Interview: Extend Studio, second place winner of Dream-Build-Play 2010 for A.R.E.S.

Ares makes something go boom.

What happens when you combine Mega Man with Super Metroid? The world might just collapse under the sheer awesomeness, but Extend Studio is testing that theory with A.R.E.S. The Thailand-based developer recently won second place in the XNA Dream-Build-Play 2010 Challenge for their colorful 2.5D side-scrolling shooter. The team is currently tightening all the scews on the PC version and aims to have it available shortly, followed hopefully soon by the Xbox version.

Hi, Mike. I just think that some question should be answered by my team members. I write the name of a person who gives an answer before their answers. Hope this makes the interview more interesting.

What is it like developing games in Thailand? Are there many other developers in area?

Nenin: In my opinion, many developers here are doing very well in game development. They are very creative and talented. Anyway, Thailand is still at the beginning phase of supporting the game development. Lots more things need to be worked on.

What are some of the difficulties in developing games there?

Nenin: There is just a small difficulty in game distribution. It is quite more complicated here to make our game available for everyone in this world, especially for Xbox, because there is no publisher/portal here that can help us. Anyway, we try to use other online distribution channels to make it possible.

Why does Microsoft prevent you from publishing from Thailand and how are you going to get around that?
Nenin: I haven’t meant that Microsoft prevented us from publishing the game from Thailand. What I want to say is that Thailand is not a country XBLIG currently supports. Thus, publishing a game is quiet more complicated. This is a big problem we have to think about

Can you get around that by finding a publisher outside of Thailand?

Nenin: Finding a publisher for XBLA. That’s our plan at the moment.

How was Extend Studio formed and how many people work there?

Nenin: There are seven people working here. Almost everyone in Extend Studio knew each other from the university (Kasetsart University in Bangkok). We have participated and won many game contests in Thailand. After our graduation, we set up our own game studio and started working on A.R.E.S. as our first game.

What is your favorite aspect of developing games?

Nenin: Enjoy your creation!!!

Tell us a little bit about your game, A.R.E.S. What kind of game is it?

Nenin: A.R.E.S. is a 2.5D run-and-gun side-scrolling game, presented with well-polished artwork. Players would play as the ultramodern robot prototype, Ares. As Ares, you are sent on a mission to rescue task force members who were trapped while conducting an investigation to find out the extent of damage sustained by the space station. Annihilate countless robots, recycle their parts to make incredible items, including weapon upgrades and take on gigantic bosses in 3D environment side-scroller.

One of the big boss fights

Will you have the ability to upgrade your robot as the game goes on?

Nenin: Yes. The character advancement is very needed to the game.

Will you get different types of suits with different powers?

Nenin: Believe me, you’d better find the answer by yourself. :D

The game seems to have a very deep ecological back story. Will that play a major role in the game? Will there be a lot of cut-scenes?

Chakkapun: The story focuses on mysterious gas that turns machines in the space station against human. There will be several cut-scenes along the game which reveal the background of the crisis and finally lead the story to its climax.

Will there be backtracking, such as in Shadow Complex or Metroid, or will levels be straightforward à la Mega Man?

Chakkapun: The main story splits into five missions which are straightforward. Players can play through missions 1-5 without any backtracking. However, in order to collect some secret items, players need to come back to the previous mission when Ares has the proper ability. The game also has a score & ranking system that motivates players to replay each mission.

How did you develop the art style for the game?

Somjade: We decided to use mechanic and grungy sci-fi art style in A.R.E.S. In addition, we are aiming for semi-realistic visual which creates a different look and feel from other games in the same genre.

Ares hopping

How long has it been in development?

Chakkapun: We have been developing A.R.E.S. for PC since a year before the Dream Build Play started and we spent one more month to port the first level of the game to Xbox 360. The PC version is now almost completed while the 360 version still needs some optimization.

Why did you change the orignal name, Trashman, and did that affect any elements of the game?

Nenin: We changed the title to A.R.E.S. because Trashman has already been used by another game very long time ago and some people are confused about it. We also added many improvement to the game: especially the art and main character design.

What are some of your favorite games?

Somjade: Most of our favorite games are 2D side-scroller. Both of run & gun type (Megaman, DMC) and exploration gameplay type (Flash Back, Black Throne, Classic Prince of Persia, Super Metroid) are our inspirations. And also, l love indie games which help me bring back old school game feeling such as ‘IJI’, Cave Story, Aquaria, etc.

When will A.R.E.S. be available?

Sittipon: For PC, It will be ready for sale at the end of the next month. So, thanks for everyone who has enjoyed our demo over the past few years, thanks for your continuous support! We greatly appreciate all of your feedback.

What is next for Extend Studios after A.R.E.S.?

Sittipon: We are interested to develop applications for Windows Phone 7, Android, iPhone and iPad. We think it is a challenge as well. We are working on a couple of projects to master the skill we need. And, we hope that we can develop something as amazing as A.R.E.S. on them soon.

Check out Extend Studio’s blog http://blog.x10studio.com for updates on A.R.E.S.

Posted on by Mike Wall in xblig

About Mike Wall

Mike grew up and lives near Philadelphia and has been intrigued with games ever since his parents preached that they rotted his brain. He studied journalism at Penn State and got his master's degree in secondary education before realizing that not even summers off would make that job palatable. He now works in marketing and is trying to find time to continue writing a book about zombies, aliens, vampires, the end of the world, and a talking cat.