStore … we’ve got two or three new titles in some stage of development.  I wish I could provide more information about them here, but they’re just not far enough along.  We’ve got a real long view and have many plans to bring updates to Trenches and new titles.

It could be too that we’re really not sure which one we’re going to do next.  We’d really rather listen to our players to see what they think.  That said, you might see a little inspiration from our office’s favorite game, Left4Dead.

ND: Thank you for your time! Do you have any closing thoughts or statements?

TGW: Jeff, I really wanted to thank you for your time.  If I could communicate one thing to your readers it is our freakish commitment to on-going support.  As a matter of fact, we have a roadmap for Trenches (that I’m looking at right now) that has release dates out six months.

Thanks to Michael Taylor for taking the time to talk with us about Trenches.  I know the fans are eagerly awaiting the updates, and I think this has been a worthy look at the development behind the game. Trenches is available for a limited time at $0.99, until it returns to its usual price tag of $2.99.  Check it out!



  1. Frog on Tuesday 5, 2010

    Great interview! I really liked reading this. I think I know what the best tactic is..(I’ve just had WW1 in my history lessons)

  2. Glenn on Tuesday 5, 2010

    How do you get past the second mission with just the rookie snipers???? Impossible . Any hints on this?????