Darwinia is a world where little computer people mine polygons to fuel their machines and soldiers fight a computer virus with space invaders providing the air strikes. Ironically, it’s a world which has undergone a gradual evolution over its three years on PC, only recently becoming a game developers Introversion are happy with. It’s that version which will be the biggest Live Arcade release of the autumn, and the first console game from the tiny team working out of a house in London.
“Back in 2005, we talked a bit about trying to get Introversion games onto a console,” says director Mark Morris, “but it seemed impossible due to the upfront royalty requirements. If you make a game for, say, Xbox then you need to pay Microsoft at the time you manufacture your disks, not when you sell them. To afford this we’d need a publisher, and you know what our views are on those guys!”
A truly independent operation, Introversion have made, marketed and sold their games from a house in London since releasing their first game in 2001, even when Darwinia overshot its planned three-month development time by three years and threatened to leave the team collecting benefits. Introversion released Darwinia on PC and Mac in March 2005 and shortly after met with Microsoft’s Ross Erickson, then boss of what would become Live Arcade. As Mark explains, “Chris and I took the PC version of Darwinia and demoed it to Ross. He loved it and asked us to put together a document explaining how we could sex it up a bit for the 360 and how we would implement a ‘multiplayer component’.”
The multiplayer component given life by Microsoft’s interest in Darwinia accounts for the Multiwinia half of Darwinia+ on Live Arcade. The other half is the classic PC Darwinia RTS, now a very different game to the one released in 2005. “I suppose you could call it an (ongoing) experiment if you wanted to avoid the truth. The truth is we made some mistakes in the early days and really messed up the first version of Darwinia. That version opened with a view of the landscape and the player is expected to press ctrl+c, and then draw a triangle to make some mysterious “knights” appear. It was expecting far too much of people in the initial stages and it wasn’t until we released Prologue that we really got the control system right.”