The Otterman Empire: An Interview With the Team At Tri-Heart Interactive

Nathan Collier

It’s tough out there for indie studios. The gaming industry has now officially surpassed film, television, and music in terms of sheer value. That scent of gold has led to an influx of indie gaming houses as more and more developers begin to vie for their piece of the pie. This kind of competition is incredibly good for the average gamer, but for these small studios the stress can be wildly high. The key to success in this situation is, and will always be, innovation.

Enter, Tri-Heart Interactive.

The indie studio out of Manchester UK is set to drop their new title, The Otterman Empire. The split screen 3rd person shooter was developed using a community driven approach and it’s something worth talking about.

I believe community driven development is a strategy that can help guide indie studios to viable paths of success and it’s one area where indie houses have a leg up on major studios. Can a major studio check their social feeds to see what their fans think? Sure. An indie studio however can go directly to the people who play their games. Their fan base feels the journey of development with them.

The Otterman Empire is a four player family party game where you work as a team of hilariously animated otters navigating arenas with different environmental challenges. Slated to release early 2020 The Otterman Empire is part battle royale, part party game, and all fun. After playing the demo I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to the team at Tri-Heart Interactive. Check out the interview below.

Is there any particular reason the team landed on the otter for this game other than the punny title?

Otters were a great opportunity for us to explore different character types by using characteristics of each species. Instead of starting each character with a blank slate, we started by choosing a species and away we went.

Some comparable games like Splatoon and Mario Party are starting to see a really deep eSports presence is that one of the goals for Otterman?

Not at the moment but we would love to keep our eye out for opportunities post launch. Our vision for The Otterman Empire has always been a crazy, fast action party game. One that is less about fast twitch action and more about two minute rounds of chaos.

A look at the split-screen chaos of The Otterman Empire

Comedy factors largely here. How do you go about deciding the right amount of comedy for a family-party shooter? Do alarms go off if you’re testing the game and no one’s laughed for 30 seconds?

Fun and enjoyment have been a huge part of our games development from the start. We have tested the game since its inception at our event, Manchester Gamers Unite. Testing a party game so frequently in an event setting has ensured that at its roots, the game is about the interaction you have with the players around you! Love, hate, laughter and competition has driven the games development.

While I do see the party potential here, I have to thank the team for committing themselves to a campaign mode. Was that an easy decision? Was there ever a version of the game that didn’t have it?

For the longest time, the game was multiplayer only, we always intended to include single player content, but we had to get the party game right in the beginning. Once we decided to stick to local only multiplayer, we started to explore the concept of developing a single player campaign that would teach the player how to master the skills of the multiplayer objectives. We also had a world and ten cray characters to explore so getting to introduce them to the player was such an exciting part of development.

Astrid and Noah, two of the hero Otters

It’s late summer of 2020 and the game is performing well. The team sits down to map out DLC, what’s the first priority to add? (personally I’d love to see the gear get very silly).

Well we have a more worlds to explore and a few characters that didn’t make the initial launch into otter space so getting them geared up and ready to fight would be our main priority, We have a few more or Tiko’s tech to explore as well so it would be awesome to see what we can do with those!

How has your team reacted to the process of “community driven game development?” Can you share any ways the larger community directly influenced the development of T.O.E.? Is community driven a process you’ll continue in future projects?

Community driven development is at the heart of who we are as a team, as huge fans of everything from youtubers to streamers to shows and films, we know the importance of community and we want gamers [to] unite and tri-heart to be a celebration of the things we love, we have a team full of different interests and perspectives that differ from one and other and that’s what makes our team the team it is! Building a community around the team is just a celebration of that team dynamic. As for the impact it has had on The Otterman Empire, it continues to change and mould the game even today, from character names and abilities to environments and world building, our community has helped the team bring the world we are creating to life, it’s not even just our world, it’s theirs! ​

Originally I felt like the environment hazards were the spice that gave this game its flavor but the more I dug in the more I realized it’s really the airborne aspect. Is verticality something you can continue to be creative with?

Verticality and traversal are the aim of the game, keep moving and get the drop on your enemies! The jetpacks have been a core aspect of The Otterman Empire from day one, we wanted to create a party shooter that wasn’t limited by it’s movement.

I think it’s the perfect time for a party game like this. Gamers have kids now and are looking for ways to involve them in the hobby. Long term is the team dedicated to the party-genre space or will there be any plans to explore other genres?

We would love to explore other genres so you might see us pop up elsewhere! But interaction between players is at the heart of our team and I think every product we make will reflect that, offline, online you never know what the future holds for us!

Nathan is the co-creator and co-host of the Splash Damage Bros. Podcast and blog. He can be found near underwater reactors searching for materia. @thenatejc @splashdamagebro

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