Ryan Tomko on Clones

Ryan Tomko on Clones


We sat down with Ryan Tomko, co-founder of Tomkorp and half of the programming team of Clones. He told us why “Clones is to Lemmings as Unreal Tournament is to Wolfenstein”.

Hooked Gamers: Hello Ryan, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions regarding Clones. I guess the most important question to ask, especially for the uninitiated, is...How would you describe Clones?

Ryan Tomko: It depends, if you’ve played Lemmings before then I answer “Clones is to Lemmings as Unreal Tournament is to Wolfenstein”. If you’ve never heard of Lemmings then I answer “Clones is a game in which you direct cute alien clones by giving them commands to morph their bodies in order to navigate the terrain and achieve varying objectives. In singleplayer mode it’s a puzzle game, and in multiplayer mode it’s a real-time strategy game.” It is hard to summarize the entire game in one sentence.

Hooked Gamers: And what is your role within Clones’ development?

Ryan Tomko on Clones
Ryan Tomko: I designed most of the difficult puzzles and wrote the CloneMaster dialogue for all bosses except Dragsicle and Snoog (the female ones), and I’m half a programming team. I also conceived and implemented many of the creative elements to the game such as the Quantum Loop mode and the Light Clone. Currently I’m ranked #1 in Clones multiplayer which has resulted in numerous marriage proposals, as it should be :)

Hooked Gamers: The game plays and feels much like the 1990’s classic Lemmings...Did you take much of your inspiration from that game? If so, why did you feel the need to emulate Lemmings?

Ryan Tomko: The main inspiration for Clones was the 2-player mode of Lemmings for the SNES. I was hooked on that style of competitive gameplay, especially the sabotage aspect. When i entered the caffeine-fueled world of LAN gaming years later i wanted to re-experience that type of every-second-matters strategic gameplay but was surprised to find that no multiplayer variant of Lemmings existed that could be played over a network. Luckily i happened to be a programmer so i suggested to my friend and fellow programmer (and future business partner) Tom that we create such a game. Clones really fills this niche market.

Ryan Tomko on Clones
We kept the basic actions the same (drill vertical/horizontal/diagonal, explode, etc.) and added new ones specifically for multiplayer (which was our primary focus) to make the game more fluid and balanced. Spinning allows a clone to fly up without any land required, it’s the only action other than building a bridge that moves upward, and permits the player to save clones that are falling into a pit, if they are fast enough. Atomizing converts a clone into a part of the terrain, it’s perfect to quickly fill holes and smooth edges that might trap the clones. It also sticks to walls and can be used to break the fall distance by sacrificing one clone to save a pack. Lopping allows a clone to attack at a distance and is great for destroying bridges of clones above you.

Hooked Gamers: Being a fan of Lemmings, I used to line up the Lemmings and then click the explosion button (and listening to them scream ‘Oh, no’). Did you have any favourite Lemmings experiences yourself? And do you hope that gamers will have similar experiences with Clones?

Ryan Tomko: Sneaking over a single saboteur to detonate at a key location to drop dozens of your opponents creatures to their doom was wickedly fun. I wasn’t a huge fan of the singleplayer mode because the puzzles are static, whereas in multiplayer you can play a single map dozens of times in a row and never have the same experience because you have to constantly adapt to what your opponent is doing. In Clones we tried to add replayability to the singleplayer puzzles by adding optional “Qdots” which raise your leaderboard score if collected. There are also a few different game modes to bring variety to the solo missions. I’m hoping that gamers will appreciate the breadth of interactive objects, the attention to detail, the CloneMaster one-liners, the interesting level environments, and the rockin’ music.

Hooked Gamers: What other games, if any, had an influence on the design?

Ryan Tomko on Clones
Ryan Tomko: Worms was the inspiration for the projectile Lop morph. Mario Bros. was the inspiration for the world map. Mega Man influenced the movement of the Light Clone mutation which is directly controllable and can jump. I enjoyed creating Doom maps which played a part in including the level editor with our game.

Hooked Gamers: How many people did you have working on the game? And how long has the game been in development?

Ryan Tomko: The original idea for the game started around 2002 as a hobby project. It was code-named “Schlemmings” at the time. During our spare time my friend Tom Kaminski and i created a prototype using programmer graphics, and by 2003 we had a playable version of the game that we released as freeware online under the name “Clones”. A few years later, in 2007, we decided to come back to the project, with the help of a government-sponsored game incubator program. This is when we became serious about fully developing the game commercially. Between 2007 and 2010 we spent about 75% of our time working on Clones and 25% of the time working on other software projects that brought in money. In addition to the core team of myself and Tom we hired a graphic artist, a couple of musicians, and level designers on an as-needed basis. There were also many other family and friends that helped us out in any way they could.