Nothing could be further from The Order: 1886 than De-Formers. Developer Ready at Dawn's previous game was self-serious in its storytelling. The latter is comically self aware. The Order is a streamlined cinematic shooter. De-Formers embraces chaos.
Developer Ready at Dawn released The Order in early 2015 and subsequently turned on a dime to pursue a wholeheartedly different project. However, it's not entirely new.
"It's was brought up several times, this small idea, and how we could make it into a game," chief technical officer Andrea Pessino said. "We tabled it for the time being before The Order. Now, we've gone back to it. It's extremely different from anything else we've made."
At a recent demo event, the studio showed its upcoming multiplayer-focused De-Formers for the first time, complete with all of its arena combat and lack of Orderly direction.
It's an exceedingly kinetic game, encouraging you to keep moving if you want to survive. With a dash attack, shield maneuver, light projectiles, and a counterattack throw, De-Formers is as much about offense as it is evasion. The object is to blow up your spherical enemies with these abilities, or launch them over the edge of the arenas a la Super Smash Bros or Gang Beasts.
There are also hints of Mega Man and Kirby -- as you destroy your opponents, you grow in size and gain their power. This forces you to be proactive and engage enemies directly rather than hang back and wait for the crowd to disperse. If you're playing well, you'll become one of the larger enemies on the map, and although this makes you more powerful, you're also more of a target. The result is a frantic brawl between rolling, animated, bowling ball creatures of various sizes careening into the distance and popping in clouds of blood in every which direction.
This is all physics-based. As Pessino said, the team didn't want to focus on preset animations for De-Formers' hectic encounters. The developers wanted it all to shift based on the angle of attack, the power of attack, and the respective sizes of characters at the moment of impact.
"We want it to be frantic," he said. "But we want you to think. Some players will be good at getting into the mix and trusting their instinct, while others will play it like a chess game -- waiting for the other team to charge, and counterattacking them off the edge."
He said the idea for De-Formers has been percolating at Ready At Dawn for several years now, after he saw a German short film called Balance. In it, several characters tiptoe around a platform teetering on a central axis, balancing it as they reach for a mysterious box at the center. In De-Formers, there's an option to make the arenas mirror the setting of Balance. The physics engine tilts the maps based on how many characters are on each side of the arena, and how much they all weigh.
Whereas The Order was created to encourage long play sessions and immersive scenes, Pessino and his team had more bite-size habits in mind for De-Formers. A chief inspiration was Rocket League, whose racecar soccer matches work well if you want to play a few minutes at a time -- matches progress at a frantic pace, and although they don't exercise as much control on the developer's part, they contain substance in the way they cleverly unfold.
In a sense, De-Formers isn't so much a successor to The Order, but a reaction to it. More and more games, such as Rocket League and the aforementioned Gang Beasts, have refined that "bite-size" approach to couch co-op and online play sessions, and with its next title, Ready At Dawn seems to be embracing that style wholeheartedly.