In case you didn't know, one of our favorite tower defense games, Fieldrunners 2, comes out for the iPad today. In our ecstasy at being able to fight off wave after wave of cartoon army men and their worldly weapons of war, we decided it would be a good time to talk to the Subatomic Studios guys about the process of bringing this game to the "big" screen.
148Apps: Fieldrunners came out on iPhone, then was put on iPad - what did you learn from that process that helped you with the current upscale?
While we had initially hoped for a simultaneous launch, there are some advantages to launching the iPad after the iPhone. The iPad users are getting a more polished experience out of the gate. There have been two balance passes on the iPhone Fieldrunners 2 since launch, and the iPad is starting with both of them. The extra time has allowed us to add new features that players asked for, and really use the space available to the iPad.
It also let us focus on the iPhone experience on that launch, making that as high-quality as possible. When it came down to it, we wanted to put as much polish as possible into the game.
148Apps: Why didn't Fieldrunners 2 come out as a Universal app? Was this a business decision, a technical one, both, or something completely different?
Basically, we wanted phone users to be able to download the game over the air, without compromising on visual quality on the iPad. Without getting too deeply into technical details, if your app is larger than 50 MB phone users need to connect to WiFi to download it... They can’t just download it over 3G. The iPhone build of Fieldrunners 2 is 49 MB. Due to the super high resolution artwork needed for the giant retina display of the iPad 3, the iPad build is ten times that size. It clocks in closer to a massive 500 MB.
Hopefully we’ve hit the right compromise of broad availability for iPhone users, while still providing the massive resolution that iPad 3 users will appreciate. In addition to that, staggering our launches for different platforms allows us to focus on eliminating as many bugs on each platform at a time. Launching for multiple platforms at once could result in both versions being much buggier than when launched individually.
This was certainly not an easy decision!
148Apps: What were the challenges in taking FR2 to the larger screen? The successes?
The massive size of the iPad retina artwork took a tremendous push to create. Some of the artwork was created in iPhone resolution, and had to be rebuilt from scratch. But even if things like the map files were created in Super HD, they still needed to be cut up into layers again and restructured. I can’t express how nice things look on iPad Retina, but I completely understand why not all developers are supporting it yet.
And the iPad has changed significantly over its lifetime. The iPad 1 had the lower resolution screen and very little RAM. The iPad 2 had more memory, but the same screen. The iPad 3 has a super high resolution screen and a good amount of memory. To make things look and play as well as possible, we actually have 3 separate display pipelines depending on which of the three iPads the user has. That’s crazy.
While we’re on the subject of Artwork, we put a lot of details into every piece we make. The iPad’s larger screen really gives the artwork the space to breathe. And this isn’t just about showing larger pictures: the bigger screen is more precise for touches, allowing us to make UI elements smaller and closer to the edge of the screen. We can really get the interface out of the way, to focus the player on what is happening on the field.
Another nice thing about the iPad was that once we decided to push past the 50 MB limit, we were free to use as much hard drive space as we needed. This let us put in features like the Fieldguide, a compendium of all knowledge about enemies, towers, and items. We added 5 new towers. And for serious fans, we have 1.4 hours of director’s commentary included in the build. The iPad director’s commentary alone takes up as much space as the entire Fieldrunners 2 iPhone build.
148Apps: Best story about the process of iPhone to iPad? Any salacious or "oh sh*t" moments?
There isn’t much that I can share at the moment. But--Subatomic Studios had a central server where all of the artwork was stored. At one point during development, we managed to destroy that server, causing catastrophic failure. That was also when we discovered that the backups had been failing. We spent a solid few days scrambling through desktops, file transfer logs, and anywhere else we could to find those files. Thankfully, we were able to reconstruct what we had. But we had to learn this one the hard way: eat your vegetables and make sure your offsite backups are working.
148Apps: Where will we see FR2 next? PSN? Android? Ouya?
We’re still deciding which platforms make the most sense for Fieldrunners 2, and a lot of that comes down to what the community asks for. Send your platform requests to @Fieldrunners on twitter, or drop by our forums at Fieldrunners.com!