It’s no secret that the mobile gaming market is big. The figures speak for themselves, for example Angry Birds Space was downloaded 50 million times in just 35 days. Both the large publishers and indie developers are looking to the mobile market as a place to expand.
One of those mobile developers is Neon Play, who have released games such as Flick Football and Paper Glider. I got a chance to speak to Neon Play’s founder Oli Christie and games developer, Barnaby Smith about their latest release, Bravo Force: Last Stand.
First off, tell us a bit about Neon Play .
Oli: We’re a mobile games studio based in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. We have had over 32 million downloads of our games on Apple and Android devices and our hits include Paper Glider, Flick Football, Traffic Panic 3D and Paper Glider Crazy Copter.
Bravo Force: Last Stand is going to be Neon Play’s 34th App release. What made you decide to create an on rails shooter?
Oli: Most of the shooting games on the App Store are quite tricky to play. Bravo Force: Last Stand has been designed from the ground up to be instantly playable, meaning both casual and hardcore gamers can focus on taking out the bad guys with our natural ‘tap to shoot’ controls.
How did you decide on the setting for Bravo Force: Last Stand?
Barnaby: There’s no specific location in mind. The most important consideration for us was to choose an environment that we felt players felt familiar with but also allowed us to build exciting gameplay. With the wars of the last decade still fresh in the minds of many, we felt the Middle East as a setting would resonate with players.
What influenced the gameplay and style?
Barnaby: There’s a number of first person shooters on the market and some of them really look great visually, but we felt that they didn’t really make the most of the features that iOS devices offer. Personally I’m a big fan of twin stick shooters on consoles, but I don’t feel that virtual thumbsticks lend themselves well to touchscreens, the movement feels awkward and non-intuitive unlike on its console counterparts.[drop]The most enjoyable and interesting games for mobile are games that are only possible on a touchscreen or using specific hardware features. This was really the basis for Bravo Force from the start of development, we wanted to make a game that really made the most of iPod, iPhone and iPad as well as being accessible to all types of gamers.
Having an aiming system where you have to swipe the screen or use the accelerometer feels counter-intuitive compared to being able to touch the enemies to shoot them. Similarly we also found that having grenades you could flick (reminiscent of our game Flick Football) was a really intuitive way of throwing grenades.
In general we found that for a player it was much better for the game to be on rails, so that the player’s experience is more fun focussed. At one point the player could actually control movement between different parts of cover, but we found that this didn’t work well and that players weren’t using the ability, so again we streamlined the game to focus on what’s fun.
What kind of challenges did you face during development?
Barnaby: From the start we knew we weren’t making an ultra-realistic shooter, our focus was making a game that would be enjoyable to both casual and hardcore players.
Early on we found that both sets of players enjoyed the core gameplay, which is a little exaggerated with enemies swan diving off buildings and going flying over barriers when you shoot them, which is great fun to see happen in itself.
We’ve had some really great feedback on that, people who play the game for the first time are laughing as they’re shooting the enemies, which is really rewarding as a developer to see people enjoying your game.
But one of the biggest challenges was making the game a great experience for both casual players and hardcore players again and again. We solved this by adding depth and extra dimensions to the game in lots of different ways.
There’s a number of different ways players can play the game, whether they’re focussed on getting to as high a wave as they can or whether they want to get as high a score as possible to beat their friends on the leaderboard. Accuracy also feeds into the score with head shots giving players a score multiplier. After each match players gain experience and can rank up through 50 ranks.
We’ve also got nearly 200 missions so players have three challenges each time they play the game, like killing 3 enemies by blowing up a barrel or getting 5 head shots in a row.
With Bravo Force a casual player can pick up the game for a few minutes when they’re on the bus and have a great time but also hardcore players can get the satisfaction of progressing through the game and can play match after match.
In our first update to the game we’re adding permanent bonuses for ranking up, so players will unlock extra rounds for their guns, extra grenades and RPGs as well as a health boost as they progress through the ranks.
Looking at gameplay and the screenshots, the game seems to stand out visually. Did you feel it was important to use a range of colours in game, when generally the FPS genre is accused of being quite bland?[drop2]Barnaby: As a team we’re really happy with how the game looks. We wanted to give the player the most exciting experience we could and part of that was making the visuals thrilling.
I think the visuals like many of the aspects of the game reflect a desire to couple both an element of realism with very fun gameplay, so it didn’t make sense for us to use desaturated colours when we could use stronger aesthetics.
We also wanted to push the devices, so the game graphics actually scale based on the device you’re on, so we can ensure that the game plays well on older devices without compromising giving the new devices high end visuals.
At the moment Bravo Force: Last Stand is an iOS only release. Are there plans to release an Android version?
Oli: Yes, we have plans to bring the game to Android soon, both to Google Play and the Amazon App Store…
Will Bravo Force: Last Stand receive post release support, for example more missions & weapons?
Barnaby: Absolutely. At Neon Play we’re very keen on continuing to support our players after launch. We’re already working on several updates for the game and have some really exciting plans for other features we’d like to add.
One of the most important parts of supporting players after release is of course listening to what the players have to say, so feedback from players will be instrumental in the updates we release. If players want more perks for example, or more missions there’s many great ways to get in touch with us (via Facebook or Twitter for example) and we’d love to hear player’s ideas about ways to make the experience better.
Disclaimer: The author is a friend of Barnaby Smith from Neon Play.