Mode7, makers of Frozen Synapse announced last month that they're working on a port of the game for the iPad. At the recent Explay Festival held I was able to snatch a brief chat with one of the studio's co-founders Paul Taylor. We talked about the current state of the port, the challenges it presents, and the future plans for the game (both the port and the PC version).
What brought about the decision to bring Frozen Synapse to the iPad?
The Humble Bundle showed there's a wide audience out there who are ready for a game like this and so many people have asked us about a version of the game for iPad.
What we really want is to get support from Apple because we think it could be a fantastic product to show off what the iPad is really good at doing.
What sort of thing is it particularly good at?
[One] thing that we're doing is you're going to have hot seat. So you can put it down on your table, give it your mate and they can play their turn and give it back to you. It's also going to be cross-platform with the PC. Games that you've taken a turn in you'd be able to do that next turn on the iPad.
Had you always had plans for it to go on the iPad?
I'm a convert now, initially I thought getting the game interface to work would be too hard. I'm thinking about the issues I have with that, and I have a build that I can fudge around with until the interface is ready. It was always a PC game originally but I just think that, if we do it right, it could be this killer thing that everyone has on their iPad. It's very cool.
How are you getting around the interface, some parts of it require quite precise control?
What we have now is a build which is just the PC version with touch for the mouse. And that is one of the first issues that came up, that nexus between the player and the aim and time control. And that's something we're going to have to work out so it's more intuitive on the iPad. Similarly, zooming and editing plans in fine detail.
How else does it differ?
You don't have the mouse-over function, on the PC you rely on mouse-over to inform you about what you're about to do. In interface design being able to anticipate is vital for a user. We've got to find a way you just know in advance what's going to happen and that's so hard to get there, it just requires a load of tweaking. It's not a rational process, it's just kind of intuitive.
We're going to do the interface ourselves and be really hands-on for that and make sure it has that level of polish. That's the thing when you move to a different platform, there are things in porting that can be lost in the interface. So we think that's really important to focus on.
You've mentioned plans for DLC in past, what sort of thing would this be?
Because the system is quite flexible, one of the things we're going to do is game modes. We have some pretty interesting game modes now, like charge and hostage, but there's definitely scope for designing gameplay because we've kept the mechanic itself really simple - there's lots of things we can project on top of that. And game modes don't impact balance.
We are also thinking about new units, but we are really aware that new units are such a massive issue in a multiplayer game and really change balance, making the game really different. So we're going to approach that seriously and have a beta community around that. I'm a big Starcraft 2 player and the stuff that Blizzard are doing is fundamentally changing some things about the game and what classes of units they choose to introduce are really intriguing to see where it goes. And that level of detail terrifies me. But there are things we can do that modulate the gameplay rather than break it.
I'd love to do more singleplayer and extend the story, and music as well, people are always asking for more of that. So just more content really. So we'll test the waters with a small DLC pack and see what people want and what we can deliver.
You can pick up a copy of Frozen Synapse for the PC from the Mode7 site here.
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