Republique's Ryan Payton: iOS Gamers Deserve Better
Former Halo 4 creative director doesn't like virtual analog sticks, and hopes to transform iPad into a haven for hardcore players.
It takes guts to leave what some would call a sure thing and step into potentially hazardous waters, which is exactly what former Halo 4 Creative Director Ryan Payton did the moment he exited Microsoft Game Studios and 343 Industries in September 2011 to found Camouflaj, a development studio that just revealed Republique, a mysterious adventure game for Apple's iPad. While gorgeous and potentially game changing, there's no guarantee this title will succeed in a highly competitive iOS market that's dominated by more casual-friendly fare. What's more, numerous PC and console players refuse to acknowledge tablets as hardcore gaming devices, largely because of the lack of physical buttons and analog sticks.
To his credit, Payton is aware of this perception and seeks to change it, ditching the uncomfortable virtual sticks for a more immersive touch control scheme that, when merged with an engrossing narrative, may finally earn iPad the respect some feel it rightfully deserves.
Before that happens, there's the Republique Kickstarter campaign that began last week. Payton requested $500,000 to fund this ambitious project, and thus far, supporters have donated over $70,000 with 25 days to go. With this in mind, we tracked down Ryan to talk not just Kickstarter, but his thoughts on what it'll take to deliver a core experience on a platform normally associated with Draw Something and Words With Friends.
You mentioned that everyone you show the game to loves it, but questions whether there's a market on mobile for "core" experiences. Where did this perception come from? Haven't they seen Chaos Rings and Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD? Is everyone that obsessed with Angry Birds?
You are right that there are "core" games out there for iOS, and some of them are really good. I just don't think a lot of executives have had enough exposure to them. Until one of these games does Infinity Blade numbers, the people with all the money won't be taking risks on deeper, story-driven iOS games.
To that end, what's it going to take to convince mobile game opponents, hardcore players who dismiss iPhone/iPad as gaming devices, to take these platforms seriously?
Great games. One of the most fun things about this Kickstarter campaign has been communicating with the public and reading all the discussions going on. A few times a day, somebody will write in and tell me about their debates with an "iOS hater." My response to that has been consistent: I totally understand the frustrations some gamers have with iOS as a gaming platform. Gamers are watching many of their favorite studios shift from making console games to quick, cheap games for social and mobile. As a consumer, the platform doesn't have games for players like me who count BioShock, Halo and Metal Gear as some of their favorite games. But as a developer, I feel driven to help bring more serious games to the platform, specifically designed and written for the platform. I'm taking the Field of Dreams philosophy: build it and they will come.
Republique looks incredible. What technology are you using to push these visuals on iOS?
Thank you. The team has worked really hard pushing great visuals onto iOS. We're on Unity 3.5.
How important was it to create controls designed to work with the iPad's strengths? What do you think of virtual analog sticks in general?
I refuse to play anything on iOS with a virtual analog stick. I hate it. Gamers deserve better than that. This is why we developed a control scheme for Republique that speaks to the strengths of touch devices.
The Kickstarter campaign has more than 20 days to go, so it's still very early, but what do you think of the response so far?
The response to the game has been incredible. So much outpouring of positive energy from the community. I think we're off to a fine start, but we've got a lot of work to do to reach our goal. It's going to be a fun campaign.
That said, what happens if you don't meet the $500,000 goal? How would not reaching it impact you personally?
Honestly, the response to the game has been so overwhelmingly positive that we're not going to let anything get in my way to make the game. Missing our Kickstarter goal will definitely have ramifications, but we are fighters. We will find a way.
You have some impressive games on your resume. MGS4, Halo 4...now we see that Peter Molyneux left Lionhead to join 22Cans. Why did you choose to start your own company, and do your foresee other game designers doing the same?
We're living in a fascinating time where the barriers of technology and distribution have been lowered to the point where folks like me can quit big companies and strike it out on our own. I think the most encouraging thing about this movement is that so many of us are going solo not to make a quick buck, but to pursue really creative projects.
We see loose similarities between Republique and Konami's old PS2 adventure, Lifeline. How will this game expand on that concept?
I actually didn't play Lifeline because I didn't want to be influenced by it. Maybe once Republique is complete I'll check it out. It got a perfect score in Famitsu, I hear.
[Editor's Note: Lifeline, known as Operator's Side in Japan, received a 37/40 from Famitsu according to this site.]