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Three Dudes Making Games About Wizards 'n Orbs

Tired of begging companies to let them make the old school games they love, Tribute Games' trio of founders set out on their own.

Wizards are pretty cool. Orbs are pretty cool. Thus, Wizorb.

“I was just playing with random words related to the game, and I kept combining wizard with orb,” said Jonathan Lavigne, one of the only three employees at Montreal-based Tribute Games, during a recent Skype conversation. “At first it was a working title, but it stuck, so I kept it. That’s about it. Nothing really special about it!”

Tribute Games launched Wizorb via the Xbox Live Indie Games channel late last month, a charming take on Arkanoid and Breakout, with some light RPG mechanics laid over the top.

Players start off in a ruined town, with villagers begging for a savior. Who will save them? You will, wizard! How? By transforming from a wizard, then into an orb, and finally into a paddle that moves across the screen and shoots balls at blocks and bad dudes. You know, like every other video game.

The three (current) members of Tribute Games stand tall in their Montreal office.

Tribute Games is made up of three guys--Lavige, Jean François Major, Justin Cyr--that met at Ubisoft. Cyr and Lavigne have actually known each other for going on 10 years, having worked on black-and-white cell phone games for Gameloft, then working on Game Boy Advance and DS releases for Ubisoft. Major joined while making Open Season, and they quickly formed a bond over old, challenging, 2D video games.

Those qualities also make up the backbone of Tribute Games.

“I think it’s important to have games that people can actually master,” said Cyr. “Some games have co-op, which proves who’s actually king of the hill, but older games used to be much smaller in scope. When you got good at it, you could finish a game in an hour, but it took many hours to get to that level.”

After many years at Ubisoft, they got the feeling management no longer wanted to make the same games they wanted to.

"It was always kind of hard to convince our superiors to do these kinds of [games]," he said, "and yet, these games always prove to be modestly successful, so tired of wanting to convince people all the time to do something like that, we figured ‘Well, let’s just strike it out on our own.'"

There was talk of leaving Ubisoft, but the opportunity to make Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came up, which became a loving tribute to the side-scrolling beat ‘em ups of yore. And, yes, it’s just as cheap and challenging as your nostalgia recalls.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World also offered them the chance to work with Paul Roberston, the absurdly talented pixel artist who made a name for himself with Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006, a 12-minute animated video featuring a litany of anime and video game references.

“We got to know him personally, and he was a really cool guy,” said Cyr. “After Scott [Pilgrim] was done, he was eager to keep working with us, and it worked out so that he could do the lion’s share of the animation on this game. He’s a cool guy, and certainly the best animator I’ve ever known.”

After the game digitally shipped, they took the first steps toward forming Tribute Games.

The studio’s goal is to produce one game per year, hoping to build a brand players can follow and regularly expect games in the vein of Wizorb--old school with a twist. Wizorb itself was actually built in just a couple of months, amidst the complications of finding office space and figuring out how to run a company.

The whole endeavour is a big risk for all three of them, as well; there are no outside sources funding Tribute Games.

You don't have to save the town in Wizorb, but what's an RPG without saving some villagers?

“It’s completely self financed,” he said. “It’s difficult, no doubt, but at the end of the day, it’s more about wanting to do what you want to do and seeing if if it’s viable.”

Cyr didn’t sound especially worried, and said the launch of Wizorb has been successful so far, and an already vocal set of fans has been influencing tweaks made to the game, including the controls.

One of the biggest issues for any game with Arknanoid-style gameplay is getting the feel of moving the paddle around right. These games were originally created to be controlled with knobs, not analog sticks and d-pads--it's not precise enough. Tribute Games spend an enormous amount of time making sure Wizorb felt right, but admitted it was a design of compromise, one that may not please everyone.

If you’ve found it difficult to manipulate on a controller, however, perhaps wait for the PC version.

“As we’re working on the PC port, we’re finding that playing with the mouse almost seems like the game was made for the PC to start with,” said Cyr.

A title update fixing some issues was recently released for the Xbox 360 version, a PC port could be out before the end of the month, and the studio is investigating bringing Wizorb onto other devices. It'd definitely work on a touch-based device.

For now, they're all just taking it a day at a time.

"When you go independent, you have to be expected to do a little bit more," said Cyr. "What a day might consist of is sometimes very different and odd, but you take it as it comes. You do your best, and hope for the best in the end, I guess."

If you’d like some wizards and orbs in your life, you could do much worse with $3.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek

Wizards are pretty cool. Orbs are pretty cool. Thus, Wizorb.

“I was just playing with random words related to the game, and I kept combining wizard with orb,” said Jonathan Lavigne, one of the only three employees at Montreal-based Tribute Games, during a recent Skype conversation. “At first it was a working title, but it stuck, so I kept it. That’s about it. Nothing really special about it!”

Tribute Games launched Wizorb via the Xbox Live Indie Games channel late last month, a charming take on Arkanoid and Breakout, with some light RPG mechanics laid over the top.

Players start off in a ruined town, with villagers begging for a savior. Who will save them? You will, wizard! How? By transforming from a wizard, then into an orb, and finally into a paddle that moves across the screen and shoots balls at blocks and bad dudes. You know, like every other video game.

The three (current) members of Tribute Games stand tall in their Montreal office.

Tribute Games is made up of three guys--Lavige, Jean François Major, Justin Cyr--that met at Ubisoft. Cyr and Lavigne have actually known each other for going on 10 years, having worked on black-and-white cell phone games for Gameloft, then working on Game Boy Advance and DS releases for Ubisoft. Major joined while making Open Season, and they quickly formed a bond over old, challenging, 2D video games.

Those qualities also make up the backbone of Tribute Games.

“I think it’s important to have games that people can actually master,” said Cyr. “Some games have co-op, which proves who’s actually king of the hill, but older games used to be much smaller in scope. When you got good at it, you could finish a game in an hour, but it took many hours to get to that level.”

After many years at Ubisoft, they got the feeling management no longer wanted to make the same games they wanted to.

"It was always kind of hard to convince our superiors to do these kinds of [games]," he said, "and yet, these games always prove to be modestly successful, so tired of wanting to convince people all the time to do something like that, we figured ‘Well, let’s just strike it out on our own.'"

There was talk of leaving Ubisoft, but the opportunity to make Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came up, which became a loving tribute to the side-scrolling beat ‘em ups of yore. And, yes, it’s just as cheap and challenging as your nostalgia recalls.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World also offered them the chance to work with Paul Roberston, the absurdly talented pixel artist who made a name for himself with Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006, a 12-minute animated video featuring a litany of anime and video game references.

“We got to know him personally, and he was a really cool guy,” said Cyr. “After Scott [Pilgrim] was done, he was eager to keep working with us, and it worked out so that he could do the lion’s share of the animation on this game. He’s a cool guy, and certainly the best animator I’ve ever known.”

After the game digitally shipped, they took the first steps toward forming Tribute Games.

The studio’s goal is to produce one game per year, hoping to build a brand players can follow and regularly expect games in the vein of Wizorb--old school with a twist. Wizorb itself was actually built in just a couple of months, amidst the complications of finding office space and figuring out how to run a company.

The whole endeavour is a big risk for all three of them, as well; there are no outside sources funding Tribute Games.

You don't have to save the town in Wizorb, but what's an RPG without saving some villagers?

“It’s completely self financed,” he said. “It’s difficult, no doubt, but at the end of the day, it’s more about wanting to do what you want to do and seeing if if it’s viable.”

Cyr didn’t sound especially worried, and said the launch of Wizorb has been successful so far, and an already vocal set of fans has been influencing tweaks made to the game, including the controls.

One of the biggest issues for any game with Arknanoid-style gameplay is getting the feel of moving the paddle around right. These games were originally created to be controlled with knobs, not analog sticks and d-pads--it's not precise enough. Tribute Games spend an enormous amount of time making sure Wizorb felt right, but admitted it was a design of compromise, one that may not please everyone.

If you’ve found it difficult to manipulate on a controller, however, perhaps wait for the PC version.

“As we’re working on the PC port, we’re finding that playing with the mouse almost seems like the game was made for the PC to start with,” said Cyr.

A title update fixing some issues was recently released for the Xbox 360 version, a PC port could be out before the end of the month, and the studio is investigating bringing Wizorb onto other devices. It'd definitely work on a touch-based device.

For now, they're all just taking it a day at a time.

"When you go independent, you have to be expected to do a little bit more," said Cyr. "What a day might consist of is sometimes very different and odd, but you take it as it comes. You do your best, and hope for the best in the end, I guess."

If you’d like some wizards and orbs in your life, you could do much worse with $3.

Staff
Posted by Max015

I love wizard orbs

Posted by amomjc

This game, honestly, needs to be a part of the official XBLA. Having it stuffed in a corner in the Indie game market isn't doing this genius game justice.

Posted by YoungBuck

Great game. Even better after the update.

Edited by Scodiac

I bought this on Xbox Indie games a while back. I like it a lot. It's fun and has a great old school charm to it. It's cool when some talented people decide to break off from something more secure to make a game of their own. All the best to them.

Posted by GeneralBison

I forgot about this game! Gonna buy it on XBLIG ASAP!

Posted by AlKusanagi

Wait... A game about wizards AND orbs? What would you call such a delightful combination?

Posted by Megasoum

Oh didn't knew they were from around here.... Montreal REPRESENT!

Posted by Rmack

Just bought this last week and I'm absolutely loving it. Looking forward to what these guys do next year!

Posted by plainplease

Patrick's energy and enthusiasm for video game journalism is inspiring...keep up the good work.

Posted by ptc

Wizorb Quicklook please :)
 
I'm a wizard, and this looks F'ing great!

Posted by ErikSchroder

I didn't know Patrick Fugit makes games.

Posted by Torrim

This gets me thinking about how a large publisher's management goes about creating a new IP, and if the developers have much input. I'd like to know if they previously had a lot of input and it's slowly gone the way of focus testing, or maybe the developers themselves are much more likely to stick to an existing franchise.

Posted by Schazzwozzer

I can't wait to give these guys money for the PC version!

Posted by Scodiac
Posted by dekkadekkadekka

@ptc: There already is a quicklook: http://www.giantbomb.com/quick-look-wizorb/17-5009/

Regarding arkanoid-types on console, wouldn't it make sense to use both sticks? Have one stick be high sensitivity and the other low, so you can speed over to the other side of the field with one stick and then fine tune when you get there with the other?

Posted by Doppelgamer

Great game, but it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity, not releasing it as a PS3/PSP playable title.  It would be marvelous for on the go.  Looking forward to the PC release though.

Posted by probablytuna

I'm digging the art. May just pick it up when it's released on PC.

Posted by AlmostSwedish

@ptc said:

Wizorb Quicklook please :) I'm a wizard, and this looks F'ing great!

Already happened

Posted by Chet_Rippo

Ooh never heard of this, looks sweet.

Posted by JillSammich

I love showing how I'm the kind of the hill.

Posted by Kyle

Wizorb is great. Go buy it!

Posted by BeachThunder

Awesome. Cannot wait to finally play the PC version, this game looks great :D

Also, there seems to be a lot of pixelly games coming out this year (Gemini Rue, Serious Sam:TRE, Jamestown, Owlboy, Terraria, Dungeons of Dredmor, Aliens: Infestation etc...)

Online
Posted by RetroVirus

GUYS I'M A WIZORB

Posted by Gaff

I hate to be that guy but...

Players start off in a ruined town, with villagers begging for a savior. Who will same them?
Posted by patrickklepek

@Gaff said:

I hate to be that guy but...

Players start off in a ruined town, with villagers begging for a savior. Who will same them?

You get a prize! A thank you...from me.

Staff
Posted by Everyones_A_Critic

PRACTICING HWIZARDRY!!!!

Posted by PhoenixoftheTides

The guy on the far right is pretty cute! Anyway, I'll definitely check this game out! It's great to support indie game creators that concentrate on making fun games!

Posted by TheMartino

Jesus Klepek, why are you such a fantastic writer.


Buying this!

Posted by ptc
@Scodiac: gracias! That's a fine looking quick look.
Posted by KillyDarko

I'm definitely getting the PC version of this, the QL looked great!

Posted by chiablo

When are developers going to realize that Steam is the platform of choice when it comes to weird releases like this. Hopefully it comes sooner than later.

Online
Posted by AtomicEdge

I'd buy an iPad version.

Posted by Megadestructo

Wizorb is an incredibly frustrating and fantastic game. I would've easily paid more for this game. That being said I'll also picking it up on PC and one if they ever release an Android version. Great article as always!

Posted by Babylonian

I remember carrying around Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 on my PSP in high school and making my friends watch it. Paul is such an immense talent.

Posted by gregoryc

I'll wait for an iOS release, I'd love to have this game on my phone.

Posted by lockwoodx

While I love the concept of this game, I can't help but feel they ripped a lot off from Sorcerer's Maze that was back on the PS1.

Posted by demonknightinuyasha

Super happy this is getting a PC version, as I have no 360 and really wanted to check it out after watching the quick look =D

Edited by countinhallways

That guy is buff as all hell. Fair play to him.

The game seems great and I look forward to picking it up on PC.

Posted by OldGuy
@patrickklepek said:

You get a prize! A thank you...from me.

Ooooo! You're giving out prizes?! Here: 

"Tribute Games launched Wizorb via the Xbox Live Indie Games channel laste last month, a charming take on Arkanoid and Breakout, with some light RPG mechanics laid over the top."
 
Thanks for the super articles! :-)
Posted by prestonhedges

“As we’re working on the PC port, we’re finding that playing with the mouse almost seems like the game was made for the PC to start with,”

Wow. I bet they're gonna be real surprised when they find out about this service called "Steam," too.

Posted by StingingVelvet

PC is where it's at for stuff like that. I don't that say that as a PC fanboy, sales back it up. Happy to hear about the PC port and looking forward to it.

Posted by beritbunny

I seriously want this game, and the second it is available on PSN (PLEASE!) I will buy it.

Also, I want cheats to enable me to actually finish it, because I just do not have the Araknoid/Breakout chops for it, and at the ripe old gaming age of 28 am unlikely to develop them. I just want to reminisce about the old days and wallow in a trough of tasty pixels. :D

Actually, this is common to gaming for me: Games which appeal to me visually (Vanillaware or various Cute-'em-ups) are just too balls hard for me. I can appreciate the fact that they are a wonderful old-school mountain to climb for gamers who have something to prove, but I have dinner to make. Keep'em hard, but let me have a "cheat" or infinite continues. I just want to interactively experience the art assets.

Posted by ManiacMaysin

I might just wait for the pc version. I downloaded the trial because of all the coverage on giantbomb, but haven't had a chance try it yet.

Posted by iWonder

That picture of the three dudes who made it reminds me of what Hardcore Dave's posse might look like.

On topic, seriously gonna pick up this game when it comes out on PC.

Posted by LordAndrew

How delightful.

Posted by gla55jAw

Just watched the Quick Look. This looks pretty awesome. Gunna pick it up on XBLA.

Edited by FellOpenIan
Posted by Jerr

Good on Klepek for reporting on the indies.

Posted by spilledmilkfactory

These guys seem really talented and cool, and hopefully they keep making the kinds of games I want to play so I can keep supporting them.

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