MasterAbbott recently sat down with Brian Howard, President of InMotion Software the creators of Catacombs for the Apple iPhone / iPod Touch a dual analog action/rpg style game modelled after the classic Gauntlet. Brian discusses in fine detail the all there is to know about this fantastic title and a few extra pieces of valuable information about InMotion Software and the challenges of creating entertaining and productive titles.
Enjoy the interview :
Question 1 – Tell us a little bit about InMotion Software. How were they created, the origin behind the name InMotion Software, when was it first established, and how many employees does it have today.
InMotion Software (IMS) was incorporated in August of 2008, but it really began with my curiosity about the whole osx and iPhone ecosystem back in February of 2008. At the time Apple had not made public any official plans for what we now know as the App Store, but with the jailbroken community being so active, I knew it was only a matter of time, so I began to delve into Apple’s development platform and I came up with the concept for our first App, PocketDyno (an accelerometer based dynamometer app that measures and reports drag racing statistics), that released in September of 2008. In the nearly two years since, we have grown to 10 employees.
Question 2 – What do you believe have been your greatest challenges designing games for the mobile phone market ? Especially games for the iPhone/iTouch.
The challenge is to consistently deliver great entertainment with high production value at a low cost.
Here’s what you’re up against as a developer: Every day 680+ new apps are released (there’s some junk in there to be sure, but increasingly there’s great stuff too). Now here’s the rub; the average game price is $1.36. It gets even tougher. 80% of the money is made in the top 100, probably 60% + in the top 25 alone. So, there’s great concentration of income in a very few titles.
Realistically, unless you are a big-name studio, you have to plan on making your money in the top 200 to 300. And this brings me full circle, back to my first statement: just build great stuff, do it fast, and keep costs low – every single time.
Question 3 – What do you believe is the main reason why the InMotion Software games are such a success ?
We invest in our tools and our people. Each time out we get better at doing what we do. For example, we can now develop a game in 6 to 7 weeks that just one year ago would have taken 5 months.
Question 4 – For people that don’t know anything about, Catacombs. How would you describe the game to them and the meaning behind the games name.
Catacombs is an arcade style, fantasy hack & slash game – pure and simple. A lot of users describe it as reminiscent of Gauntlet, minus the multiplayer.
It’s easy to pickup and play, has superb controls, very fluid animation, and great graphics. There are 24 levels to play (plus another 24 if you’re willing to pay an additional $0.99). If easy isn’t your style, the game can be played in “no-mercy survival mode.”
Question 5 – What extra features/modes/ etc did you add to make Catacombs stand out in the crowd of other RPG style games that are out in the market at the moment.
Just a small correction – it is not really a full RPG game, although it does have some very light-RPG elements. We wanted to emphasize a more arcade feel with the game. It’s supposed to be more pick-up-and-play than your typical RPG.
I think what makes Catacombs stand out is really its fast paced action, silky smooth feel, and excellent controls.
Question 6 – How long was the development cycle for Catacombs. Could you briefly explain the start to finish phases: storyboading, concept art etc
After finishing up our 4 month crunch with “I Dig It Expeditions”, we wanted to do something light that we could do in a reasonable amount of time. Catacombs really started as a weekend project and grew from there.
The lead developer spent 7 weeks, while the other team members spent 5 weeks. We are working on an update right now based on initial user feedback that will really make the game standout. We expect this to take add about 2 weeks to the development cycle.
We do a brainstorm session with the team, after that the designer wrote-up the collective results, but adds a lot of details. The artist goes to work laying out concept art, the programmers go to work on the tech, and the designer starts working with our level design tool to build the world that will be the game. From here on out we just work tightly as a team – with a lot of back and forth between the team members.
We always try to get a “demo” working fast, usually in a few days, playing it often to make sure it is fun, then layer in the final elements as they become available. We really don’t follow a waterfall design methodology – we rely instead on a “rapid-development, test, and adjust” cycle. With the cycle times we must achieve we can’t afford to do a heavy pre-production design phase.
Question 7 – What engine / technology is used in getting Catacombs up and running on the iPhone, how many developers / programmers were involved in creating Catacombs.
We use our own proprietary engine that we call Emblazed. We also some license third-party stuff like F-MOD for sound, and Chipmunk physics. There were 5 people directly involved in building game assets, 3 of which are programmers.
Question 8 – Where there any issues or speed bumps along the way in creating Catacombs ? And what did the development team do to overcome them.
The Catacombs project went pretty smoothly. We did get a bit behind our own aggressive production schedule at one point, so we had to crunch for a week.
Question 9 – What was your main reason for creating a fun and exciting RPG game like Catacombs ? What other games if any were influential in aiding the creation of Catacombs.
Like I mentioned earlier. This is a game that the programmers really wanted to make and kept prodding me about. So in a sense, we did it because we thought it would be fun. It should be pretty obvious that Gauntlet was a big inspiration.
Question 10 – How would you describe the game mechanics of Catacombs. What do players need to do to succeed.
Kill the baddies, then get the hell out of the dungeon.
Question 11 – Are there any patches or updates planned for Catacombs, if so what will be included in the updates.
Our first update will be ready to go in a few days, probably sometime this week. We want to stay a little closed-lipped on the exact contents, because until its fully tested and ready to go the list can change.
Question 12 – Please explain the list of characters currently available in Catacombs, Classes, Skills, etc. Will there be new characters available in future updates.
Currently, players can choose to play as the archetypal warrior, archer, or mage. Each character has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, which encourages experimentation and replay-ability. New characters could extend that experience even further, so it is certainly something that is a possibility for the future. We’ll just have to see!
Question 13 – Trophies / Achievements are what drive a number of players to play games now-days .. Does Catacombs have goals to accomplish or achievements to unlock. And if not will there be any possibilities of adding them in future releases / updates.
Regarding achievements, that’s a great question, and has sparked a lot of discussion among the team members. We’re interested in exploring any ideas that extend the gameplay experience. We have some really exciting stuff coming in the next update so stay tuned!
Question 14 – What can players / consumers expect from InMotion Software moving forward. Are there already plans or upcoming games that you are able to let your fans know about ?
We’ve taken a bit of a departure. We are in the final stages of completing a cartoonish game that you feel comfortable giving to your 4-year-old. It’s called “Stickman Rocks.” It’s about a our intrepid stickman who climbs a mountain collecting stars while avoiding obstacles, like parachuting penguins, spitting snakes, pooping birds, a snow-ball throwing yeti, and more.
Now here’s the fun part. We’ve play tested it. Adults start laughing within 30 seconds of firing up the game. We also play tested it with small children, 3-4 years old. The result? After 45 minutes of continuous play – the kids all screamed when we took the iPod away. Stickman will be ready in about 2-3 weeks.
We have some other surprises up our sleaves. Stay tuned
Question 15 – Finally.. What do you love most working at InMotion Software?
Are kidding me? WE MAKE VIDEO GAMES…FOR A LIVING!
Capsule Computers woud like to thank Brian for his time in answering these questions. If you haven’t tried Catacombs on the iPhone or any of the other great titles from InMotion check out their website and visit the iTunes store and grab yourself some great titles for a fantastic low price.