IGF Factor 2014 – Towerfall: Ascension

Horace is larger than all game characters.

The IGF Factor 2014 rumbles on. Today’s homing arrow of investigation makes Matt Thorson its victim. When this interview was conducted, the creator of Towerfall: Ascension was days away from releasing the game on PC and the interviewer had not yet discovered how good it was. What insight might fall out?

RPS: Can you begin by introducing TowerFall: what is it?

TowerFall is a 4-player archery combat platformer. It’s a local party game. It’s very fast with a lot of competitive depth, and players naturally end up teaching each other along the way. Ideally you’d play it in a room full of friends, 4 of you packed onto a too-small couch with a crowd cheering you on.

There’s been a sudden surge of local multiplayer games (Samurai Gunn, Nidhogg, Cobalt, etc.), of which TowerFall is a part. What accounts for the surge? What prompted or made you want to make this kind of game?

I grew up with these kinds of games, so it’s wonderful to see that surge. I was worried that this style of game was dying out when online multiplayer became the norm, but it’s clear that there’s still many of us who want to play this way. There’s a lot of unexplored territory here, and the social aspect is fascinating.

RPS: TowerFall released on the Ouya first and received a lot of attention for that. Do you think there were benefits to being Ouya exclusive?

For TowerFall it was the best decision, and Ouya has treated me well. Like you said it got TowerFall a lot of attention, but it also allowed the game to develop naturally with a small, hardcore audience. TowerFall as it released on Ouya was not ready for an audience like the one it will be exposed to soon on Steam and PS4. Ouya was a great way to get people into the game while I continued development.

RPS: What does an IGF nomination mean to you? Does it bring more attention to your game?

Recognition always feels great. It’s really satisfying for me to see people playing and talking about the game at that level. I don’t know how it affects sales or anything like that, and I hope it doesn’t make my peers think of me differently.

RPS: Bow and arrows are the best weapon. Why are bow and arrows the best weapon?

When I’m designing I tend to get excited about things that move in interesting ways, about spatial mechanics. Arrows are great for that, they can have this nice arc to them and stick into surfaces. In TowerFall I also get away with a few quirks, like delayed gravity and some subtle seeking. These things feel natural in the context of fantasy archery, like your archers are just so good that it makes sense somehow.

RPS: Are there any other games in this year’s IGF that you hope does well, or worry about being ignored?

Every game in the Design category seems like it deserves the award, I don’t understand how anyone could decide between them. I’m excited for Crypt of the Necrodancer – knowing the creator and watching it develop has been a lot of fun.

RPS: Thanks for your time.


  1. Moraven says:

    Now for a Wii U port, please and thank you!

    • Alien426 says:

      How dare you, sir? How DARE you, indeed?
      This is the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race’s blog!!

      • Moraven says:

        I could always get a BlueTooth adapter and try Wiimotes on the PC… I just do not want to try that headache to get them all to work with Towerfall.

        Wonder if 2 360 controllers and 2 DS3 (need adapter) would work at the same time well on the PC. Still, headache of making it work without needing to spend $100-150. I guess I could buy cheap $15 controllers. But for one game? Already have some good party games on the Wii U.

  2. FFabian says:

    Should I bother buying Towerfall for just two players? Having no friends but I can probably force my SO to try it.

    • jgthespy says:

      Absolutely. I’ve been playing 2-player with my roommate all week and it’s an absolute blast. I haven’t had this much fun with a game in a very long time. I can’t wait to try it with a couple more friends but even if it were two player only it would still be amazing. Co-op is also great and I think it’s only for two players.

      • deadly.by.design says:

        Glad to hear it! I can occasionally get my wife to play coop games with me, but my question is this: Is there a lot or performance pressure? She doesn’t like games that have a lot of pressure to get things ‘just right,’ and she doesn’t have the years of platforming experience that I gained as a kid in the ’80s.

        • jgthespy says:

          If you don’t mind dying and starting the map over and over again, I’d say it’s low pressure. It’s normally pretty funny when you die and each map takes maybe 10 minutes to complete. The co-op definitely isn’t easy though. If she gets frustrated with losing, it’s probably not a good game for her.