SG Interview: RareDrop Games Founder Josh Regan

By Josh Brown 11 May 2017 0

The 'mech' genre has been a staple of animation for decades ranging from Western creations like Transformers to the Japanese household name of Gundam. With a massive following of kids, adults and those who think of themselves as a little bit of both, it's an interest that can turn into a lifelong hobby.

Whether you grew up devoting yourself to the rare instance of Japanese anime airing on Western television or imported that special substance straight into your own home, there's no denying there's always been a special place in the world for some good ol' fashioned robot on robot action.

While some settle for the collectability and conversation points of Gunpla (buildable figurines), others might end up tinkering with their own creations - robotic or otherwise. Josh Regan, however, went a slightly different route; one that involved turning a hobby into his new favorite game. We caught up with the founder of Raredrop Games to talk Warborn - a strategic homage to all things mech.

Strategy Gamer: First of all, could you kindly introduce yourself to the people of StrategyGamer, your active role and what exactly Warborn is in your own words?

Josh Regan: Hi! My name is Josh Regan, I'm the founder of Raredrop Games and also the game designer and programmer for Warborn.

In Warborn, players command their own strike force of anime inspired mecha (big humanoid robots) and deploy them in tactical turn-based battles. The game blends elements from strategy and RPG genres. 

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Strategy Gamer: What was the initial thought process behind this game? Are you pulling inspiration from specific other media or is this a love letter to your own hobbies and interests?

Josh Regan: I've always had an interest in mecha, particularly after watching Gundam Wing many years ago. I remember having a friend record the episodes on VHS tapes for me to watch because I didn't have the TV channel it was aired on at the time. The original concept came from a screen mockup I made ages ago while thinking about that series but I had to put it to one side while working on other projects. It then seemed like the right time to return to the idea!

Since then I've watched quite a few different anime series involving mecha and often the thing I like most about those series is the amount of detail given to the universe; not just the mechs themselves but the technology, characters and politics. There's so much lore within those worlds and I wanted to create a game that had at least some of that depth. That's the thematic inspiration at least, but in terms of gameplay the idea was to try and merge RTS and RPG elements. The game eventually evolved into a turn-based strategy/SRPG hybrid. There's a lot of emphasis on keeping things fluid.

Warborn is definitely something of a love letter to Japanese mecha and my attempt at trying to channel the inspiration I felt back when I first watched Gundam Wing as a child. I think part of it is also about making something that I want to play and I feel like there's room in the world for a '2D mecha strategy RPG'.

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Strategy Gamer: Tell us more about the team and their background. Have you bonded over past projects or have you all come together through this one alone?

Josh Regan: There are three of us actively working on the game at the moment: myself (Programming & Design), Tom Waterhouse (Art) and Luke Thomas (Audio). Luke is a music composer; we met on Twitter and have worked together on two previous games which were for iOS. I was actually already a fan of Luke's work from a Kickstarter project he was involved in back in 2012, so when he contacted me to see if I needed any audio I was immediately interested in working with him.

Tom is a freelance designer and illustrator; we met through the Bristol Games Hub (which is a brilliant game development community in Bristol). After we got talking I found we had some shared interests, particularly in regards to games. As a result I asked Tom if he would be interested in working on the artwork for Warborn, luckily he agreed and this is now our first project together.

Both are extremely talented and it's been a huge help having them involved in this project. In the earlier stages the team also included Chris Waldron. Chris is a former colleague of mine from a previous job who joined the project for a while as a programmer and helped with development of the prototype. Chris has since departed to work on his own games and I'm looking forward to seeing what he's working on.

Warborn Concept 1

Strategy Gamer: You mentioned the Bristol Games Hub and it’s certainly something we’ve heard of before. Can you go into a little more detail as to what this group means and offers for eager developers and what it has meant for Warborn already?

Josh Regan: Sure, the Bristol Games Hub is a shared office space in Bristol which is primarily used by small game development teams. They also host a lot of community meetups and talks so it's a nice place to meet people who are interested in games development and a good way to find collaborators from different disciplines. 

Strategy Gamer: Imagine yourself at a game show - big or small. How would you quickly pitch Warborn to a con-goer to entice them to play your hypothetical demo?

Josh Regan: It's a turn-based strategy game with RPG elements, set in a universe where battles are fought in giant mechs and mankind has colonized space. If Advance Wars and Front Mission had a child it might be something like Warborn.

Strategy Gamer: Considering the current state of the game, what are some of the main features you're looking to implement in due time?

Josh: The main features planned at the moment are:

  • Turn Based Gameplay - Players take turns commanding their strike force to victory, issuing orders to each individual unit during their turn.
  • Varied Tactical Options - Move, capture, deploy reinforcements, lay traps and engage targets on the battlefield.
  • Animated Battle Sequences - Dramatic animated sequences show combat unfold between mechs in close-up detail.
  • 10 Standard Mech Classes - Players can form their strike force from a variety of different mech types, each which unique skills and attacks, strengths and weaknesses.
  • 4 Commander Mechs - Choose from one of four different commanders, each has a unique play style, signature mech and commander abilities.
  • Strike Force Customisation - Recruit new pilots into your strike force, adjust the skills and stats of their mechs by earning and installing upgrade modules.
  • Online Multiplayer - Ranked and private competitive online multiplayer for 1vs1 battles.
  • Local Skirmish - Play matches against AI adversaries. Single Player Campaign - Story driven campaign with a variety of scenarios.

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Strategy Gamer: How long has Warborn been in active development and how far along has it come already? Are you targeting a specific release date or would you say you're just toying with the concept for now?

Josh Regan: We started pre-production work and development of a prototype back in September 2016. The prototype allowed the concept to evolve and highlighted areas that needed improvement. Only the basic game mechanics were in place at that point but it was invaluable for trialing ideas in the early stages of development.

Around the same time I was also writing the lore behind the game, designing the units and the characters. Work on the current incarnation of the game started around the end of January 2017, so it's only been about 3 months. At this stage the game design is pretty much set in stone and the game itself is now starting to include some of the final artwork and audio. I won't mention a release date for now, but production is in full swing at the moment.

Strategy Gamer: Can you see yourself being on the look-out for more team members as development matures?

Josh Regan: I think for the time being we've got all of our bases covered, but as the project evolves it's possible that there might be room for a community manager or something similar in the future.

Strategy Gamer: As a closing comment, do you have a few favourite mech anime you’d like to suggest/share that have served as inspiration? Titles that fans of the genre might notice bleeding into Warborn?

Josh Regan: Recently I watched Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans which was excellent and very gritty. It definitely helped with motivation for Warborn, but we’re trying to develop our own distinct atmosphere and setting so the art style and themes are quite different overall.

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Being in the relatively early stages of development, it'll likely take some time before we see Warborn form into the fleshed-out product we can imagine fans of classic Mech anime would lap up in an instant. Becoming the pilot of a weaponized robot of justice is nothing new at this point, but commanding an army of them is something we can imagine a lot of 90s kids would have wished strongly for every night.

Rather than push us into the commanding role of a well-established historical army, Warborn looks set to make those countless hours spent watching mech anime amount to something more. We might not be commanding our own monumental justice machine in the near future, but Warborn could certainly keep that dream alive.

There might only be around 3 months of work put into the title right now, but Raredrop Games keeps a steady profile of things over on their official webpage. If you feel like watching this project grow, keep an eye on their site. Josh handles most of the developer blogs over there while keeping the teasers running strong on Twitter. His personal account can be found here.

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