Category Archives: Interviews

Fox vs. Duck: An Interview with Tak Fung

This interview was made possible by Tyler, the lead of our forums.  You can find her as DGH94 on the forums, and you can also contact her at

Fox vs. Duck is the latest creation from the developer of Mini Squadron, so we decided to try and catch up with Tak Fung and see what his new title was all about.

NoDPad: Where did you come up with the idea for MiniSquadron and FoxVsDuck?

Tak Fung: I had the idea for MiniSquadron a long time ago, mainly taking inspiration from old shoot-em-up games on the Amiga such as Bip, Jetstrike and similar games. I wanted to take that and combine it with a Pokemon style “Collect-em-all” feeling to get people excited about all these little planes they could have on their iPod/iPhone!

Fox Vs Duck was a completely different beast, and it was a simple idea suggested by a friend and from a really old mathematical puzzle. The idea with Fox Vs Duck was to make a super simple game mechanic, and with a really distinctive style to push the boundaries of what I can do. We really want to distinguish this from the crowd and thats why we went for the super minimalistic approach.

NP: Any possibilities of updates to either of them?

TF: Fox Vs Duck will be receiving future updates with extra bits and pieces. Its such a small game that it’s really easy and fun to keep adding to it.

NP: Before the iPhone, what other platforms/languages did you code for?

TF: Before iPhone I coded games for XBox360, PS3 and PC. They all use C/C++ as the main language for coding, although I’ve used Python, melscript and various other languages for building tools.

NP: Any thoughts on the iPad? Followup: Are you thinking of creating any iPad specific games?

TF: I don’t actually have an iPad as I live in the UK, but my thoughts on it generally is that it appears to be a super nice “eBook Reader Plus”, and it will compete with devices in that sector, not with Netbooks. I may think of actually making some specific games once I get my hands on one to play with to get inspiration!

NP: With OS 4.0 just recently announced, what features are you hoping for?

TF: I’m fairly happy with my lot, I really dig the SDK as it is and to be honest apart form some general speed ups and optimisations I don’t really have that much to push for.

NP: Any closing thoughts?

TF: Just want to thank the guys who have helped support me so far, and that I will hope to continue to make even greater games and fun things! One thing is for sure – the iPod/iPhone will be my primary platform to develop for!

Thank you Tak Fung for your time!  If you’re interested in picking up Fox vs. Duck, you can find it on the App Store for only $0.99.

Interview with Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team’s Enrique Corts

We recently previewed Pro Zombie Soccer by the Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, and it’s one title that we THOROUGHLY enjoyed.  We mean, with all our heart, we really enjoyed it.  And because of that, we caught up with founder Enrique Corts about their first iPhone title, Pro Zombie Soccer, which will be published by Chillingo.

NoDPad: We definitely had a kicking time with Pro Zombie Soccer. Where did you get the idea?

Enrique: Once upon a time on a summer afternoon, I was bored to tears at home, so I thought it could be fun to think about a new iPhone game I could do together with a programmer friend of mine.

I went to my bedroom, laid on my bed looking at the ceiling and thought to myself something like “Man, I need a super fun, successful, engaging and kind of viral idea for a new iPhone game. Like now.”

I had just re-read the awesome comic series ‘The Walking Dead’ and watched the ‘Dead Set’ tv series, so I was super pumped about the whole zombie theme. Plus, the FIFA game was on the top spot of the charts, so then it hit me…”Let´s mix zombies and soccer!” “So obvious!” haha.

So yeah, after two minutes of laying in my bed I had the Pro Zombie Soccer´s idea. That was fast. I think I should lay on that bed more often…haha.

On the gameplay side, I had thought before on a war themed game with a kind of similar control scheme, but the whole soccer & zombies idea sounded much more fun to do than the other one, so I just applied the gameplay from one game into the other.

NoDPad: From console to mobile. What’s the biggest difference you have noticed aside from graphical capabilities?

Enrique: Well, obviously the control methods are completely different. I´m one of those who think each platform really needs its own concepts and games, so one thing I was absolutely sure of before even firing up the iPhone SDK is that I wanted to do something that worked great on the device, not just ok-ish, taking advantage of its capabilities at full.  I’m not a big fan of the virtual pads, so gameplay wise we thought on a control system that would work 100% fine on the device, with no place for grey areas (which leads to player´s frustration) and I believe we achieved what we wanted.

NoDPad: What positives or negatives did you encounter with developing for the iPhone?

Enrique: I think there are far more positive things on the iPhone than negative.  First of all, I found everything associated with the app developing pretty straightforward. No need to buy an expensive devkit unit (well, that´s if you have a Mac already, of course) or to pay astounding fees to the platform holders. Also, the whole Appstore thing has been quite a revolution: You have a good idea for a game, you do it, you put it on sale for the whole world to pick it up. So simple and powerful. And the negative side of things is actually a product of those positive ones. Because it is so simple to make your own game and put it on sale, there are lots of really poor quality apps out there just littering the Appstore. Not nice as a customer or a developer. Also, if your game has some success, you are going to get cloned fairly soon, that´s for sure. It already happened to us and our game isn´t even out! Haha. Unbelievable.

NoDPad: Did you find any trouble in creating a control scheme?

Enrique: Well, we did some prototyping first with a slingshot-like control method and we weren’t happy with it, so then the current controls were the logical next step. In total, It took us two prototype iterations to get the game control scheme pretty spot on, so no, it wasn’t very tricky thankfully. Later came the accelerometer controlled satellite, which was also pretty easy to figure out because as I told you before, we are all up for taking advantage of the platform´s unique capabilities. There is a level later in the game where you´ll need to use multitouch controls, but no way I´m spoiling it! You´ll see it on the final version of Pro Zombie Soccer.

NoDPad: Any closing thoughts?

Enrique: We want to extend a huge thanks to all the press and fans coverage we are getting. We are just a bunch of friends having a blast working on our own project, so we are really happy people is enjoying the Pro Zombie Soccer demo so much! Every time we read a positive preview or comment about our game it gives us more energy to work even harder on it. And believe me when I say you haven´t seen the best of our game yet…Non-stop action, new zombies, the best original soundtrack on the device, unexpected original levels, funny story, Crystal, zombie body parts flying off, non-zombie body parts flying off… man, I could go on and on… haha.

Also, working with Chillingo is an awesome experience. I´ve had my fair share of dealing with publishers in the past and to be honest, we weren´t exactly sure about the idea of getting one of them on board, but these guys are not even remotely similar to those out there, in a good way. We are very happy to have been proven wrong. It´s all being a blast so far!

Sounds great!  Thank you for your time Enrique, and expect Pro Zombie Soccer to arrive in the App Store soon.  For now, check out our hands-on gameplay video for Pro Zombie Soccer.

Trenches: An Interview with Thunder Game Works

I was able to snag an interview with Michael Taylor, CEO (Chief Executive Overlord) of Thunder Game Works. He and his company have released new game on the App Store called Trenches. I found that the game had great graphics, an indescribable charm, fun gameplay, and lots of replayability. As such, I rated their game a Must Have, and you can see the review of the game here. The interview we had is provided below, and if you haven’t gotten the game yet it is certainly something that’s worth your money.

NoDPad: Hello Michael! Can you give me a brief overview of what Thunder Game Works’ goal is and what the company does?

Thunder Game Works: Jeff, thanks for the time today.

I knew when I started Thunder Game Works that I wanted to create something special.  I endeavored to find the very best talent from around the globe.

I can’t tell how many people I talked to … good grief.  In the end, we’ve brought together what I think as an indie dream team.  Our core team consists of development, art and marketing … each one of them crazy talented in their chosen discipline.  I’ll tell you I’m continually impressed with the rabbits they’re able to pull out of hats …and I don’t even like rabbits!

If I could characterize Thunder Game Works in a word it would be “responsive”.  We love to hear from our players.  It’s funny, in the short time Trenches has been out; we’ve received enough feedback that it actually changed our anticipated release roadmap.  Players kept saying we love [this thing] … so we’re doing more of that.  It’s such a hoot to be so engaged with our players.  We like to think of our players driving the boat … not us.

ND: Impressive. What compelled or drove you and the company to start making games for the iPhone and iPod Touch?

TGW: Apple has created a market place that brings the game developers in open contact with the iPhone gaming community, which we highly value as we are making our games, and essentially our livelihoods, based on this community. The low entrance barriers and the ability to create a great gaming experience with easy distribution was very appealing.  It was a natural fit.

ND: I agree, Apple’s definitely created a great atmosphere for developers and gamers to easily communicate. Continuing on, how is Trenches unique and different from other games in the App Store?

TGW: Trenches is really designed as an amalgamation of a lot of really tried and true concepts currently on the AppStore. Trenches employs elements of line-drawing, side-scrolling and gesturing.  Aside from the things that are the same, there’s lots that’s different … where do I start?

Technically, Trenches employs many very cool geek features … like a complex AI rules engine, remote data feeds and adaptive difficulty.  The AI engine is built in a way that allows us to monitor the global community and react to “easy win” strategies.  Once detected, we’ll get right to building the counter-measure.  So, it might work for a while … then one day … you’re dead meat.  My personal favorite is the remote data feeds … these give us the ability to tweak the resource rates, unit characteristics and other gameplay elements through a network update that doesn’t require us to endure submission.  When Trenches loads, it searches for new unit data and loads it.  It really provides us near unlimited tuning capabilities.  This means players of Trenches will continually experience ever-evolving intricate nuisances of gameplay.

Aside from that, we’ve put a lot of love into Trenches … spending extra time in the recording studio and working to perfect the art.  Did you know that each solider on the Trenches battlefield has at least three different death animations?  That’s the kind of polish that we wanted to bring.

My favorite part of Trenches has got to be hitting a group of enemies stuck in the wire with Artillery.  I just love seeing bits and pieces of my enemy flying through the air … man, that never gets old. <grin>

ND: Limbs flying through the air, that’s one of my favorite parts of the game too! I’d also like to know, what is the rock-paper-scissors relationship like between the different units in Trenches, if there is any?

TGW: Initially, Trenches was designed based on rock-paper-scissors, just to make the first cut of the unit balancing easier.  Once in place, we started working to perfect each unit in itself.  Through the network updates, we’re continually tweaking the units … their cost, rate of fire, damage … everything really.

I think in the latest version (and versions to come) the initial simplistic rock-paper-scissors concept is going to become more and more difficult to detect.  Of course, I still wouldn’t send a machine gunner to take out a sniper.  I did try that once … turned out the sniper got promoted all the way up to a Sergeant, before I realized what happened.  That sniper became the finger of death on the battlefield.  I lost. <grin>

ND: Awesome, I guess many buyers of this game will love the quick unit tweaking. Also, will there be more content added via update to the game? If so, what will they include, and will they be free or DLC?

TGW: We’re absolutely committed to providing additional content for Trenches.  We’re designing three main categories of content; new features like multiplayer, new Battle Types for Skirmish mode and new unit balancing as gleaned from the global community.

As for free versus DLC … we really haven’t decided.  We are listening to the community though, if it’s DLC … it’s got to be worth the price.  We’re listening.

ND: Wonderful! What was the inspiration for Trenches, and why did you think it would make a great game for the iDevice?

TGW: We wanted to create a side-scrolling attrition-style combat game … games like Knight’s Onrush, Cartoon Wars and XenoWars.  Players (like us) love the castle defense style games.  It seemed like a natural fit.

People love games like Cartoon Wars.  As do we.  But Cartoon Wars (no offense intended) lacks a little charm, character and refinement.  We knew we wanted to deliver more.

We also love the cartoony graphics of games like Minigore and Fieldrunners.  They’ve got great graphics.  We wanted to deliver on this, but also add in multiple sequences … to keep Trenches gameplay fresh and visually interesting.

ND: And you’ve achieved your goal – the game is quite fresh and interesting. As I’m sure our readers are anxious to know, what’s your favorite setup or strategy in the game, and why?

TGW: Ha!  I’m likely not the best person to ask this question of … that is if you’re looking for real Trenches battlefield success. <grin>

That said, in a run up to building Trenches we did a lot of accurate historic study of World War I.  You know … the historically accurate battle tactics of World War I are curiously very effective in Trenches.  So much so that we’re working on a counter to it.

Our Minister of Propaganda tells me I can’t tell anyone the strategy … that is, until we place a counter measure to it.  I can tell you this though … as silly as it sounds, if you research trench warfare tactics … you’ll find it.  I did.

ND: I’ll be sure to look it up. Do you plan to bring any other titles to the app store in the future? If you are, can you give our readers a general idea of what they will be like?

TGW: We are absolutely bringing more titles to the AppStore … we’ve got two or three new titles in some stage of development.  I wish I could provide more information about them here, but they’re just not far enough along.  We’ve got a real long view and have many plans to bring updates to Trenches and new titles.

It could be too that we’re really not sure which one we’re going to do next.  We’d really rather listen to our players to see what they think.  That said, you might see a little inspiration from our office’s favorite game, Left4Dead.

ND: Thank you for your time! Do you have any closing thoughts or statements?

TGW: Jeff, I really wanted to thank you for your time.  If I could communicate one thing to your readers it is our freakish commitment to on-going support.  As a matter of fact, we have a roadmap for Trenches (that I’m looking at right now) that has release dates out six months.

Thanks to Michael Taylor for taking the time to talk with us about Trenches.  I know the fans are eagerly awaiting the updates, and I think this has been a worthy look at the development behind the game. Trenches is available for a limited time at $0.99, until it returns to its usual price tag of $2.99.  Check it out!

Ravensword: The Fallen King: An Interview With Crescent Moon Software

Ravensword: The Fallen King is arguably my most anticipated game along with Asphalt 5, and we here at NoDPad got the chance to speak to the creator of this game.  If you didn’t know, Ravensword was made by only two people with one person doing all the coding.  To me, that’s quite an accomplishment and a feat that I could never accomplish.

Ravensword is being published by Chillingo and will be available as early as November.  The price is being set at lower than $6.99, and the game has been optimized for the iPhone 3GS.  If you own a lower device model, the game will still be playable but with less polygons, graphics, etc.

NoDPad: For those that are unfamiliar, can you provide some information about Ravensword: The Fallen King and who you are?

Josh: Ravensword is a 3d action RPG for the iPhone and iPod touch.  It has a very large and detailed open world to explore, tons of beasts to fight, many missions to perform, and even some mini games. Its actually been in development for over 2 years, but not all of that time was spent on the iPhone, it was just developing assets to be used in the original game which was going to be PC game – a multi-player first person shooter set in fantasy style.

NoDPad: Why did you start developing for the iPhone?

Josh: We had some technical difficulty with the original that set us back, and I was looking for something else to do with the mountain of assets that I had. I had an iPhone and just saw a lack of 3d rpg’s. The graphics could be taken to the next level, at least in that genre. I found Russ Menapace in searching for an iPhone programmer, and its been a great collaboration. He’s actually coded the entire thing by himself!

NoDPad: How long have you been developing games?  What other projects have you worked on?

Josh: Before working on Ravensword I was an Art Director at a visualization studio in Boston.  I decided to start my own company and move back home. I also started an R/C company that makes unique radio controlled toys. Right now we are just putting all of our effort into Ravensword, and it has grown and developed into something which is much more than either of us expected.

NoDPad: You’ve chosen to be published by Chillingo.  What was your motivation behind this decision?

Josh: Chillingo was great to deal with, and they made us the best offer out of any of the other publishers we were approached by.  So far I have nothing but great things to say about them. Their comments and ideas have been truly helpful throughout the process.

NoDPad: Any closing thoughts?

Josh: Ravensword should arrive on the App Store by early November. We are polishing up some things now including some new controls and an Auto-Target feature (which will be an option). Be looking out for it!

Thank you Josh Presseseisen for your time!  Be sure to check out Ravensword: The Fallen King early November.  Be sure to check out the all new gameplay video along with the official website to get a feel for what the game will be like.



Boulder Dash: An Interview with First Star Software

Boulder Dash Vol. 1 is a classic game that was developed by First Star Software and published by Chillingo.  Unlike many other classic games, Boulder Dash provides both updated and retro graphics.  It also brings a good level of polish that matches the best developers in the app store.  Even though all of you have probably played boulder dash at some point, the iPhone version is worth a look because it gets addicting very quickly!  I had a chance to interview the President of First Star Software, Richard M. Spitalny, about his company’s game Boulder Dash Vol. 1.  I have played through the game and love it.  I will post a full review shortly.

No DPad: What prompted you to bring Boulder Dash to the iDevice Platform?

First Star Software: You mean besides the obvious desire to generate revenue? 🙂 Actually there were quite a few. Key was to have as many significant releases for the brand in 2009, as this the 25th anniversary of Boulder Dash; and, the iDevices would let us do ‘special’ things, not possible before. e.g. letting players use the pinch zoom for example. Also, we had a lot of requests for the original game after the great success recently of new mobile versions: Boulder Dash-M.E. Volumes 1 and 2. (M.E. for Mobile Edition). We sold close to 800,000 units across the recent mobile version; but, except of the Hiptop/Sidekick, none of these games included the original caves from Boulder Dash Vol. 1. So we felt it was about time for a mobile version of the original game.

ND: Did you face any challenges while developing this title to a new platform without any physical buttons?  What prompted you to release  the game with three control schemes?

FSS: Indeed! The need to implement virtual controls was perhaps the most significant challenge. Unlike when using a real joystick, when using a virtual control… that can NOT be ‘physically felt’ by the player… the issue immediately rises: How can one play while looking elsewhere on the screen? Part of the fun/challenge of Boulder Dash is executing moves that require very precise movements and exact timing. Being able to react quickly is also very important. This is not easy to do if the controls are not intuitive, easy to remember and easy to use. The decision to include 3 different sets of controls: (1) a split d-pad with up/down on one side and left/right on the other side of the display; (2) a cluster of the 4 directional controls in the center of the bottom portion of the screen; and, (3) touch/swipe…and letting players mirror the controls for types 1 and 2… was implemented based on the results of focus group testing. It became very clear, very quickly, that ‘one size did NOT fit all.’ So we decided to leave in all 3 of the control methods.

We also animated Rockford(TM) and all other in-game characters with very smooth (8 frame) animations, unlike how they moved in the original game. In the original game, on say the Commodore 64 or the Atari 400/800 or Apple II, characters ‘jumped’ from tile to tile. e.g. Rockford was two tiles away from a diamond to his left, then suddenly he was only one tile away….you did not see him walk slowly/smoothly to adjacent tiles. We did this to help slow the game down a bit to compensate a bit for the lack of physical controls and to help make the game feel a bit less frantic that the original, thinking it would be nice to expand the game’s appeal to what today are often referred to as more ‘casual’ players.

As an important aside I should mention that immediately upon the game’s initial release, May 16th, there was a lot of chatter on the forums that many wanted the game to feel/play exactly like the original.  They felt that the game was ‘too slow’. So, of course we immediately recoded the movements/animations in the ‘retro’ mode, providing both the original graphics as well as the original speed/movements for Rockford and friends! This will be part of the first update that is currently pending review by Apple. I think we submitted it to Apple May 21st.

ND: Any interesting stories on the beginnings of Boulder Dash? Also, where did the design come from, and what gave it the ability to stand the test of time?

FSS: Boulder Dash was submitted to us, as well as many other publishers, before it was finished. As it happens I was the person that opened the package with the disk and I was the first person at First Star Software to play the game.  The graphics were not as good as we were ‘used to’ (we had published Astro Chase for example that won numerous awards for best graphics of the year and our other games didn’t look as ‘blocky’)…but…the gameplay was so new and different. The combination of ‘mental gymnastics’ needed to figure out the solutions. (“Come on…how can I collect 36 diamonds? There aren’t any diamonds in this cave!!!”) combined with the need for quick reflexes and precise movements was very exciting and addictive. It quickly got us all very excited. As it so happened, the editors  (Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz) of Electronic Games Magazine were visiting us that day, interviewing my then partner and co-founder, Fernando Herrera. When they were done with the interview, we showed them Boulder Dash before they left ..mind you it was not even a finished game…and well …let’s just say they too were hooked!

The game play and cave designs all came basically from Peter Liepa (with some help from Chris Gray). We at FSS decided that we wanted the game, despite it’s somewhat ‘blocky’ look and we acquired the game outright and then worked with Peter in finalizing the game. e.g. we suggested the rotation of the different color palettes and the inclusion of the 4 non-scrolling bonus caves, small, subtle things like that.

I think the game has withstood the test of time for a few reasons: the game is, as they say “easy to learn but difficult to master’. This is partly why the game appeals to such a large cross section of people: gamers and non-gamers, young and old, male and female. Also, things do not speed up. If you lose it’s not because things started to move too quickly; or they ‘got smarter’; but rather, you always blame yourself. Another reason is that, as alluded to, it’s not the graphics or the look that makes the game great, rather, it’s the core gameplay and its physics. There’s something universal and timeless about collecting pretty/valuable things; avoiding enemies and trying to beat the clock.

ND: Why did you feel the need to include the retro graphics along with the updated graphics?  Do you think your fan base is mostly retro gamers or new (and young) puzzle fans?

FSS: As alluded to earlier. We did get a lot of feedback on the forums. We had planned to perhaps include the ‘retro’ graphics as an ‘Easter Egg’. However as soon as preview screenshots were posted, there was a very vocal group that made it blatantly clear that, for them, if the game did not have the original Rockford …and all the other original graphic elements …then as far as they were concerned the game simply was not Boulder Dash. So, we of course decide to add a ‘retro’ mode and feature it equally with the ‘updated’ mode.

Since the game is now 25 years old and based on the sales of the other mobile version released in the past few years, we feel that it’s very clear that there is indeed a new and thus younger, growing fan base in addition to the well established, loyal fans who have played the game for many years now.

ND: Should fans expect any updates such as new caves or new gameplay modes in the future?

FSS: Well, as mentioned the first update, pending now with Apple, changes the speed/movements in (only) ‘retro’ mode. We’ll continue to support the OpenFeint social network and of course Apple’s OS 3.0, etc. but there are no firm plans at this point in time to add caves or new modes to the game.

ND: Do you plan to bring any other titles to the app store in the future?

FSS: YES! Indeed we do. Unfortunately…I know people hate it when they read things like this…I can not say more than that, at this time, due to the confidential nature of that information. Please forgive me; but, we take non-disclosure agreements very seriously…as we must.

I must say that it was very pleasant working with Richard, and I hope to see many more titles from First Star Software in the future.