Jimmi discusses his game, Quadradius
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Interviewer: I’m here at Austin Game Developers Conference and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Jimmi: Hello, my name is Jimmi Heiserman. I’m living in Boston right now.
Interviewer: What game did you work on?
Jimmi: I worked on a game called Quadradius.
Interviewer: It’s interesting; it’s a different type of game. Can you explain the game some?
Jimmi: It’s a turn-based, two player or multi player game, so it’s online and it’s networked. People refer to it as like checkers or chess on crack. That’s actually a loving term we have to it.
Interviewer: So, it’s kind of like a board game online.
Jimmi: It’s a board game. It’s like a grid-based thing. It starts up looking like checkers, but then it’s got like almost 90 power-ups that you get that affect your defense or your offense. You’re creating obstacles, blowing up your enemy, going invisible, becoming invincible, like different ways of trying to just simply eliminate all of their pieces but breaking out of the general rule of…
Interviewer: [We need to get out of this wind.]
Jimmi: [Ah, this wind.] It’s a grid-based game like checkers, but it’s all about getting these power-ups that really mutilate the arena. And they’re holes forming in it, and there’s a lot of destruction and obstacles.
Interviewer: How long does it take to play a game?
Jimmi: The game currently, I would say your average game is about 30 minutes which is a little unfortunate. We actually want to bring the game time down to about 15 or 20 minutes.
Jimmi: We had some ideas for the new version we’re working on which will involve making some twists of rules, such as you can play a capture the flag mode where it’s not the golden rule that all the 32 pieces of your opponent but rather just get this one special tile. Or perhaps a king mode where there’s like two or three kings and you just have to kill these key guys. If you kill them, the rest of the squadron kind of crumbles. I think though if we can get a 15 minute average game, we’re in a better position then for that.
Interviewer: Can you talk about – is it asynchronous or is it real time?
Jimmi: It’s, like I said, turn-based but you are playing right there with a live chat window and you’re playing an opponent.
Interviewer: So, you can’t just leave and then come back.
Jimmi: No, you cannot.
Interviewer: About the design of the game, how did you come up with the design? You talk about these 90 power-ups. How did you balance everything, and what’s the process behind all that?
Jimmi: I made a concept of it, like a prototype of it, even years earlier for high school in Pasco, a much older programming language. There was an easy 20-30 power-ups that didn’t make sense, like being able to destroy everyone in your row or recruit everyone in your column and get them on your side and things like that.
After a while, we started adding more things that we have had issues with, where there’s some kind of conflicts, and we either had to put in changes or a little bit of rule sets. We wanted to launch it and in all of 2007 we had a thing called New Power Tuesday. The first Tuesday of every month we’d release a new power in the game, and I actually had admins, people hanging around the lobby for it to come out.
Then, they would play test it and if it didn’t work with this huge fan base on our message boards that we would just tweak it, but for the most part there was really only about two powers that we were unhappy with. In the new version we’re making it might be highly crippled or we might remove them from the game.
Interviewer: Do you have to then consistently add content and power-ups to the game to keep the community alive and coming back or how does that work? How do you keep the community constantly engaged?
Jimmi: Some people, the ones who heavily relied on the New Power Tuesday gimmick that we did, they were upset that we stopped adding these new things, but now what we’ve noticed is our message board is pretty active. So, people come and visit the forum when they’re not playing the game, they’re having like metagame communication with people.
Also, a lot of fans have started their own tournaments where they’ll make up their own rules: OK, we’re going to form teams and clans and I’m a general and on my team I want five guys underneath me. And we’re going to play three games a week, and at the end of this month we’re going to get winners out of this.
And so, they went out and sighted the game mechanics and came up with their own rules. Some things that we want to implement into our new version although the tournament one, while we didn’t fully build it ourselves, it seemed to be a lot more work and it would also restrict the openings that the players come up with.
For now, we’re going to let them keep running their own tournaments because they can come up with any rules they want and run their own outside website from fan-based websites and stuff like that.
Interviewer: In terms of marketing, what else are you going to do to keep your game and your community going and growing? Is your goal to grow it or keep it stable or what?
Jimmi: Oh no, of course, it is to grow it which is why we’re doing the new version. The current version out there now has an issue with concurrent players. If we get too many people connected to our server, then we’re having issues, mainly because I programmed this myself in Java and I never really was that skilled to do it. I took on something bigger than I should have.
So, we’re making this new version using like an off the shelf server, SmartFox, and one of the things we want to do, actually, to make it a little bit more like this other clone ship [?] to end more open ended than it is now which is customized arenas.
So, right now as a member you can play with one of four different arena sizes and it’s pretty much customization, you pick your own colors which really doesn’t count. That’s more like icing on the cake.
But with the customized arena you set the grid size: you know, I want to play a 3 x 20 grid. I want to start with these tiles to either raise or lower, to create walls and empty spaces that can never be traversed by the opponent. And I want to start with these powers and these modes, and then I want to save that and give it a name.
The next thing you’ve got a short URL with the ID to this game.
Jimmi: And you can share it with your friends. We also want to have replayability where after you play, we have every move in the game saved, so not only can you review your game but you review games that other people played. More importantly, when there’s these tournament modes people were like, “What was the outcome? How did it go?” “Oh, it was awesome. So, it took an hour. We were down two to one at the end, and we just kept battling back and forth. It was very fair the whole time”. You’re like, “I wish I could see that”. So we want to make it a player that it replays all of these games that people play.
Interviewer: Any advice then or suggestions for other game developers who want to make their own board-type like game online? Anything that they can do to reach the level of success that you have?
Jimmi: I would say, for one, don’t just remake something that