Posted August 11, 2013 by Peter in Interviews

Preview: Worms: Clan Wars interview with Kevin Carthew

Worms Clan Wars logo
Worms Clan Wars logo

It is a busy time regarding the Worms series, both for players and producers. Last Thursday saw the release of Worms 3 on iOS platforms, and next Thursday sees the release of Worms: Clan Wars for PC via Steam. So who better to speak to about these titles than Team 17′s Kevin Carthew, who has been working on the series for a decade-and-a-half?

Meeting at a preview event held at a gaming themed venue, London’s Loading Bar, Kevin explained some of the development process. “We launched Worms: Revolution last year, and that was designed primarily for consoles. This one’s been a response to feedback we got from our community on that front. I think that’s the main thing we got, because with the last game we brought a lot of new features – we put a class system in there, dynamic water, the game has 2D gameplay elements but the rendering was all fully 3D.”
Worms: Clan Wars screen
So what has been added to Clan Wars? “We sat down and said “what can we do in this one, what’s it really missing?” It was pretty startling, it was obvious in that we’ve always had a good community supporting Worms and we wanted to focus on that and grow that community at the same time. So thinking about what the motivation would be, what would get people together and what would get people playing. And it’s in the title really – “Clan Wars“.

“The main feature for this is that you form into clans with your friends. We wanted to make the clans into something that was personally important to people, personally important to you if your clan does well as it rises up the leaderboard ranks. You would grow your clan organically – when you start your clan you can have eight players in there, in time that can go up to 120 players.”

Thinking in terms of MMOs, I ask him if being in a clan involves actually playing alongside other clan members, or simply having individual games and the results being pooled. “You play together. Basically, when you play a clan game you can play on your own against one other clan member, or you can have up to two players from the same clan vs two players from another clan. Basically [it's] 2v2, and the game rewards you for playing as part of a clan. You get more leaderboard points or community points when you play together.”

The Clan Wars front end is distinct from the separate online multiplayer option though – I mention this, asking about simply jumping into online games. “That’s right. So, online multiplayer is just like Worms, 1 vs 1. The Clan Wars version of the front end you can see is branded differently, it looks like a different area within the game.”

“In past games the multiplayer side was very console-like – it was simply matchmaking, find a lobby, put you in and off you go. We’ve brought back in this game an old feature called WormNET – it’s like IRC-style channels and lobbies” (I know this was from one of the older titles, but double checked which – it was originally a feature in 1998′s Worms Armageddon). “It’s basically somewhere you can go to hang out.”
Worms: Clan Wars screen
Gavin Hood, lead designer of Clan Wars, steps in here, mentioning there are also clan channels, as well as general multiplayer channels acting as chat rooms for specific game types. “And obviously it’s not just the ability to chat,” he adds, “it’s the ability to see all the active games, and all the open lobbies that are available through the whole game. And if you don’t see one you want to join, you can just make your own straight away from inside WormNET.

“It facilitates the idea of [its] social community aspect while also making it far easier to host or find a game.”

Kevin continues: “As well as that, because we want people to engage with the game as much as possible, we’ll be supporting a planned companion application. That’s launching as a web portal, Android and iOS. If you’re on the road, you can see how that game went against a rival clan last night, you can see how well people performed – you get a stats breakdown. You can message all the other clan members to say “everyone let’s meet online tonight, this is what we’ll do”. We’re really trying to promote the community to form into these groups as much as possible.”

Kevin quickly loads up a game to demonstrate some of the features. A framing device has the worms fighting in a museum – each exhibit being an hugely detailed diorama to explain apparent moves across continents or through time. From a practical point of view, this still means there are numerous environments for worms to blow up with various basic or outlandish weapons.
Worms: Clan Wars screen
Gavin adds some more context for this: “There’s styling throughout the game and at the front end that allude to the idea of it being in a museum, but it wasn’t something that we wanted to tie ourselves to so that we didn’t have any freedom to do things that look good with the environments.”

The game has 65 weapons and utilities – Kevin: “they are a mixture of the classics that are iconic of the brand – exploding sheep, banana bomb, Holy Hand Grenade. As well as that, some of the new weapons are designed with the new features in mind.”

Gavin gives an example. “With the clan aspect being quite important, we have some weapons that may not stand out [in the same way as] sheep with capes on, but will actually contribute quite a lot inside a clan match. There’s one called ‘The Equaliser’, and that allows you to don a helmet and fire a ray at another worm. Your health and that of the other worm get added together and distributed evenly. If you’ve got really low health you can steal health from an enemy worm, but in terms of playing inside a clan match with a friend you can give them health so they can stay in the game for longer. [If they're in danger of dying] you can bring them back.

“When we came to do the new weapons we didn’t want to make them all just very functional, so we looked at the areas of the game we could get the most out of. Things like the dynamic water, we added things like the aquapack which is pretty much what it sounds like – a jetpack that’s powered by dynamic water. So you’re able to push worms about, you’re able to drown worms” [as he says this, Kevin demonstrates by flying an aquapack over a crater, flooding some of it and leading to the unfortunate worm inside beginning to take damage over time as it drowns], “you can knock them off the side of things; but it’s also a utility and a bit more in keeping with Worms.”
Worms: Clan Wars screen
There are also ‘physics objects’ (delivered to the playing field by a rather creepy-looking flying monkey), items which can take the role of girders in earlier games – forming bridges and shields, or trapping enemies out of the way. These do obey gravity – able to move, tumble, balance or get knocked over.

I ask if a “classic” game could be set up – just using the weapons of a previous game. “The game comes with a load of schemes, like a ‘pro’ scheme which is very limited in its weapons set with short turn times. But all that stuff is completely configurable by the player.”

Having covered the multiplayer, we turn to the single player game, along with a surprise. “We do know from analytics of how people spend time in the game that – even though Worms is thought of primarily as a multiplayer game – an awful lot of people do spend time playing the single player game as well.

This is unexpected – I was surprised, as to a lesser degree they had been when this came to light. Gavin: “We found out a few years ago when we started the analytics, [...] there is a high percentage of people getting quite far into the single player content. That was cool! But it was unexpected.”

(I ask a question that is probably quite awkward to answer – in light of this, do they feel that the single player content had been neglected in the past? Kevin answers tactfully. “Possibly. It is seen as a multiplayer game, but it’s not that we haven’t tried [adding single player content]. Something that’s really good about this new engine is the physics objects and the fact we can do these things now – we just couldn’t do these things with the old engine.”)
Worms: Clan Wars screen
The route through the single player campaign is laid out on a map, with an occasionally branching route showing progress through the museum’s environments. Weapons you’ve collected are persistent, carried from mission to mission.

Kevin: “These missions, I think, play a lot more like a Worms platform game. They’re no longer randomly generated shapes where there will be some configuration of human players and AI players, that feels like the multiplayer game against bots.

[You don't spend] as much time waiting for a the AI to decide what it’s going to do, and a lot more time in control.”

Early missions have a tutorial-like feel to them, with neutral worms providing advice via speech bubbles. However, the platforming aspect is clear to see – using movement tools to get around, hitting switches to activate moving platforms, and having to deal with numerous weaker-but-hostile worms on route.

I ask if any of the more complicated contraptions appear in the multiplayer mode, and the conversation heads to player editing. “The game ships with a quite-comprehensive landscape editor, and if players want to create multiplayer maps that feature contraptions and physics objects then they can, but we don’t provide them out-of-the-box, we rely on the random landscape generator to do much of the heavy lifting.”

But players will have all the of the tools needed? “We’re really pushing the Steam Workshop integration – something we’ve seen in the beta that’s really cool is players making their own customisation items. Texture and modelling, their own hats and trinkets, facial accessories etc. And you put them in the Steam Workshop, you can rate them, you can share them if you want.
Worms: Clan Wars Steam Workshop screen
Showing the items that come provided with the game, Kevin says “it probably contains more customisations than any Worms game we’ve made before.”

“It’s not day one, but there are plans further down the line to bring out a mission toolkit. People will be able to make their own single player content. But right off the bat you can make whatever multiplayer content you want.”

Between this, and the ability to adjust weapon sets and match rules, I describe it as almost being able to make ‘house rules’ for the game. “People still play Worms: Armageddon now, and that’s partly due to its configurability. And what we saw after that game was… not ‘retired’, because the servers are still running, but after the [wider] playerbase had been-and-gone the hardcore were still playing it, and still to this day are playing it. And they almost invent their own games, they invent their own rules. They have races with ninja ropes through cavernous landscapes, incredibly intricate landscapes they spend a lot of time making and a lot of time playing. It is living on because of its configurability, and we hope to get some of that with this game as well.”

Does he think this might also bring some of the players still enjoying the older game to the new title? “I hope so. A lot of the older players play because of the old ninja rope; the new ninja rope is very different, and it’s different because the old game didn’t have a proper physics simulation. [A lot of] the new features in the game, we needed real physics.

“But I’m hoping that, not just the new features, but the clans and WormNet being back and the community features are what will bring them back. And we are definitely starting to see a new community supporting [the game]. We want to grow that new community, take as many people along for the ride as we can.”

Worms: Clan Wars is due out on August 15th for PC via Steam.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.