Blending all-out action and subtle strategy, The Collectables launched on iPhone and iPad last week, and is set to take Android devices by storm very soon. We spoke to Kristoffer Waardahl, Studio Manager of Crytek Budapest, about the team's work on creating a mobile experience of blockbuster proportions.
How did the idea for the game first come about?
We started out with the intention of making more of a traditional military-tactical game. It was fun but the sessions came out quite long and it was always a bit hard to find your soldiers on screen (due to the camouflage) and see who was who.
The soldiers grew in size, muscle and armament, getting closer and closer in look and feel to GI Joe, John Rambo type action heroes. This was a lot of fun; everyone liked the new direction so we cranked up the hilarity on every level and The Collectables were born.
Can you give us a basic overview of what players can expect in the game? What are the key gameplay features?
Lots of action and tactics! The game is a nice blend of traditional action gameplay – i.e. maneuvering heroes in 3D – mixed with a cool Action Card system. The action cards are special abilities or events such as gunship strikes, deployable sentry guns, adrenaline boosts, frag grenades, and even instant brainwashing of enemies – just to name a few.
The players will have to balance using heroes and using action cards; getting and using the right card at the right time for the right job. There is always more than one way to solve a specific problem or to kill a Boss – it’s up to the player’s choice of tactics and action card deck.
Both heroes and action cards are collectable, of course.
The Collectables gives a nod to '80s action movies and the types of heroes many gamers grew up idolizing. What is it about that era of entertainment that appeals to you and makes it a good source of inspiration?
Those movies are very much like the classic Westerns. You know what you’ll get. The hero is awesome. The enemies are bad. There will be a showdown. The bad guys will pay, justice will be served. It’s so direct, straight and simple.
I also like that these movies do not take themselves too seriously and it’s pure entertainment. I think that’s a very vital part of humor and a key to entertaining others. You have to take a step back to be able to laugh at yourself.
Did you dream of being Schwarzenegger or Stallone back in the day?
Yes. Still do sometimes! *joke*. They are both incredible men who have achieved so much; they are good role-models.
The game looks stunning. What sort of challenges did you face in bringing that level of graphical quality to mobile devices?
The biggest challenge is always thinking out of the box. Mobile devices have different tradeoffs than desktop or console devices and purely scaling back features did not yield the quality we wanted to achieve.
We wanted detailed environments with lush, dynamic vegetation, dynamic lights, high quality particle effects and high quality lighting at the same time. Our R&D had to go through these challenges one by one and figure out the way to achieve them on today’s mobile devices.
You personally have a lot of experience in developing games for console, PC and mobile – so what are some of the things you like about creating games for mobile in comparison with other platforms?
The mobile scene reminds me of the old-school PC development times; smaller teams can get together, create a game and entertain people. Many mobile games still feel ‘pure’ in that it’s about the game; dodging asteroids, collecting cards, fighting aliens. It’s not all about exposition and they leave a lot of room to your imagination.
The other aspect is the tech evolution on the hardware; it’s booming on mobile devices. Every year you get new opportunities with new hardware and new challenges to solve. I like that.
What's your personal philosophy on what makes for a great game?
Needless to say, every game is different and has very specific needs; but speaking in broad terms, I believe great games have to present clear goals and interesting problems to solve for the players. The tools given to the players should be interesting and fun to use repeatedly.
There are lots of games out there competing for players' attention. Why do you think they should take some time to give The Collectables a try?
We really wanted to try something new, to create a game experience quite unlike anything on the App Store. I think we’ve succeeded in creating a fun action/card game hybrid that’s enjoyable and good fun for many, many hours. We’re going to launch lots of cool in-game events, game modes, new heroes, new cards as we go on, so there will be something new to check out regularly as well.