Great Big War Game Interview With Rubicon Mobile's Paul Johnson
With two days to go before release, we chat with the developer about cross-platform play, prepping the game for Android and plans for future updates.
Few mobile strategy games come close to matching the quality of Rubicon Mobile's Great Little War Game. Released for iOS and Android in 2011, this Advance Wars-inspired effort drew plenty of attention for its head-scratching play, as users attempted to outwit the red army while at the same time protecting their general.
Now, a little more than a year later, we have the sequel. Great Big War Game appears to retain everything that made its predecessor so enjoyable, then ups the ante with a plethora of new features, the biggest of which, cross-platform multiplayer, will link iOS and Android users. That, of course, is but one thing that has us excited for this promising title, so we caught up with Rubicon Mobile's Paul Johnson to discuss the studio's short and long-term plans.
Some feel Great Little War Game is the closest thing to Advance Wars there is on the App Store and Android Marketplace. Is this accurate? When you first designed Great Little War Game, was Advance Wars a big inspiration?
I guess it's accurate enough, sure. There have been a lot of good releases in the turn-based strategy genre lately, but ours does look the most similar on first glance, and that's a niche we're happy to keep hold of. When you get down to it, almost all the details are different and I hope largely better. There's certainly more content in Great Big War Game and more humor for sure.
iOS and Android users can play against each other in Great Big War Game. How difficult was this to achieve?
It's not just those. We have versions planned or coming out in the near future for Kindle Fire, Nook, possibly Playbook and BB10, Surface and Win 8 phones, PS Vita and of course, PC and Mac desktop. And they can all play each other.
The actual code to support this wasn't as horrific as you might imagine. We just needed to make our own server to give us a common interface for all those versions to hook up to. As for implementation in the end user apps, again, it's all common code, so it just works.
The icky bit has been designing all the boring things you don't really notice as a player, such as handling map pack updates where some people have maps you don't, version updates if we add new game features, etc. That was difficult to work out, but we got there in the end.
Building off that previous question, what are you most proud of with Great Big War Game?
This is going to sound really cheesy, but the honest answer is all of it. The headline feature for this game is clearly the asynchronous multiplayer, but there's far more than that packed in here.
For instance, our single player campaign has 50 varied missions providing at least 40 hours of gameplay. I think that stacks up well against pretty much anything anywhere, certainly for three dollars.
We've also added destroyable buildings, which has given the AI an attack objective to go on the offensive, rather than just reacting to the player as in the previous game. This makes skirmish a lot more fun.
We've also balanced units so the gameplay in all modes is much more engaging than the original game. With the addition of splash damage to some units, players really have to plan each individual move to get the most from their turn.
The list really goes on and on. I hope you can tell we're bursting at the seams with pride at our creation, and I really, really hope that players feel that in our work.
What's it like planning a simultaneous release for iOS and Android? A lot of developers back off doing this.
Yeah, Android often gets treated like that annoying cousin you hope never shows up at the family holiday party. Android is not without its problems, but for serious developers who want to earn a living making mobile games, you can't ignore a major slice of the market just because the platform is a bit more challenging.
We've had great success on Android, and nearly a year after release we're still making worthwhile returns there, with lots of happy customers. If other developers want to ignore that, then great, more for us.
You chose to charge for Great Little War Game on Android. Did this work out, or was there an overwhelming amount of piracy?
It seems to have worked out just fine. Android phones are inherently hackable, so the pirates of this world may naturally gravitate to them. However, your average Android user is as honest as the rest of us, and more than willing to part with some cash in return for a good quality game.
How do you plan to update Great Big War Game after release? What can players expect?
We have a lot of plans to continue supporting Great Big War Game after launch. We don't believe in just shipping a game and moving on, as I hope our existing customers have already noticed.
Concrete stuff we're already discussing:
1.) More maps. Our players always want more maps. We are planning to give a bunch of free maps for skirmish and multiplayer, along with some that unlocked via in-app-purchase. We intend to keep filling the IAP packs over time so they go up in value and become even more attractive. We don't intend to add more IAP map packs, just to expand those that already exist, so players can buy with confidence if they choose to do so.
2.) We're looking at adding various official multiplayer leagues and competitions.
3.) More units, more gameplay features, whatever our players ask for the most. We like to keep it open and just ask our players what they want instead of just guessing.
Have you kept up with news of the OUYA console? What are the chances of seeing Great Big War Game on the platform?
I have mixed feelings about this one. The OUYA seems like a great idea and I wish them well, but at the end of the day all consoles sell based on their game catalogue.
Android games are usually designed to work on a touch screen only, so there will be relatively few that "just work" right away on the platform. This will need to be handled very carefully by their team to ensure game work.
In terms of getting Great Big War Game on the OUYA, we would be happy to talk with them about that, but the lack of a tap and drag interface might end up making the game a bit awkward and hard to play. OUYA seems like it would be better suited for shoot-em-up games, driving games, etc.