EchoChamber is the title hoping to be funded by it. It’s described as a rhythm game with a “unique twist.” It’s a free-to-play local multiplayer title that uses positional audio to get players to follow various cues and perform gestures in time with the music. I took the time to learn more from Cody Lee, co-founder and developer at Little bit Games.
148Apps: How did the idea for echoChamber come about? Cody Lee (CL): The idea for echoChamber came about after playing the game SpaceTeam with friends. It seemed like such a unique and original idea and utilized your phone for multiplayer in a way that I’d never seen before. It kinda blew my mind and I started to think of other ways we could use mobile devices for multiplayer experiences that you couldn’t get on any other platform. I spent a lot of time picturing people physically standing around with friends, trying to come up with games that required that physical space, and that used the capabilities of modern cell phones.
148Apps: Why the decision to be free to play? CL:echoChamber is a multiplayer only game, and is more fun the more people you are playing with. It seemed natural for us to release the game as a free download so people can start playing it as easily as possible with their friends without requiring everybody to commit to purchasing it. We’ll be releasing additional tracks as paid DLC for people who want to extend their experience beyond the base tracks.
148Apps: How hard has it been to implement the positional sound effects? CL: Doing the positional audio itself isn’t too bad. It’s really just a matter of adjusting volume for the different devices to get the desired effect we want. The hardest part has been synching the playback of the track on all of the devices while accounting for network latency. If the sound is out of sync at all, the positional effect is lost, and you get more of an echo. If it’s REALLY out of sync it just sounds like garbage!
148Apps: What other challenges have you faced? CL:echoChamber started out as more of a Pong-like game where sound would move around and players would have to tap their screens to hit the “ball” away. The problem is it’s hard to know when the ball has reached you. It get’s louder so you know it’s closer, but how loud is the “loudest” and “closest”. That’s why we ended up going the rhythm game route. When there’s a set beat, and the ball moves to the beat, it’s easier to know when the sound will “hit”. We’ve since moved away from the Pong aspect of the game and are focusing more on an overall fun musical experience instead.
148Apps: When do you hope to release echoChamber? CL: If the Kickstarter goes well, we hope to release some time early next year. If it doesn’t go well… we’re not sure.
The Kickstarter campaign runs until December 27, with a wide selection of backer rewards to cover everyone’s budget.
Thanks to Cody for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on echoChamber‘s progress.
Arguably the most anticipated puzzle game of the year thanks to the runaway success of its predecessor, The Room Two is set for release on December 12. In the buildup to this very exciting time, I had the chance to go hands-on with the game to see exactly what’s to come next week.
Only having had the chance to play the early stages of the game and not wishing to spoil too much, The Room Two is immediately enticing. There’s an easy-to-follow tutorial for those who haven’t yet enjoyed the original (and if so, why not? There’s still plenty of time to lose one’s self to it!), and a gentle introduction to what to expect. As before, puzzles are set to be as tactile as they are logical with a layering of conundrums to keep players busy. The eerie music continues to add plenty of tension to what’s going on. This time there’s set to be a wider variety of rooms to tackle too, which should prove quite enthralling.
The Room Two is set to be the kind of experience where it’s best to go in cold, but it’s looking pretty positive so far. We’ll be sure to bring you a full review next week. For now, we’ve shared a few words with Barry Meade, commercial director at Fireproof Studios, about how development has gone and just how the success of The Room helped pave the way.
148Apps: The first game was commercially and critically very successful. Have you found this adding to the pressure to get the second game right? Barry Meade (BM): Not really, we’re honestly just delighted to get the chance to work on our own games full stop. Having said that I think we’d all be disappointed if the second game doesn’t do better than the first as we’ve put a lot more work into it this time around. But we do honestly feel that if The Room Two is good enough and deserves to do well, it will do well, and that if it fails its because we failed. And so, if the game’s fate is in our hands alone then there’s no point in worrying unduly about outside pressures or expectations. We’ll do the best we can and see how that flies with our audience.
148Apps: How has that success helped with the development of the sequel? BM: Hugely. Whereas The Room had only 1 programmer and 1 or 2 artists on it at one time, The Room Two has had up to 4 programmers and 8-10 artists on it during the course of development. We made The Room Two in the time frame that the design required rather than hurried because we needed to make money by X date or whatever, and we were only able to decide that because of The Room‘s success. But frankly we can’t think of any better way to spend the money we earn than to reinvest it in our creative process. For us financial success means freedom – freedom to do what we think is necessary to make the best version of the game we want to make – not to have to work for or make decisions for somebody else’s benefit.
For instance if we had to work with a publisher, The Room would never have been created at all – it’s a rare publisher that wants to push things forward for gamers and they generally look down on games and developers who do that. No, we needed to listen to ourselves for The Room to happen and thankfully that’s what we did, and put our own savings on the line to do it. Now that it has paid off for us, we’re even less likely to listen to others. We’re in an ideal creative place but we’re very aware that this position depends on us genuinely making novel, new, interesting games that deserve audience attention. I hope we live up to it.
148Apps: How will The Room Two be different from its predecessor? BM: We were all very happy with how The Room turned out as our first game, though the very limited money we had to spend on its development made the game smaller than it deserved to be. So this time around we wanted to give the concept what it deserved in terms of development time, resources, manpower etc. to see where we could take it. In almost every way The Room Two is a more fully-featured game than the first one – taking what worked and building on it, making it deeper, larger and even a bit more complicated. The environments are a lot more interesting, the objects more intricate and interactive.
So it was a harder project to make this time, it had more moving parts, testing it was a bit more fraught etc. but we knew all that going into it – we just wanted to make it bigger and better across the board. Fireproof may never be a flashy AAA developer but as long as we are working on something we are going to make the best damn version of it that we possibly can. It was that attitude which helped us make The Room in the first place and this time is no different. We think its better in every way than the first, let’s hope the audience agrees.
148Apps: After the success of the original, was there the temptation to simplify the game to appeal to a more casual market? BM: Nah. We’re amazingly happy with the audience we have, we have no interest in trying to squeeze squillion$ of dollars from The Room. It would be great to pick up more users with The Room Two as we’ve worked hard to make it as good to play and value-for-money as possible. But for us its very important to make our work with our own sensibilities at the forefront and not to worry too much about what others expect or think. Our audience bought into the love we put in the first game and if we want to please anyone else then it’s those who enjoyed the first game. They will be our toughest critics and rightly so.
As gamers we’ve always believed that if we pleased our own sensibilities and standards first, others will pick up on the care and attention we put into it, whereas if we obviously attempt to chase what other people want or expect, the audience will see through it, smell the desperation and move onto something more honest and interesting. As in a lot of things in life, chasing something indirectly is often the way to catch it, so concentrating on our own wishes for the game and by extension our current audience seems the most reliable and sensible way to attract brand new users into the game.
148Apps: Many players wished they had more time with The Room, will its sequel be longer? BM: Yes, quite a bit longer. A lot of people who played The Room thought it was a bit short but well worth the money they paid, in fact the user ratings are amazingly high for it so we’re hoping that adding a bit of length and depth will keep them just as pleased and perhaps tickle them even more. The curious thing about puzzle games is how mistaken everybody can be about other players experiences. Some player who is a freak for puzzle games generally will play the game and complete it in 1.5 hours and will be convinced the game is actually short. But for every one of those Ninja players we know there’s 5-10 other players who took 3-5 hours to play it, and they have a very different view on the length – any longer and they would feel overwhelmed.
Puzzle games are very different to other games in that sense – the experience they give players depends very much on the personality and brain of those who are playing it. It’s this engagement of the brain that makes them so beloved I think – people’s own imagination takes a very active part in the playing. It might explain all the love the game gets – we’re not the biggest selling game by any stretch but people who have played it really really love the game. We are super thankful for that, I can tell you it makes us sleep well at night knowing it.
Many thanks to Barry for taking the time to answer our questions.
Set for release December 12, we’ll have a full review of The Room 2 that day. In the meantime, why not get reacquainted with The Room?
Cornfox & Bros. and publisher FDG Entertainment’s Oceanhorn has been an anomaly in the rise of free-to-play games on the App Store: it’s one of the few attempts at making a grand-scale game on iOS and priced at an $8.99 cost that few others have dared to try. The game’s launch saw it rocket to #1 in the paid app charts and in the top 10 of the top grossing apps, bolstered not just by its App Store Editor’s Choice but by a pre-release hype cycle that’s rarely seen for mobile games.
Oceanhorn‘s price risk has paid off: the game recouped its production cost in less than a week, seemingly showing that the kind of games with high production values and premium price points can succeed on the App Store. Thomas Kern, Executive Producer of Oceanhorn at FDG Entertainment, spoke to me about the game’s success at its price point.
148Apps: Why launch at $8.99, and that price point specifically? $6.99 has been a more typical “high” price for games on the App Store, and $9.99 is a more “round” number – so why $8.99? Was launching at a premium price point the plan all throughout development? Thomas Kern (TK): We’re not setting prices on trends or from a psychological “round number” point of view. The launch price is related to the production cost and quality of the game. We got lots of emails and feedback about the price and it was all positive. People felt it was the right price and the game has done tremendously well at $8.99. We’re very happy about the success of the game.
148Apps: Was there ever any thought to making the game free-to-play, or incorporating a hybrid model like what Infinity Blade uses? TK:The plan for this game was always to go the traditional premium route, something players are used to from game consoles or handhelds. Oceanhorn is a loving tribute to games we enjoyed in our childhood and we see it as a fan-service to offer the full experience without additional costs.
148Apps: The game was bolstered by Apple’s featuring of Oceanhorn as an Editor’s Choice – do you feel like the game would have done as well without this? TK: When we launched the game it immediately shot up the charts, before Apple even featured it. It was great to see that Apple agreed with many happy users that this game is a milestone in iOS gaming so they featured it very prominently and supported the game’s launch the best way they could. It seems Apple really appreciates efforts like this, after all, Oceanhorn‘s development time was over 2 years!
148Apps: What about the long-term prospects of the game? Can the game continue to succeed at $8.99? TK: It does! We see very healthy sales and we’ve recouped the investment in less than a week. For us and the development team, the game is already a great success.
There is no sale to be expected, Oceanhorn will stay at $8.99 but we’ll add more content to it in 2014 so the value will become even better.
148Apps: Do you think that other games can succeed at high price points? Do you believe that Oceanhorn changed anything with the market? TK: We’ve been contacted by many people in the industry and they’ve been surprised about the success despite the high price point. Especially because the production cost was recouped really quickly. Oceanhorn definitely proves that premium games are not dead and it’s a viable business. We can’t beat some insanely successful Free2Play game revenues, but that was not our plan. Healthy revenues don’t require a position in Top 10 Grossing.
Carter talks to Orian and Felix from Liv Games about the conclusion of the Wars trilogy, Stellar Wars, how they think this is the best one yet, the struggles of trying to succeed in the current market, and the struggles of working as a remote team.
For Jon-Paul Dumont and the team at Disney Mobile, the creation of Star Wars: Tiny Death Star was a balancing act. On one side, there was NimbleBit and their hit game, but also their aesthetic of gameplay and of how they approach free-to-play that forms the spirit of their games. On the other side, LucasArts is very protective of Star Wars, and even with Disney owning the brand now they work diligently to make sure that anything Star Wars fits in with the brand.
Getting to work with NimbleBit for Disney’s internal mobile studio was a dream come true, and Dumont had been in touch about working with them but he couldn’t find a partnership that would work out until Disney bought Star Wars. And how did Tiny Death Star come about? Well, Dumont says “Somebody just sort of blurted out, ‘What about Tiny Death Star?’ and lightbulbs sort of went off and it sort of wrote itself from there on out.”
Once the idea was formed, making a game that would feel true to NimbleBit was key. “The team sat down with the guys at NimbleBit and learned from them, what were the fans of Tiny Tower really excited about? What did they love? What were things that they felt like could be improvements?”
“One of the things that we really loved about Tiny Tower was the delightful randomness of the game, and how you never quite know what the next floor is going to be… who the next character is going to be who gets into your elevator. So we wanted to add to that by taking all these fun, iconic villains and heroes and species of Star Wars and giving you a reason to want to see all of them.”
“Even though we built this internally at Disney, this should feel 100% like a Nimblebit game. David and Ian [Marsh] were involved in the game and they reviewed builds often, and helped us stay within what is really important to them as game makers. The great thing is that we were starting from something like Tiny Tower that was very successful and I think really innovative in the market at the time, so we didn’t really feel the need to reinvent their formula. So in the same way that we were really reverential to Star Wars, I’d say we were really reverential to Nimblebit.”
And making the game fit in with the Star Wars brand was important for them and for LucasArts. “The team started working then with LucasArts to figure out, how do we adapt that fun, humorous, 8-bit style that NimbleBit has over to Star Wars? It was the first at least recent 8-bit game for LucasArts, there was a lot of work and back and forth to make sure that our versions of the characters really worked but still had that tongue-in-cheek style.”
“[LucasArts] are really rigorous, and it makes sense given that Star Wars is a property that has lasted so long, and that they have plans to keep it going for decades to come. They are just making sure that the characters fit and that things are logical within the universe. They’re also making sure that they are making the right creative decisions for the future. They have a kind of legacy to protect. And so when they look at an 8-bit Stormtrooper, they’re trying to figure out not just how does it work for this game, but what does 8-bit mean in Star Wars for next year, 5 years, and 10 years in the future?”
This even came down to making the game make at least some sense narratively. Dumont says “We needed to know even if it’s goofy or silly, like our premise is intentionally, it was important to have that central focus of knowing why is an Ewok on the Death Star? Why is Lando Calrissian around your cantina? So, that gave us a grounding element. It was also really important to the guys at Lucas. They really are the guardians of this legacy of Star Wars. So no matter how silly or goofy the game is, they want to make sure everything fits together. And there are things that we followed along that were important to them. For instance, our game is set roughly in the classical era of Star Wars, which means that characters who died in the prequels are not going to show up in this game. Even for something as cute as this, there are really important sort of structural rules that are important to us and LucasArts.”
“I would not call this game canon, they’re not basing movies on it or anything like that, but having something that fits and makes sense is actually really important to us and we feel like it is important to our audience of Star Wars fans who take things, even goofy things seriously. It is really fun to play around in a version of Star Wars that doesn’t take itself that seriously, so it allows us to have a lot of the fun and lots of fun humor and gags.”
And with Tiny Death Star out now worldwide, players can judge for themselves if Dumont and Disney Mobile found their own balance of the Force between the inspirations from NimbleBit and Star Wars. Thanks to Jon-Paul Dumont for his time.
Occasionally it feels a little too easy to be cynical. To mutter about how the App Store is full of Match-3 puzzle games, freemium city builders, and Angry Birds clones. Luxuria Superbia is a reminder that this really isn’t the case. At least not if one searches for more original offerings.
The game is described as a ‘musical journey from the sensuous to the spiritual’ with its thematic elements being distinctly erotic in nature. At least, that is, depending on one’s perspective of what unfolds. There’s a heck of a lot more to its interpretation than that.
Fascinated by such originality, I took the time to ask the game’s developers, Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn, a few questions on the subject.
148Apps: How did the idea for Luxuria Superbia come about? Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn (AH & MS): The initial idea came to us during a roundtable session led by Brenda Romero on the subject of sex in videogames at the Game Developers Conference. While most of the discussion focused on issues of depiction, we started thinking about it differently: instead of showing naked bodies in the act, we wanted to model the interaction with a game mechanic on the experience of pleasure. And even this early, back in 2008, we already thought of flowers as a visual inspiration.
This idea was something we developed and expanded upon during a long research and prototyping project codenamed Cncntrc. This linked the sensations of the body with the rational and spiritual experiences of early science and mythology. We were especially looking at Geo-centric models of the universe and their links with religion (as the planets in our solar system are named after Roman Gods). We were very fond of this connection between heaven and earth, between sensual pleasure and mystic ecstasy. But the subject matter became so big — we were literally trying to make a game about everything — that it became impossible to capture all of it in a single game.
So we decided to make multiple games based on this research. Luxuria Superbia is the first one. As a first game, we wanted it to be simple and easy to enjoy. So that we would have a solid basis to expand upon later.
148Apps: Did anything else inspire you? Such as a film or game, or other form of media? AH & MS:Luxuria Superbia is structured a bit like tunnel shooter games, of which Rez is a stand-out title that we love. But instead of antagonism and destruction, we wanted to focus on love and creation. It’s funny how similar mechanics can mean such different things when tweaked a little.
Keita Takahashi’s Noby Noby Boy encouraged us to embrace a whimsical and joyful play experience. And Erik Loyer’s Strange Rain influenced the flow of the game.
Not exactly an inspiration, but Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey kept popping up in our reference material. The symmetry of the cinematography, the tubes and hallways, the sentient invisible being inside of the computer and the surreal cosmic ending all seem to have their links with our little game.
Discovering the paintings by Aimei Ozaki really helped us decide on the visuals. And the work of Georgia O’Keeffe supported our desire to fuse human sensuality with the shapes of flowers.
And then there’s architecture. Cathedrals like Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the Borobudur temple in Indonesia were the source of our desire to deal with a journey from the sensual to the spiritual. The intricate design of the domes of Islamic mosques stimulated the use of circular symmetry in the game. The interior of some German rococo churches, like the Wieskirche in Steinbaden, inspired the blank versus color dynamic. And the central hub in the game was modeled after Marie-Antoinette’s Temple of Love in Versailles.
Other than that, we really love some kitschy movies with charming innuendo like Barbarella, Zardoz and Flash Gordon. A lot of the humor in the game was inspired by those.
148Apps: It’s quite the departure from your other games. Was this deliberate? Do you have a particular genre preference? AH & MS: We’re too restless to want to fit into any one genre. With our previous games we have indeed explored the narrative side of games much more. But for us the creation of an environment and atmosphere is always more important.
Since the original idea for Luxuria Superbia came to us so long ago, it is not meant to be a deliberate departure as such. But the way we approached the design was very much inspired by the intentions for our future creative production as laid out in our Beautiful Art Program. The main idea being that we want to try harder to connect to our audience, to give more people access to the joy and beauty we see in our games.
The fact that we have leaned toward the dark side in our previous work with games about death and loss of innocence and so on, is actually a coincidence. We are interested in many topics and have in fact already made a very joyful game with The Endless Forest. With Luxuria Superbia, we wanted to share our love for life, the joy and beauty that we find in existence. So pleasure became the “story” that we wanted to explore in this one.
148Apps: Is there a way of completing it? Or is it solely about the experience? AH & MS: Oh yes! The delight you bring to each flower (or tunnel or level) in the game is expressed in a three ring rating and collected in a column in the garden (the central hub of the game). So to complete the game, one would collect all three rings for all twelve flowers and complete each column.
But the game does not push you too hard to achieve this. The focus of play is very much on the journey and not on the destination.
148Apps: What do you hope that players will gain from playing the game? AH & MS: Joy and an experience of beauty. These are not trivial matters to us. They are all-important. Deep joy is more important than knowledge. Beauty is more important than truth. The experience of beauty and joy makes us better, kinder, gentler people.
From my brief time with it so far Luxuria Superbia sounds bewitching, mostly because it is. It’s like precious little already out there and very imaginative. Set for release later this week, we’ll be sure to keep an eye on it.
Thanks to Auriea and Michael for answering my questions.
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.
Ever wanted to play Super Smash Bros. while on the move? Of course! Anyone with sense would want that! While Nintendo haven’t quite made the move to mobile just yet (but we can hope, right?), that doesn’t stop a similar experience from hopefully coming to iOS soon, courtesy of zGames. That title is Fright Fight, a horror-themed game inspired by Mario’s brawling ways.
The zGames team.
As is increasingly common these days, Fright Fight‘s development is being supported by a Kickstarter campaign which has just launched. As the project page explains, the hope is that Fright Fight will be the first 3D cross-platform mobile fighting game, with the plan being to port it to systems such as OUYA and Nvidia Shield as well as iOS and Android. Free-to-play, many of the pledge rewards relate to the acquisition of in-game coins or the unlocking of characters in order to give early backers an extra edge. It’s shaping up to look pretty good so we had a word with Game Designer, Pavel Shtangeev, to learn more.
148Apps: Inspiration has clearly been taken from Super Smash Bros. but what other games have inspired Fright Fight? Pavel Shtangeev (PS): Devil May Cry series: Additional inspiration for [the] battle mechanics, Diablo series [for the] RPG elements, Pokemon series for some gameplay elements and RPG mechanics, Awesomenauts [for some of the] gameplay elements, world and level design, art style. A lot of other games have minor influence on the game: Marvel vs. Capcom, DOTA, Quake III, etc. The list can go on forever.
148Apps: Has anything non-gaming related inspired it? Such as in terms of the choices of characters available? PS: A lot of classic horror novels and movies influenced our decisions for worlds to include and characters to add. Still, we added twists to most of them. For example the vampire character is a combination of Carmilla from a classic novel of the same name and a mad variant of Luigi Galvani.
148Apps: How long has Fright Fight taken to develop? PS: Right now, it’s been 9 months in development.
148Apps: What challenges have you faced with making Fright Fight cross-platform? PS: Unity3D makes things much easier, but certain problems still occur. These problems are mostly related to different form-factors of devices. NVIDIA SHIELD uses hard buttons instead of gestures so we put some tweaks here and there and remade all menus to fit both control schemes. OUYA uses bigger displays and this requires more advanced camera behavior, etc.
148Apps: The trailer suggests there will be RPG elements to Fright Fight. Can you elaborate on these? PS: The game introduces a lot of classic RPG elements to the fighting formula: stats, skills, perks, etc. Right now, all characters already possess a full set of stats that can be upgraded through the course of the game. Moreover, each character is packed with an individual skill tree that allows customization of his attacks and play style. We have plans to introduce even more RPG elements by adding gear with different skins, items, and accessories and create pets that can aid characters in battle.
Thanks to Pavel for taking the time to answer our questions.
With the game already offering 3 different arenas, 4 different characters, and a fairly strong gesture-based control scheme, Fright Fight is shaping up nicely. Hopefully, by meeting its Kickstarter goal, the game will soon enjoy bot AI, and if the goal is beaten, new characters and arenas. For now, why not check out the teaser trailer and consider supporting the campaign?
Candy Crush Saga meets X-Com meets Game of Thrones? It’s an impressive mix of genres and ideas, and it forms the basis for a new title called Pocket Titans. A turn based RPG puzzle adventure game, Pocket Titans certainly sounds pretty exciting. Its origins are quite something too, having been conceived by veteran developers, John Payne & Ian Pestridge. Between them, they’ve worked on a number of console releases, including Herdy Gerdy, In Cold Blood, SEGA Rally, Reservoir Dogs, and Dead to Rights: Retribution.
For the past 18 months, the pair have been working on Pocket Titans in their spare time, all in the name of flexing their creative muscles. With the game set for release soon, we took the time to find out more.
148apps: Where did the inspiration for Pocket Titans come from? John Payne (JP): There were a few different strands of inspiration which led to Pocket Titans. I’ve always been a fan of RPG fighting mechanics like the semi-turn-based Final Fantasy battles, or the group dynamics of big World of Warcraft boss fights. My original idea was to do a game which was a series of these massive fight moments without the RPG story and running around in between. Then I got in to Zoo Keeper on my iPhone (entirely my wife’s fault), and I mean really in to it, in a way I’d not really experienced with match 3 games before. The game play felt really tactile, and moving through levels with just a little bit of story felt right. I’d always been a fan of the old X-COM games (not knowing at the time that there was a brilliant new one coming out that year!) and games like Advance Wars, and those three strands came together to form the idea for Pocket Titans. It’s the class based RPG battles of World of Warcraft, the tactile movement and easy pick-up play of a match 3 and the tactical positioning of X-COM.
As John says the game condenses many of the elements associated with RPGs and has been developed to be very accessible. I took recognisable fantasy motifs and caricatured them, resulting in a look that ‘feels’ familiar and yet ‘looks’ unique and full of spirit.
148apps: How difficult has it been to find the spare time to create Pocket Titans? IP: The short answer is not very difficult at all. We believe that if you had fun making a game it shows through. The players can sense that freedom and enjoyment. So we promised ourselves that we would focus on having fun and avoiding stress.
JP: The great thing about a home project is you can park it for as long as you need to when life gets in the way. During development there were weeks when I didn’t really do anything on the game, and weeks where I’d do an hour or two most nights, it fitted in around everything else. I set myself a rule very early on that I’d never let it distract me from my day job and in the end the whole process was fun and relaxing. The game’s been 99% finished for quite a while so its certainly the most relaxed end to a project I’ve ever had!
IP: We both have similar family situations and day jobs. I’ve generally been using the couple of hours I’d usually spend watching TV or a movie after the kids have gone to bed to jump on the PC and create some artwork. Ultimately, we enjoy making games, so this has been a great experience.
148apps: What challenges have you faced during the production? JP: Early on in development it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to do it by myself, especially when I realised quite how bad my programmer-art was. At that point I almost gave up on the project and probably would have if I hadn’t shown it to Ian.
IP: I loved the game from the moment I saw John’s early prototype. The greatest challenge was translating the aesthetics of the world we both imagined onto the moving tile mechanic, it’s that challenge that first attracted me to John’s concept and has kept it so interesting.
148apps: How different is it working on a personal project rather than as part of a big studio? JP: I’ve been lucky enough to work with lots of talented and creative people in my day job and I love every minute of it. That said, creating Pocket Titans has given us a chance to do something that’s just ours, without any other stakeholders or any outside direction. It was great fun to make but also a little bit terrifying now people are playing it other than our friends!
148apps: Will there be any micro-transactions within the game? JP: The best way to play the game is to work through story mode looting weapons and armour from the Orcs and Skeletons you defeat. But we’ve also got multi-player battles in there and if people want to tool up to level things out with their friends we’re not going to stop them. You can use gold you collect during quests to grab any items you’re missing and if you really want to make things easy you can buy a bit of gold, but we hope people play through the whole story as there’s some amazing battles at the end that you don’t want to miss!
Thanks to John and Ian for taking the time to answer our questions.
Pocket Titans is set for release later this month. We’ll be sure to track its development. In the mean time, why not check out the beta trailer below? It’s looking pretty sweet.
One of the consistently most positive things about the rise of the App Store is the ability for one-person developers to get somewhere and release their own titles, under their own steam and hard work. Sacrifices might need to be made but it’s encouraging to see so many creative spirits work so hard at achieving their dreams.
One such person is John Stricker, developer of Captain Casual, a title that he’s declared to be an ‘epic science fiction action adventure comedy’. Its Kickstarter campaign has just launched so we had a word with John about how the project came to be.
Captain Casual’s developer, John Stricker.
148apps: How did the idea for Captain Casual come about? John Stricker (JS): I was doing some pretty intensive work as a software consultant, and at the end of the day it would be difficult to take my mind off of the projects I was working on and get some sleep. I found that imagining stories helped me relax as I was trying to sleep. Maybe this was part of me trying to take my own mind off work, but I liked to create characters that were very relaxed, take-it-easy kinds of people and then imagine them being put into situations where they had to play the role of a hero. Captain Casual started with the idea of putting a laid-back person into the role of a starship captain, so instead of someone like Patrick Stewart playing the role of the captain it was someone more like Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.
148apps: Why the name Captain Casual? JS: Because it’s awesome! I mean, why has no one created a game character named this yet? It’s also fun to take the word “Casual” and use it for a character name in a mobile game since in the gaming community there’s a stereotype of mobile games being too “casual” for “serious” gamers.
148apps: Have any other games or other forms of media influence your idea? JS: A lot of the backstory for Captain Casual takes cues from Iain M. Bank‘s fantastic Culture novels, and the comic tone of the game can’t help but be influenced by Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books (which I have read countless times). In terms of gaming influences, Bioware‘s RPGs (e.g. the Baldur’s Gate Series, Knights of the Old Republic) have probably influenced me more than any other games. They do such a great job of storytelling, dialog, and gameplay, and while Captain Casual isn’t an RPG, I hope to convey something of the same sense of being part of an epic adventure while playing the game. And, of course, Star Trek in all its incarnations is a big influence.
148apps: How big a game will Captain Casual be? JS: It’s going to be bigger than The Beatles! We’re talking blockbuster, here. You’re probably looking for more of an answer about the game’s length though. In terms of game length, Captain Casual is designed to be a relatively short game, with a full playthrough lasting a couple of hours. The main reason for this is that the story in the game unfolds more like a movie where there is a minimum of repetitive action. Every mission is going to have the player doing something that they haven’t done before. To add challenge and extend the life of the game, there will also be a hardcore mode where if a player fails a level they have to start the game from the beginning.
148apps: Are there any plans for in-app purchases or will Captain Casual be a one-off payment kind of game? JS: There are no plans for in-app purchases as I feel that would ruin the tone of the game. Its hard to keep a sense of atmosphere and engagement when you’re also periodically asking the player for more money. Also, I don’t want the game to be a different experience for different players depending upon how much money they put into the game.
148apps: How hard has it been to juggle your work life and this project? JS: Since April of this year I’ve been working full time on Captain Casual. I am fortunate enough to have a time-limited period (my wife and I have agreed on a one-year limit) to do this, but this is why I really need the extra support from Kickstarter as I have no income at this point. I’ve taken my hobby and made it my work, so in some ways now I feel like I’m working all of the time. Still, it feels great to be able to put so much effort into something I love. Hopefully the Kickstarter will go well and I’ll be able to continue working on Captain Casual full time!
Captain Casual’sKickstarter has just under a month to go, with John asking for a fairly low $5,000 to complete the game. With only a $5 pledge needed in order to have some input in terms of what ship models and color schemes to use, as well as a free copy of the game upon release, that’s a pretty tempting offer if you ask me. Higher pledges offer more benefits, too, with t-shirts, beta invites, and even custom digital images up for grabs.
The campaign is live now, so do consider contributing. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on Captain Casual‘s progress.
For at least the past fifteen years I’ve been bellyaching about the lack of a follow-up to Mutant League Football. The ridiculous (and ridiculously violent) Genesis classic was the perfect football game for someone like myself who enjoys video games but could care less about the NFL. And here we are, twenty years later and it looks like that decade-old dream might come true.
Series creator Michael Mendheim recently began a Kickstarter project to try and fund the spiritual successor to MLF, titled Mutant Football League, and it looks phenomenal. However, the project still needs a fair bit of help. Mr. Mendheim was gracious enough to talk to us about the game, the project, and the future of Mutant Football League.
148Apps: After 20 years it’s great to finally see a successor for Mutant League is in the works. Did the success of other similar Kickstarter projects help to influence your decision to start a fund for Mutant Football League, or was it more of an idea whose time had come sort of thing? Michael Mendheim (MM): Fans have urged me to do this for some time now and it’s also the 20th Anniversary of the original Mutant League Football, so we felt like the timing might be right. We chose Kickstarter because it seemed like it would be our best shot to get the game funded. We launched a couple weeks ago but right now it looks very difficult for us to succeed. So if anyone out there reading this is a fan of the original game, or just wants to play a really fun and violent game of Football where NFL Players are replaced with wise-cracking mutants and monster all-stars, please back us today.
148Apps: Any chance you’d be able to confirm or deny various teams and races that will be making it into the final build? MM: Kickstarter backers will actually be helping choose what types of mutants and monsters we have in the game. We know we want to have some kind of undead, heavy metal type of skeleton players. We’ll also have a variety of Monster characters and Humanoid Mutants – think Road Warrior-esque type humans. We also want to include Battle Robots for more of the technology driven races. These will be big bruising robots that are good at football and even better at obliterating the opposition.
We’re also introducing a new character called, Enforcers. Generally, mutants are big, mean, ugly SOB’s… so what do you do to keep them in line? You get bigger, meaner, even uglier brutes to monster the bejeesus out of them. And that’s exactly what Enforcers are; They don’t catch, they don’t throw, they really have no talent to speak of… they just go after the opposing team’s stars like a wrecking ball. Eventually these creatures are subdued and taken to the penalty box where they are uhm…eliminated. Each team will be allowed to have up to 3 or 4 different race types on their rosters. It’s too early to talk about teams names yet but we know we’re going to have some fun parodying real team names (example: Pittsburgh Steelers = Blitzburgh Stealers).
148Apps: Kill the ref plays are still going to be in there, right? MM: Of course, with a few new twists that I’m not going to mention or else I’m going to have to kill you, too.
148Apps: You’ve recently teamed-up with Run Games Development Studio to source their engine for Football Heroes. Aside from the changes that have already been mentioned – making the gameplay more realistic, less casual, and super fun – have there been any other significant tweaks? I really hope you decide to keep the RPG elements. MM: Run Games provided the game to me, and I spent a lot of time playing and I loved it. I thought it was the perfect stepping stone to create a Mutant League-style game. It’s very easy to play and delivers a lot of fun, but also has layers of depth because of the RPG system that the Run Games integrated into it. We absolutely will be keeping the RPG Elements in the design. We can put these to good use and it will give the game layers of depth for those who want it. More casual gamers can just ignore it and the game will take care of itself underneath the hood. The art direction will look completely different than Football Heroes; Mutant Football League will have a much grittier art style.
By working with Run Games and using their tech as our starting point we will substantially reduce our development risk. Instead of building everything from scratch we can build on top of an existing game, which is already fun and has all the core elements already in place (Dynamic Camera, User Interface, smooth and intuitive controls, consistent frame rates, Online play, AI, Power-ups, RPG Elements, ratings and stats, Audio, Physics and Collisions, etc.).
Mark Brown, perhaps best known for being Deputy Editor over at Pocket Gamer, has just released his first game; Pixel This!, an elegant Nonogram title that he made to try and improve on the other similar games on the App Store. Because of his unique position as both someone who covers mobile gaming, and now someone who made a mobile game – and he did it almost entirely on an iPad using Codea - I was eager to learn more about Pixel This! and the process of its creation.
(full disclosure: Pocket Gamer and 148Apps are owned by Steel Media, which had no say in the promotion or editorial coverage of this game)
148Apps: What compelled you to make Pixel This?
Mark Brown (MB): I just adore Picross (or Nonograms or Griddlers or whatever you want to call them) which is this brilliant puzzle game from Japan that’s all about using logic and deduction to draw a cute pixel art image. I think I accidentally stumbled upon Mario’s Picross on Game Boy, and have loved those puzzles ever since. But I don’t think I’ve found an iOS app that has done the game justice.
They’re usually a bit ugly, or make it hard to control on the teeny tiny iPhone screen. They can be expensive or, if they’re free, jammed with adverts or costly IAPs. So I thought there was room to make something better! Pixel This! isn’t perfect and there’s plenty of room to improve, but I’m really pleased with the result and the feedback.
148Apps: Why go with the free+unlock model on the game?
MB: It’s funny, because I’m a pretty staunch opponent of the free-to-play model, but here I am launching a free-to-play game on the App Store! But I think this is a good way to let people have a go with the game first, see if they can grasp the rules and see if they actually like the puzzles before putting down their cash. It is, I hope, a non-evil free-to-play where you’re not buying hints or lives or anything else that’s going to wreck the balance of the game. It’s just more stuff if you liked the first stuff.
148Apps: Talk about that awesome soundtrack!
MB: Hah! Well, you’ve got to focus on what you know, and I do not know music at all. So I decided to not subject anyone to my pitiful attempts to make a soundtrack, and want to encourage them to play their own music instead. Plus, I’ve always found that Picross is a fun thing to do while listening to podcasts or the radio, so it was super important that audio from other apps would continue playing when you load Pixel This!
148Apps: You made the game primarily on the iPad? How did you do this? What compelled you to work particularly on mobile?
MB: I programmed Pixel This in an iPad app called Codea, which lets you write Lua code on the tablet and then export it to Apple’s developer program Xcode so you can submit it to the App Store. So the only time I used my Mac was to do the graphics in Photoshop and then some final code to get in-app purchases and Twitter support working. It’s really cool to be able to write some code, hit a button, and then be immediately testing the game on one of the devices that the game will eventually be released on.
I’m also a big iPad nerd, and a huge believer in the idea that this whole “tablets are for consumption not creation” thing is totally bunkum. It’s such a wonderful device to use, and the apps are only getting better, more powerful, and more flexible.
148Apps: As someone who covers the mobile space, does making games of your own change the way that you perceive them, and did your perspective as member of the gaming media affect development in any way?
MB: There are certain things we take for granted as journalists and players of games. We might flippantly say “this game should have iCloud saves and Game Center!!”, without realizing how many weeks of work and testing that all involves. I don’t think I’m going to stop complaining about missing features, slow updates, and missed release dates, mind you! But the experience will definitely color my view of development going forward.
As for the other way around, I think by being forced to play a billion iOS games a week makes me made hyper-aware of what works – and what doesn’t – on the App Store. I hate being nagged by push notifications and I don’t like being asked to review a game every five seconds, so I avoided that sort of stuff. But for the most part, I just feel very lucky to have my dumb little game on the same platform as so many amazing apps from so many hugely talented people. It’s weird and awesome.
Pocket Gamer Biz took a minute to learn more about the puzzle game, Blackbar, in its making of series. They spoke with the developer, Neven Mrgan, learning how he himself refers to his game as _____________. Ok, so that’s just a tease and there is a lot to learn about the game by checking out the full interview.
With the release of iOS 7, we reached out to Denys Zhadanov from Readdle to discuss how the massive changes in iOS 7 front end and back end impact an app-focused company like Readdle.
148Apps: How do you feel about the change in look and overall design of iOS 7? Was it taken far enough? Too far? Denys Zhadanov (DZ): It’s interesting how the feeling towards iOS 7 evolved with time. Say, when it was announced I was more than excited about it. Especially I enjoyed the layering concept of content, controls and background. iOS 7 is definitely fresh, juicy, and bright. However, this excitement then changed radically because of some design exaggerations. Sometimes I felt that Apple has decided to do something new for the sake of it, rather than making something better. Apple is brilliant at managing our expectations and emotions towards their products. They did put an effort in emphasizing what’s important in iOS 7, that’s why after 2 months of active usage I have to say that I really enjoy it. The GM version is way different from the first beta. It’s finished, complete, and consistent. It’ll be interesting to see the adoption rates, but I think it’ll be the highest in Apple’s history.
148Apps: Have you come across any issues with iOS 7 as a developer? DZ: Readdle apps are well-known for design and user experience. Flat design gives a very limited set of elements to differentiate your product from others. That said, it’s much harder to create iOS 7 app that stands out. Since no-one ever created apps for iOS 7 before, there are no benchmarks. So the main issue for us was to understand how iOS 7 app should look like, how to provide the best experience and how to differentiate Readdle apps from thousands of copycats.
148Apps: How do you expect iOS 7 to affect your apps, if at all? Do you feel rushed to change all of your apps to match the style of iOS 7?
DZ: Since we have 7 major apps, we had to rush in order to submit the updates in time. It is vital to update apps according to the new guidelines and iOS 7 design principles. iOS 6 apps look alienated on the new operating system. iOS 7 affected our app to a great extent. Not only did we have to create a new design, but also follow the logic behind iOS 7 – fast, simple, minimalistic principles. In fact, sometimes we had to create 3 different version of the app and then chose which one to iterate. That felt like creating a new app for the unknown market. Did we feel rushed? Last 3 weeks we’ve been working 14 hours per day with no weekends.
148Apps: What new features of iOS7 are you most excited about taking advantage of in your apps? Is there anything you are able to do with iOS 7 that you were never able to do before? DZ: Background download is the most exciting feature! It will allow our apps to automatically sync documents on the iPad or iPhone with any cloud service (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc). So you’ll always have your files on hands.
Many thanks to Mr. Zhadanov for his time.
About Denys Zhadanov, Marketing Director, Readdle
Holds a Masters Degree in Business and Management from Aston University. BGS lifetime member.
Spent the last 5 years of his life transforming Readdle from a “garage start-up” into a leading iOS company that creates productivity and business apps.
As of now, Readdle is a team of 45 based in Ukraine. 7 major product were downloaded more than 13 million times.
Entrepreneurial type, who works much, sleeps less, and enjoys what he is doing. Avid snowboarder. Believes in spicy food, people, and disruptive technologies.
Brandon Bozzi is the co-founder of Game It Forward, a project that wants to use video games to help raise money for charity. His and Game It Forward’s first game is the quiz game Quingo, where players answer trivia questions to earn points for their choice of charity. The game is available now on iPad, and Bozzi took the time to answer questions about Game It Forward and Quingo.
148Apps: How did the whole Game It Forward concept come about? Brandon Bozzi (BB): I had been working in the commercial games industry for over a decade as a designer and producer of all kinds of games – tabletop, social, core, and casual. During that time, I was following the work of people like Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost, and quickly became a believer that games were becoming more than entertainment. That they could have a real, lasting social impact. I came to realize though that most social impact games go unnoticed by the masses and thus have little impact at all. So I started Game It Forward to make games that are fun-first and just so happen to make the world a better place. To that end, Game It Forward’s mission is to use the compelling interactive nature of games to support education, science, health care, and a variety of other charitable causes.
148Apps: Why Quingo as the first title? BB: I held a summit last year that brought together people from impactful non-profits with some of the best game designers in the industry to work together to come up with a world-changing game idea. Quingo was the idea that came out of that collaboration. It was the right scope, it was a unique game, it pulled together two very popular mobile game genres (trivia and bingo), and it could have a significant, sustainable effected on the projects that our charity partners were struggling to achieve.
148Apps: How do you set everything up to where players can compete for charity? BB: The more Hope (points) a player earns in the game the more money Game It Forward donates to their selected charity. Players can see how much Hope they’ve donated total and compete with their friends around who has donated the most Hope to a particular project, and around who has the highest score for a game.
148Apps: How do you balance the game to where a player just jumping in will have an idea on which charity to support? BB: We have six charities for our players to choose from: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Kiva, PAWS, Seattle Children’s, Splash, and The Martinez Foundation. These charities represent a variety of causes: health care, micro-finance, animals, clean water for children, and education. The hope is that almost every player will be able to find a cause that resonates with them. Furthermore, each charity is associated with a specific project with a progress bar, so players can see how close each project is to being funded.
148Apps: The game design has an interesting balance where success early on helps make later questions easier – do you counter-balance this in any way with harder questions early on, or is it all randomly-generated? BB: Good eye. As players get more and more answers correct they see fewer and fewer incorrect answers so it’s easier to find all the correct answers as the game goes on. We like how that feels, and how that lets players accelerate towards getting a Quingo (five correct answers in a row). We don’t put harder questions towards the beginning or end of a game, but we do try to have every question have some easier answers and some more difficult ones so that every player is challenged at their own skill level.
148Apps: How do the in-app purchases help with getting more money to charities? BB:Quingo is free to download, so it’s the money that comes from in-app purchases (and ads) that Game It Forward shares with the players’ selected charities.
148Apps: In testing, do you find that the charity aspect helps keep players more compelled or more willing to spend money? BB: We designed Quingo to be a compelling game on its own – a completely entertaining experience separate from its social impact. That said, yes, we’ve found people are more willing to spend money when they feel confident that it’s helping a cause that they care about. And we hope that the charity aspect will help bring the game to the attention of players that will enjoy it, but may not have noticed it otherwise.
With the release of iOS 7 upon us and a whole plethora of juicy new features for consumers and developers alike to enjoy, we took the time to ask some popular game developers just how they feel about it and what features they’re looking forward to getting more intimate with.
Look and Design of iOS 7
The look of iOS 7 is a huge change for many, which explains why so many pivotal apps are changing their appearance; to make sure it ties into the new style of doing things. How about with games, though? And do game developers appreciate such a significant change?
For the most part, it’s been considered a positive change from those we questioned. Andrew Smith of AppyNation and Spilt Milk Studios explained, “I like it! I’m a fan of refreshes – and although when I first saw the new look I wasn’t completely sold, since using it in studio on the betas it’s won me over.” Stephen Morris of Greenfly Studios reinforced that view, emphasizing that the “redefining of the experience… it certainly feels fresh and more efficient.”
Some apprehension was felt, though. As Richard Brooks of Rodeo Games explained, “a veteran iOS user may find it a little jarring at first,” pointing out that, “the new look will split the room,” from his personal experience of showing it to others. Ben Britten of Tin Man Games felt the same, pointing out that some people will love it and others will, predictably, hate it.
It’s not all plain sailing though, as Martin Linklater of Curly Rocket explained, “to be honest the colours are a little garish for my tastes. Maybe in iOS 8 Apple will tone it down a little. It’s not quite got the subtlety that Apple is known for.” Aaron Fothergill of Strange Flavour felt the same, diplomatically pointing out that he’s “getting used to it.”
Even those who weren’t a fan had to admit that they, for the most part, appreciated the cleaner interface.
More positively, few issues have been encountered thus far. For the majority of the people we asked, covering developers such as Hello Games, Hammer & Chisel, AppyNation, Spilt Milk Studios, Strange Flavour, and Green Fly Studios, hardly any issues were reported. The only few problems that did occur related to third-party tools, although noticeably Ben Britten of Tin Man Games found no issues with Unity3D. There were some early day problems with Rodeo Games’s Warhammer Quest as explained by Richard Brooks, “The devices we were testing with were crashing a lot and it was very difficult to get anything working. Warhammer Quest didn’t work at first due to some bugs in the iOS 7 main libraries, so we just had to sit back and wait. After about 4-6 weeks these were dealt with and are mostly good now.”
It’s a pretty positive sign for developers that iOS 7 should prove quite beneficial in the long run, given the limited issues that have been encountered so far.
Concept art of a possible Apple Controller (via PocketGamer)
Arguably most significant of all for many game developers is the introduction of official controller support. How do they feel about it?
“For us, this is the biggest new feature of iOS 7.” explained Aaron Fothergill, “The fact that they’re a standard is the important bit as we can actually design them into our game with the standard features in mind, so we can do it properly. We’ve already got test code in SlotZ Racer, Any Landing, and Apple Dash and we’re just waiting on controllers being available for us to actually test with and perfect the controls before we release games with them in and then we’ll be considering MFI controller as integral design parts of all our games.”
Simon Renshaw, of PUK fame, has similar thoughts. ” I love that its possible to play iPhone games on the big screen with Apple TV mirroring, latency is an issue though, as is battery life, so I kinda hope we’ll see a controller bundled with a magical iPhone-charging HDMI cable!” Martin Linklater also thinks that the controller could be the “real killer feature,” at least once adopted more frequently.
Hello Games’ Sean Murray explained that “touchscreens are great for lots of games – like, I’m really proud of what we managed to do with the touchscreen design with Joe Danger Touch. There are some games that just benefit from buttons and thumbsticks though, and as a gamer, my thumb just feels comfortable sat on a nice analog button. Having officially supported controllers could be fantastic for broadening gaming on iPhones even further than it is today, bringing in the controller snobs like me! We’re working on making something of all this right now, something that makes use of both touch and controller. We’re throwing ourselves into it completely… I think people will be surprised how well it works.”
Consider us fascinated as to what this will mean for Joe Danger on iOS!
Another possible example of a future controller (via PocketGamer)
Andrew Smith is keen, but as he points out “[it's] hardly going to sell the games to more people. The vast majority of iPhone users and gamers are perfectly happy with good touchscreen interfaces, so we’ll be happy to continue to provide those!” Greenfly Studios feels the same way, with Stephen Morris explaining “our mobile games are currently more focused on the casual consumer but it doesn’t mean we’re not open to exploring the new niche!”.
Richard Brooks also found such support less than essential, pointing out that Rodeo Games’ titles are “designed entirely for mobile and tablet devices with touch screens and implementing controller support would make them worse.” A fair point indeed. Jason Citron expressed similar views, explaining how Hammer & Chisel is “laser focused on building original high-quality games for tablets. A big part of that is taking advantage of the unique interaction a large touch screen affords.”
With so many of the best developers doing a great job of providing touch-based interfaces, is there really a need for controllers after five years of perfecting touch controls? Perhaps not, but it’ll be fascinating to see how things develop.
Revamped Game Center
For the most part, the revamped Game Center has been quite appreciated by those we asked. Andrew Smith puts it well, “it’s really neat!” although does admit, while inventing a new word, that the icon is a little un-game-y. Stephen Morris particularly loves that there’s a way to combat cheaters at last, which means “we can focus on providing consumers fun and realistic challenges.” Like any self-respecting iOS gamer, Sean Murray explained “Seeing insane hacked scores on any game makes me sad. I’m… going to really appreciate the added security for score and achievement data, because it’ll hopefully mean there isn’t so much leaderboard hacking.”
Richard Brooks points out what we’ve all been thinking in terms of old Game Center’s looks, “I’m glad they’ve gotten rid of the horrible green felt style though!” because as Simon Renshaw says while describing the old interface as archaic looking, “what young person recognizes the connection between a black jack table and their favorite shooter?”.
So, it’s a fairly positive change for iOS 7 and some of its finest game developers. Understandably, there’s some apprehension as is always the way with such a significant change, but the future is looking pretty bright. In particular, it’ll be fascinating to see what comes of controller support, as well as the new and extra shiny Game Center.
2K Drive made its appearance on the App Store yesterday at the price of $6.99. I’m always excited when a new racing game releases, especially when it’s from a company that was founded by people who worked on titles like Project Gotham Racing and Blur. So, being excited about 2K Drive and having some hands-on experience from my time at PAX, I had some questions for the guys at Lucid Games.
I would like to thank Lucid’s Peter O’Brien for taking the time to answer my questions. Alright, lets get into the good stuff!
148Apps: Why did you decide to make 2K Drive? What was the “driving” point? Peter O’Brien (PO): A lot of the devs at Lucid either love driving games and/or cars in one way or another. Some restore them, some race RC’s, others collect coffee table books. But in essence, we love the culture of cars and wanted to bring that to a wider audience by expanding the experiences in an authentic driving game.
148Apps: There must be a lot of love for cars and racing in general within your company. 2K Drive features real-life news from racing websites, which includes videos and photo galleries. What made you decide to add this feature? PO: Yes, there is. Some of that love came out of making driving games for years; others can spot the make and year of a car from a shut line or an engine blip. We wanted to bring the news to a wider audience, a new generation, but we also believed it would expand the idea of the app as being more than a game, giving people a reason to stay in it or come back to.
148Apps: How much studying did you do on other mobile racers during the creation of 2K Drive? There are a lot of favorites out there, including arcade racing games and “real racing” games. PO: We never stop studying the competition, and I trust they do the same. But more importantly, we knew what we wanted to do very early on and we believed in the experience we could create. The most exciting thing for us, however, is that all of this is first generation tech. Others are on their third/fourth and we don’t see ourselves playing too much of a catch-up.
148Apps: How well do you think 2K Drive will compete against other racers and why? PO: We hope it will do well because it offers a different package than its competition, and the handling is authentic. It’s something we think competitors have been scared of doing because of the device, but we just saw as a challenge. Our content is diverse, whether players are off-roading, track racing, stunt driving, or drag racing – no one offers what we do in one package.
148Apps: As I mentioned, 2K Drive features the live news feed along with a number of modes and options for customization. These are important things to have, yes, but it all comes down to the gameplay. What will players like most about racing in 2K Drive? PO: The handling model is so deep that players can spend a lot of time experiencing those features with all of our cars and tracks. We’ve made sure to include what we call ‘burst’ modes, like Car Football or Car Bowling, Hot-laps, race & drifting challenges, a stream of unlocks, and solid customization options for the car and driver.
We also built in a unique multiplayer feature called RaceFace (TM). This allows players skin a photo of their own face onto that of the drivers, so that when they are competing against rivals in the seamless multiplayer system, they will be able to see real friends and players behind the wheel of the cars. It’s like your racing “selfie.”
148Apps: What do you feel will keep players coming back to 2K Drive? What’s going to be the obsession? PO: That’s for the players to decide, but the depth of the handling and wide scope of driving experiences, mixed with the rival system and our daily challenges, offer some compelling reasons to build a 2K Drive habit!
148Apps: 2K Drive features more than 100 events, 25 tracks, and 25 cars for players to experience at launch. I’m curious though, how many cars do you have in your version of the game? Give me a hint about future updates! PO: Ha, that would be telling. We have a few things coming very soon and are looking forward to seeing the feedback so we can refine the experience and deal with any problems. So please, do tell us what you do or don’t like in the game!
148Apps: What’s your favorite dashboard item to add to your vehicles in the game? PO: Believe it or not, the traffic lights. It’s a retro thing!
148Apps: What’s your favorite mode in the game? PO: I’ve got two: Survivor and any racing mode. Survivor is great because you set the target, and you get in the zone when you’re racing any type of event, because, well, it’s racing!
148Apps: Do you try to race a clean race or would you rather get dirty and run an opponent off the road? PO: Clean. But rubbing is racing too!
148Apps: Pick one thing that we didn’t discuss that you would like to share with your fans. PO: We had a small and dedicated team who believed in the company from early on. They made sacrifices to be a part of the project and our future, and without them, there would be no 2K Drive – so thank you. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has bought the game already, the fans who are spreading the word, and the players reaching out to help improve it. We’ll see you on the road!
I would like to thank Peter O’Brien once again for taking the time to answer our questions. I wish you and your team the best of luck with 2K Drive and I look forward to seeing more from Lucid in the future! Thank you!
Everyone loves interactive fiction, right? Ok, I might be a little biased due to my huge love of the genre, but I’m certainly not alone there. Plenty of people love the dark world created by H.P. Lovecraft, too, and his work has proved a fantastic inspiration for many great games and other forms of media. One such title that’s set to capture this spirit is The Moaning Words: a game currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign and looking rather promising.
The game is written by Science Fiction author, Alan Dean Foster, and follows a dark investigation across 18 episodes set to be released daily. Players will be able to shape their own adventure through the choices they make. Uniquely, the app will also offer a form of social adventuring with the ability to share one’s story with others as well as invite friends to unlock new content.
Continuing with an original twist on the interactive fiction idea, a card game of sorts will also feature alongside numerous riddles and conundrums. Plus, there’s set to be even more options thanks to the free writing tool that will allow users to create their own story! Not bad, eh?
We talked to co-founder and designer, Manea Castet, to learn more about this ambitious project.
148apps: Did any other books, games, or films influence The Moaning Words, besides H.P Lovecraft? Manea Castet (MC): The design of The Moaning Words was influenced by the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books and popular video games Heavy Rain, Baldur’s Gate, and the Dragon Age series. In fact, our interactive fiction is built around different video games mechanisms. These mechanisms were specifically taken into consideration when writing the alternative [choices] and when designing how players interact with the story.
The first influence of our story is H.P Lovecraft’s body of work. Our app is designed to be a tribute to this well-known author. We believe it will please veteran readers of the “Lovecraftian” stories. It will also be a very good start for people who discover the Cthulhu Mythos for the first time. The story, written by Alan Dean Foster, is contemporary and its events will take place in many countries around the globe.
148apps: Some of the Kickstarter pledge rewards involve gaining a pack of gold to use in game, how will these help in game? Are they crucial to progression? MC: In The Moaning Words, gold is the virtual currency. It can be obtained for free through card games for example. Users will not necessarily have to purchase gold to progress. Every time a user wins a card game, he or she will gain gold.
When people purchase our “Curious” Pack on Kickstarter, we will provide a ‘huge pack of gold’ to start with. Players will then experience the game with more freedom at the beginning. However, anyone can experience the whole story and progress through the 18 episodes without having to purchase anything with actual money. As in many free to play games, the players will have access to premium optional content if [they] decide to purchase it.
148apps: Will it be vital to recruit friends in order to progress, or will it be possible to see everything the game has to offer without? MC: Although recruiting friends will never be vital in order to progress in the game, we think this feature is a lot of fun. Friends will help you shape the story in a different and meaningful way. They have the ability to transform your own adventure. They can also give you information about what happened in their story. You can experience the whole story without inviting any friends.
148apps: How open-ended is the story? How many different endings will it offer? MC: The story has 6 different main endings arcs. However, each arc can and will be modified by the player’s decisions. Each one will be drastically modified by previous choices and by the final decisions. Different characters in the story can disappear or become insane for example. The changes can affect the environment on different scale, grand or small.
148apps: How simple will it be to create your own story? MC: At any time in the app, players can access our writing tool for free. They can either use it directly in the mobile app or on their computer. It is a simpler version of the tool we use. We want it to be as complete as possible. Users will be able to write their fiction, add choices, grant mental sanity points and implement card games in just a few clicks.
No development skills are required to create an interactive fiction; the writer will only need to have a clear idea of the kind of interactive fiction he or she wants to write. Writers can publish their stories directly through the app and will be rewarded if the story is well reviewed by other users.
The Moaning Words sounds like it’s shaping up to be quite an interesting twist on an increasingly popular genre. Keen to be a part of it? Take a look at their Kickstarter campaign for the pledge rewards available.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye on its development. It’s currently set for release later this year.
Nexercise, the app for tracking exercise among friends, has always been about gamifying the workout tracking experience. But for the recent 2.0 revamp, Nexercise has undergone major changes in order to make it more game-like, and to hopefully make its users more effective in getting out and exercising. With multiple rewards systems like Kiip and Pocket Change, President and COO Gregory Coleman hopes that his app can be a smashing success. I spoke with him recently about what his company is trying to do with Nexercise.
148Apps: With the major revamp to the app, what were your goals in changing and improving the experience?
Gregory Coleman (GC): We wanted to make the entire experience easier, more intuitive, and more elegant. We want new users to quickly figure out what to do and how to do it. We felt like some aspects of the old version created some confusion and friction points.
148Apps: Many of the new features resemble the kinds of rewards and tactics that a lot of free-to-play social games use. Was this intentional? And if not, did you do any further research into how they could help you out?
GC: This is intentional. The key to casual games is that they are quick to use, easy to learn, and fun to play. Our goal is to accomplish the same thing with Nexercise and we deliberately tried to tie into the same psychological components.
148Apps: Have you seen actual users taking advantage of the rewards and social features?
GC: Absolutely! According to surveys of our users and our own internal data, those are two of the most popular aspects of the app.
148Apps: How do you ensure that users don’t try to cheat the system?
GC: If a user allows us to use the smartphone sensors to actually track the exercise session, we give them bonus points. This also allows us to do some pattern matching on the backend to validate the activity and reject cheating. As far as self-reporting, it is an honor system. However, our community tends to police itself and is pretty quick to call out cheaters.
148Apps: Do you encourage certain behavior patterns for users?
GC: Yes. Our mechanics are based heavily on the psychology of exercise. We reward behaviors that are scientifically proven to make people more successful in living an active life (exercising first thing in the morning or on Monday for example).
148Apps: What are your plans in the near future for the app?
GC: We’re looking very heavily at integrations with the other tools that our users use. We currently integrate with the RunKeeper app and are evaluating what, if any, other tools we want to connect with.
With the recent release of Sci-Fi themed Endless Runner, RunBot, we took the time to get to know more about its studio, Bravo Games, and what makes the team tick, by asking a few questions of producer, César Ríos Oruña.
148apps: You’ve previously worked on some licensed titles such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and Power Puff Girls Snowboarding, how different is it working on those compared to original titles? César Ríos Oruña (CRO): Working on original IPs definitely has some additional challenges that you don’t face when working on licensed titles.
Let’s use RunBot as an example. When starting development of RunBot, we started with a “white paper”, having to define everything from the bare basics. How does the game look? What’s the game’s theme? How does it feel? You have so many options that you can get lost and spend a lot of time trying to figure where to go next. But don’t get me wrong, despite being a big handicap this is one of the best parts of making video games – we have the freedom to create whatever we want. In a licensed game, the story and background are already there, you just have to adapt it to the game.
For RunBot, from the very beginning, we had a slick futuristic city in mind for the setting and a powerful agile robot for the main character. And this is where another risk pops up: you don’t know 100% if that is going to work. If you are making an example; a Kung Fu Panda game from the movie, you already know that the characters are cool, people like them and everything is perfectly matching, because somebody has already done that job for you.
And then you have the validation process. This is a good news/bad news situation, as with a licensee, you get their help to make the game reflect their existing successful brand. But this can often lead to an iterative process that can delay the development team badly. As an independent, you can stop iterating whenever you want preventing the team from bleeding out, but you don’t have this great help that a third party can give to the team.
With RunBot, we decided for a mixed approach – we provided our IP and game development, and Marvelous Games provided the publishing support and game advice to help make the finished game we have today.
148apps: As you’ve made many different kinds of games, do you guys have a particular favorite genre? CRO: One of the great things of working on mobile platforms is that you can easily jump from genre to genre. Doing this keeps the team motivated and learning something new each day, absolutely indispensable to not getting stagnant creatively.
There are two genres that we are specially comfortable with: Cars/bikes (anything with an engine and wheels) mixed in with whatever game mechanic, and runners. Runners are especially good for mobile devices due to their simple controls and short play sessions. Some say that when you finish a game you just want to rush to another, the further the genre the better, but we are so comfortable with runners that after finishing RunBot we are still working on adding even more cool stuff based on feedback from our users. Adding cool things to a game always feels great!
148apps: Are you able to reveal any information on your future Marvelous Games’s published titles? CRO: The first game created within the Bravo – Marvelous alliance is RunBot, that just hit stores. Right now we are focused on improving it and we plan it to do it for a while. But I can tell you that we are also working on a number of other titles with them and we are extremely happy. Sorry I can’t be any more specific about games or dates, but this alliance is going to bring great titles to stores, I’m pretty sure about that.
148apps: How is GemWars’ (promised to be a ‘mixture between Warcraft and Clash of Clans‘) progress coming along? It looks a really intriguing mix of genres! CRO:GemWars is one of those titles that has become a bit “all-in”. We’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and the concept has been evolving since 2010. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t been working on it full-time since that date, but it has been growing slowly since then until it’s the HUGE game that is right now.
As you can imagine a lot of effort has been put into GemWars. The idea is to take the concepts of city management, exploration, and real-time battles and mix it in a fantasy medieval theme. The amount of content (3 sides, 64 controllable units, 36 buildings, spells, equipment, heroes…) is big and getting bigger; we’re continually adding things. We are still in production, but I can’t provide any estimated release date, but when we do, we’d love to share more info with you.
While I’m busy keeping my fingers crossed for more info about GemWars, RunBot is out now and it’s free to download. Thank you to César Ríos Oruña for taking the time to answer our questions. To learn more about the studio and its past work, check out their website.
Behold Studios, creators of the IGF-nominated Knights of Pen & Paper are in the process of making their second game, Chroma Squad; a turn-based manager game that is heavily-inspired by the “sentai” shows of the 80′s and 90′s – such as Power Rangers. And of course, it will feature plenty of the pixel art that helped to define Knights of Pen & Paper as well.
148Apps: How did the idea of Chroma Squad come about? Saulo Camarotti (SC): After making a project like Knights of Pen & Paper, with a lot of references from our childhood, we thought that we could make a game with a theme that inspired us very much when we were ten. So, after thinking about the sentai team, we realized that we could go meta-language with it, and that came to the idea of managing a sentai TV studio.
148Apps: What are you attempting to do with the gameplay of Chroma Squad that you didn’t do with Knights of Pen & Paper? SC: We want more depth. We know that Knights is a great game, but it’s limited when you try to customize your experience. In Chroma Squad, we want that the player could customize everything in his studio, and make a sentai team of his dreams. So we’re planning in skill trees, items, color and jumpsuits options.
148Apps: Why go with Kickstarter for Chroma Squad? Did the popularity of Knights of Pen & Paper push you in one way or the other with this decision? SC: Yeah sure! We wanted to make a game with the help of the community. With a Kickstarter project we would listen to all feedback and promote a game where the community felt that they belong to it. We want to create a nostalgic experience, and for that, we need all the help. With the previous experience with Knights, we managed to get a lot of posts and reviews in major websites, and this was one the biggest reasons for our project success on Kickstarter.
148Apps: Now that the Kickstarter is a success, do you feel any different pressure in developing this game versus Knights of Pen & Paper? SC: Sure thing. When we did Knights, no one knew that the game was being developed, and no one had great expectations from our team. But now, we need to deliver what they expect us to. We really hope that we don’t frustrate any one =) For us, the game is already awesome!
Why target PC platforms before mobile this time around? SC: We wanted to make a deeper experience, and for that we wanted to use a bigger screen for the game. That’s why we’re just releasing it for PC, Consoles, and Tablets.
Thanks to Saulo for his time. If you’re interested in helping Behold Studios to get Chroma Squad (hopefully out in December of this year) funded, head on over to their Kickstarter page!
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).
An insect’s life is harsh and dangerous. However it can also be quite beautiful, as is evidenced by the upcoming bug-riddled hidden object adventure, Morphopolis. This gorgeous looking story of an aphid grub trying to rescue its friend has been in development since July of last year, and it’s still in early alpha, but things looking really nice already. We were able to talk with Dan Walters and Ceri Williams, the game’s authors, about what to expect when we visit this lovely/brutal world.
148Apps: Morphopolis is certainly gorgeous. Where did you get your visual inspiration from? Dan Walters (DW): The art style emerged over a five week workshop during which we experimented with different techniques alongside developing the game narrative. We aimed for a hand-drawn aesthetic using rich, saturated scenery that suits the genre of game. Intricate line drawings and ink wash techniques had been used previously by Ceri while producing architectural drawings and we wanted to see how they would suit a more organic subject. Ceri Williams (CW): We used macro photographs that we took to build up a catalog of source images and investigate the depth of field effects seen at that scale. The content was drawn from these photographs and was heavily inspired by watching old David Attenborough documentaries on plants and insects.
148Apps: Aside from the “painting come to life” quality of the graphics, what do you think will set Morphopolis apart from other hidden object games? DW: The game is all about metamorphosis. Between each chapter you change through metamorphosis or inhabiting the bodies of larger insects. In each chapter, as you grow in size, the scale of the world you are in shrinks so that more becomes visible.
Taking narrative from the environment, creating places through the division space, and evolving this world as your awareness of scale, mechanics, and inhabitants change. These are concepts we discovered in architecture school, but they can be handled so much more playfully in an illustrated world. CW: The tone of the game aims to strike a balance between the beauty of the close-up natural world with the captivating visceral qualities of the insect kingdom. Familiar, but increasingly alien as you peer closer; we want Morphopolis to appeal to the inquisitive. We are trying to tap into the almost universal experience of being toddler/child and peering closely in the grass or plant pots and seeing a tiny world of insects and plants. This experience is both fascinating and beautiful and also slightly scary and gross which is the balance we are trying to strike with the game.
148Apps: I’m a little afraid to ask, but what do you mean by “a parasitic crusade?” DW: You’re right to be slightly afraid! In Morphopolis you will take the role of an aphid grub and as part of the gameplay you parasitically inhabit larger insects. This metamorphosis allows the narrative and complexity of the world to develop as the game progresses. In each Chapter the new body that you occupy allows you to interact with the world in a new way and gets you closer to achieving your goal of rescuing your companion. CW: There is nothing gratuitous about this metamorphosis as the game is designed to be accessible to all ages but we want to capture that sense of fascination and discovery found in nature documentaries that show the realities of the world.
148Apps: About how many different kinds of bugs do you think will be in the final build? Do you have a particular favorite as far as artistic rendition or just general species goes? CW: There will be about 20 types of creature in the game with the players’ character also changing between each of the chapters. I’m personally a fan of the stag beetle but this is possibly because this piece of artwork has remained almost unchanged from the very first test illustrations. DW: Without revealing too much, some of the bugs in the later chapters are quite amazing. By this point in the game it becomes apparent that perhaps this organic world is not quite as natural as it seems and the bugs begin to reflect this sense that there is a greater intelligence to the Morphopolis world. CW: I’d love it if players chose to keep the game on their screens as a kind of insect vivarium screen-saver. I’m a fan of bugs and insects but I’d like to categorically say that no spiders will feature in Morphopolis!
148Apps: How long do you think it may take the average player to complete Morphopolis? Will there be any incentives for players to jump back in once they’re finished? DW: The time to complete the full game will vary greatly but we expect an average of 5-6 hours with players able to easily dip in and out if they choose. CW: We hope that players will enjoy the experience and not feel that they have to rush through the game. Hidden object sets and puzzles overlap one another in a way that allows the player to progress at their own pace and in the order that their exploration leads them. Because of this we expect that replaying the game will not result in repeating an identical process. DW: There are some features that we are exploring at the moment such as a system of randomizing the positions of certain hidden objects. We don’t feel that this will be necessary given the type of experience we are aiming to get across with the game however.
Thank you very much, Dan and Ceri, for taking the time to talk with us. If Morphopolis sounds like the kind of thing you’d like to play, you can sign up for early Mac/PC access or preorder all versions at once right here on the official website. Otherwise you can wait until later this summer when Micro Macro Games brings the iPad version to the App Store.
Ever had the idea for an app, but felt like the lack of programming and design ability was a bit of a non-starter? Well, 13-year-old Daniel Singer has made an app. He’s the designer of Backdoor, a chat app that lets users chat with their friends anonymously, trying to get clues to guess who they are. It’s available now on the App Store.
This isn’t even Daniel’s first thing that he’s helped to design: he helped create YouTell.com, an anonymous feedback site. He says that helped lead to the creation of Backdoor. “One day during a meeting, I was kind of thinking about how you reply to feedback, and if you reply a lot, that turns into a conversation. And from a conversation, the best platform to do that would be a messenger, and [on] iOS. And that’s kind of how it all started.”
While he has a limited iOS programming background at the moment, he’s more a design person, and he just started mocking up Backdoor after having the idea. “I’m primarily a UI designer, so I immediately kind of hopped into Photoshop and just started messing with that.”
How’d he get started with design in the first place? He says “a few years back” (keep in mind that he’s thirteen, almost fourteen years old) that he “wanted to create a gaming youtube channel, because I was in to it at the time, so you had to like make a website and a channel design and all that, and so I had to learn the skills to do that, and from there I wound up liking the skills more than the actual YouTube page, and I kind of pursued those further, primarily with design.”
In speaking over the phone with Daniel, his youth is apparent, both from the way he speaks like a typical teenager, and in how he describes how he uses Backdoor: “One of my friends played a prank on me, which was quite funny, which was, I was sitting down at a table and they said “look behind you, it’s me” – and it was complete strangers and I looked behind them, and it was funny. I ended up using clues and I kind of guessed that it was someone I knew and not some random stranger. That was fun.”
But also, he has a maturity to his voice – his voice was deep enough that I was a bit skeptical if he was still thirteen, which he technically is – he turns fourteen soon – and of course, what he’s doing is something that people twice his age are trying to do with startups. He also has a youthful optimism toward what is available with technology that he an do with it: “The skills and the resources are pretty widely available and free as well to the most part. To learn programming and design, in 30 days of your Photoshop free trial, you can learn quite a bit, and then if you’re into it and go ahead and get a student plan, which is not that much. It’s really openly available to learn.”
“I tried looking for a teacher, and there really aren’t for design as far as I was able to find, unless you went to art school, but that’s a college, a conventional course. I ended up teaching myself a lot about design.”
And by going out and learning how to do all of this himself, he’s way ahead of even many adults who have the inkling in their head “Maybe I could create an app…” because he just did it.
Recently announced, Trouserheart looks like quite the quirky, DeathSpank-style fantasy action game. Notably, it’s a game that is being published by established Finnish games studio, 10tons and developed by similarly established and Finnish firm, Dicework Games. With our curiosity piqued, I was able to talk to 10tons’s Jaakko Maaniemi about how the union came to be, and just what players should expect when the game is released next month.
148apps: Why is it called Trouserheart? Jaakko Maaniemi (JM): It’s awesome you ask about the name, as we put some serious effort into coming up with it. We wanted to achieve all kinds of things with the name, and we’re very happy with Trouserheart. We wanted the name to be short, preferably one word – Trouserheart is ok in that regard.
We obviously wanted the name to be catchy, memorable and distinct, as there are hundreds of games released every day. As the name was your first question, I believe we succeeded here as well. The name also had to communicate the lighthearted, humorous tone of of the game. Check! Trouserheart is also the name of the game’s hero, King Trouserheart.
Finally, we wanted to [be] associated [with] the fantasy genre. The something-heart is a pretty well known fantasy convention, all the way from King Lionheart and Braveheart to hit games like Battleheart and Kingdom Hearts. Trousers also feature in the game’s storyline, but we’ll talk about that in detail later.
148apps: Will Trouserheart be a story-led game? JM: Trouserheart is not very story driven, apart from the clear setup and rewarding conclusion. The reason is that Trouserheart’s gameplay is very short form. In other words, a single session of Trouserheart is just a couple of intensive minutes. There’s not a whole lot of time, nor point, in cramming a lot of storytelling in there. And we’re concentrating 100% on making the gameplay as great as possible.
148apps: What inspiration led to the game? JM: We wanted to make a game that’s simple, easy to pick up and fun to play. It takes literally about five seconds from the start of each session to be in a fight with monsters, knee deep in your next quest. Seasoned gamers can probably name titles Trouserheart reminds them of, but there’s no single source of inspiration in that regard.
Visually, we wanted to make Trouserheart look instantly familiar, but with a recognizable quirky tone. The kind of blocky look works well with the gameplay. The bright colors and clear shapes also help the game look clear on the smaller screens of mobiles.
148apps: Are you able to discuss any of the features within the game? It looks quite hack n slash style in the screenshots, is that the case? JM:Trouserheart is definitely hack’n slash. In fact, hacking and slashing is basically the only interaction there is in the game, although you do a few kinds of different things with the whackage. We’re especially proud of how well we’ve nailed the virtual controllers. They’re really good. We’ve always been annoyed by how many bad implementations of virtual controllers are out there, and one of the driving factors in creating Trouserheart is that we wanted to do virtual controllers right.
We should also mention that Trouserheart is as relaxed and easy-going as a good hack’n slash game can be. We hope that if Trouserheart is the first hack’n slash game someone plays, they’ll enjoy it.
148apps: What motivated 10tons to go into publishing rather than development? JM: 10tons has been around for ten years now, and so far we’ve published around two dozen titles we’ve developed ourselves – and we’ll definitely keep developing games in the future as well. We’ve released games on most mobile platforms and know our way around different markets so we already had a nice toolset for publishing games. Both Dicework Games and 10tons are located in Tampere, Finland, so we had a chance to see the game very early in development. We immediately liked Trouserheart’s concept, instant accessibility, and style. A bit later it we found ourselves in a position where we could help each other: Dicework needed resources to finish and launch the game to realize its full potential and 10tons was dreaming of an easy-going fun mobile game that would also work with gamepads.
Thanks to Jaakko for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s great to see indie developers working together towards a common goal. We’ll be sure to cover Trouserheart in more depth when it’s released in September.
It can be tough to please a demanding parent. Sometimes it feels like the only way you can truly make them proud is to give them the world – or at least a world. And that’s exactly the kind of problem Captain Bubblenaut is facing. The only way to earn his father’s (Admiral Pop’s) respect is to take over the planet ERF and destroy all the ERFLINGS inhabiting it. Thankfully, Captain Bubblenaut designer and AAA game industry veteran, Dean Tate, has taken time out from his busy ERF-destroying schedule to try and explain all of this craziness to us.
148apps: Where’d the idea for Captain Bubblenaut‘s gameplay come from? Was it a product of the inspiration provided by games like Tiny Wings and Jetpack Joyride, or was it more of an instantaneous “Eureka!” moment? Dean Tate (DT): Originally Owen [Owen Macindoe, doctor of computer science] and I started by asking the question “What sort of skill-based actions are really fun to human beings?” and I think at the time I’d read something about how, evolutionarily, humans have succeeded as a species by being really good at judging parabolic arcs. ie. if you’re a caveman and you’re good at throwing a rock or a spear at a mammoth, you’re gonna go far, baby. For that reason, humans really enjoy judging parabolas, and if you look around, there are many, many games based on that concept that are very successful (eg. the Worms series, Scorched Earth, Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, and so on) as well as pretty much every type of sport ever conceived (football, basketball, golf, and on and on and on). So, weird way to come at the design of a game, right? We basically started with that blank slate, asking ourselves the question “what sort of game can we make about parabolic arcs?” Strangely enough the only game we really looked at closely in the beginning was Wave Race 64, which is all about looking at ocean waves (parabolas, kinda) and being really good at riding them on your jetski. A lot of our early prototypes were about water and waves.
148apps: It looks like you had a lot of fun coming up with all the different ERFLING designs. Was there a limit on how many you could add to the game or did you just run with it and see how far you could go? DT: The only limit was my time and energy. It took around a year of experimentation to land on a set of rules and guidelines that allowed me to quickly create new ERFLINGS. Once I had those down pat, and a huge list of types that I wanted to create, I just aimed to crank out 3 or 4 new ones every week or so, and did so through to now. I probably redesigned each one around 2 or 3 times. We’re shipping with around 90 designs, and I’d love to do another 90 and release them in an update some time.
148apps: Aside from experience, are there any particular insights from working in AAA development that you think might benefit your work as an indie developer? DT: For me it’s just design process. I learned a lot in AAA about design iteration fundamentals, philosophy, etc. How to fail fast and “find the fun”. How to tackle new design challenges. In some ways I think that allows me to work fast, but then I also think a lot of the more talented indies out there who don’t have AAA experience have an advantage in just being scrappier and more focused in their work than I am.
148apps: Between the music by Chris Remo (Thirty Flights of Loving, Gone Home), sound by Danny Baranowsky ( Super Meat Boy, Binding of Isaac, Canabalt), your own design experience (Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Rock Band), and Owen’s programming skills, it sounds like you’ve assembled an amazing team! What’s it like having so many well known (and super-talented) people working together on Captain Bubblenaut? DT: It’s great! It’s part of why I wanted to become indie. I love everyone I’ve met in this community and am thrilled to get to work with some of them, and hope to work with more!
148apps: Do you have any reservations about this being your very first iOS release? DT: Only that the market is very crowded and it’s hard to stand out. From my perspective as a creator and a designer, I feel like my best chance of success is in building something that is high in quality, original, built to take advantage of the unique aspects of the iPhone, and most of all, FUN. For me I think that’s the best way to succeed.
Our thanks to Dean Tate and the rest of the team for all their hard work (past, present, and inevitably future)! Captain Bubblenaut will start exterminating ERFLINGS at the end of this month. If you’d like to help the little guy out, the full game (no IAPs) will only set you back $1.99.
Two things are a constant with dwarves, regardless of the fictions they appear in: they’re incredibly sturdy, and they have a thing for digging. TinkerHouse Games has taken these two concepts and run with them to create Dwarven Delve. Billed as an “action puzzle crawl,” it’s a combination of elements that tasks players with rotating entire sections of dungeon as they attempt to guide a small band of dwarves to the treasures within. It’s a unique and interesting concept we wanted to learn more about. Fortunately, Mark Jessup (Creative Director and Lead Designer for TinkerHouse Games) was on-hand to answer our questions.
148Apps: So what led to the creation of the world’s first action puzzle crawl? Mark Jessup (MJ): I really like pipe puzzle games like Pipe Dream and old-school top-down dungeon crawls. One morning when I was half-awake, the two merged and did a merry jig. When I was finally ambulatory I wrote it down immediately. Lane built the physical prototype in two days and had the first digital prototype a week later. He was a ninja. We were both really fired up about it and hit the ground running.
148Apps: I noticed some of the abilities seem like they’d work really well together (i.e. the Tinkersmith’s Hovermine and the Wayfinder’s Echo Lure). Was it tough to balance? MJ: Thanks for noticing that combo so quickly! It’s one of our favorites and the ideal we’re shooting for with regards to other ability combos down the line. So far, the biggest trick hasn’t been with individual or combo effects, as much as cooldown durations and the frequency of enemy spawning. None of the abilities or their power progressions threaten game balance in themselves, but they should be meaningful moments in the level, not just something you spam. And of course, we have to have a steady but not overwhelming number of enemies to keep you on your toes and make those abilities count.
148Apps: Are there any later skills you think are particularly cool that you wouldn’t mind sharing? MJ: Well, it’s still early in development, so I really shouldn—okay, you talked me into it. Our dwarves’ abilities are augmented over time by rediscovering their history; ancestral relics and lineage. So our Tinkersmith will eventually find a relic from the Age of Automata called the Gloam Mag. It upgrades her hovermines so that they shoot towards enemies in any adjacent hex, threatening a much larger area.
One of the Spellforger’s more powerful relics is called The Oculus of Maddening. It changes his ranged attack into a domination effect, so he can turn a group of enemies into monster-eaters. It’s quite fun.
148Apps: Was it always the plan to have a team of six, or were there originally more/fewer dwarves? And if there were initially more, were there any classes that you regret having to cut out? MJ: Actually, the biggest decision we had to make early on was whether the game would be centered around a small cast of characters or a large group of units that you essentially built into warbands. It was a fundamental design decision, obviously. We decided to go with the small group because the story is a very important part of the game for us, and we thought we could tell a better one with a small cast that you got to know and helped evolve over time. And for the record, we also realized the dwarven unit model would likely be much easier to monetize and more lucrative in the long run. But we didn’t do it because we really thought it wouldn’t let us design the best game experience. There’s nothing wrong with free-to-play in itself, but it wasn’t right for this game.
Fools? Possibly. But fools who love dwarves.
148Apps: I really like the concept behind character “leveling.” Was this Lineage system always the plan or was it something the game grew into over the course of its development? MJ: The lineage leveling system definitely grew out of conversations over time around the office. When we were thinking about the warband approach, finding your ancestors actually unlocked new units, which was cool, and gave the player something more satisfying than just getting a better score. And the idea of a lineage tree showing progress was a visual concept we really wanted to keep. So when we went towards the character approach we realized we could still keep that concept. Each dwarf is a member of a clan that extends back into the dark of history. Discovering the forebears and accomplishments of their clan makes their own abilities increase.
Our thanks to Mark Jessup for his time, and to the entire team at TinkerHouse Games for working on the first ever action puzzle crawler. Assuming everything goes according to plan with Dwarven Delve‘s Kickstarter funding it should be breaking ground on your iPad (sorry, iPhone owners) in December for $4.99. It’s apparently going to be a big month for dwarves.
Ever wanted to start up a tech firm? Got an idea that seems stupidly awesome and original? Or just fancy running a business, warts and all? There’s a fairly safe and inexpensive way of experiencing that life coming to iOS later this year. That title is Hipster CEO, a game which challenges players to “take an idea from their dorm room to Wall Street, Zuckerberg-style”. We had a word with Dublin-based developer, Ger Kelly, on his vision for the game and just how it came to be.
Ger (left) and his business advisory team.
148apps: Where did the idea for Hipster CEO come from? Ger Kelly (GK): Well firstly I have a huge passion for tech startups – I love reading about the causes behind startups’ success and failure, exciting new technologies, marketing techniques, stuff like that. Whenever I tell someone I work in a startup they always say that they’d love the opportunity to do just that. I wanted to give people a taste of what running a startup company is like – fun but difficult. It isn’t all air hockey tables and free beer but when it works, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Secondly, I was a video game addict as a kid – particularly sports/business simulations like Championship Manager and Theme Park. I always felt games like that were different in the sense that you were especially proud of what you did – like bringing some low-tier football team all the way to the Cup Final – you always wanted to tell your friends. Even now one of my fondest teenage memories is winning a league title with my favorite football team – which probably says a lot about my adolescence! I felt that there was room for a tech startup simulator in the same vein.
The name came about when a friend called me a total hipster because I guess I can be a little snobby about my musical taste at times. I had a few other ideas for a title but people really reacted really well to Hipster CEO so I went with it.
148apps: The idea of the game seems pretty lighthearted, will that continue throughout the game? GK: The Hipster element of the game is simply a veneer, the game will create the experience of building a tech startup as closely as possible. I think the Hipster shtick appeals to a lot of people in a fun way and I want people to have fun playing this game. However, the gameplay will be firmly rooted in reality so there won’t be any “wacky” investment offers tabled or disgruntled developers setting fire to their desks. On second thoughts I might include that last one!
Stuff like the Social Network movie and TV shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank makes every man and his dog feel like they could grow a startup company into a huge success but, as anyone who has ever built a startup will know, it’s a lot of hard work. There are so many things you need to get right to build a winning product: quality development, creative marketing, and of course sales. It might sound crazy but so many tech startups out there have no sales strategy starting off – Hipster CEO will encourage players to start making revenue from day one.
Players will need to get the right balance of these three in order to succeed, all the while keeping their staff happy, handling investors, and dealing with the media. That sure seems like a lot but trust me that’s what a startup CEO has to deal with on a day-to-day basis!
I hope my app puts a smile of the face of those who play it because they feel rewarded not just because of some jibe at hipsters.
Where the magic happens – part of the Project 51 group – a creative collective in Dublin
148apps: Will the game solely be quite text focused, or will there be more game-style graphics too? GK: I really wanted to have a basic graphics pane which displayed your character, your employees, your office and stuff like that but it’s just not feasible for the first version. Like being able to see your little team graduate from your parent’s basement to some swanky, playground-esque office would be awesome. I have some design skills but nothing on the level that would be required for proper animation so I’ve had to shelve that idea for now. It will probably be one of the first things addressed if the game takes off.
I think Championship Manager showed that you can just have words and numbers on the screen and still create a totally immersive experience.
148apps: Will it be a one-off payment game, or will there be in-app purchases involved?
There will be a one-off payment and the option to get additional investment via in-app purchases. I want to stress, however, that you don’t need to make any in-app purchases after getting the app in order to build a great startup – it’s merely there as an option. I’d actually prefer if players declined the option to take investment completely and slowly but surely built a solid company but I know there’s people out there who will just want to get to a certain level as fast as possible.
148apps: Is there a way of completing Hipster CEO? Or is it more open ended than that? GK: It’s open ended. Each character in the game (including you as CEO) has certain stats that will grow and shrink based on their performance. If your company goes broke you’ll have the option to build another startup with the skill set you’ve developed. Most entrepreneurs fail with their first few startups so it may take players a few different cracks of the whip before they really hit the big time. It’s totally possible of course that they have a huge success of things and start getting acquisition offers to decide upon.
There will be an online leaderboard of all the players worldwide so you can see how you measure up as a CEO in the game. I’ve a lot of long term ideas for the game too – like inviting the top players around the world to become virtual venture capitalists in later versions of the game which other people can pitch to.
Sounding a pretty intriguing idea, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Hipster CEO‘s progress. Further information is also available at the game’s site. It’s hopefully set for release in October. Thanks to Ger for taking the time to answer our questions!
The semi-futuristic story of Greg’s search for his missing girlfriend Chloe has been a long time coming, but after two years in the making Lost Echo is finally on its way to the App Store. Soon players will be able to lead Greg through a number of different 3D environments as he tries to figure out where Chloe disappeared to, and why no one else seems to think she ever existed. We asked Nick Konstantoglou and Vagelis Antonopoulos of KickBack Studios to tell us a little bit more about their long-running (and intriguing) project.
148Apps: Lost Echo looks quite striking. What were some of your inspirations for its visual style? Nick Konstantoglou and Vagelis Antonopoulos (NK/VA): Thank you! We have a background in Architectural Visualization, so we knew we would put emphasis on lighting. That’s central to the style. We might have broken some kind of record for the amount of time we spent baking and tweaking lightmaps for an iOS game. We also researched a lot of modern architecture. For example the park (which is featured a lot in the trailer) is partly inspired by the HighLine park in New York. We went through quite a few iterations until we recognized the elements that fit the world we imagined. We wanted a world that looked slightly futuristic but realistic enough that it’s believable. There are also some shapes that are repeated throughout the game for story reasons (although it’s quite subtle).
148Apps: I also noticed that Lost Echo is supposed to work with older iOS devices, going all the way back to the iPhone 3GS. How in the heck did you manage that? NK/VA: We started making the game 2 years ago. Supporting 3GS back then was normal and expected. But since this is our first game, we failed where all new developers fail. Planning! This was supposed to be a smaller project, but we started adding features and then it became something more ambitious. All rookie mistakes, we know how to plan things better now. Although since we didn’t give up and actually finished the game it was probably a good thing! So we kept the 3gs support in. We added a bit more to the graphics later on as time went by and we considered dropping the support for older devices at some point, but then we found that keeping it wasn’t that hard. After we had written the shaders to perform within our expectation and with some self control with the polycounts, getting it to run nicely on older devices was not that hard. Unity being a great engine helps as well.
148Apps: Were there any particular point-and-click games or series that you were keeping in mind while you were developing Lost Echo? NK/VA: Well, not really. We love all the classics, for example Monkey Island. They are parts of our childhood and they are great games. They also have some elements that are very outdated now. But there is some of that old-school adventure spirit in our game. More recently we played a lot of Phoenix Wright. We can’t say we kept it in mind during development, but we did note how the dialogue presentation was great for smaller screens, very readable, and the variable text speeds gave it a lot of character.
148Apps: Should players expect traditional, item-centric puzzles (i.e. Monkey Island) or more self-contained head scratchers (i.e. Myst)? Possibly some sort of combination of the two? NK/VA: A combination. There are item puzzles, dialogue based puzzles, and self contained puzzles/minigames. We wanted variation in our game and there are slight shifts in style throughout the game, to keep things interesting.
148Apps: Is Lost Echo going to be a self-contained adventure or were you thinking of adding episodes/chapters later on? NK/VA: We are… not sure. There is definitely room for more stories, but the story arc that starts with this game, ends with this game. You have to understand, this is our first game and we didn’t (well, still don’t) know what kind of reception we would get, so we didn’t want to plan to make, say, 3 episodes/games and then be unable to make more than one. It’s also a pretty big game, much larger than the average episodic game and it took us a long time to develop. We’ll say this though, we would love to add a bit more to this game. We do have a small story that serves as a prequel to the game that we would love to add it to the game. But to be able to do that it will mean that the game will sell “well enough”.
We really appreciate Nick and Vagelis taking the time to answer our questions, and we’re looking forward to figuring out what happened to Chloe ourselves. Adventure game fans and lovers of psychological thrillers can check out Lost Echo when it’s released later this month for $2.99
Dive For Treasures was quite the delight when we reviewed it earlier this month, so we decided to find out more about its developer, Eccentricity Games, and the team’s plans for the future.
Who is Eccentricity Games?
Founded in 2010, the team is made up of a handful of industry veterans who came from a number of Poland’s major game development companies. With the help of a producer, Hubert Bibrowski, based in Canada, the team has steadily grown ever since.
What’s next on the horizon?
Over to Hubert Bibrowski to explain more here: “Right now we’re just coming out of launch mode. Dive for Treasures made the AppStore’s New and Noteworthy list in the U.S. marketplace so we are very excited. The feedback was great, we’re so happy to hear the game is well received as it was a bit of a gamble. There aren’t many games like this out there. Right now we are busy working on an update to the game. The main feedback we received was that people wish the game were longer so I’m happy to announce we will be updating the game with more levels soon. It goes without saying that these updates are going to be distributed free of charge to all existing customers. We’d like to send a big THANK YOU to all the game’s fans.”
Hubert also explained that there are more titles to come from the developer, too, with the first set to be presented in August. As he put it, “It is going to be a big one too…I’d say it is the biggest and most polished game in the history of our studio,” although he’s not yet able to reveal all. We’ll be sure to press him for more information when the time comes!
Anything else I should know about the developers?
All too happy to help, Hubert answered a few of our questions.
148apps: What was the inspiration behind Dive for Treasures? Hubert: Not sure…Maybe this thing I drive by every day?
Seriously though, we wanted to make a game focused on exploration, with a unique twist. We didn’t want to make another “runner” game, we wanted something fresh. When the submarine idea came up, we knew we had something that was fun and challenging in a new way. Sometimes, I think we gamers forget how nice it is to play something relaxing. We all agreed that there wasn’t enough of these types of games in the marketplace so we went ahead and made one.
148apps: You’ve tackled some very varied titles. Is there a particular genre that the team prefer to work on? Hubert: We like all sorts of games. Working on smaller projects, as opposed to large AAA titles, gives us room to experiment, explore and take risks. We always make the games that we ourselves would like to play instead of focusing on the flavor of the week that happens to be top on the app store. We really like tower defense games – I have a feeling one of our next titles will fall into that category.
Yawnie – encouraging kids to sleep.
148apps: What are the team’s favorite apps or games? Hubert: We like so many games that no one here can agree on just one title. We play our fair share of Starcraft, Gran Turismo and Left 4 Dead and of course we play a lot of mobile games: Sailboat Championship, Tiny Wings, King of Opera and Bike Baron are some of the office favorites.
Where can I find out more about Eccentricity Games?
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the new title set to be released in August, but there are plenty of other sources to learn more. There’s the Eccentricity Games website, Twitter account and Facebook page.
Thanks to Hubert and the rest of the team for taking the time to answer our questions. Dive for Treasures is out now, priced at $1.99.
Rubicon have kept their ears open and made a number of changes to Combat Monsters based on the feedback received from fans. The new update provides users with a revamped user interface, a new skeleton monster, asynchronous multiplayer, and new matchmaking that keeps the multiplayer battles fair with no need to pay to win.