Ryan Mitchell has been diligently releasing some fairly under-appreciated gems on the App Store for quite some time now. Of particular note are Necromancer Rising, a first-person dungeon crawler, and Mission Europa, a far more refined first-person dungeon crawler with a really creepy atmosphere. And now he's working on what can best be described as a Dungeon Keeper-like titled Cursed Realms.
We contacted him recently and he was gracious enough to speak to us at length about his new project, and tease a little bit about a possible Mission Europa sequel. Please note that all of these images are from a pre-alpha version and that the look/style/etc are, naturally, subject to change.
148Apps: What made you decide to start developing Cursed Realms?
Ryan Mitchell (RM): I had finished Mission Europa and I was looking for the next big challenge. I wanted to develop a universe that is so encompassing any storyline is possible. As Stargate allowed its viewers to escape any rules or bounds, I wanted the same. Thus the Cursed Realms universe began.
148Apps: Why something akin to Dungeon Keeper rather than a follow-up to Mission: Europa?
RM: I wanted to create a more mainstream type game while also creating a new game engine. I constructed a new Shader and Opengl ES 2.0 based engine. Alas, my scope of work exploded far broader then I originally intended. I LOVE Mission Europa and do plan on a sequel in the future. The update would be using the new engine which includes a LOT of online components. I would like to have some systems where users create scenarios and the like. User created content REALLY blows open a game even if it is just a simple base defense like clash of clans.
148Apps: I know you've been working on Cursed Realms for quite a while, so it couldn't have been in response to EA's upcoming Dungeon Keeper release.
RM: Not at all. This is an after-work endeavor, and for quite a while my main job ate into my night time dev time. I also am married with two kids in sports and we all are in Brazillian Jujitsu. However, I have dropped a lot of activities and am pouring more time into developing again. That along with a scope of game that ballooned far bigger then I expected. However, that is a main reason for the switch to a Clash of Clans type game mixed with Dungeon Keeper. I am culling back some of the scope to not only make the game better but get it done sooner.
148Apps: Why the sudden switch from Dungeon Keeper to something more Clash of Clans-y? And how significantly will this shift affect what's already there?
RM: The current game had been in alpha testing developing game play when I was introduced to Clash of Clans by a friend who does not play any games at all. His addiction blew me away. I then realized I needed to change several things in Cursed Realms to make it most importantly more fun and addictive, then secondly to make it more appealing to a wider audience. The gameplay will be immensely sped-up in multiplayer and maybe single player (single player is taking a backseat now). This speed up conforms to the devices strength of popping your device open and jumping into a game for a short break or while waiting on something.
The online element and crowd sourcing gameplay is [also] very important. The ability for people to build, defend, and destroy other bases and minions explodes the content level. Then being able to take over your own minion in 3D and personally take on another players base adds a new level to this type of game. Another concept I saw as very important is a purchase model where players with more money then time can accelerate their play and help support future games I make.
All assets were unchanged really just database adjustments. I just had to clean up programmer interfaces and expose them to the users. My scene graph based engine really is quick to prototype and create new game-types. So the change accelerated completion instead of delaying.
148Apps: Do you think long-time Dungeon Keeper fans will love, hate, or be indifferent to the change?
RM: I think it will be an amazing upgrade into the new century. I played the old Dungeon Keeper extensively before starting Cursed Realms and it helped remove a level of nostalgic awesomeness I had in my head. It is still a GREAT game and one of the best classics ever. However, we have some really interesting new tools now. And back then we could not fit the 486 in our pocket for quick game sessions. As far as to whether fans will enjoy it I will not release Cursed Realms until my testers say it is ready and it is awesome.
148Apps: Even though it's going to be more Clash of Clans than Dungeon Keeper, do you think there might still be a chance for players to jump in to their minions' heads and play from a first-person perspective from time to time?
RM: ABSOLUTELY! That is one of the biggest differences from base defense games. Here you can be a part of your army. You also fight THEIR army. And in reality it is about 70% Dungeon Keeper I would say. The engine can support an immense number of characters on screen and this leads to epic battles of which you can wade through with your weapon in hand. The Clash of Clans thing is the purchase model.
148Apps: Going back to Mission Europa, is there anything you've learned since creating it (and while working on Cursed Realms) that you'd consider incorporating into an update/rerelease/sequel/hypothetical game that will never actually exist?
RM: I am a FPS RPG fan at heart and Mission Europa 2 is on my radar. This time with user created content and worlds tied into Cursed Realms as they are tied together in the storyline currently. The main thing I have learned is marketing/price models are 90% of the battle these days and the little guys have a really hard time getting noticed. Along with the pricing model of free with in game purchases is the best way to fund development which is not free; music and assets cost money, not to mention software and hardware.
148Apps: Care to elaborate on the connection between Mission Europa and Cursed Realms any further? Might that mean that players could control, say, a faction of hellish machine/human demon hybrids?
RM: Your actions in the end of Mission Europa also had a significant impact on the fabric of the universe which is Cursed Realms. Here is a small design snippet:
The Abaddon - A horrible mechanical race possessed with souls converted from living flesh. One weakness of this race is their poor connection to their equipment. The souls that run them seem to have a loose connection thus they have a hard time controlling them. They are however HIGH in armor to compensate. The Abbadon have wormholes to the north. They sweep entire galaxies harnessing the organic life, and some think souls for their evil.
Cursed Realms doesn't have a definitive release date yet, but once it's been given the green light by testers it will hit the App Store for free. In the meantime, you can keep track of the game's progress on the official development blog or soak up the lore on the wiki. Thanks so much to Ryan Mitchell for taking the time to talk with us.