Posted October 2, 2014 by Peter in EGX

EGX London: Interview with Ollie Clarke (LA Cops)

LA Cops logo
LA Cops logo

LA Cops is set in the 1970s – at least, as cop movies of the 70s presented things, which is to say nobody’s morals are entirely clean, and there are some very impressive moustaches on display. At EGX London Games Fiends had a go, and got to speak to Ollie Clarke of developer Modern Dream.

“I was looking for ideas that I thought were fun, interesting and hadn’t been touched for a while, so would be refreshing for people to play,” he explained. “[...] Like the LA tactical cop shooter hasn’t been done before, [though] those are ideas that have been done separately.”

As that LA tactical cop shooter, you get to control two of LA’s finest, alternating control between the pair as you push through procedurally generated buildings, with numerous bad guys between you and your goal. While at first glance is may seen arcadey, with aim done by the mouse cursor to allow for run-and-gun action, you face the risk of being quickly overwhelmed. Instead, strategically placing the cops where they can provide covering fire is key, with whichever cop you’re not handling having their reactions controlled by the AI.

The game is still in development, with six levels currently – a tutorial and five objective-based levels. There is a sense of narrative, although this is kept separate from the gameplay. “They’re people trying to do a job. And that’s why we separated the story from the levels because it’s their job,” Clarke explains.
LA Cops screen
Instead, the story is told via separate cut scenes between levels, using cel shaded animation and introducing the characters’ backgrounds and faults. “The characters are interesting – it’s nice to develop them, we all have our favourites,” Clarke said.. “They all have their own personalities that they develop through the game.”

The game’s retro aesthetic – both in subject and style – compares with one of Modern Dream’s previous games, The Button Affair. Brought to the Leftfield collection three years ago, The Button Affair is, in Clarke’s words, “a side-on running game” (and is still available for download, with a suggested donation to SpecialEffect if you enjoy it). However, The Button Affair carried a 60s style contrasted to LA Cops‘ 70s – compare The Thomas Crown Affair with Shaft or Dirty Harry, perhaps.

The game is still in development though – a couple of times my duo get gunned down by baddies firing shotguns like machine guns, and while I found the AI cop to be fairly decent in providing cover there had been issues in the past. “When we first put that feature [commanding the AI to move ahead] it it was effectively like ‘middle-mouse button at the end of the level’ and they’d go through and kill everyone – it wasn’t a lot of fun! [...] We’re getting down to balancing the variables now, which is a great place to be.”

We discuss some old gaming classics – squad based titles like Cannon Fodder and Syndicate, moving through to the multiplayer experiences of games like Doom and Quake… the twitch based nature of which Clarke describes in terms of being close to zen. And while there are plenty of differences between all those titles and this one, one thing does remain in common.
LA Cops screen
“I’m a big believer in challenging the player,” he says. “I like players to be creative in how they tackle a level, create their own experience.”

I note that finishing a stage gives a small XP score. “With the XP, if you go to the character select there is a cog [which] takes you to an attributes screen where you can upgrade their health, ammo, damage, speed over time.” I ask if this is to give the player an edge as the levels get harder, which Clarke confirms, but with a little twist. “[It] increases the rate of play as well. So as you get more used to the controls the speed of the game will increase as well.” In short, as you improve, the aim is for the game to improve with you and maintain a challenge.

Players have been facing this challenge for several months now, thanks to Steam early access. With a game drawing from numerous sources of inspiration and looking to challenge them I ask what the initial response has been like.

“It’s been invaluable for us to talk with players directly, and it’s been[...] great that players are really good at spotting what’s not been working, ” Clarke explains. “It’s not like we’re expecting the players to design the game – we’re doing that – but they’re telling us what’s working, what isn’t.”
LA Cops screen
The LA Cops stand is on the edge of the Rezzed area, and so even with people gathering to play there is some extra elbow room into the aisle beyond. This is more than the space inside, where even this early in the day a large number of people are pressing through to see what is on offer. However, despite the various teams having been on their feet and crowded for several days already the mood is pretty good. Clarke gave some of his experiences on this.

“Three years ago I was in the Leftfield Collection with games like The Button Affair and The Cat That Got The Milk, and to come out here and see a lot of the same faces in the Rezzed area doing games that are that much higher quality, got a budget behind them – not big budgets but they’ve got beautiful looking stands.”

But the standard is high across the board, and to me it seems compared to the AAA titles the indie games are smaller in budget more than quality or scope. Again, Clarke offers his thoughts from the other side of the line.

“I think a good idea can come from anywhere, and what I really like about areas like Rezzed is that it enables that to happen. It facilitates that. [...] I think for me… indie is such a loaded word, but for me what indie is is an opportunity for everyone to have a shot at this and that’s what makes it great.

“The ideas that come out of that refresh the industry as a whole, and it challenges AAA [saying] ‘well, come on – we’re doing this, what are you going to add to it?’ and that’s really exciting as well. I see only good things coming from this. It’s a good time.”

LA Cops is available now on Early Access.


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.