GDC 2013: Hands-On With DeNA and Ben Cousins' Mobile FPS, The Drowning

Posted by Carter Dotson on March 29th, 2013

First-person shooters truly built and optimized for mobile are few and far between. Ben Cousins of Shattered  Entertainment wants to change that with his team's new DeNA-published game, The Drowning.

The Drowning is built from the ground up for mobile devices. This is thanks in part to the game's two minute play session structure; players will always have two minutes to take down as many enemies as possible, with the goal being to score as many points as possible. Thus, getting into Frenzy mode becomes important: getting headshots and melee kills is the way to enter this double-points mode, and keeping up the pace is the way to stay in it. Getting lots of points ensures that more scanvgeable items can be found randomly, these items being used as parts for new weapons and vehicles for traveling through the world. The game does have a main story thread running through it, that players can follow as they progress through.

The controls have been the much-ballyhooed part of the game, and in my playtime, I found that they were easy to pick up on. Swiping looks around, but tapping with two fingers fires, with the actual shot going between the two fingers. Thus, the game allows for enough accuracy to let players fire where they want, but still have challenge for headshots and the like. Tapping on the screen moves to that location, and players can execute a rapid 180 turn by tapping on the bottom of the screen, and can quickly turn to attacking enemies by tapping on the red damage indicators on the side. Finally, those things are really useful!

The game will be free-to-play, and the monetization strategies inclue an energy mechanic for traveling to different levels, the ability to get additional scavenge opportunities, and special weapons that can be bought, though these will be broken when acquired, like most of the game's weapons; the parts to fix them still need to be found. Ben Cousins pointed out that the game will always be about the gameplay - it's possible to get new weapons and additional scavenge items, but getting to use them is always about playing the game itself.

How well the title will work long-term and how intrusive the monetization will feel will still require some extended playtime, but for now, The Drowning shows a lot of promise toward changing the mobile FPS. The game is nearly done and will be submitted soon.

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