Being a huge fan or geoDefense Swarm, I decided to dig a bit deeper into the diabolical mind of one of the most challenging games in the app store. For this four question (4Q) interview, I snagged David Whatley, the President of Critical Thought Games and the President/CEO of Simutronics Corp, developers of the Hero Engine which was used most recently in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The questions meander from app store longevity to iPhone MMO's, but most surprising are his plans to save the world from aliens!
Check out the full four question interview after the break. Enjoy!
Chris (148apps)- Having played geoDefense Swarm for probably 48 of the last 96 hours, I'm about ready to declare it my favorite tower defense game, period. I can talk about the game all I want, but at this point I've become a biased source. As a developer (clearly unbiased), what makes geoDefense Swarm the best app in the app store?
David- Swarm, like geoDefense before it, is the product of grueling level balancing iterations. Even with two of us working on this one, it took months to refine each of the levels to razor perfection. This is what gives the game its blood-soaked edge... the fact that they can seem unbeatable at first, but as you pay you get just enough feedback to figure out some tweak to your strategy that'll take you closer. The final clinching of a level brings such immense personal satisfaction because we made it worth the climb!
Chris- At what point did you think that Medium Level 7: Nucleotide was good for the productivity of society? I think I got it down after try number 10,000... and I'm pretty sure that I was lucky. To further that question, are there any plans for a harder than hard difficulty? I'd like to know if I need to plan on quitting my job to solve these levels.
David- Check out the forums and you'll find people who've figured out how to beat these levels with like 4 or 5 towers only! In fact, very few of the posted solutions come even close to the ones we we had in mind! The harder the level the more intense the balance and test grind is... the hard ones take so mind-numbingly long to get perfect that I can't imagine what super hard levels would be like. Okay... now I want to make some.... thanks a lot!
Oh, and yes, this is good for society. In an Ender's Game sort of way. By the time I'm done with people, everyone will be strategic masterminds capable of adapting tactics with stunning efficiency. When the aliens come to feast on our women and eggplant they won't have a clue what hit them! And you'll all have me to thank.
Chris- I see on the Critical Thought website that Simultronics, seemingly attached to Critical Thought, is heavily involved in MMO development with the HeroEngine platform. Are there any future plans to create an iPhone MMO? Maybe a World of Geodefense where I can be my own variation of the PacMan looking enemy?
David- With the overwhelming response to the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta just now (which uses the HeroEngine platform), I'm pretty sure you know we've got the chops to do an iPhone MMO. The real questions is if the iPhone is the right client platform for such a thing. Remains to be seen! (Translation: Things I can't talk about yet)
Chris- After reading your blog entry about 360IDev, something you wrote struck me as interesting. "It's a whole different industry but one thing is for sure: the age of the lone-wolf developer had ended. And, 20 years later, Apple.... Steve Jobs.... and his team.... Brought. It. Back." Seeing some parallels between the beginnings of PC gaming and the beginning of the App Store, where do you think this market will be in 5-10 years?
David- All niggling issues aside, Apple has done the App Store right... or as right as anyone has figured out so far. Everyone is a follower now... trying to have their own App Store, yet no one else seems to grasp what it should be like for the user or the developer. Especially the developer. Make it dead simple and cheap for developers to build for your platform, provide them the distribution and financial mechanicms and then (to the degree possible) get the hell out of the way. That's what Apple has done, and it's right there for everyone else to see; so it boggles my mind when everyone else seems utterly perplexed how to do it.
But that's now. Years from now, others will get it. The era of SKUs on retail shelves is at and end; it is the buggy whip of our lifetime. In the future, digital distribution of anything that can be delivered digitally will be. Micro transactions will predominate (sorry EA, adapt or die!). The consumer will have unimaginable choice (and they already do in the App Store).
On the down side, crapware will predominate. But better systems for rising the cream to the top will continue to evolve. Systems like Netflix uses to recommend things you'd like based on frighteningly cogent analysis will bring interesting things to you instead of you having to seek it out. The future will be about instant gratification on levels that we cannot even imagine.
And I am not talking about 5 to 10 years either. I'm talk about maybe 2 or 3. Hang onto your app delivery device boys and girls... it's about to get crazy!
Thanks to David and Critical Thought Games for the interview and the awesome games. I can't wait to find out what's next!