Team 17 is one of the longest-running studios still around today. Founded in 1990, it has released an astonishing 140 games in its time, across more than 16 different formats.
Worms series, Alien Breed series, Superfrog, Super Stardust, Body Blows series
Currently working on:
Alien Breed XBLA, Worms Armageddon, Leisure Suit Larry
The company found its fame on the Amiga platform, creating classic games such as Alien Breed, Superfrog and the title that built the empire – Worms.
Although often seen as just being the Worms company, Team 17 has long been working on external IP – most recently on a next-generation version of Leisure Suit Larry, called Box Office Bust, formerly for Vivendi but now to be published by Codemasters.
As well as continuing to evolve Worms on contemporary platforms, the studio’s current main focus is a reinvention of the classic shooter Alien Breed, brought kicking and screaming into the current high-definition and online co-op world.
“We’ve been trying to convince publishers about a PS2 or PSP version of Alien Breed for years now, and we got very close, but it never happened for various reasons,” says studio head Martyn Brown.
“We’ve had a 15-year relationship with Epic, so we’ve used their engine to do our own thing, to release our own digital distribution title. We’ve taken the core game but taken a much more modern and evocative take on it. It’s a bit like Diablo 3 meets Dead Space.
“It’s coming out in chapters – the game is in three chunks, each kind of a standalone game, with about five hours of gameplay. We’re probably about five months from release.”
At a time when many companies are trying to release their digital games on as many networks at possible, Team 17 has a definite preference for Microsoft: Alien Breed will initially only be on XBLA, and while Microsoft’s service is getting a sequel to Worms, PSN is merely getting an update of the original title.
“We get a lot of support from Microsoft, so we’re releasing with them initially,” says Brown. “Worms has done enormous numbers on Xbox Live Arcade. The PSN version will be interesting – a lot of the games on PSN tend to be experimental; there’s not that many ‘solid’ games out there. So we’ll see how that goes.”
Despite being less than 90 people, the studio is working on over 10 SKUs currently. How does it manage to work on so many things at once?
“We’ve been around a while, so we’ve got really mature technology. There’s maybe 20 or 25 people working on Alien Breed because we’re using Unreal. It could be treble that if we weren’t using UE3, so that’s pretty efficient. The internal tech for Worms has been around for years, so it’s only been four or five guys on the PS3 version, maybe 10 on the Xbox Live Arcade one. And two guys on the iPhone version.”
But the real story for Team 17 is how it’s embracing the digital space – it predicts that its current Worms titles for the PSP, DS and Wii platforms might be the last physical products it ever makes.
“We’re really embracing the digital space. It’s absolutely more promising for us – the industry’s only going one way. I don’t think it’ll be that long before it’s all digital. Plus, it means we can self-publish as developers. We had six years of publishing in the retail space in the early nineties.
Things were different then: it came to a point where more money was being spent on marketing than development, so we backed out and have stayed developers for about ten years. With digital platforms the marketing isn’t such a big deal – it’s kind of there in front of you, so it seems the right time for us to re-enter that.”