When ZigZaGame‘s Dragon Island Bluewas released on the App Store, many iOS gamers heaved a sigh of relief. It was (and arguably still is) the closest thing we’ve got to Nintendo’s exclusive monster-collection RPG series, while providing more than enough of its own unique gameplay elements to stand on its own. Now, just under a year later, we’ve got Hunter Island to look forward to. We recently had a talk with Ryan Kelley, COO of ZigZaGame, about Dragon Island Blue‘s reception, and what he and the rest of the team hope to accomplish with this spiritual successor of sorts. And I have to say, things are looking good so far.
148Apps: Would you consider Hunter Island to be a sequel to Dragon Island Blue, or something like a spiritual successor?
Ryan Kelley (RK): Dragon Island Blue should get a separate sequel sometime in the future. We’ve been building a collection RPG engine for the past 3 years. We released Dragon Island Blue approximately a year ago, then spent the last year improving the engine based on user feedback, which led to Hunter Island.
148Apps: Were there any lessons/techniques/etc you were able to apply to Hunter Island after working on Dragon Island Blue?
RK: Dragon Island Blue had 3 major sources of critical feedback: lack of a gripping storyline, lack of visual appeal (especially the interface), and the lack of updates (new content). Just in case some of the readers are considering picking up Dragon Island, I would like to note that it has an average overall rating of 5/5 Stars in the U.S., and we gave it our absolute best at the time. For Hunter Island, we wrote an engaging main story separate from side quests, added NPC interaction, and more importantly added a grand goal for each section of the game which directly ties in with the overall story. As a result, the game feels less of a chore although the actual story is 10 times longer.
We also overhauled the entire UI, changed the monster art direction, and implemented a tile-based map system. The new map is also a solution for updates. In Dragon Island, each section of the map was a large image, so the more maps we added, bigger the file size. This is a serious issue for iOS Apps because of the 50MB over-the-air download limit. However, in Hunter Island, whatever new world we decide to add in an update would be generated from tiles already existing in the game.
148Apps: Aside from the story and visuals, what is it you think will really set Hunter Island apart from its predecessor?
RK: The tile based map system enabled us to make the map a whole lot bigger and exciting. In terms of size, this game is at least 10 times larger. Aside from that, we added what’s called a Bonus Attack system. Monsters are able to act twice in a row if they trigger this bonus action (similar to critical hit in most games). Each unique monster in Hunter Island has a random “grade” assigned to it ranging from S to E, with S monsters having the highest probability to perform a Bonus Attack.
We also introduced many new skills designed to make battles more strategic, such as chain attacks that splash damage to enemies of the same element, ally attacks that get stronger when you have monsters of the same element in your party, and playful ones like Roulette which kills a random monster in battle, friend or foe. Since the game eventually allows you to add 30+ monsters in your party, the combat feels like a mix of traditional RPGs and Collectible Card Games. A lot of the monster skills were inspired by games such as Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. Another huge addition is the online component. While you can complete the full single player story offline (no pay wall), we are introducing online missions and online multiplayer via game center which was one of the most common requests. In online missions, players compete to beat dungeons and maps added regularly to get a special prize monster.
148Apps: Do you think fans of Dragon Island Blue might be less interested in the more “cutesy” style of Hunter Island? And if so, is there anything they can look forward to that you think will change their minds?
RK: The “cutesy” style was actually another common request made by players. Also, there are plenty of cool-looking monsters at higher levels and rarities. Even if you are not a big fan of the style, we believe that the depth and scale of the game will satisfy fans of Dragon Island Blue looking for a similar but greatly improved game experience.
148Apps: I don’t suppose there are any Easter Eggs hidden in Hunter Island for fans of the first game to stumble upon, are there? Any returning characters, monsters, or the like?
RK: There are a couple of monsters that came from Dragon Island Blue, like the Unhappy Bird. Also, the game offers something special for Dragon Island players. In the first town, there is a little tombstone that you can tap on. It will ask the player a question related to Dragon Island. If you answer correctly, a special exclusive monster will crawl out to join your team. We have a few more throwback monsters planned for online mission rewards as well.
Major thanks all-around to both Ryan and the rest of the team over at ZigZaGame! If you’d like to keep an eye out for Hunter Island – and really, why wouldn’t you? – it should be hitting the App Store sometime in September of this year for $0.99 (Universal).