Battleswarm Field of Honor Interview for OnRPG
Questions by Jonathan (Ardua) Doyle OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Mark Hood, COO and Co-founder of Reality Gap
OnRPG: Could you introduce yourself please, and tell us a little about what you do for Battleswarm?
I'm Mark Hood and I'm COO and Co-founder of Reality Gap. I signed Battleswarm over a year ago now and ran the production team that localized the game, made enhancement for the English speaking market and set up the store and website.
OnRPG: Battleswarm: Field of Honor launched November 2009. I remember helping beta test the game back before the launch. How has the eight months or so since treated you?
We have seen continuing growth in our user accounts and interest remains strong - a lot has changed and we encourage anyone, like yourself, who participated in our Beta program to come back and see where things stand now. We are confident that returning users won't be disappointed.
OnRPG: Given the recent evolutions in RTS games (C&C4's walker, Dawn of War II's RPG elements, Achrons time travel) do you feel you took full advantage of a (then) coming shift in the genre?
After being in games for the last 20 years or so, it's hard to feel that many game play models haven't been "done to death" which is why we are seeing these emerging categories of game hybrids. If someone were to release "yet another" RTS or MMORPG, they would now be competing against the likes of StarCraft II or World of Warcraft - which have taken these gameplay styles to the nth degree and spent truckloads of money to make sure they have the number-one entry in those categories.
OnRPG: As I played through the human section, it reminded me quite a lot of Gears of War. How heavily did other FPS games influence your FPS styling versus the influence of Gears of War?
We all play FPS games, both at RGI and at Gameworld, and as a game developer you can't make a game without the games you've played influencing your design decisions. That said, you try to do something different and unique or there's just no point.
OnRPG: Your virtual currency partner Meta-Tix serves two games at the moment. Have they been an aid in the RMT trade for yourselves?
It's a great Microtransaction system and there are a lot of games that will be using it soon. It's easy to integrate, efficient, and there hasn't been a single failure.
OnRPG: Currently, as I recall, up to 6 Human FPS players can go up against up to 2-4 Bug RTS players. Have there been many game balance issues with the difference in team size?
Generally speaking the team-sizes don't tend to throw things out of balance -it's the richness of the game economy and item / unit selection that are the hardest to keep fair. Both Humans and Bugs have their own abilities, weapons and armor that all needs to be priced and balanced properly.
The other balance issue revolves around the fact that team play nearly always trumps individual play, and experienced players generally beat noobs, so if you're having problems winning when just joining as a random player, try teaming up or getting into a guild. Two bugs on headsets communicating can be particularly lethal, but we try to keep it balanced so that six teamed humans can beat them if they do everything right. The bugs sort of control the "show" in a sense though, so playing against really good bugs at a slight disadvantage as a human is way more fun that playing again bugs that are easy prey. Different maps also give different challenges. Capture the flag for instance seems to be preferred by humans, and yet bugs really can have an advantage on those maps once they figure out the tricks.
OnRPG: Given the different play styles involved have you found that people tend to stick to a particular side or are players branching out?
Anyone who signs up for Battleswarm automatically gets a Human Commando and a Bug Commander unit - whether or not they choose to mainly play as a Human or a Bug is totally up to them. Most players favor the First-Person Shooter aspects of the game, but this was expected and built into the design of the game e.g. most maps have a higher ratio of humans than bug players. We feel strongly that there is something for everyone in this game - the twitch people get their explosions and tactical combat while strategic people get to have all their different bugs and hives to manage. The beauty of Battleswarm is that it gives you the power to choose how you want to play on a given day.
OnRPG: With the popularity of games like StarCraft and Dawn of War II, what influences in popular games and culture did you consider when creating the Bug swarm side?
Gameworld are some pretty smart, savvy developers and they watch western pop culture and games as much as most American teams, so the influences are pretty much as you'd expect. I've talked to their CEO about tactics in Medal of Honor 2, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Starcraft II and even MMORPGs and he's very familiar with them all. He's a good RTS player but an incredible FPS player.
OnRPG: What else do you think the hybrid game style genre holds? Do you think you will ever meld two differing styles like that again?
Melding genres has been something I've talked about with developers since the early days at Sierra. It's just an obvious idea, but very difficult to execute on. Many games do meld play styles now, although not many do it blatantly as Battleswarm does. I remember the same questions being discussed when The Coles did Quest for Glory, and it worked extremely well as was one of my favorite adventure games ever. So absolutely...
OnRPG: Have you any plans to move past the, admittedly gorgeous, instances you currently use into a more open world format or would that be a nightmare?
Well, we have thought about it, but in my opinion one of the really nice things about Battleswarm is the "Medium session" nature of the game. I can equip my avatar, enter a maps lobby, and alt tab out and finish emails or surf the web or whatever else and wait til I here the "click click click" and then I know I have 6 minutes of mayhem and fun. It would substantially change the game, and I think we'd need to add other elements to the gameplay.
OnRPG: What does the future hold now going forward for Battleswarm: Field of Honor?
We recently signed a partnership with a group called Sleepy Giant out of California that has effectively more than doubled our man power devoted to running Battleswarm. They have been involved in a number of Free-To-Play games including Crimecraft and have deep expertise in the production and management of this type of game. We feel strongly that this partnership is going to yield a number of benefits to the game and community and encourage everyone who hasn't yet had a chance to play or users who played in the past to come back for a second look.
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!