We recently contacted Astraware‘s Alison Barclay to try to arrange an interview with someone who worked on GTS World Racing for the iPhone. Howard Tomlinson, Director of Game Development at Astraware – the Handmark Games Studio, took time to answer some of our questions concerning the iPhone and their first experiences with Apple’s device. Tomlinson is very positive about the iPhone and told us that they’re looking into new updates and features for GTS World Racing.
iPwnGames GTS World Racing has been out for a couple of days now. Are you happy with the success of the game so far?
Howard Tomlinson “Yes! I’m really pleased with how well the game has done – both in terms of downloads (sales) and reviews and the web exposure. It has been good to see a range of reviews, and I’m particularly pleased that some of the reviewers who had comments – suggestions for improvements, complaints, etc. – have got in touch directly with more information and offers to help. That makes me feel positive about the future for us developing and publishing games for this new platform – just like with our other platforms, having the connection with the players of the games means we can create better games.”
iPwnGames Is there going to be extra downloadable content for GTS World Racing?
Howard Tomlinson “We’re looking at adding additional content into updates – new features, in-game scenery, adjustments to difficulty/opponents etc. Because the iTunes distribution model makes it much easier to push updates out with more features and content, we don’t have to worry so much about making extra content something you have to download separately. We’re currently filtering through lots of suggestions (both from customers, testers, and all of the team here!) to decide what kinds of additions and changes, and in what order to do them.”
iPwnGames Can we still expect a demo-version of GTS World Racing?
Howard Tomlinson “We (Astraware) have come from a background where we provide trial versions of all games, without crippling features. The move to iPhone makes that a bit harder to achieve. The definitions of “Lite” seem to be vague at the moment, and we’re still thinking about what to do. We really wanted to make sure that people could see what the game is all about, and making a video seemed like a good way to show it off.”
iPwnGames Were there some challenges developing GTS World Racing for the iPhone.
Howard Tomlinson “The first rule of iPhone development club is… you do not talk about iPhone development club.
“Without going into specifics, it had (and still has) the challenges of developing for a new platform with a new SDK, and launching into a store and system where we weren’t entirely sure how things would work out. Lots of similarities with various developments from Astraware’s past, where for instance we’ve been working to bundle in with an entirely new device, OS, resolution, and more, in an unfeasibly tight timescale!
“It’s fun – terrifying, frustrating, confusing, nerve-wracking fun “
iPwnGames What are your plans for future iPhone-games?
Howard Tomlinson “More games, and more styles of games. We want to experiment with some of the more esoteric features of the iPhone, but to do so in a way that complements games rather than detracting from them. We’re learning a lot because although we’re experts in smartphones – and we have a pretty good understanding of how people use them and what they want from the games they buy – not all of that is exactly the same with iPhone. A good example is that the emotional attachment that people feel for their iPhones is greater than for other phones. (Apple is typically very good at this, though the IT community is quite polar about it!) That means that we need to rethink some of the games to feel more personal. That’s a much subtler development aim than usual, where it is normally a “implement this feature” “bigger explosions” “more cowbell” kind of approach.”
iPwnGames Are you planning to port more of your popular mobile games to the iPhone?
Howard Tomlinson “Very much so. We’re bringing our own IP across where it makes sense, and lots of our licensors are working with us to expand to cover iPhone too. We’re also looking at revisits of some of our older games, where we reckon a new treatment for iPhone would be fun. It’s a balance between experimenting with new ideas and playing it safe with trusted games and brands.”
iPwnGames Are you going after the casual gamer or the hardcore gamer with your future iPhone-games?
Howard Tomlinson “Is this really an “or” question? Are they really different people?
“After seeing the biggest, meanest FPS hardcore gamer in the office playing Hexic 2 by choice, and also having experienced my wife (a puzzle game obsessive) beat seven shades of sh*** out of me on Soul Calibur (I, II, III… will I ever learn?) – I’d argue that the casual and hardcore gamer are often one and the same!
“But the answer is “yes” – we’re covering all bases, with plans for lots of styles.
“I think the other question is whether the current buyers are the same kind of mix of casual and hardcore gamers as other platforms (PC, Smartphone, Handhelds), and whether this will change as iPhone goes – as it certainly will – from early adopters to a much larger market.”
iPwnGames Do you think the iPhone is ready to lift mobile gaming to the next level?
Howard Tomlinson “Undoubtedly – though not for the reasons of it being a progressive piece of hardware (which it is, in my opinion!) – but because Apple have done something which lifts the industry in a new direction. They’ve connected all of the dots from hardware manufacturer to application developer to consumer, which hasn’t been achieved before. The challenges for a developer to move from a hobbyist to actually making some livelihood are very much reduced. That’ll result in a lot of creativity – and a lot of truly great games, and most likely many truly dire games too.
“My worry is that there are only so many promo slots, and “top 10” positions, so that great games that don’t quite make those positions don’t get the exposure to keep them above the flood of mediocre titles. How’s a user to determine what’s great and what isn’t? Reviews and ratings alone won’t be enough. I think there are still some changes to happen over time with the iTunes App Store to make it work better. It’s going to be a fun couple of years as all this gets worked out!”
Video of GTS World Racing for iPhone