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?
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.
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?
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.