Trip Hawkins: iPhone gives mobile biz ‘permission to innovate’

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Trip Hawkins, one of the video games industry’s true elder statesmen (he has a spot in the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, alongside Shigeru Miyamoto, Yu Suzuki, Will Wright, and Sid Meier), is known in part for his keen historical insights on the business of gaming. Most of his fame, however, is down to that little publisher he founded a quarter-century ago called Electronic Arts, as well as his tenure at Apple Computer and 3DO. (more…)

Developer Q&A: Jamie Gotch, Subatomic Games

We recently asked Jamie Gotch, one of the principals at Subatomic Games, some questions about his company and its first game, Fieldrunners. Here’s what he had to say. Thanks Jamie!

1) What’s your background in terms of game design? Is Fieldrunners the first game you (and/or Subatomic) have made?

Our team shares a strong passion and love for games. Although this is the first title that the Subatomic Studios team has released, we are made up of several industry professionals with many years of experience. We strongly believe that as game designers, we make the games that we would love to play ourselves. We trust that by giving our best and enjoying the process, others will also enjoy the games that we make.

2) Fieldrunners has a pretty unique look. What’s the artistic inspiration for the game? How about the gameplay inspiration?

We wanted to make a game with a broad appeal, both in terms of artistic direction and gameplay. For the look, we wanted to have stylized, iconic forms and strong, varied silhouettes so it could be easily recognized at a glance. We felt that this was very important for an action-based strategy game viewed from a bird’s eye view on a handheld device. Additionally, we wanted to have something that people can relate to by incorporating a slight military touch, but we also wanted to keep the style unique enough so that it could stand alone on its own merits. For that, we looked at World War I and World War II uniforms for the units, and some futuristic Art Deco influence for the towers. We also wanted the towers to appear more threatening than the units, to emphasize the amount of power lying in the player’s hands.

To further set the two sides apart, we wanted a clear icon that would represent the enemy’s faction. We decided that a target symbol best suits this need as it is very iconic, reads well from afar, and conveys the underlying goal of the game.

As far as gameplay inspiration, we looked everywhere for it. We are still being inspired by traditional Tower Defense games, and we are all huge fans of RTS games. Our ultimate goal was to make something easy-to-learn, but hard-to-master. Beating a map on the hard difficulty level does not instantly mean you have mastered that map. The game rewards efficiency by giving a higher score to those players that build the most efficient maze with as little tower sales as possible.

We have some aces up our sleeves, and we believe that there’s still quite a lot of fun to be had with the coming updates. We trust that if we work hard to create something we love to play and have tons of fun with, so will everyone else!

3) What’s your favorite game on the iPhone right now (other than yours)?

Aurora Feint: The Beginning.

4) Are you working on any new projects you’d like to discuss?

Although there are many interesting prospects we are considering for the future, currently all of our time is being devoted to bringing new content and features to Fieldrunners. Our goal is to make Fieldrunners truly shine!

Developer Q&A: Austin Meyer on X-Plane 9

We’ve been covering the launch of X-Plane 9 since it made its surprise debut on the App Store late last week.

X-Plane 9 is the first flight simulator for the iPhone/iPod Touch, bringing a degree of realism not yet seen in other games for the platform. We’ve been fans of the desktop version of X-Plane for years, and had some questions for Austin Meyer, the chief developer at Laminar Research, the company behind X-Plane.

Slide to Play: You’ve been making X-Plane on the desktop for a long time. What has it been like to move from that environment onto the iPhone platform?

Austin Meyer: Fun as heck! For the desktop sim, there are many thousands of lines of code and hundreds (thousands?) of image files from me, Ben, and Sergio. [STP Note: The other lead developers/artists at Laminar Reaseach] It is very difficult to make major changes to the simulator without re-writing LOTS of code to make the major changes possible, and without risking breaking something in the sim. As well, many customers get used to things working a certain way, and whenever you CHANGE things, many people just assume that the NEW way of doing this must be WRONG. This makes it a little difficult, sometimes, to get things changed in the sim. None of this is a factor with the iPhone, which is a clean-sheet design.

Between the thousands of lines of code, and thousands of customers, it is about impossible to get anything big done.

None of that is a factor with the iphone.

At the moment, the program is more of a simulation than a game’”just like X-Plane on the desktop. Do you plan to change that with future updates?

No, not at all. We will add a few features to the iphone version (map, for example, and maybe an instrument panel) but it will not get ‘game-y’.

Do you plan to let users bring aircraft of their own design, or back-catalog planes, over from the desktop version?

Nah’¦ It is not so easy to import stuff into the iphone. I can not see it being customized.

What is the simulation accuracy of the iPhone version like in comparison to the desktop version?

Within 5% or so. I managed to get ~95% of the accuracy of the big sim over the iphone without busting system requirements.

More generally, what future plans do you have for expanding the application?

You will know what I am doing next when I post an email to the newsgroup claiming what can NOT be done!