Haunted Hollow Interview With Firaxis Games' David McDonough And Will Miller

Later this Spring, Firaxis Games will release Haunted Hollow for iPhone and iPad, a free strategy game that lets players run their own haunted hotels full of zombies, mummies and vampires. With the goal of scaring townspeople silly, this promising title may provide hours of enjoyment. That said, we spoke to designers David McDonough and Will Miller to learn more.

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Where did the inspiration for Haunted Hollow come from?

We share an office, and in our office is a whiteboard. One day, one of us turned to the other and said, "You know what would be fun? A game where you ran a haunted hotel full of monsters." From there, we started sketching up that idea on the whiteboard, and we ended up with something that sounded like it could be fun, so we got permission to prototype it out, and sure enough, it ended up being the start of Haunted Hollow. Collectively, we can't remember whose idea it was in the first place, but the whiteboard drawing is still up there. We can't bring ourselves to erase it.

Why go with this game over, let's say, a sequel to Civilization Revolution?

That's a great question. Partly it's because we were able to demonstrate that this game had a fundamentally cool idea at the heart of it, and partly because we were hugely fortunate to be given permission to lead a team doing something a little bit different from the other work Firaxis has done.

How does the game work overall?

You build a haunted house on the hill above a poor innocent village full of peacefully-sleeping citizens, and you have to gain control of every house in the village by scaring it. Your opponent has his own scary house on another hill, and he wants to scare the village as well. And the villagers eventually get tired of you scaring them and they turn into an angry mob that will either kill your monsters or burn down houses. And you've got a ton of monsters at your control, each of which has a special ability or skill, and you'll send them out to fight your opponents' monsters. You can tailor your team of monsters to your favorite gameplay style, so it's a bunch of simple elements, but they combine to make a deceptively deep gameplay experience.

How does it best utilize smartphone and tablet devices?

Touch control is really helpful in controlling this sort of game, and with the portability of smartphones and tablets, you can take the game with you and play during a quiet spell, or check in regularly to see if your multiplayer opponent has taken his turn yet. We want you to be playing Haunted Hollow whenever you can, and thinking about Haunted Hollow when you're not playing.

Android is such an important platform these days. Why is Haunted Hollow iOS exclusive at the moment?

Android is a fascinating platform and it's seeing a lot of growth. However, iOS offers us a level of certainty with the hardware, which makes some aspects of the development process much easier.

Gamers seem to have a love/hate relationship with in-app purchases. How does IAP work in this game?

We knew this game had to contain all the fun with the core app. This isn't a pay-to-win game, nor do we curtail your daily play behind a pay wall. The additional content is there if you want to expand with some new monsters or house styles. We like to think of it as a board game-and-expansion sort of model where the base game is fun, and the additional content gives you some additional play possibilities as well.

With the release coming soon, can you give interested players some tips?

-Build your house up into the sky. There's more space to get the really big rooms, and it looks much cooler.

-Do not overlook the value of a cheap scary monster later on in the game. While an aggressive monster can take a scary monster down quickly, sometimes you can steal a scare on a house while your opponent is distracted, and later on in the game as the mob is burning down the town, that can lead to an unexpected win.

-Watch out for the special monsters. They're all unique and require some finesse to use well, but in the right situation they can be absolutely devastating. A well-timed Witch Enchantment or Zombie Mob can really make your opponent howl. Also using the Siren's Charm ability to send your opponent's best monster to be killed by the mob is evil, yet awesome.