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Interview With Beavertap Games, Developers Of The Casual Speedrun Platformer Mikey Shorts, Coming To The AppStore This Wednesday Night!

There have been quite a few additions to the Speedrun Platformer genre in the AppStore over the last year and a half; Leage of Evil, Mos Speedrun, Commander Pixman, Meganoid, Stardash, Little Acorns and more have provided some great challenges for the more hardcore platform gamers. Well, this Wednesday, casual gamers will be invited to take part in the fun as well, with the release of BeaverTap Game’s Mikey Shorts, a casual speedrun platformer that doesn’t have insanely strict times, but still provides a challenge for the more hardcore players. I was lucky enough to help beta test this fantastic game, checking out every little nook and cranny, and believe me when I say I haven’t had this much fun with speedrun platformer since I got into Mos Speedrun. We were also lucky enough to be able to pull the duo away from their busy lives for a couple minutes and ask them a couple questions about this supremely awesome title. 
Now, I don’t really know the details behind it all, but I do know that the two of you met on Touch Arcade while battling it out on OpenFeint and GameCenter for top scores in Hook Champ and Mos Speedrun. Are there other titles that brought you two together? When did you two start really talking about starting up BeaverTap Games?
We were both invited to beta test for Rocketcat Games in early 2010. While competing against each other in Super Quickhook, we started communicating via email and found that we were both interested in making an iOS game at some point. By the end of the year, we finally got around to making it a reality.

How long did it take you two to create Mikey Shorts, your first foray into the iOS development scene?
We’ve been working on the game in our spare time for over a year and a half, but we really stepped it up in the months before release.

Mikey Shorts is another great addition to the Speedrun Platformer Genre. However, having more lax times for the levels opens the game up to a more casual audiance. What made you two, being the hardcore speedrun mongers that you are, decide to drift away from the strict time limit challenge that most games within the genre have?

We love competing with other people more than just passing a level. We wanted to give every player a chance to do well in the game and show them that earning three stars on a level isn’t impossible. For the more experienced players, trying to rank high on the leaderboards should provide an extra challenge.

Are there any games that directly influenced Mikey Shorts, and are there any development teams that influence how the two of you have decided to build up and run BeaverTap Games?

We were influenced by classic console platformers, but we also looked at some of our favorite 2D platformers such as Hook Champ, Super Quickhook, Mos Speedrun, and League of Evil. We’re following the lead of a lot of developers that communicate with their players and are open to feedback.
Like other genres, there are a lot of different aspects that are incredibly important when creating a platformer; Controls, physics, level design, inertia, ect… is there any one thing that really gave you two a hard time, drove you crazy or that you guys found especially challenging while you were developing Mikey Shorts?

The controls pretty much make or break a platformer on a touch screen device. We spent a lot of time fine tuning the button placement to make sure the majority of players feel comfortable from the start. We also allow the player to customize the placement of the buttons.

It’s pretty clear that the two of you take iOS gaming very seriously. Is the iDevice your main gaming platform, or do you guys prefer playing console games? 

With so many great games, we both consider iOS our gaming platform of choice.
What engine did you guys decide to use to create Mikey Shorts, and why did you decide to go this route?

We chose to use the cocos2d framework because of the community support. There are a lot of tutorials and friendly people willing to help out developers. We use the Box2D physics engine because it’s well documented and used in many cocos2d tutorials.

Now that you’ve got one game release under the belt of BeaverTap Games, what’s in store for the future? Are you guys already kicking around some more ideas for your next game, or are you going to primarily focus on expanding Mikey Shorts for the time being? Do you think there’s any chance iOS gamers will see a Mikey Shorts 2 in the future?

We’re going to focus on trying to make Mikey Shorts even better with updates. Then we’ll continue Mikey’s adventure in a sequel!

Again, we would like to thank BeaverTap Games for taking the time to answer these questions, and we can not wait to check out the final build of Mikey Shorts this Wednesday night. You know we’ll be posting up a review of the game this Thursday, so if you want to know more about Mikey Shorts, make sure you check back then for a full, in-depth review of the game. You can also check out the trailer below, as well as head on over to the BeaverTap Official Site!

Interview With Rodeo Games

It’s been quiet here at the App Shack, but that is the sign of a long and arduous week. Thankfully there has been a break in the onslaught, and we are back with an exciting interview with Rodeo Games (the brains behind the Hunters series). With Hunters 2 releasing this week, hopefully this article gets you excited for the game if you aren’t already. Watch for our review soon.
Initials stand for Ben Murch, Adam Clixby and Richard Brooks.

– Tell us a bit about the Rodeo Games team.  How did the four of you get together?

BM: We were all friends before Rodeo formed. Laurent was my next door neighbour when I first moved to Guildford. Adam, Rich and I all worked together at Codemasters. Then two things happened. Firstly, the App Store appeared, which empowered people like us to make and publish the games we wanted. Secondly, Laurent and I got stranded in Vegas for an extra week when the whole volcano ash cloud thing happened. In between all the gambling and drinking, we outlined what to do and hit the ground running with Adam and Rich when we got back!

– We all know that the migration into outer space is coming sooner or later. Is the story line of Hunters really what you guys envision of the distant future?

BM: I really hope not! The Hunters universe is pretty bleak. A sort of morally bankrupt place where killing people is seen as a means to get paid! Private corporations running things though, that seems more believable. You can already see the current world going that way a little now, and you can imagine someone like Branson landing on Mars and claiming it in the name of Virgin.

– In Hunters Episode 1, one of the hunters was named “Atticus”. Have you guys read “To Kill A Mockingbird”? Is that where the name came from?

BM: Haha, good spot! It was originally in there for a joke, because that Hunter had 100% accuracy when we were testing the game. Then we just got attached to the name. It seems to fit for some reason.

– The artwork in Hunters Episode 1 is absolutely gorgeous, but it seems limited by the top-down camera angle. What made you guys decide to avoid a more up close and personal view?

RB: From a technical point of view, using a top-down camera allows us to do a lot to make the game look as good as it does.  It means we can keep the fidelity of the graphics really high.
BM: Yes, our choice of viewing angle is mostly based on the nature of the game. Top down is the most effective for turn based strategy. The whole up close and personal view could be cool for kill-cams, but the amount of work we’d have to do to get it in the game wouldn’t be worth the payoff!

– How are you guys expanding on the original Hunters in Episode 2? Will we see a return of the contract system?

AC: Absolutely.  The daily contract system is something we really liked about the first game – and something we got a lot of positive feedback about.  By getting a new set of contracts each day, you really want to keep coming back – it keeps the game feeling fresh.
Something else we’ve included in Hunters 2 after a lot of requests is a ‘hardcore’ mode in which your hunters are permanently removed from the game if they are killed on a mission.  It makes for some very tense (and cowardly) play!
BM: We’ve also totally revamped the talents system. It’s now more dynamic and personalised than before. Each hunter has access to general talents and two specialist trees. Figuring out which combinations work for your style of play is really cool.

– What do you guys have planned for after Hunters 2? Will there be a third installment?

BM: We do have something really really awesome lined up, but we can’t talk about it just yet.

We give all of our thanks to Rodeo Games for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck to them in all of their future pursuits.

I’m excited for Hunters 2, if for some reason you still aren’t excited go ahead and pick up the free to play Hunters Episode 1 and get up to speed. It’s going to be a big week for releases and Hunters 2 isn’t a title that you will want to miss. Oh, and check out the awesome teaser trailer below.

Interview with Ravenous Games

Recently we got a chance to chat with Derek from Ravenous Games. Yes, this is the “team” that brought us Cave Run, and the iOS version of League of Evil. I was thrown off by the fact that Derek is running a one-man operation at Ravenous Games, and that makes his work that much more incredible. Enjoy the read!

– Tell us a bit about the Ravenous team.
 How did you guys get together?

Ravenous Games is
currently a one man indie operation. I work alongside other indie teams and
sub-contract as necessary.


Wait, so it’s just you at Ravenous Games? I thought for sure you had a team put together. So what did you do before entering the iOS scene? 

Just me :)
I’ve always moonlighted doing game development but before doing it full-time I was a web developer.

– Where did the idea for League of Evil come
from? Can you lay down the story line?

Woblyware is
responsible for creating the original League of Evil. Ravenous Games came along
and pretty much did a straight port of the Flash game and helped build some iOS
exclusive content with no real direction for the story. For League of Evil 2,
BulletProof Outlaws came up with a GREAT story line and illustrated a whole
bunch of comic book pages. The game actually feels much more rewarding knowing
there is a plot backing it.


The one-man army thing kinda fubared my question. But that is really cool. How did you team up with Woblyware to port League of Evil in the first place?


When we finished our game Cave Run and started looking for another game to port over to iOS we came across League of Evil online and contacted the authors.

– In the original League of Evil, some of the
goal times were a pretty hard to beat.  How are those times decided upon?

Woblyware and Ravenous
played tested the levels and did our best to estimate a good average level
time. For League of Evil 2, we actually averaged beta testers level times and
perform some analytics on the save game files to help determine a difficulty
curve. The results is much better progression during the chapters and more
reasonable level times.

– What made you guys decide to drop the big
pixels and go with a more HD look? Are you guys targeting the same audience in
League of Evil 2 as in the original?

We are looking to
cater to a wider audience this time around with League of Evil 2. We know we
won’t be able to please everyone but we are thrilled with the new look!
Hopefully the original fans will appreciate it as well. We know we will lose
the hardcore pixel-junkie fans for the sequel but gameplay is king and League
of Evil 2 is still has the same great gameplay (and controls) as the original.
We took extra care to make sure it plays as well as the first game but honestly
believe this game is superior in every way possible.

– Judging from the
screen shots, Bulletproof Outlaws has done an amazing job with the HD overhaul.
 How did you guys pair up for this project?

Jeff and I have worked
on projects in the past. He’s an incredible artist and did a fantastic job with
the art on League of Evil 2.

– Finally, what’s next
for Ravenous Games? Will the League of Evil series continue, or are you guys
going to move on to a new game altogether?

plan on putting a couple updates out for League of Evil 2. We also have a
couple more pixel games coming courtesy of Woblyware. As for League of Evil, we
will determine based on League of Evil 2’s success whether a third game is
something we should consider!

A million thanks to Derek at Ravenous Games for taking the time to chat with us! We hope you all enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for our review of League of Evil 2 coming in the next few days!

Interview with Lab Rats Studio

Recently I managed to get in touch with Rion Holland over at Lab Rats Studio, the development team behind upcoming Third-Person Shooter M.U.S.E. This game is shaping up to be a down-right awesome shooter and brings back memories of arcade-style multiplier mayhem. Look for preview screens after the break.

– Can you give us some basic background about Lab Rats Studio? When did you guys form the team and what motivated you to enter the development scene?

Lab Rats Studio was formed a little over a year ago by four Wake Technical Community College students with a passion for game development. We all knew finding jobs at game studios in today’s economy would be very difficult with no experience, so we decided to do it ourselves. Lab Rats Studio was one of the inaugural companies to complete Joystick Labs’ three month game development business accelerator program in Durham, North Carolina. We all had a drive to work on our own game and have creative control over the process, which is what led us to create Lab Rats Studio. We realized that the mobile market was growing and there was not a lot of heavy competition for a game like M.U.S.E. yet.

– How did you come up with the ideas behind M.U.S.E.? Have you drawn inspiration from any other games?

As a lot of other games do, we of course drew inspiration from other games that we enjoy. We knew we wanted to create a third person shooter that was visually impressive and consisted of “console-like” shooter gameplay. We sometimes describe M.U.S.E. as a sort of Sci-Fi Max Payne set in a dark alternate present day. Others have noted inspirations from games like Duke Nukem and Gears of War. We then added on top of the shooting a layer of arcade scoring and combo systems that gives the game a competitive aspect to compete with friends to get high scores where players can post high scores to leaderboards via GameCenter or OpenFeint. We, of course, feel like M.U.S.E. is totally different than any other game out there, especially on the mobile market.

– What sort of struggles have you guys faced during the development of M.U.S.E. so far? How have you managed to overcome them?

Our biggest struggle has been that this is our first marketable game as a new game studio, so it has been a learning experience for all of us. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in pre-production, which is a crucial stage of the game development process, that made us come up with concepts and designs within the production cycle. We also had a pretty large vision for what we wanted M.U.S.E. to be which had to be managed to make it work for mobile devices.  As an independent game development studio, we struggled a lot with money and keeping a staff of up to nearly 10 people. All of the people on our development team are extremely talented and dedicated individuals that have continued to work their butts off for the past year to make this game happen. We have managed to create this game on a shoestring budget and are very proud of what we have accomplished.

– What do you guys hope to bring to the App Store with M.U.S.E.? How will this push the iOS gaming platform further into the future?

We are bringing fun and immersive gameplay to the shooter genre on mobile devices. We took a play style that is popular on consoles and made it work for mobile devices so that people looking for a slightly more traditional “shooter” gameplay experience will feel at home in M.U.S.E. The controls have been through much testing and iteration to bring an intuitive and comfortable feeling as similar to a controller layout as possible. As briefly mentioned before, we added an arcade style scoring system and RPG inspired upgrade system to give the game some competition and replayability. Players will also be able to purchase currency via IAP for faster upgrades, or can play through the game and gain currency upon beating levels based off their scores. We are also very happy with the level of detail and quality of artwork we were able to accomplish on mobile devices that will only continue to get better as both we and the hardware continue to develop in the future.

– M.U.S.E. is looking really awesome. Can you tell us about some of the key features that we will see in the game?

M.U.S.E. will feature:

  • – Gorgeous visuals that showcase the full power of the iPhone4S and iPad 2 and rival console games for graphical richness and detail.
  • – Arcade-style scoring system that awards players points for combo kills and massive destruction.
  • – Compete against and challenge friends for the highest scores in Game Center (iOS) and Open Feint (Android)  leaderboards.
  • -“Adrenaline Mode” that is both a beginner’s lifeline and an elite player’s high scoring tool.
  • – Equip a variety of high-tech weapons as you fight against an army of cybernetic enemies.
  • – Upgrade your character as you play with over 80 individual upgrades for Sid and his weapons.
  • – Destructible environments rigged for maximum destruction and pyrotechnic mayhem.
  • – Immersive single-player campaign with a storyline told through comic book-style cutscenes.
  • – Full support for iOS 5’s AirPlay mirroring so you can watch your explosive firefights on your big-screen HDTV.
  • iCloud saving so you can play on one device and pick up where you left off on another.
– You’ve mentioned an “Adrenaline” Mode. Can you expand on that feature?

“Adrenaline Mode” is a feature we have added to M.U.S.E. that is similar to a “rage” mode in other games where Sid literally shoots himself in the leg with a shot of adrenaline and goes into a state of heightened awareness and power. First off, adrenaline is gained by dispatching enemies or destroying environment objects in game. When your adrenaline meter is full and begins to flash, you can enter adrenaline mode which will slowly regenerate the player’s health, puts an outline on enemies and destructible objects to make them easier to see, bursts the player into slow motion after kills and destruction so they can plan their next move, and puts a bloom effect on screen. While in adrenaline mode, you can extend the timer by continuing to kill enemies and destroy objects, and the longer you do so, the more your adrenaline multiplier increases (the 0.0x in the top right). Every kill in adrenaline mode is multiplied by this value, so kills 60 seconds into adrenaline mode will yield 6x the normal score value, and then multiplied again by whatever your current chain value is.

To put it simply, each enemy and destructible has a base score value that is multiplied by the value of the combo chain, and then again by the adrenaline multiplier if you’re in it. So if you kill a Vorg Zed Ultra (base score 700) with a 3x combo chain when the adrenaline multiplier is at 2.5x, you’ll net 5250 points. Adrenaline mode is both an emergency lifeline for those that are about to die and need that extra boost, and a high-scoring method for the elite player that is trying to top their friends’ high scores.

– When do you hope to release M.U.S.E.? Have you discussed a price point?

M.U.S.E. is planned for release in December 2011 just in time for the Holidays. We plan to price the game within the same realm of our competition.

– What does Lab Rats Studio have planned for the future?

We plan to put out a content update for M.U.S.E.: Episode 1 about a month after launch that will include two more levels and a final boss fight level to complete the episode. There will be some added enemy variations and possible new upgrades and weapons to use. After that, we plan to continue the game through three episodic installments to complete the franchise. We are striving to be a premiere cutting edge game development studio on the mobile market.

We really appreciate Rion and Lab Rats Studio taking the time to chat with us about M.U.S.E. To learn more about M.U.S.E. and the studio, check and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Interview with RocketCat Games

You may recognize the name Rocketcat from seeing some of their previous games like Hook Champ and Super Quick Hook.  Currently they are working on a RPG that goes back to the roots of classic RPG’s with no fetch quests and no grinding. Intrigued by their progress I asked them for a interview.  If you have any questions you want answered by RocketCat then shoot me a tweet or leave a comment on this article. Enjoy!
Q: What role do you play in Rocketcat Games? (programmer, publisist etc)

A: Level and gameplay design mostly, and I run the company.

Q:What do you feel you gain from each succesful game publish? Do you utilize the best elements from previous games or do you just start from scratch?

A: Each game teaches important lessons that we use in the next game. Even though Mage Gauntlet is a completely new genre, you’ll still be able to see the influences from previous games.

Q: Regarding your recent game Mage Gauntlet, how do you feel this will alter the course of your studio. For example will you start branching out into other genres like Tactical RPG’s like Final Fantasy or revert back to the hook and jump that was loved by many?

A: You’ll see us move into the action-RPG genre for awhile. We also have been thinking about doing turn-based RPG’s, because we could easily make those using the same RPG engine. I don’t see us going back to the hook racing games anytime soon, at least for iOS.

Q: Any plans for a sequel to Mage Gauntlet?

A: Yes, probably two direct sequels to continue the story, and also one limited story, all action spin-off.

Q: What do you feel about making a platformer with rpg elements that also incorporates the hook and jump mechanism?

A: We were going to make a grappling-hook metroidvania sort of game. We stopped working on it because it just didn’t seem to fit the iOS platform too well, for a variety of reasons. We might revive that project later on, maybe as a PC game instead.

Q: What kind of sales do you expect for the new game?

A: No idea! If people find it and like it, it could sell a lot more than the hook games did, just because action-RPG’s are a really popular genre. Grappling-hook-racing is a much, much more niche genre in comparison.

Q: How do you think people will react to the game and its spin of the RPG genre?

A: I think people that like classic-styled action RPG’s, but don’t like 40 hours of KRPG style grinding, will like this game. All the top-down action RPG’s I can think of right now for iOS are Korean RPG’s, which seem to universally have a really big focus on pointless grinding. We might even be the first classic RPG to hit the App Store that doesn’t have a “collect 10 firewood” quest.

Q: Can you give us details on an example of a typical quest in the game?

A: There are no quests in the game, in the modern-day sense. That is, no collect 10 quests, no kill 20 quests. Instead, you’re exploring and fighting your way through the game’s story.

Q: What is the main story of the game? What is your goal?

A: In the game story, your quest is to find three missing wizards that are important in preventing the Archdemon from escaping his banishment. You’re given a powerful magical gauntlet to assist you. About midway through the game, it becomes clear that you have to stop the Archdemon yourself.

Q: How replayable would you say the game is? Are there many collectibles and other things you can find after the story?

A: There are a lot of secrets, collectibles, new swords and other equipment you can find, and achievements. There’s also a nightmare difficulty mode, with remixed levels and enemies, that you unlock by beating the game. For completionists, there’s a star-grade system for each level which unlocks pets that follow you around, and an optional kill-enemies-for-rare-hats bit.

Q: How does it feel to be manager of a game company? Are you stressed out all the time trying to get your games to the next level or is it fairly laid back?

A: The last month of development for each game is pretty stressful. Otherwise it’s not, really.
When do you estimate the games release date?
Q: When do you expect the game to release?

A:The game should be out either early Septermber or really late August. Not sure until we submit it
If you have any other questions you would like me to ask RocketCat Games you can comment on this post or  send us a tweet at our twitter page! Twitter:!/TheAppShack
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