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X360F interview: NinjaBee's Band of Bugs

When Band of Bugs was first announced for Xbox Live Arcade last week, we were intrigued. Within minutes, nay, seconds, we were emailing our buddies at NinjaBee to learn everything we could. We managed to snag an interview with Band of Bugs' lead designer, Jeremy Throckmorton. Unfortunately, there are still a few things that we weren't able to pin down (release date, price, etc.) but we did manage to get some tasty info all the same. You may read the interview -- painstakingly reproduced -- after the break.

First, take a moment to introduce yourself (yourselves). What is your role at NinjaBee?

My name is Jeremy Throckmorton, and I'm Lead Designer here at NinjaBee.

The Xbox Live Arcade is filled with lots of action games and retro titles. Band of Bugs, as a strategy title, really stands out. What made you decide to take this route after Cloning Clyde?

Like you said, Live arcade is full of action games and retro titles. We love all kinds of games here at NinjaBee and aren't looking to be pinned down as a developer of just one genre. Besides, seeing Outpost Kaloki all by itself in the Strategy and Sim category was sad. We had to give it a friend.

Give us an overview of Band of Bugs. What sort of gameplay can we expect? Will it be turn based? Are there different "units?" Is there resource management?

Band of Bugs is completely turn based, though we've really worked hard to eliminate much of the down time commonly associated with a turn based game. We have a wide variety of units, each represented by a different type of bug in our bug culture. Resource management isn't present in our game except for in the basest of forms - careful management of your troops and their skills - that sort of thing. We wanted to emphasize tactical combat over anything else.

Bugs at war is an interesting premise for a strategy title. What inspired it? Who came up with it?

There were a lot of things that inspired Band of Bugs. Many of us at NinjaBee are strategy and tactics fans, so we decided that we would explore that route for our next game. As with all our games, Band of Bugs was collaboration amongst those on the team, so I don't know if I can answer specifically who came up with it.

Will Band of Bugs be taking advantage of the recent Xbox Live Arcade size increase? (50 MB to 250MB)? What sorts of hurdles have you come across in making sure Band of Bugs meets the size requirements? Did you apply lessons learned from Cloning Clyde?

Band of Bugs will be under 50 MB. We never asked Microsoft if we could exceed 50 MB, as we didn't really see a justifiable reason for us to do so. Our focus was on making the game, and making it fun, so we didn't really run into many size requirement issues.

We totally used lessons we learned from our previous Live Arcade titles, and the game is based on the same core technology as our first title, Outpost Kaloki X. You can bet we'’ll be taking what we learned from this game and applying it to our next title, whatever that may be.

What sort of Xbox Live options can we expect? Will there be online multiplayer? How many players will it support? Leaderboards?

Online multiplayer was a big deal for this title, and we are really happy with what we've done. The number of players supported will really depend on how players are playing the game.

Leaderboards are guaranteed, as is Rich Presence, achievements, and the rest of the Live Arcade fixin's. For those readers out there that may not be familiar with the term, Rich Presence is the name for that bit of information that tells you what your friend is up to when you check out his Gamercard on Live.

What can you tell us about the level editor?

The level editor is something we decided to do very early in the project, and it took a great deal of our time and resources. I don't think it’s would be unfair to say adding the editor was like adding a second game to our development schedule and budget. In the end though, I think players will agree that it was worth it.

Are there any plans for additional downloadable content?

We are big fans of downloadable content. Band of Bugs is built on the same engine as Outpost Kaloki, and we made sure we didn't lose any of our support for downloadable content during development. Beyond that, all I can say is '‘there have been no announcements regarding Band of Bugs and Downloadable Content.'’

During our interview with John Nielson, he said that he felt NinjaBee could "make a difference" on Xbox Live Arcade. With two titles already out, and Band of Bugs on the way, how would you describe NinjaBee's experience with Live Arcade so far?

We love Live Arcade. I can't speak for the other guys (though I think they'd agree), but I can say it's my favorite platform to develop for right now. Live Arcade is awesome, and Microsoft's support has been simply amazing.

Finally, what games do you like to play, either as inspiration or simply relaxation? Are there any games that are popular at the NinjaBee offices?

I play all sorts of games... pretty much anything but sports games, really. Anything I play is equal parts relaxation and potential inspiration. You can find inspiration in the darndest places.

One game that's got a bunch of us hooked around the office is Viva Piñata. Sending crates back and forth and trading piñata strategies has been great.

We'd like to thank Jeremy and NinjaBee for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to check out the official Band of Bugs website for the latest info.

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