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Ex-Infinity Ward devs unveil side-scrolling showdown, To the Death

"Control is king. It's gotta be fun," says Infinity Ward alum and Scary Mostro co-founder Todd Alderman. This morning, the company unveils its first title, To the Death.
For Infinity Ward veteran Todd Alderman, multiplayer matches are all about momentum. "It's a constant balance and polish," he tells Gamasutra. "Control is king. It's gotta be fun." Alderman served as a lead designer for multiplayer on every Call of Duty game at Infinity Ward, up to his departure from the company along with several other developers during a 2010 falling-out with parent Activision. Since then, Alderman has been working on the multiplayer design for Respawn's Titanfall, and in 2012 co-founded his own game studio, Scary Mostro, with fellow Infinity Ward alum Francesco "Frank" Gigliotti. The goal: to develop a new kind of action game. Called To the Death, Alderman and Gigliotti's prototype began as a pixel art, 2D side-scroller where two player characters race toward each other on a huge map, finally colliding at the center of the stage for an ultimate showdown. Alderman says he and his collaborator were inspired by the aesthetics of the first Ninja Gaiden as well as -- interestingly -- a vignette from the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, "Super Ultimate High Five". "The idea was: what if you had two characters who were so far apart from each other they were virtually dots on a screen?" Alderman explains. "And they're both rushing toward each other, because [launching off of Ninja Gaiden] they have such a vendetta against each other, they'll go to these absurd lengths just to take that person out. So that's where those two inspirations combined." Pixel prototype in hand, Alderman and Gigliotti met God of War concept artist Cecil Kim at a recent E3, and decided to go into business together to make the game happen -- combining the programming and design talents of Alderman and Gigliotti's Scary Mostro with the art and animation of Kim's Section Studios. The new prototype incorporates Kim's detailed visual style along with the intense forward action of the hybridized beat-em-up/shoot-em-up Alderman and Gigliotti designed. "Cecil's art added a whole new energy," says Alderman. "Since he came aboard we've been constantly tweaking and finessing, to keep it fast and balanced." Though To the Death is set to have a single-player campaign, the crux of the game's design lies with the multiplayer. Players can face off in an online match or in local, split-screen co-op, with the goal being to race to the center of the map for a final confrontation. Along the way, players pick up power-ups and build particular skills by chaining attacks, combining the flow of an FPS killstreak with the frenetic, enemy-filled screens of side-scrolling shoot-em-ups. "At Infinity Ward, we learned to wear a lot of hats," Alderman says. "From multiplayer, to storytelling, you did a bit of everything... Bringing that into To the Death, we wanted to have a very deep progression system." Scary Mostro and Section Studios are currently seeking crowdfunding support to develop the present To the Death prototype into a retail version. You can learn more about the game at its Kickstarter page or the official website.

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