Heroes And Castles Interview With Foursaken Media's Jamie Jackson
Last week, developer Foursaken Media launched Heroes and Castles on the App Store, a real-time strategy game mixed with traditional hack-and-slash mechanics. In it, your job is to protect a huge fortress from enemies by chopping them up while micro-managing a variety of units. It's pretty intense, and to learn more, we caught up with 3D artist Jamie Jack to discuss online capability and most importantly, things we can expect in the next update.
Where did the inspiration for Heroes & Castles come from? We sensed a cool Lord of the Rings vibe.
Well, a lot of the universe is heavily inspired from Warhammer. That has always been our favorite source material for fantasy (and sci-fi with Warhammer 40k), so anyone familiar with that will see a lot in common. But I guess Warhammer probably took a bunch of elements from Lord of the Rings, so indirectly, I suppose you would get a LoTR vibe.
As for the game itself, it really just started with wanting to make a simple to play but very deep and complex game. We wanted to create a type of depth you might see in an RTS, and I think we've achieved that. Hero combat is fundamentally simple. You don't micromanage units, and individually, everything in Heroes and Castles is really very basic and simple. However, the sum of all the parts creates this really in-depth experience. You've got to worry about how to use your hero. You've got to think about when to build up your economy. You've got to think about what units to build and when. All of those things are just a button press or two away, but it's the thought behind how and when to do them that we think creates the cool experience.
This is essentially a game that blends two distinct genres. Do you think this is the future of gaming?
Well, by the looks of all the clones out there, not yet. But seriously, I do think genre blending is one of the last remaining forms of "innovation" these days. While not everything has been done yet, its really becoming difficult to truly make something completely new.
How satisfied are you with the finished product? What still needs tweaking?
We're very satisfied with the core game. There are still a lot of things we'd love to improve on, though. More environments, maybe some extra hero customization (weapons, armor, equipment) and things like that. We don't really want tweak too much (if anything) with the core game-play though.
What can players expect in future updates?
We'll roll out the first update soon and it will be huge. We've been working on extra content since before we released the game. That update will include a new Siege mode, where players will take the role of the evil side and attack the castle that you're so used to protecting. The evil side has its own hero classes and completely different play mechanics. Your goal in this mode will be to destroy the enemy keep in as fast a time as you can.
Going hand-in-hand with the Siege Mode, there will be the new Versus Mode. Versus mode is a competitive 1v1 multiplayer mode where one player will be the Evil side, and the other the Good side.
Finally, we'll add two unlockable alternate skins for each hero, as well as two new unlockable heroes, an Elven Ranger with a long-ranged bow, and a Mage, which can cast powerful magic.
What are your thoughts on the game's critical reception so far?
Really great. We love the game of course, but you never know how others will respond to your idea. I'm just glad for the most part that people seem to be "getting it." We were actually worried that the difficulty level would turn many off, or make them think that we balanced it around IAPs, which is not the case at all. I'm not sure IAPs will really let you progress much further anyway, because we feel that you will win or lose most levels based on tactics/skill/strategy, rather than how upgraded you units are.
Might we see additional heroes beyond the initial three?
We were going to spread the content out over a few updates, but we thought, why? So players will get everything in this huge update. That's not to say there won't be more coming later, though. There are so many possibilities for future characters.
How long did Heroes take to develop, and how many people worked on it?
It took three months to develop with three people working on it for the most part. Some were on and off during development. We've been developing our own engine for a few years now, so we are able to hash out the concept of a game extremely quickly. I know three months sounds like a short amount of time, but there was no shortage of work put into the game.
We had trouble finding someone to play with in co-op. Is this a technical issue, or just a symptom of the popularity at that time?
We've seen strange reports of some shoddy connection issues. Unfortunately, all the matchmaking itself is handled by Game Center, so we don't have access to that at all. We are definitely looking into it to see if there is anything we can do.
Are you able to tell how many co-op matches have been launched? Is there room for head-to-head MP?
Unfortunately we don't have access to that info at this time.
Apple has yet to announce an official controller for iPad games. What are your thoughts on that concept? Would it help games in the long run, or do touch controls work fine?
Personally, I think touch controls are fine. In fact, I know a lot of people that hate third person/first-person controls on a touch screen, but if they're done well, I actually PREFER them to a controller. Besides, I'm just not sure the mainstream audience would ever really embrace a controller on mobile devices to the point where it would make a big difference. I think peripherals in general could be a hard sell to a wider audience.