Fieldrunners was a first for iOS. Not the first tower defense game, but the first with amazing animation and variety in game play to really draw players in. Released in October, 2008, just three months after the App Store launch, it quickly gained a following.
It took a while, but the follow up, Fieldrunners 2 was released in 2012 and grossed over $1M in the first five weeks it was available. We talk with Jamie Gotch about the App Store, Subatomic Studios, and more.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed your professional life?
Jamie Gotch, CEO & Co-founder at Subatomic Studios: The App Store has made a significant impact on the game industry and the way in which game makers approach development. Prior to the launch of the App Store, it was very hard for a game developer to make a living creating a game that didn’t follow a particular formula, as publishers were generally not interested in distributing unproven game ideas. The App Store changed all of that by removing most of these strict requirements.
148Apps: Fieldrunners really took the App Store by storm when it first came out. Did the response surprise you?
Jamie Gotch: Definitely! We never expected such an overwhelmingly positive response! When we first set out to build Fieldrunners, we had some very ambitious goals, all of which focused on building a high-quality tower defense experience. But some things like gameplay are very difficult to quantify before you getting the game into the players’ hands. Thankfully, all of our hard work paid off and the players really enjoyed what we built! And after launch, it was the fans that helped to keep the game alive. They inspired us to continue to build new content and to grow the game into what it is today!
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 your path five years ago, what would you say?
Jamie Gotch: If I could go back five years, I would tell myself to throw out all assumptions of what I as a hardcore gamer and a traditional developer think a game is, and to really think hard into what a mobile user really would want in a game. In the past few years developing mobile games, I have learned that the majority of mobile gamers want games that they can play in small bursts of time, are asynchronous so they can play with others but only when they find the time to do so, and have little to no learning curve.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?
Jamie Gotch: I am surprised by the number of people that would rather pay to win a game than play through the game as the designers had intended. Many people, more than I would ever have imagined, just want to experience everything the game has to offer but not invest the time required to do so.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Jamie Gotch: As the number of apps available for users to choose from nears 1 million, app discovery is becoming even more difficult. Eventually, however, the number of apps will begin to exceed even the best methods of discovery, forcing developers to build higher quality products in order to stand out and compete with the rest of the market. The saturation of the market will make it more difficult for indie developers to enter, and the market will shift more towards a traditional publishing model that is seen in PC and console development today.
Fieldrunners 2 is celebrating the fourth of July with a price drop; now only $0.99! In our review, Jennifer Allen said, “Fieldrunners 2 is a fine example of just how much fun can be garnered from an iOS device. Offering many hours of fun for a mere $3 is an utter bargain and Fieldrunners 2 truly deserves its title of the new king of tower defense.”
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on October 24th, 2012 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Subatomic Studios has just pushed out the update to Fieldrunners 2 on the iPAd, and should have the iPhone update out super soon as well. In addition to the Boom-kin tower there to the right, the developer has also added the ever-popular iCloud sync, so saves can transfer between the iPad and iPhone versions with ease. The in-app purchase option will also be iPhone/iPod touch update.
New features include:
– The super cool, all new explosive BOOM-kin Tower so you can
celebrate Halloween with a bang!
– iCloud support so that you can transfer saves between iPad and
– IAP (iPhone and iPod Touch only)
– Bug fixes for: reduced loading times, fixed crashes, game save issues have been fixed, achievement unlocks have been fixed, item issues have been fixed
Fieldrunners 2 is getting in-app purchases, according to a blog post from the game’s developer, Subatomic Studios. Such a thing should not be notable in 2012, as in-app purchases have become the norm. But there’s two reasons why this is a story: one, Fieldrunners 2 launched without IAP at first at all, a rarity considering that the game had a virtual currency in place for buying in-game upgrades already. Second, the reason why they did it reveals something interesting about people’s expectations of App Store games.
This isn’t necessarily a case of Subatomic Studios not having made a lot of money so far, because according to its own numbers, the game has made over $1 million so far. That’s more than Jetpack Joyride made in its first few months, for comparison, though before it went free-to-play. Considering the long amount of time between entries of the Fieldrunners series and the game’s high production values, it’s likely that there would be a high cost to make the game, though the original Fieldrunners has had the benefit of being on many platforms to help bring in revenue over that time as well.
Fieldrunners 2 also had the benefit of launching at a “premium” app price on iOS: $2.99 for the iPhone version, and $7.99 for the iPad version, neither of which is universal. The iPad version doesn’t have the IAP yet; I reached out to Alec Shobin, marketing and PR manager at Subatomic, who explained that “It will probably come to the iPad version later. We wanted to launch it on one platform at time in order to work out any kinks, since this is pretty new to us.”
Now, there is an interesting reason given by Subatomic as to why the studio would go ahead and reverse course on IAP: people actually wanted it. The general trend among the ‘core’ gamer community is that in-app purchases are bad for consumers and potentially exploitative. If Subatomic is to be believed, however, there were people actually wanting the ability to buy more in-app currency. Shobin reasons that “they appreciate and almost expect that feature, especially in an iOS game.”
This kind of behavior has become standard procedure, and even premium games are conditioning players to expect in-app purchases, which is likely due to the oft-copied Infinity Blade series’ decision to include them. The difference is in that Fieldrunners 2 is doing something more akin to the original Infinity Blade, adding them in post-hoc, rather than integrating them as part of the initial product as with Infinity Blade 2.
But does Subatomic Studios feel like it may come off as feeling greedy due to adding IAP to a game that already came with a ‘premium’ price? “Yes, this is absolutely a concern,” said Shobin, “but there isn’t really much we can do about it. People asked for a way to buy coins with money. We’re running a business, so it would be foolish for us to turn them down when we can meet their needs without doing anything else to change a game that our existing community loves so much. If people want us to keep making games – if we want to keep making games that we love – we need to recoup our development costs AND earn enough to begin our next game(s).”
While there’s definitely a steady contingent of people complaining already about the change, the choice for Subatomic Studios seems easy in the context of whether they should listen to the people that want them to not have IAP, versus those that want them to shut up and take their money. It just shows how much consumable IAP has become a part of the iOS gaming market that now even the feature’s exclusion is cause for complaint from users. It’s a problem that developers want to have – the demand from people to give the developers more money to keep playing their game.
In case you didn’t know, one of our favorite tower defense games, Fieldrunners 2, comes out for the iPad today. In our ecstasy at being able to fight off wave after wave of cartoon army men and their worldly weapons of war, we decided it would be a good time to talk to the Subatomic Studios guys about the process of bringing this game to the “big” screen.
148Apps: Fieldrunners came out on iPhone, then was put on iPad – what did you learn from that process that helped you with the current upscale?
While we had initially hoped for a simultaneous launch, there are some advantages to launching the iPad after the iPhone. The iPad users are getting a more polished experience out of the gate. There have been two balance passes on the iPhone Fieldrunners 2 since launch, and the iPad is starting with both of them. The extra time has allowed us to add new features that players asked for, and really use the space available to the iPad.
It also let us focus on the iPhone experience on that launch, making that as high-quality as possible. When it came down to it, we wanted to put as much polish as possible into the game.
148Apps: Why didn’t Fieldrunners 2 come out as a Universal app? Was this a business decision, a technical one, both, or something completely different?
Basically, we wanted phone users to be able to download the game over the air, without compromising on visual quality on the iPad. Without getting too deeply into technical details, if your app is larger than 50 MB phone users need to connect to WiFi to download it… They can’t just download it over 3G. The iPhone build of Fieldrunners 2 is 49 MB. Due to the super high resolution artwork needed for the giant retina display of the iPad 3, the iPad build is ten times that size. It clocks in closer to a massive 500 MB.
Hopefully we’ve hit the right compromise of broad availability for iPhone users, while still providing the massive resolution that iPad 3 users will appreciate. In addition to that, staggering our launches for different platforms allows us to focus on eliminating as many bugs on each platform at a time. Launching for multiple platforms at once could result in both versions being much buggier than when launched individually.
This was certainly not an easy decision!
148Apps: What were the challenges in taking FR2 to the larger screen? The successes?
The massive size of the iPad retina artwork took a tremendous push to create. Some of the artwork was created in iPhone resolution, and had to be rebuilt from scratch. But even if things like the map files were created in Super HD, they still needed to be cut up into layers again and restructured. I can’t express how nice things look on iPad Retina, but I completely understand why not all developers are supporting it yet.
And the iPad has changed significantly over its lifetime. The iPad 1 had the lower resolution screen and very little RAM. The iPad 2 had more memory, but the same screen. The iPad 3 has a super high resolution screen and a good amount of memory. To make things look and play as well as possible, we actually have 3 separate display pipelines depending on which of the three iPads the user has. That’s crazy.
While we’re on the subject of Artwork, we put a lot of details into every piece we make. The iPad’s larger screen really gives the artwork the space to breathe. And this isn’t just about showing larger pictures: the bigger screen is more precise for touches, allowing us to make UI elements smaller and closer to the edge of the screen. We can really get the interface out of the way, to focus the player on what is happening on the field.
Another nice thing about the iPad was that once we decided to push past the 50 MB limit, we were free to use as much hard drive space as we needed. This let us put in features like the Fieldguide, a compendium of all knowledge about enemies, towers, and items. We added 5 new towers. And for serious fans, we have 1.4 hours of director’s commentary included in the build. The iPad director’s commentary alone takes up as much space as the entire Fieldrunners 2 iPhone build.
148Apps: Best story about the process of iPhone to iPad? Any salacious or “oh sh*t” moments?
There isn’t much that I can share at the moment. But–Subatomic Studios had a central server where all of the artwork was stored. At one point during development, we managed to destroy that server, causing catastrophic failure. That was also when we discovered that the backups had been failing. We spent a solid few days scrambling through desktops, file transfer logs, and anywhere else we could to find those files. Thankfully, we were able to reconstruct what we had. But we had to learn this one the hard way: eat your vegetables and make sure your offsite backups are working.
148Apps: Where will we see FR2 next? PSN? Android? Ouya?
We’re still deciding which platforms make the most sense for Fieldrunners 2, and a lot of that comes down to what the community asks for. Send your platform requests to @Fieldrunners on twitter, or drop by our forums at Fieldrunners.com!
Those tower defense wizards at Subatomic studios have delivered the first big update to Fieldrunners 2. In our review of Fieldrunners 2 we loved it. Even gave it an Editor’s Choice.
Some of the updates include a new map (Flash Fire), better Game Center leaderboard support, and a great way to earn extra coins by posting your scores to Twitter or Facebook (max 1 per 24 hours). More friendly idea that needing to buy coins via in app purchase.
Take a look below for the full list of updates and keep an eye on our Twitter feed as we have 5 copies of the game to give away next week.
• Beat those hard levels with an easier Casual mode!
• Amazing new time trial map – Flash Fire!
• Conquer the leaderboards with Game Center!
• Faster levels fit your on-the-go lifestyle!
• Finally beat Scrambled Eggs on Hard!
• Can you spot the changes in Bizarre Bazaar?
• Get coins for sharing scores on Twitter!
• Glorious music is now bug free!
• Enable low-fi mode to fix crashes!
• Save your progress when exiting maps!
• Push notifications that won’t annoy you!
• Tackle the challenging Endless mode!
• General bug fixes and more!
The original Fieldrunners (and iPad version) was one of the first real “wow” games on the iPhone. A game that was everything the new gaming platform needed, fun, amazingly well done, and made you want to play just one more round. Since it’s release nearly four years ago, it has been a staple in best of lists yearly.
It was pretty surprising that after all this time we got word that Subatomic Studios was releasing a sequel. Fieldrunners 2 will be out this June on iPhone/iPod touch and follow on the iPad shortly after. And wow, does it look good. We don’t have much yet, but take a look at this shot.
What we do know is that it has more of everything. More creeps, more levels, more towers. Really looking forward to this one. Hope to get a hands on for you during E3. Stay tuned.
Hit the jump for a few more screenshots and full press release from this highly anticipated sequel.
FIELDRUNNERS 2 INVADES iPHONES THIS JUNE Subatomic Studios announces sequel to classic tower defense game
CAMBRIDGE, MA – MAY 22, 2012 – SUBATOMIC STUDIOS is pleased to announce Fieldrunners 2 for iOS! The massive sequel to the award winning tower defense game, Fieldrunners, will launch on the iPhone at the end of June, with an iPad version available shortly afterwards (pricing tbd). With more levels, more weapons, more enemies, and more ways to play, Fieldrunners 2 packs tons of gameplay into the ultimate tower defense experience.
Fieldrunners 2 features over 20 beautifully hand-painted levels spanning four distinct zones. From the grassy fields, to the scenic cities, and even the secret volcano base, Fieldrunners 2 has it all! Defending each unique map requires a new strategy, and the players are armed with more than 20 upgradeable towers and customizable loadouts to take on that challenge. The limbo-of-death Link tower, the sniper-like Railgun tower, and the we-probably-shouldn’t-be-giving-this-to-people Nuke tower join dozens of others for powerful all-new defensive capabilities. In addition to basic survival and newly revamped time trial maps, mind-bending puzzle maps and innovative sudden death maps have joined the fray. Adding devastating air strikes and precision-based power up attacks to the mix means the fieldrunners don’t stand a chance! Or do they?
In Fieldrunners 2, over 30 different types of enemies rush the field like never before! Moving like a swarm of locusts, each fieldrunner plans their own route through your deadly maze of towers. Change your strategy and the enemies immediately adapt their paths for the optimal attack. Wrapping around obstacles in massive waves, charging over bridges and under tunnels, inside trenches and over open fields, pummeling your defenses from as many routes as possible is all part of the fieldrunners’ plans.
Do you have what it takes to stop the fieldrunners? If you do, you just might discover their secret origins…
About Subatomic Studios
Subatomic Studios, based in Cambridge, MA, is an award-winning independent developer of video games for handheld and mobile devices. Fieldrunners, the studio’s flagship game, combines gorgeous artwork with fine-tuned tower defense gameplay, allowing Subatomic Studios to captivate mobile gamers everywhere with a truly unique entertainment experience. Fieldrunners was first released for the iPhone and iPod Touch, followed by versions for the iPad, the PSP, the Nintendo DSi, BlackBerry, Android, Chrome Web Store, Roku, Gametree TV, and more!
Another hotly anticipated update for the tower defense game Fieldrunners has been released. This update to the favorite tower defense game brings integration with the OpenFeint social gaming network and long with it achievements, challenges, and competition against friends on OpenFeint. In addition there are two new maps, each with new towers and fieldrunners available for in app purchase.
Each of the new maps, Skyway and Frostbite are available for $0.99 via in-app purchase. Here’s a quick video of the Skyway map in action:
And another video preview of the Frostbite level.
Unfortunately reviewers are not being kind to Subatomic for this update. While the update itself provides some great features for free including the OpenFeint integration, the maps requiring purchase has upset the I want it free mentality of the average App Store gamer. At the time of the writing, There were as many 1 star reviews as 5 star reviews for Fieldrunners version 1.3. Compare that to the total ratings for all versions for the app which had 12x as many 5 star reviews as 1 star reviews.
Fieldrunners is still $2.99 and a great bargain for a fantastic tower defense game. And both new maps are highly recommended if you are a Fieldrunners lover.