So Why “Ant Experiment”?

‘So why Ant Experiment?”, you might ask.  How is it that we came up with such a bizarre idea for an MMO? Well, let me tell you.

It was late and we were wrapping up one of our regular Thursday after-hours jam sessions.  Honestly, one of the coolest things about working at an indie game studio is that all this yapping about different game concepts, no matter how outrageous, can all actually become reality. I remember being a kid in the ‘90s, sitting around with friends playing Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country on SNES all afternoon on Saturdays, all these ideas swirling through our heads, talking about the cool games we’d like to see some day.  Now we’re actually paid to do this! It’s in the job description! Come on! Who can complain? I have yet to meet someone in this industry that hates their job. But I’m going off on a tangent here. Let me get back to the story.

We were discussing our current game project, Trouble Inc and finishing off the last of the Thursday baked goods, butternut squash muffins, courtesy of Dana, our 3D animation lead.  Ok, I’m getting distracted again, but they really are amazing muffins.

Anyhow, Trouble Inc. is a project we have nurtured for years and it’s amazing to see it coming together now. Talking about the project, our CEO John Mark Seck said, “It’s really cool we’re launching Trouble Inc. on iPad but it’s too bad it never came to life as an MMO.” You see, we started on Trouble Inc. as an MMO and built most of the infrastructure for it, but as time has passed it has evolved into a comic book and game series for iPad. John said, “I’d still love to see us build that MMO, but maybe we have to rethink and tackle something more manageable to start. What would be the simplest MMO we could create?” After a couple minutes, John says, ”How about this: you’re an ant?” That’s it, simple.

Radek, our concept artist and resident intellectual said, “Wait a minute, nothing about ants is simple”, and he proceeded to tell us about all the incredible ant resources he’d found online. In particular, we all listened with fascination to this amazing podcast from radiolab on the concept of Emergence: http://www.radiolab.org/2007/aug/14/

Well, clearly we had some serious thinking to do if we wanted to do justice to the Ant MMO concept, but it sounded dang good and there was some serious Zeitgeist happening at BlackCherry!

A 3D MMO where you’re an ant – and you’ve got this colony that you’ve got to protect and keep alive? It reminded me of playing that Sim Ant game like twenty years ago, and how I loved the concept of being a bug, living like a bug, doing bug-like things.  I was a kid, but I’d still love to get my hands on a game like that again.  Nobody really seemed to remember Sim Ant, maybe because it wasn’t that big of a hit (was it?), or maybe ’cause it was the early ’90s, I don’t know – but I got pretty excited about this new idea.  And so did everyone else.  Sim Ant wasn’t multi-player – from what I remember you just controlled a bunch of NPC ants to do your ant thing.  But this idea of being able to work together with other online ant-people to build a nest, get food, protect the queen, get a crew together to invade other colonies – and all in an immersive 3D ant world! – now that seemed a whole lot cooler. Not that I’m not trash-talking Sim Ant here –  that game was ‘da bomb’ back in 1992.

But anyway, we stayed for like another couple hours talking about how awesome this game had the potential of being. We ended up discussing it for the next week, and we decided that maybe we should put something together and see what other people thought. Think of it: if this MMO is going to be played by you – then you should decide whether it should be made or not, and so we thought we’d find out by putting it up on Kickstarter. All we know is: if we reach our goal and get the funding we need to make it, this MMO is going to kick some serious butt. No doubt!

One thought on “So Why “Ant Experiment”?

  1. I love this story, this sounds fun!

    ANTS ARE AWESOME! I had 2 ant farms as a kid, collected different types and would bring them home to my despairing mom + kitchen table. There is huge variety of species, functions, and behaviour in their societies, and Maxis even did a SimAnt wayyyy back in the day as you mentioned. There’s been quite a variety of Bug games in past. You might even consider that Beyond just the plethora of Ants themselves, their numerous bug neighbours can be part of the drama in your game to great effect, perhaps your Ant scientists could R&D enemey hives to breed new warriors. Wow i just touched Starcraft a little..

    Another design idea someone recently implemented brilliantly that might be of interest for discussion as a game POV – take a brief look
    at this video, this game is a new Xcom title (and a GOOD ONE). The most interesting thing here is their design choice to portray the mission base .. like an ANT farm, and boy does it look fantastic. Enjoy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=U88EcjtDnyE

    Derek Jeziorowski
    indy GameDeveloper/Designer
    647-380-9841

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