Thanks to this blog, Bart Tiongson from Robot Entertainment challenged me to a game of Hero Academy. Thanks to the games built-in chat, I asked if I could do a little interview with them for this blog. Bart put me into contact with Justin Korthof, and the interview is below. Thanks again to Bart, Justin, and Robot Entertainment for taking the time and also making a great game.
[Me] How did the company decide to create a 1v1, turn-based strategy game on the iPhone? I love the choice, but it’s not exactly the hottest genre in gaming these days. What was some of the thought process leading up to the decision, and what lead you guys to suspect it would be a success?
[JK] Robot wanted to get into mobile gaming, and a few of our developers had this idea of creating a tactics game for mobile that was really accessible to anyone. We have a process we go through when deciding what our next games are going to be, and when they had the chance, they championed the idea. It really caught on, so we created a small team to get going on it. Ultimately for our team it wasn’t about trying to look at what’s hot and make that, but rather about making a game that we would want to play.
[Me] Was it a conscious decision to not sell power in the item store? How has the business model worked out so far. The recently released Dwarves, how has the response been to them? (Not expecting exact numbers (unless you want to provide them of course J ) but some high-level stuff would be nice)
[JK] Absolutely. We didn’t want to create a pay-to-win environment. Our core focus for selling the teams was to give players diverse gameplay experiences. The teams each have their own unique play styles and strengths, but we work hard to balance them all as best we can.
The Dwarves release has been great, and I think it’s really underlined the potential of having multiple teams in the game. Players can choose to download just the teams that appeal to their playstyle and remain competitive against any other team. So far the response from the community has been really great for the Dwarves.
[Me] Are there plans to add a ‘card counter’ to the game, letting you review what characters/items you and your opponent have used? (This is something that goes on in high-level play, but doing it manually is very tedious across multiple games). What about a ranking system or ranked play?
[JK] All of this has been requested, specifically among our high-level players, as you noted. We’ve got many of these ideas on our big idea list, but haven’t necessarily started building any of it yet. We want to approach all of this in a way that can be useful for high level players, but isn’t a necessity to feel competitive for the rest of our players. If the game becomes too much about intricate number-crunching, it could turn-away more casual players. Ideally we’ll come up with something that works for everyone.
[Me] The balance in Hero Academy is very solid, how much focus is given to this aspect of the game? Any metrics you can share that you have gathered from live play, and how those factor into balance changes/patches?
[JK] Balance is a big part of our focus. We get the teams running in the game very early, often before the artwork is even final. This allows us to immediately start playtesting their mechanics and getting a sense for how balanced they are against the other teams. As we continue to develop the teams, we make balance adjustments as needed. So far we’ve been able to get several weeks worth of testing in on each of our teams before letting them into the wild. Before releasing the dwarves, many of the stats we’re tracking showed the balance being pretty even overall. We’re still collecting info from the latest release, but we think that things are pretty close so far. As the next few weeks go on and players get used to new strategies to use with and against the Dwarves, we’ll have a better picture of what, if anything, needs adjustment.
[Me]Finally, and hints at what the studio is doing next, both for Hero Academy and new games?
[JK] Well, for Hero Academy, we’re already hard at work on the next team, as well as iPad and Android versions of the game. While we’re working on other games beyond that, I can’t say much about them just yet. Our next new game will be playable at PAX East this year, however. The PAX community has always been great to us, so we’re all getting very excited about showing that off in just a few weeks at the show.
[Me] Appreciate your time Justin, and thanks to everyone at Robot Entertainment for making sure a great game!
[JK] Thanks for playing!
This could be my inexperience with the game but I found that the free faction vs. the dark elves to be so unbalanced I stopped playing.
Virtually ever match I was given (6-8 total) was against a player with the upgraded faction and I was decimated in all matches. The single match against the free faction was much more balanced. This gave me the impression that the paid faction was pay to win to an extent.
At least from a new player perspective it defina
Just need to play more games. 6-8 is a very small sample, and you likely got matched against people with more experience.
I own all three, and have games going of all combos. No side is noticably strong IMO.
I prefer to play Council vs. elves. You just need to play more, and, in particular, play to your side’s strengths and your opponents weaknesses. Eg council warriors have very high health and can push enemies. Council wizards have awesome AOE. Ninja can make some unorthodox moves work, especially for transporting healers and warriors. Experiment!
I’ve bought the Dark Elves, and I am actually finding them incredibly weak compared to the free Humans. The monks moving 3 squares is nice, and the Impalers are strong, but they lack the same bag of tricks inherent to the Humans (potion rez, ninja teleports, etc).
I’ve played against the dwarves a few times, and I’ve creamed them pretty regularly, so I dunno about them either. You just can’t beat an upgraded Human archer IMO.
I tend to agree. The human archer is by far the most efficient and effective unit. It’s like a super unit that’s not super officially.
And once an archer is fully upgraded, especially with supporting healer and possibly a knight for tanking, it’s near impossible to counter. That’s one flaw in the gameplay I think, as with 5 moves one mega unit with the highest range is untouchable. They run in, pew pew, run away. And even more so against crystals.
However, I am trying to work out tactics that work for other factions. I feel like there must be some hidden strengths i haven’t been able to take advantage of.
That being said, the dark elves have nothing that compares. Their super unit lacks the mobility to be really effective, and requires painstaking buffing.
Dwarves at least have their long range super unit, but other than that basically play defense, however this does give you a viable strategy at least. Compared to just being outgunned as elves, sitting back until going Super is pretty fair.
I love the paladin healer/tank hybrid, with engineer support this gives dwarves some real durability. But without healing potions you are even more at the whim of your draw: without 2 pallys I find it difficult to keep healing like the humans do.
And lastly the most unfair thing IMO is that the humans have both the ninja and archer. The ninja is the 2nd best due to his mobility, and srvher is 1st..
It seems like the main balance issue at this point is mobility being undervalued by the devs. Mobility (and range) are by far the most important attributes of units. With only 5 actions, moving 3-4 and attacking at 3 give ridiculous advantages.
To clarify..the units that move and attack the farthest, the archer and ninja, also have the highest damage. Now with dwarves super they have one unit that compares. However AoE is less valuable than durability and mobility..making him 3rd best. Especially when considering how much rarer supers are, the archer is just better.
The Dark Elf caster is underrated. Being able to ‘kill’ a corpse from three squares is very powerful, and their super unit is a Game-Over unit after 2-3 corpses (which is easier to do if you eat your own guys).
Harpoon elves can also do some serious damage to setups if you are not careful.
Having spent a little more time with them, I think if anything the dwarves are a little OP on some maps due to how quickly they can bring down a crystal.
Awesome interview. This is a great iOS game story, as HA is perfect for the platform and executed very nicely.
I personally found council stronger overall. Elves I think require more experience and practice using them, and they potentially can be incredible with the right opening hand.
Council units seem more well rounded and versatile though, so it’s a nice balance. Havent played for a while so intrigued to try the new faction.