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An RPG in Your Pocket: A Look at Underworlds With Bill Money

Underworlds has brought RPG gameplay to your pocket.  Lots of gamers have already taken to the game and played through it, noting its similarity to Diablo and a draw to continue levelling your character.  Now, we ask Chief Creative Officer of Pixel Mine, Bill Money, some questions about the addictive game.  You’ll hear his thoughts on how an RPG translates to a pocket device, the state of full length iPhone games, and what’s in the works for Underworlds.  Read on for the full details.

No DPad: To start off, why should gamers check out Underworlds?

Bill Money: Underworlds is a high quality, original title that we crafted specifically for the iPhone/iTouch.  The game offers a great and epic storyline with lots of room for character advancement and customization.  There are also lots of loots to find. :)

ND: What specific design problems did you face bringing an RPG to a small screen?

BM: Amazingly, it was pretty straightforward.  We started the project with a simple design doc and a screen mockup of the iPhone/iTouch screen.  Keeping the game strictly focused on one platform made the design much easier.

ND: Were no physical buttons on the device a help or hindrance for the game?

BM: Obviously, not having buttons or a stick changed our thinking when it came to controlling an RPG character.  We tried to use this to our advantage, however.  Every place that we had a control or interface we thought, “How would we do this with our phone?”  We tried not to over-think the problem.

We originally were going to go pure touch-to-move your character.  Once we got the game to the point where we were actually playing it, we realized that touch alone may not be enough. We started to experiment with a few other methods of movement and finally ended up with the touch d-pad control that shipped with the game.  We made this control even more responsive with our version 1.1 release.   Of course we left in the touch-to-move as well.

ND: With the ability to always have an RPG experience in your pocket with Underworlds, what benefits does this portable and immediate access bring to the genre?

BM: I personally love it.  I was playing the game last night, in fact, while I was watching a basketball game.  We often find ourselves just starting the game up in bars, coffee shops and other places that we would never have thought before to play a game before.  I think the iPhone/ITouch is and will continue to change the perception of gaming.

ND: Many people view iPhone gaming as being restricted to quick, pick up and play games.  With the success of Underworlds, what do you think this has to say about iPhone gaming?

BM: We were actually kind of shocked that so many players wanted a longer game.  When we first started talking about this project our goal was to make an immersive experience that took an hour to play from start to finish.  We figured an hour was about the right time for a mobile player across 2 to 5 short sessions.  When we actually played through the game for the first time and found out it took 3-4 hours we were worried that maybe we had too MUCH content. :)   Once we released the game however, we found out that iPhone/iTouch players are just as demanding for content as PC and Console gamers are.

ND: Diablo is constantly being compared to this game.  Are there any other sources of inspiration for Underworlds?

BM: Our Art Director, Denis Loubet was the main artist on the Ultima series from almost the beginning.  We also have all worked on our own MMO, Ashen Empires, for the last 5+ years so you will see many references to that game in Underworlds.  Obviously being compared to Diablo is a great honor and one we hope we can live up to in the future.

ND: What can fans of Underworlds expect in the next updates?

BM: We just submitted version 1.1 to Apple last week, so it should be out shortly.  It will have a full musical score by our friends at Voodoo Highway Music.  They have done music and sounds for many popular TV shows and cartoons both in the US and Asia.  We also have added several new online player rankings and achievements, and submitted a free app to Apple that lets players track these rankings if they don’t want to start up the game.  You will also have access to your own character sheet so you can compare yourself against top players from around the world.

Today we will start planning what’s in version 1.2.  We always go back to the feedback we’ve gotten from our players as a starting point.

Thanks to Bill Money for taking the time to talk with us about Underworlds.  I know the fans are eagerly awaiting the update, and I think this has been a worthy look at the development behind the game.  Underworlds is available for a limited time at $2.99, until it returns to its usual price tag of $4.99.  Check it out!

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