Tony Barnes, circa 2014
Video Game Designer and Director
1987 - present
Tony Barnes grew up in San Francisco during the 80's, a place he refers to as "the mecca of game development" and credits it as enabling him to become a game maker. Growing up with video game magazines, he started out programming little games for friends and user groups at a young age. At age 15 he published his first video game: Escape from Hell, a 1988 game for Atari picked up and published by computer magazine Antic. He'd publish a few other games through the magazine in the following years.
Barnes joined Electronic Arts in 1992, and spent 3 years with the company working mainly as game designer. During this time he developed Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf and its follow-ups Jungle Strike, Urban Strike and Nuclear Strike. He is particularly proud of Jungle Strike as he put "so much of himself" in it, making the sequel much bigger and tighter than Desert Strike. Barnes left Electronic Arts around 1995.
After working briefly for several companies, Tony Barnes joined The Collective in 2000 and worked with them for the next 5 years. From 2008 to 2010 he briefly returned to Electronic Arts and worked in Medal of Honor. He’d then join Double Helix Games in 2012, continuing his work as Game Designer.
Double Helix Games
Barnes initially did consultation work for Double Helix, helping them with projects such as the video game adaptation of the movie Battleship and the Killer Instinct reboot. He was initially planning on leaving Double Helix after work on Battleship was finished, but then he was approached by the studio head and asked if he knew about Strider. Barnes, a self-confessed huge fan of the series, straight told him that if they manage to get the contract and he gets to make it, he'd stay with the company.
He’d take part of the development of the 2014 incarnation of Strider as both director and writer. Barnes believes it was their passion and understanding of the franchise what sold Capcom on working with Double Helix, citing that there were several fans of the series among the staff, himself included. He has referred to making a Strider game as his "dream game", having admiration for the series ever since he saw the original Arcade game and its large sprites, varied stage design and multitude of set pieces to the point he eventually wrote on his personal "Game Developer Bucket List" to "make a game like Strider". Roughly 30 years after that, he is particularly proud of having worked on an actual "Strider" game and asserts that this was an opportunity he’d have never missed.
Tony Barnes developed Strider to be an open action adventure as he considered the genre was best suited to build upon the core abilities of Strider, specifically “fast and fluid combat”. Each and every ability of Hiryu was planned out to maintain that high speed and fluidity, and any ability that slowed down the player was either reworked until it was able to maintain the Strider “feel” or cut out entirely. He considered the ability to upgrade one of the important elements of the game, thinking it was very important that each upgrade didn’t just made Hiryu stronger, but also allowed the player to maneuver around the environment.
Barnes also considered a different approach from other games in the genre: rather than start out “uber-powerful” and have it all stripped away at the beginning, Hiryu starts out powerful and becomes even stronger as the game progresses. Keeping the old-school feeling about abilities in that they are left for the player to figure out how to use, thinking in figuring them makes the player feel empowered, getting better and finding out more the further they play. He had to actually fight against higher ups at Capcom who wanted to have all of Hiryu's powers upfront and simply let the player "sandbox [their] way through the environment".
Although very proud of the final product, Barnes had a few "little regrets" that he couldn't work on due to the time, resources or permissions he was given. Among them he lists the way the world map is handled, to include a "hard-as-hell" mode for fans of the challenge, the lack of multiple save slots and, as a result, the omission of "new game plus" content after beating the main game, which is what he regrets the most. He also planned the inclusion of Mega Man and Hien as unlockable characters that were vetoed by Capcom, and had to cut back on the game's scope twice due to it becoming unwieldy to complete in a reasonable time.
Amazon Game Studios
Barnes remained with the company after it was acquired by Amazon and became Amazon Game Studios Orange County. Their first game for Amazon was Breakway, a PC e-sports game. First announced in 2016 the game was in development for 2 years with a planned release in 2019, but unfortunately Amazon cancelled its development in 2018.
At the beginning of 2020, Tony Barnes founded his own independent video game studio, RetroNinja Inc.; and later in September announced their first game: Run Die Run Again, a fast-paced first person precision platformer, for release in 2021.
|1988||Escape from Hell||Antic||Antic||Atari||Author|
|1992||Crüe Ball||NuFX||Electronic Arts||Mega Drive||Assist. Producer|
|1992||Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf||Electronic Arts||Electronic Arts||Mega Drive||Production Assistant|
|1993||Junge Strike||High Score Productions||Electronic Arts||Mega Drive||Game Design|
|1993||Harley's Humongous Adventure||Visual Concept||Hi Tech Expressions||SNES||Product Testing|
|1993||Madden NFL '94||Visual Concepts||Electronic Arts||Mega Drive, SNES||Testing|
|1994||Urban Strike||Granite Bay Software||Electronic Arts||Mega Drive||Assist. Director, Additional Art|
|1994||Normy's Beach Babe-O-Rama||High Score Productions||Electronic Arts||Mega Drive||Game Tuning and Testing|
|1999||Nuclear Strike 64||Pacific Coast Power & Light||THQ||Nintendo 64||Lead Design, Level Design|
|2000||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Fallen||The Collective||Simon & Schuster||PC||Design Project Lead|
|2002||Buffy the Vampire Slayer||The Collective||Electronic Arts||Xbox||Lead Design, Audio, Additional Music|
|2004||The X-Files: Resist or Serve||Black Ops Entertainment
|Vivendi Games||PlayStation 2||Lead Designer|
|2005||Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||The Collective||LucasArts||PlayStation 2, Xbox||Lead Level Design|
|2010||Medal of Honor||Danger Close Games||Electronic Arts||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC||Lead Designer|
|2012||Battleship||Double Helix Games||Activision||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii||Design Director|
|2014||Strider||Double Helix Games
|Capcom||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii||Design Director, Writer|
|2014||UFOs Love Cows||Double Helix Games||Amazon||Android||Special Thanks|
|2018†||Breakaway||Amazon Game Studios Orange County||Amazon||PC|
|2021||Run Die Run Again||RetroNinja Inc.||RetroNinja Inc.||PC, Mac, Xbox One|
- LinkedIn Profile: Tony Barnes. Linkedin.com. Accessed November 22, 2019.
- Padilla, Daniel (May 17, 2016). "Tony Barnes - Design Director" (English). wearegamedevs.com. Accessed November 22, 2019
- Medal of Honor (in English). (Electronic Arts). PlayStation 3. Level/area: End credits. (October 2010).
- Hickey Jr., Patrick (January 3, 2020). The Minds Behind Adventure Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers. "Even Better Than the First Time", pg. 208-214. ISBN 1-4766-3847-0.
- Battleship (in English). (Activision). PlayStation 3. Level/area: End credits. (April 2012).
- Strider (in English). (Capcom). PlayStation 3. Level/area: End credits. (February 2014).
- Calvert, Darren (February 7, 2014). "Interview: Double Helix Games on Carving Out a New Strider for PS4". pushsquare.com. Accessed November 22, 2019
- GregaMan (February 13, 2014). "Get the dirt on Strider's new game with this behind-the-scenes feature" (English). Capcom-unity.com. Accessed November 22, 2019
- McCormick, Rich (September 30, 2016). "Amazon's next game will be the first to use Twitch's new currency". theverge.com. Accessed November 22, 2019
- Olivetti, Justin (March 31, 2018). "Amazon Game Studio's Breakaway is officially dead" (English). MassivelyOP.com. Accessed November 22, 2019
- RetroNinja (September 13, 2020). "RetroNinja Announces Solo Dev Effort, Run Die Run Again" (English). Official press release, through gamasutra.com. Accessed September 20, 2020