Sunday, 27 November 2011

Monster Truck VS Zombies - A cancelled Ronimo project

At Ronimo Games we make lots of stuff that is never released or shown outside our office. Kind of a pity, really, because quite a lot of that is really cool! So I am really happy that today I can show one of the cancelled projects that I personally like most: the insane mockup trailer we made in May 2009 for Monster Truck VS Zombies!

This is a pitch video we did for a big mobile publisher (can't say who, since that's confidential). They wanted fresh games for something, and in a couple of days we came up with a concept, made concept art and produced a pitch video to show all of that.

This was to be a really small game, so we came up with a slightly simpler concept than what you usually see from Ronimo. The idea was to make a side-scrolling stunt-driving game, much like Excite Bike and Trials. You drive a giant monster truck and the goal is to kill zombies through stunt kills. After each level you can buy upgrades and weapons for your truck and driver. But really, the video says at all, so just have a look:

The music is Sad Man's Tonque by Volbeat. Since this is just a pitch video and not an actual product, we used an existing song that fits the game.

The art in this video was of course made by our art team, but I got lucky and could animate the gameplay sequence in the middle (the part with the stick figures ;) ) and do the video montage. Since I am lead programmer at Ronimo, it rarely works to let me do art things: it is impractical for our planning and our artists are way better at it than I am. However, I really enjoy the rare moments when there is an opportunity for me to do some 3D art, animation or lighting! :)

As far as pitch-videos for new concepts go, I think this is a pretty good one. I think it communicates both the style and the actual gameplay pretty well. Through the choice of music and the logo and concept art, it gives a good feel for how the player will experience it.

The gameplay mock-up video in the middle shows what the actual gameplay will be. We deliberately made this with stick figures, so that it is absolutely clear that this is not the graphical style the game would have. Since we wanted to make this video in only a couple of days, trying to show what the real graphics would look like in the final game during gameplay would not have worked: it is simply too much work to make that on a high enough quality level. In practice, it is always difficult for a viewer to look beyond mediocre graphics and realise that the real game is going to look better. So I think if you want to pitch something, it is a good idea to make things either look/play absolutely fantastic, or make it super clear that only parts of what you are seeing represent the final product.

So since the gameplay animation didn't show the graphical style of the game, our artists instead made two concept art pieces for that. One is the 'standard' concept art image. It features the main elements of the game and looks as cool as possible:

However, this kind of concept art is not very useful for anything but setting the mood and character. At no point in the game will you play anything that looks even remotely like this. After all, the game itself is side-scrolling and shows the monster truck from quite a distance.

This is a pitfall that lots of concept artists seem to fall for. How often does a concept artist design a character specifically to look good from the front, even though the game is third person, so you look at his back all the time? So at Ronimo our artists mostly make concept art from exactly the perspective of the actual game. So when we decide on a style or design, we decide based on what things will actually look like in the game. So for Monster Truck VS Zombies, our artists also drew an image of what the actual game would look like in the end:

Monster Truck VS Zombies was cancelled and nothing was ever made for it besides this trailer. So what went wrong with this game? A couple of things. First: the publisher didn't like it, so there was no financing. Then there was the platform: we had never worked with that mobile device before, so doing a new device was going to make the coding team too much of a bottleneck. Especially since I was still the only programmer at the time.

Finally, and this killed a lot of the enthusiasm in our team for this project: we discovered a Flash game that was almost exactly the same. A side-scrolling stunt-racer where you kill zombies with a monster truck. That Flash game was so badly made that it was no fun at all, but still, seeing something so literally the same is far from inspiring. We always try to make something that is at least slightly original and innovative, and this wasn't that any more after we saw that video.

Anyway, I still really like this little over-the-top pitch video for Monster Truck VS Zombies, so it is really nice to finally show it here! :)


  1. Any chance you guys could revive this project just enough for a free Kongregate version? :D I just love the style of this game so much better than a lot of other zombie killers. Even if it looked exactly like the gameplay in the video, I still thinks it'd be loads of fun! Thanks for posting about it!

    ~A Proun fan :D

  2. Great video! Waiting textures.

  3. A publisher declined this?! Wow. This is just too great of an idea to pass up on. As for other potential projects, do you think Romino could try to get a deal with THQ to develop de Blob 3? After the shutdown of Blue Tongue, it seems only natural that de Blob goes back to its original creators.

  4. I think that if you put in the same graphics originality and quality as in your gameplay concept art, and back this with some innovative gameplay features (zombies fear lights, driver can get out of the truck in order to achieve other kinds of missions, you need to come back and roam towards the beginning of the level in order to complete some missions/bonus quests, there can be another human in the truck box with a mounted gun, etc...), it would make for a damn nice PC game. You could even charge 1-3$ for it and I would buy it.
    I am a Unity programmer, and I recognize the potential of such a game design. I also have a kick-ass artist working full-time with me.
    Let me know if I can be of any help...

    exotyktechnologies at gmail dot com
    Quebec, Canada

    1. I can indeed see this game work quite well. :) In fact, it turns out something very similar has already been made: the Flash game "Earn To Die". Since it is such a generic concept, if you want to make a side-scrolling zombie squasher, you can do as you please. :) At Ronimo we won't be going for this one any more, though.