Tower Defence is a crowded genre with lots of tough games to go up against, why were you drawn to it?
I grew up playing a broad selection of games, my favourite genres were first person shooters and strategy games. A couple of years ago, my friend introduced me to Geo Defence on iOS when I got my first iPhone. I immediately loved the mechanic, and hey, it had guns in it! Soon enough I was playing all the Tower Defence games I could get my hands on, Fieldrunners, Plants VS Zombies and Tower Madness being some of my favourites.
I’ve also had a lot of experience with FPS games, out of 5 levels I designed for Unreal Tournament 2003-4, 3 made it into top played all time, I also founded a MOD Team making a survival horror FPS game using the Cryengine, though I ended up working for Crytek on Crysis 2 in Frankfurt, then on their games trailer back in the UK.
Its a pure love for gameplay mechanics found in Tower Defence and Strategy games. What were the challenges of doing a game with two control methods on touchscreen? Most Tower Defence games naturally work well on touch-screens, we just had to add a neat button right next to your aiming thumb to allow you to quickly access the Commando’s firepower. Throughout development, the controls were refined and improved, some touch-screen games use position locked D-Pads to control aiming / movement. We found the problem with this being there was no tactile feedback from the touchscreen to know where the D-Pad was located, so it took more getting used to than games where the D-Pad would automatically relocate to under your thumb, so we opted for the latter, with the ability to also adjust aim sensitivity in the options during the game.
The art style of Commando Jack is very distinctive - why did you go in this direction?
Well, I am sure the Art Director would have had more to say on this than me, but in my eyes, the cartoony art style of Commando Jack allowed us to get away with as much violence as possible, without putting anyone’s noses out of joint!
The tutorial in the game is really thorough and takes users step-by-step through the game - how important are these to games, especially mobile games?
A tutorial is very important, too much info could discourage gamers and too little could lead them to frustration. Unfortunately for mobile games, as they are so cheap for the customer, they don’t mind uninstalling the game after using it for 5 minutes, so its extremely important to get it right first time on mobile games.
We started off by having a simple tutorial that just displayed bare minimum information, by means of speech bubbles, to get the player started, to having a full length, in-depth interactive tutorial, We soon realised our tutorial had grown too large, and in order to shorten it down, we removed sections of the tutorial that could be explained during gameplay with hints like flashing arrows or lights and kept only essential information and needed information about our unique elements of our FPS/TD title, as these are where our game differs with the rest.
Often games like Commando Jack start out great with a one line concept - ‘Tower defence meets FPS’ - for example, but then descend into little more than tech demos - how did you assure that the game remained fun and compelling?
Ultimately, Commando Jack is about gameplay, it came about by taking existing great franchised shooter and strategy titles and picking out unique, fun and popular elements, and putting them all together in a strategy game for the iPhone. Once the one line concept, “Tower Defence meets FPS” was alive and well in the game, I was able to evaluate how these two game mechanics worked together, and I felt it brought a refreshing feel along with it, allowing the player to actually get into the action, where its happening - on the battlefield, which is simply not possible in other 2D Tower Defence games. I’ve been an avid first person shooter and tower defence fan and really enjoy having them together in one game. It makes sense, you spend time placing towers, which shoot automatically, why not add the ability to shoot yourself? Its fun to watch an unsuspecting enemy walk right into your trap and shoot them if they don’t.
From a business point of view going to someone like Chillingo rather than self-publish is a huge decision. What, for you, did you think the publisher brought to the table?
Chillingo has been invaluable to Colossal Games, no matter how big you company is, more hands on deck is a great benefit, especially when its Chillingo, who have published more titles than most people have ever played on their phones! From development to marketing, QA to top level business direction decisions, Chillingo have helped quality assure, produce, direct, advise and of course market the game, not only that, they are a joy and honour to work with.
Where next for Commando Jack - do you have any ideas for updates or even sequels?
I’m glad you’ve asked! We have enormous content updates that are going to be ready very, very soon! Just to provide you with a window into whats on its way (please note these numbers are estimates at this stage):
- 16 new enemies!
- 2 new game modes!
- 14 new weapons!
- 40-60 new levels!
- 204 new level configurations!
with more to come thereafter!