ARC Squadron Interview With Psyonix Studio Director Dave Hagewood

Psyonix's ARC Squadron hit iOS this morning, bringing with it third-person on-rails shooting the likes of which we don't often see on smartphones and tablets. The pretty visuals, tricky levels (of which, there are 64) and upgrades manage to stretch the $0.99 asking price, making this title a great value for your dollar; the price will soon increase to $4.99. That said, we caught up with studio director Dave Hagewood to discuss what lies ahead, but first, Star Fox.

Upon first glance, the game we compared ARC Squadron to was Nintendo's Star Fox. Did that series inspire you to create this game? Also, do you feel honored by the comparison?

It's hard not to be honored by a comparison like that, but to be honest, the game started out very different from Star Fox. It was full 3D flying and wasn't even in space. The early prototypes worked very well on PC, but when we started getting it running on mobile, we realized we were in danger of being yet another mobile game that feels like it was designed for a different platform. We basically threw out the whole design and started from scratch at that point. The idea of a space-based, on-rails shooter came from the fact that it was the best environment for optimized high quality content on mobile. Star Fox is of course the gold standard for on-rails space shooters, but it was important for us to find our own path with the game.

There's a crazy number of levels. Was that the goal from the beginning, to pack ARC Squadron with as much content as possible, or did you get carried away?

We did get carried away to some extent. In the beginning, we weren't re-using any content at all, so even though we had lots of beautiful content, the game was very short, so we kept making more. Eventually, we realized we just needed to reorganize the levels a bit and suddenly, we had a huge campaign. A lot of people suggested we break it into paid content packs. However, we really wanted to build a game that felt more like a console experience, so we left it all in.

Personally, we felt the plot was a bit thin. What are your thoughts on how everything turned out?

I think that is partially the result of setting the bar so high in other areas. We didn't intend to have a plot at all when we started, but towards the end we added voice acting to at least give some context to the world. That sort of thing can be a double-edged sword, though, as people start to expect a lot more. Getting better at integrating story elements into our games is one of the big improvements we hope to make in future projects.

Keeping on that topic, do you have any regrets at this point?

I'm not sure if it's really a regret, but towards the end of development, we started to get much better at building more fun maps and bosses. I'm looking forward to what we can do for future updates and sequels now that we really have a handle on what works.

On that note, what are the downloadable content plans?

Right now, there are three main galaxy environments, but we actually have art for a fourth. We hope to release that galaxy soon, but plans are just now coming together on that. We also have a sequel being designed right now.

Any plans to port ARC Squadron to Android or Windows 8? What are the challenges in doing this?

I think this is something that will happen very soon. Those platforms are less established, which poses a lot of technology challenges to getting a game ported, but this is something we've been working on for a while.

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