Interview: Jonathan Moses (Centipede: Infestation)


Centipede is a classic arcade game from Atari that you could say set the stage for the tower defense genre.  The game featured a trackball that you used to control a character that was trying to shoot dozens of bugs as they crawled in from the top of the screen.  Killing them would drop a mushroom onto the playfield changing the way the insects could crawl.  Centipede is coming back, this time in the form of Centipede: Infestation for the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS.  Jonathan Moses took some time to talk to us about the upcoming releases and how things have changed since the 80’s.

Thanks so much for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you’re involved with Centipede: Infestation?

Sure. My name is Jonathan Moses, and I’m the Senior Producer at Atari on Centipede: Infestation.

What can people expect when they pop that game in their systems? Can you tell us a little bit about the gameplay?

First thing to expect – fun. Centipede: Infestation is a great action-shooter with some light tower defense gameplay. In a nutshell, the player will be shooting large mutant bugs. The player collects power-ups that give them more speed, shields, and some really cool weapons.

Some of the bugs will drop seeds that grow into different kinds of plants. Some will be gun towers that will also shoot at the bugs and some are mushrooms that form barriers. This is the tower defense gameplay. If you’ve gotten the towers in the right place and can keep the bugs from eating your plants – they’ll fight off just about all the smaller bugs, leaving you with just the giant mutated centipedes to contend with.

Is there going to be a story with the game?

There is! You’ll learn the story of Max, a boy living in the wasteland, and his new friend Maisy who’s gardens have the remarkable ability to bring life back to the world.

How do you think in terms of bringing a story to a game that didn’t necessarily have one to begin with and make it work in context of the game?

Our goal from the start of this project was to take the classic game of Centipede, and make it relevant to an audience now. The core basics in the original inspired the creation of Centipede: Infestation. Both the original and Centipede: Infestation have lots of bugs to shoot – and both have the big centipedes. In the original game, killing bugs would create the mushrooms. That said, this isn’t just new graphics on the old gameplay.

With that in mind, adding a story felt completely natural. We built a compelling world for the action, and while the gameplay is always the core, players today (myself included), need a story to hook in and make it all seem believable.

Well – as believable as a post-apocalyptic world full of giant mutated bugs and plants that shoot flame can feel 

We recently showed off a trailer showing some of the different bugs you’ll be fighting and how to deal with them. How many different bug types will there be and how many weapons will be available to fight them off?

There are over 20 bugs… and more than 20 weapons including the flamethrower, laser guns, plant towers, and other power-ups.

Lots of bugs to kill – and lots of ways to do it.

Can you tell people a little bit about the controls and how they’ll work. Will there be multiple control schemes available in the case of the Wii?

On the Wii the main controls are movement with the nunchuck, while aiming at bugs with the wiimote. The ‘B’ button shoots, the ‘A’ button is the stomp attack, and the d-pad gives you instant access to any of the weapon power-ups you’ve collected.

On the 3DS, the player uses the circle pad for movement, while the face buttons allow you in all 8 directions (yes – 8… shooting diagonal is done by pressing both Y/X, X/A, A/B, and B/Y). The touch-pad gives you access to the weapon powers.

Obviously this is a remake of a popular arcade game from the 1980’s. We’ve seen a rise in the popularity of arcade remakes lately. How is this going to differ from that original game?

Ha! I think there is definitely more different than the same with the original. Both have the player focused on killing bugs – especially the big centipedes. Both have mushrooms that are created by killing bugs.

Centipede: Infestation has full movement around the screen, more choices in weapons and strategy, more variety in bug behaviors, a story, more variety in the types of challenges, and is just a modern game in every way… rather than a remake or sequel.

Oh – and co-op! Centipede: Infestation is a blast to play in co-op.

The game play is really quite different from what people expect from the arcade game. What went into the decision to do this style of game over something like the Pac-man Championship Edition style game that keeps the gameplay very similar to the original?

We spent a lot of time talking about that at Atari – and as we continue to bring back our classic IP, you’re going to see a variety of approaches to them. The classic version is still fun (a classic for very good reasons), and there are some strong models to follow, so we could have gone that way.

In the end, the guys at Way Forward (very talented team of developers creating Centipede: Infestation) presented a concept for what’s become Centipede: Infestation, and we fell in love with it. We saw a lot of good pitches for taking Centipede forward, but the depth, charm, and mix between new and old just felt “right” in what they brought us on paper. Seeing that concept come to life and deliver on the promise has been a pleasure to be a part of.

Are there going to be any differences in the Wii version compared to the 3DS one?

The core is the same between the Wii and 3DS.

The controls are obviously different. The 3DS takes full advantage of the 3D visuals, and StreetPass. The Wii has co-op on the single screen, while the 3DS co-op works with ad-hoc multiplayer using two systems.

How many different game modes will be available in the game? Are you including the original arcade versions of Centipede?

Single player and co-op are the modes, with 3 different difficulty settings.

The original arcade game is not included in Centipede: Infestation.

What about online play? Will there be any sort of leaderboards or stat tracking?

There isn’t any online play or leaderboards in Centipede: Infestation.

These classic arcade and Atari remakes have been very popular in the downloadable space. What brought about the decision to do a retail game over a downloadable one?

Very true – and the Atari Greatest Hits has done very well on iOS with the original Centipede! Atari is making a lot of downloadable games, new and old, and this is going to continue.

We really liked the concept for Centipede: Infestation, and it was always designed to be a Wii and 3DS title. It’s been built for the hardware, and with a retail scope in mind.

When can players expect to get their hands on Centipede: Infestation?

Soon! Centipede: Infestation will be in a store near you Fall 2011.

Thanks so much for joining us today. Is there anything else you want to tell everyone before we go?

Oh – one more thing. We’ve built in a bunch of unlocks from playable characters, new skins, and other cool things. These can be found by meeting achievements during the game. We’re very excited about that too.

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