The Making of Spider 2: Rite of the Shrouded Moon
Tiger Style was founded in the United States in 2009 by game industry veterans David Kalina and Randy Smith. Kalina had formerly worked as a programmer with a few different studios, including Ion Storm and Midway Austin. He has credits on such famous series as Deus Ex, Thief, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. Smith had initially worked at Looking Glass Studios, where he did design work on the first two Thief games, among other projects. It was at Ion Storm where the two first crossed paths before moving on to different paths.
Tiger Style began with Randy Smith, who was looking to set up a studio and reached out to all kinds of contacts to see who would be interested in joining up. David Kalina signed on and was so enthusiastic that Smith invited him to co-own the company. Like many game development start-ups at the time, the new team was fascinated by the possibilities the iPhone had to offer. It didn’t hurt that it was relatively easy to become a developer on the platform, which was ideal for a new name looking to establish itself.
One of the core ideas behind Tiger Style’s design philosophy was to make games without guns. Or to put it another way, the team wanted to find different kinds of core gameplay mechanics than simply destroying things. If you take away destruction as a concept, the mind naturally goes towards certain other ideas: exploration, creation. All of its games reflect this core ideal in a number of ways.
The studio’s first project was Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, a rather unique action-adventure game where the player controls a spider who inadvertently uncovers a mystery while going about its business of catching its food. The game took about eight months to develop, twice as long as originally planned, but the hard work paid off: Spider was a genuine hit in every sense of the word, pleasing critics and players while also selling quite a few copies.
Tiger Style followed that game up in March of 2012 with Waking Mars, a compelling adventure set on the red planet that tasked the player with managing an alien ecosystem while exploring underground caverns. The game received even more praise than Spider and won many awards, cementing the notion that Tiger Style was no one-hit wonder. A couple of things were quite clear at this point. First, that whatever the team decided to make next was probably going to be just as great as its first two titles, and second, that it would probably be at least a couple of years until it arrived.
There were a number of reasons why the team decided to revisit Spider with a sequel. The march of technology allowed for new ideas to be implemented, and the team’s experiences in the years following the original game’s release in 2009 had refined its design skills even further. Randy Smith in particular had a fascination with the world Tiger Style had built and found himself compelled to return to it. It was also seen as a somewhat safe choice for the studio, given that the first game had been a major success. Making a full-scale sequel with more resources and experience behind it could give the team some breathing room to work on smaller, more unusual ideas.
Multiple new hands were brought on, and Tiger Style grew to around 20 people for the game that would come to be known as Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon. It was a much bigger game in every way. The visuals, the complexity of the design, the number of puzzles, and the variety of locations were all greatly expanded from the original. The team worked with the Unity Engine for the game, and needed to spend some time adjusting to it. In the end, it took more than two years to develop the game, and while it was hoped the game would be ready for the fifth anniversary of the original game in 2014, it ended up slipping into 2015.
In terms of the game’s quality, it was all worth the effort. When Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon released in August of 2015, it received incredible praise. Critics were enamored with the game, and players who picked it up couldn’t stop raving about it. While there were some concerns with the complexity of some of the puzzles and the game’s connection to real-world time, moon phases, and weather, the vast majority of people who played the game were absolutely floored by it. Things were looking promising for the game, at least based on Tiger Style’s past experiences.
In the intervening years, however, something had changed in the App Store. When Waking Mars released in 2012, free-to-play games had yet to fully hit their stride. There was still a lot of demand for a premium experience, and successes in that area weren’t especially rare. By the time 2015 rolled around, things were very different. Free-to-play games had almost entirely taken over the market, and there seemed to be very little space for paid titles to find success. The ones that did manage to find an audience were frequently established brands from major companies, making the kinds of break-out successes that had propelled companies like Tiger Style in the first place very rare indeed. Sadly, Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon seemed to be a victim of these trends.
The game sold well, but not nearly as well as Tiger Style’s previous games. Certainly not in step with the increase in resources put into it. Ultimately, this weak performance convinced the team that the mobile market just wasn’t a good fit anymore for the kinds of games it wanted to create. It moved on to other projects, leaving Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon and Tiger Style’s other mobile releases with a questionable future.
In 2019, both Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon and its predecessor Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor were brought into the GameClub library and received full updates for modern hardware and operating systems. These intriguing adventures are once again available for new generations of players to unveil for themselves.