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!