When the game-making legend Sid Meier brought his talents to iOS with Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, we knew we needed to have a chat with the man. We recently caught up with Mr. Meier over e-mail. Read on for the goods.
Slide To Play: You obviously have a keen interest in the first World War and its dog fights. Can you tell us a bit more about how and why you were inspired to make Ace Patrol?
Sid Meier: World War I is a very interesting time for air combat. Everything was new and being invented in the middle of the war. There is this tremendous variety in terms of aircraft and their capabilities, which is is great subject matter for a designer! The aircraft are colorful, almost cartoonish in their appearance and aces basically advertised who they were. And most importantly, almost everyone has some understanding of what it was like, even if it’s just Snoopy versus the Red Baron.
STP: You’re the king of strategy games and your expertise extends across different genres, but did you encounter any special difficulties when working out the airborne gameplay formula for Ace Patrol?
Meier: No, the process of developing for mobile is essentially the same as developing for PC or consoles. You’re focused on finding what’s most fun for your players and creating more of those kinds of experiences.
STP: Speaking of special challenges, did you find it difficult to build a game from the ground up on iOS? For instance, is developing a tap-based control scheme a major change from making a game that utilizes a mouse’s traditional point-and-click?
Meier: I’m lucky in that I work with some very talented engineers who helped translate my game code into something that worked with the hardware, and talented UI designers who helped us solve some of the interface issues. There’s a lot in common between a touch interface and mouse clicks. There are some additional strengths with touch, and it was fun to take advantage of that, too.
STP: Many iOS developers have a difficult time balancing the free-to-play formula so that it doesn’t become “pay to win.” What steps did you take to ensure that Ace Patrol’s in-app purchases are fair?
Meier: Ace Patrol has more of a “try the demo, buy the game” flavor to its purchases. There are three kinds of purchases within the game. The campaigns are the bulk of the game content, and allow you to access all the missions and aircraft of a given nation. There are ace aircraft and their skins, which you can apply to your fighters and give them a special ability. Finally, there are entirely optional ways to help return out-of-action pilots to your squadron, but if you don’t want to use these, then you’re free to ignore them.
STP: Do you foresee more iOS game development in the future? Will you use the platform to delve into other genres, perhaps something a little more action-oriented?
Meier: I’m enjoying the small team and hands-on design that came with the development of Ace Patrol, and if I have an opportunity to continue that, it’ll be great. I feel like turn-based strategy is a great fit for the mobile gaming style, and that’s what our studio is best-known for, so it makes sense to take advantage of those strengths for one more turn on tablet, mobile or anywhere you want to just pick up and play.