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At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, fans got the chance to meet and mingle with several of the artists behind Magic Pixel Games and Namco Bandai’s upcoming card battler, Outcast Odyssey. Considering many of these artists have worked on comics in the past it seemed appropriate, and it was also the first time they got to meet each other. We spoke with two of the artists, Warren Louw and Chuck Pires, about their careers, their work on the game, and how posting your drawings on the internet can lead to bigger and better things.
148Apps: How did you begin your careers as artists?
Warren Louw: I’m pretty much just a blend between East and West. My style is a combination of Western comic artists like J. Scott Campbell, Michael Turner, and Adam Hughes crossed with some of the artists from the Far East like Tetsuya Nomura’s work on Final Fantasy VII and VIII. and Takuji Kawano who did the art for Soulcalibur. In South Africa, I got to the point where I started developing a style that was being recognized globally. Eventually I was being contacted by the bigger companies out there and started getting my work published. Things just grew and grew from there.
Chuck Pires: Around 14 or 15 I got started mostly doing comic colors. There was a studio called Hi-Fi design that did work for Marvel at the time. They were looking for comic colorists to put some stuff online and at the time all I wanted in the world was to be published so I responded. It was all just separation work, basic colors and layout, anybody could do it. But for a 15 or 16-year-old kid it was my dream come true. That got me more interested in digital art.
It looks like the lovelorn Rakoo is finally going to catch a break. Rakoo's Adventure has just been updated with a whole new Valentine's Day world, and chances are good the poor little guy is finally going to catch up with Rakoonette.
The update also includes an enhanced pet system, new achievements, more hats, brings the total level count up to 64, and has gone free. Yup, you can now download Rakoo's Adventures for free. Get to it, lovebirds!
Since the App Store launch in 2008, Namco and now Namco Bandai Games has published over 100 apps. The company was there at launch with Ms. Pac-Man (and Pac-Man) and continues to be there today with both favorite franchises and new properties. We took a few moments to speak with Alex Adjadj, the Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America, Inc.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way Namco Bandai does business?
Alex Adjadj, Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc.: The video games industry is currently going through challenges on different fronts. Hardware transition on the console side. Exponential user and device fragmentation as well as standardization of development tools and fast growing marketing costs on the mobile side. It's exciting, challenging and requires more attention to planning and execution.
The App Store has accelerated and accentuated these challenges. When it comes to a major publisher with thousands of employees, it's always a bigger challenge because of the scale involved. But Namco Bandai Games knows mobile well, and has started doing mobile games with Apple back to the early days of the iPod Click Wheel (remember PAC-MAN?). It's been great to have had their support to improve the quality and market relevance of our creations along those years.
148Apps: If you have one single success within Namco you'd like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?
Alex Adjadj: We've had highs and lows. As I said, for a bigger publisher it's just a question of more time, more planning, more investment, more internal communication. But there's one thing that only a very few other publishers have today, it's market knowledge and capacity to increase product development and segmentation without compromising on quality. In 2008, we were all about cost-conscious developments, with most of our releases being good ports, but also not taking full advantage of the iOS platform and hardware at the time. Fast forward 2013, we've got universal games that play well on iPad and iPhone, that are visually extraordinary thanks to Retina Display, that are fun to play with friends on Game Center, and that offer great value for money for gamers willing to pay or play for free.
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence the path of Namco Bandai five years ago, what would you say?
Alex Adjadj: Actually I personally did contribute back in the summer of 2009 by further evangelizing in Europe and the US teams about the benefits of bringing dedicated products rather than ports to App Store. It changed a lot of perceptions back then, especially since we were still strongly driven by our feature phone business in overseas (i.e. Non-Japan) territories.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of Namco Bandai, that has surprised you most?
Alex Adjadj: It's been a challenging, but a logical and relentless organic evolution. Apple has changed the world of digital content distribution and mobile gaming by annihilating barriers to entry, cutting a lot of (often, but not always, useless and costly) middle 'men.' By imposing its own standards, it has accelerated the growth of a young mobile video games industry, it has made it possible for the unveiling of incredibly successful and clever small production houses, and changed the perception of mobile gaming with the masses. My biggest surprises are the very little opposition Apple have faced from pre-existing market entrants, the incredible success it went through and the time it took for their competitors to come up with relevant hardware and retail ecosystems.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Alex Adjadj: Personally, I can perceive further device fragmentation in the iOS hardware line - very similar to what's going on with Android right now. Device fragmentation will increase differences in usage and accordingly product & genre segmentation, a bit like what the iPad has done in terms of 'console quality gaming for mobile.' Following smartphone penetration growth in emerging markets, I also see further challenges to properly address consumers around the world, in terms of UX, billing, the relevance of content offering and the risk, already present, of content saturation and chart stagnation. I see 3 ways where this might go: first Apple might need to customize their App Store UI a bit differently per region, so that non-local publishers still get a chance to, at least, show their best content in new markets, without occurring prohibitive production costs. The second route must be to introduce more flexible billing routes so that all users can pay for content the way it fits their spending culture. The third, though unlikely given Apple's necessary but very tight control on its ecosystem, would be to allow the 'best' publishers to get more control of how their content offering is tailored to end users.
Alex Adjadj wishes to add the following disclaimer: Mr. Adjadj speaks of his personal experience and opinions, and while being a full time employee of Namco Bandai Games America Inc., Namco Networks America Inc. and Namco Bandai Networks Europe since 2006, this article isn't meant to be read as general consensus across other divisions of Bandai Namco Holdings. Alex is currently Director of Strategic Development, Mobile Sales and Marketing at Namco Bandai Games America Inc., San Jose, California.
Thanks to Alex Adjadj for his time.
If you like aerial combat, you probably already have Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy. If so, then you'll be able to grab the update today, which brings up to four player multiplayer to the AirPlay option for split screen goodness on the big TV in your living room. The game also has 12 new levels, putting you up against new drones, carriers, and UFOs. How cool is that?
Namco Bandai is putting their action shooter game on sale for a limited time. Grab it now and save two bucks. Our reviewer liked it, so you might, too!
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy sets a new standard for mobile gaming, taking full advantage of the iPhone 5’s 4-inch retina display for a full widescreen gaming experience, while the faster A6 chip also allows for faster, better and even more thrilling combat engagements than ever before. Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, which made its debut during Apple’s March keynote for the new iPad, immerses players in a variety of console-quality, detailed environments, complete with weather effects and an advanced particle system. Flying a variety of modern advanced aircraft, players will lose themselves in the aerial action as bullets hit their plane, rain blurs their windshield, and the sound of chaos surrounds them. Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy features six single player game modes, including an extensive 10 mission campaign.
A couple of weeks back Namco Bandai released a game on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by the name of Inversion. While the game never really received a huge amount of press, the crux of the title was that the player had the ability to shift, or in this case invert, gravity, in order to manipulate the environment and gain an advantage over enemies.
Around the same time, The Inversion Project shot its way onto iOS. This free-to-play facsimile of the console game's universe was primarily aimed to increase the public's awareness of the full release. On top of that, this third person shooter acts to help gamers familiarize themselves with some of the core mechanic of the world. Check out this gameplay video to get a better idea of what is in store.
For a completely free title, it looks like there are at least some innovative gameplay ideas at work. For that price, you can afford to roll the dice and check it out. Let us know what you think of it in the comments.
One of three non-Apple apps, and the only game, showcased at the unveiling of the 3rd generation iPad, NAMCO BANDAI’s Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy impresses hard-core and more casual gamers with incredible console-quality graphics and intense aerial action. Last week the first update was rolled out, packed with goodies for fans and reasons to entice new players to pick up this sleek air combat title.
We raved about the multiplayer options when we first reviewed Air Supremacy and now it’s been expanded to 10 online players up from eight. There are also three new playable planes and 17 new achievements. There are head-to-head matches against friends via Game Center and a rematch option for online multiplayer games. If one owns an earlier title in the franchise, Sky Gamblers: Rise of Glory, one new aircraft is unlocked with this update, along with some minor enhancements and bug fixes.
The game has been wowing users and critics alike, not only with console-like visuals but with amazing gameplay and lots of small touches that make this one of the most immersive experiences on iPhone or iPad. If one’s looking to the future of iOS gaming it's definitely the time to take Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy for a test flight.