It's time for part two of my interview with Kate Connally, Vice President of AddictingGames. This time we chat about things like the development team that's porting the games to the iPhone and what challenges they might run into. I also find out their stance on developing original content and iPhone only sequels to Flash originals. Plus, I conclude this week's segment with a look at another one of AddictingGames' iPhone launch titles: World Wars. Without further ado, here's the interview...
Me: Is there a dedicated iPhone development team, or are human resources shared between the different platforms?
KC: We have a dedicated iPhone team that works hand-in-hand with the online team. While these teams have their own focus, these two groups are always talking to each other, feeding ideas and developer relationships across the platforms. We believe very strongly in the power of the cross-platform promotions, and tight coordination between the teams is important.
Me: Assuming a dedicated team, how big is the iPhone development team?
KC: We have a team of three full-time dedicated -- covering product management, merchandising and game developer relations and production, and then access other services from the existing AddictingGames and Nickelodeon teams.
We are not actually producing any games in-house, but instead are working, just as we do online, with teams of developers worldwide. Just as we do for online games, we have a "Submit your iPhone game" http://www.addictinggames.com/aboutus/iphone.html link on the AddictingGames website, where developers can submit their game for consideration to us. The dedicated team mans this submission queue as well as doing proactive developer relations.
Me: What are the biggest hurdles the developers face when porting from the web to the iPhone?
KC: Quality and differentiation. Clearly, every developer should always be focused on quality -- "is this game fun?" Is it easy to learn, but difficult to master? Does it make you laugh? Does it make you keep coming back for more? These are the questions we ask ourselves to determine is the iPhone game is high quality.
As the space gets more and more popular for developers, differentiation will become more and more important. It will become more and more difficult for individual games to rise above the din of all the new games that are released on the iPhone on a daily basis. The AddictingGames brand, its strong association amongst the teen-age community and its tenet of bite-sized fun will help to differentiate games on the iNetwork from others published individually.
Me: Will AddictingGames develop original content for the iPhone as well, or will their library consist strictly of ports from the web based collection of games?
KC: We are absolutely considering original content for the iPhone. Supporting original ideas from developers on new platforms is an important part of what we do. It just so happens that because we have so much exposure via the AddictingGames website that games with a strong Flash version will have significant marketing boost. To take advantage of this, in some cases, we may choose to develop a game on the iPhone and create a Flash version to promote it as well. This is an important part of our cross-platform strategy.
Me: If a particular web based IP "takes off" on the iPhone, is it possible that gamers will see sequels to that IP that are exclusive to the iPhone?
KC: Sure. If a game is "taking off" on the iPhone we want to be sure to sustain that momentum. Sequels are important way to do that.
The final part of this interview will be coming next week.
Mini-Review: World Wars
If you’ve ever wanted to take over the world (or at least the small part of it that appears on your tactical map), now’s your chance with World Wars from AddictingGames. This falls under the category of “Risk lite”, which I believe has been around for some time but was made particularly famous with the Flash game Dice Wars. This is a decent if not rather basic implementation of the game, but much like iPark It (the game I review in part one of this interview) I don’t know that there’s enough here to make World Wars stand above the crowd.
The game starts out with you picking which army you want to use and the number of people that will be playing. There is no explanation of what the different armies are, so I’m assuming there are different armies simply for looks and not for functionality. You can select anywhere from 2 to 8 players, though only one can be human. For the computer players there are no AI settings. Once you’ve set your options you click play to begin. The game randomly generates a map for you, but you can regenerate the map until you get one that you like. Then the battle begins.
Each opponent has a certain number of territories to start with, and your goal is to be the last general standing. To fight you click on any territory of yours that has two or more troops on it and then click on an adjoining territory that’s not yours. Your attacking strength is one less than then number of troops on your attacking territory, and each team gets to roll one die for each troop in battle. The larger sum of the die rolls wins, with tie going to the defender. If the attacker wins then all attacking troops move to the new territory, leaving one troop behind on the old territory. At the end of each player’s attack round they get new troops equivalent to the number of territories in the largest group of territories they own. These troops are randomly distributed throughout all of the player’s territories. The winner is the player who ends up with all of the territories.
I’ll admit that even the basic mechanics as laid out here can be fun for a time. However, when you compare this to classic iPhone titles like Strategery, the game suddenly loses its spark. Some computer AI levels would be nice. The ability to specify where to place troops – or at least to designate that troops should go to border territories only – would be awesome. As it stands right now the routine for placing additional troops is too random and almost seems to favor territories that aren’t bordering your opponents, which often puts them in the category of “too little too late”. Victory conditions besides “conquer the map” would not only be awesome, but would actually be a change of pace from what this type of game normally offers. I realize that these games are coming 90% as ports from their Flash brethren, but since users will now have to pay for them I think they’re going to expect a bit more from them.
Visually the game holds up pretty well. The soldiers, tanks and planes look good, and the battle window is pretty slick. One thing I did notice, however, is that the face of each die that lands up when the roll is complete does not add up to the actual sum of the dice rolled. It’s a minor thing, but obviously noticeable if I noticed it. The sound effects are pretty basic but fit the board game style presentation of World Wars, and the music is all right, but seems to be a very short track that’s continually looped. At least the in-game music handles it pretty well, but the music during the menus has a terrible transition between the end and beginning of the loop.
Overall World Wars is fun for what it is: a fairly straightforward port of a decent Flash game. I just feel that there are better games of this type already in the App Store, and I think World Wars is going to have trouble finding its place among them.
App Store Link
Next Mini-Review: 50 States