Interview With Kukouri Mobile’s Kim Soares

Tell us a little about Kukouri Mobile. How many members are on your team currently, and are the Kukouri projects everyone’s first game industry experience or have you all been working in the industry for a while before forming your own studio?

Kim Soares: Kukouri was founded just a little less than a year ago. We currently have a team of seven professionals. Key team members have years of experience from both PC and mobile games development companies like Nitro Games, Digital Chocolate and Real Networks / Mr. Goodliving.

An astounding number of developers are based in Finland, now that I think about it: Remedy (Max Payne), Rovio (Angry Birds), and we’ve had interviews with RedLynx and Attido of course. What makes Finland such ripe ground for a thriving videogame industry, in your opinion?

It’s often credited to the active demoscene Finland has had since the 1980s. The demoscene has produced young people with skills needed in game development. For example, the members of a PC group called Future Crew founded Remedy.

Another, more mundane, reason is that Finland is a very high tech country and has a comparatively large number of publicly funded programs to specially aid start-up companies. For example, very early on, Kukouri secured funding support from the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. Needless to say, it helped us a great deal to be able to commit to long term work agreements that were needed to get professional people into the team.

What lessons did Kukouri take away from your first release, Foozles (also known as Mecha World)?

For us, Foozles was a test case to learn about the market and also to familiarize our team with Unity.

It looks like you’re tackling a whole different genre and audience with your next game, Tiny Troopers. How long has Tiny Troopers been in development, and what distinguishes it from other military games on iOS?

We started the development of Tiny Troopers last August. For a mobile game, it has high production values. We believe that in order to stand out from the crowd you have to have great quality and that only comes when you invest enough time and money into your game. Then again, mobile games are getting larger and larger all the time and we want to lead the way.

Clearly, our inspiration is the Amiga legend Cannon Fodder, by Sensible Software. We have tried to retain the same twisted humor and sarcasm towards real war that Cannon Fodder had. You don’t see that in games these days. One of the key elements in Tiny Troopers is the interface: both moving and shooting are done with a simple tap on the screen. We spent several weeks in pre-production experimenting with different control mechanics, from virtual thumb sticks to line drawing, and can say that the controls are perfect. We have made sure to have that kind of attention to detail in all aspects of the game.

What game engine did you build Tiny Troopers in? Were there any really tough technical challenges the team’s programmers encountered as your studio made the leap from 2D to 3D?

We use Unity and we have been really happy with it. It’s a solid engine that is easy to use for programmers, artists and level designers alike. There really hasn’t been any real showstopper. The biggest challenge has been to try and make the game look as good as we want but still have it run on iPods and older iPhones. We have done a lot of optimizing to make the game run smoothly with the level of detail and amount of content we have in it.

What kinds of upgrades, weapons, and enemies can players look forward to in Tiny Troopers? How does the experience and rank system work?

Your basic troopers are the backbone of your team in every mission. They have access to grenades, rockets and air strikes when they need more than just bullets. You can also give them upgrades for their weapons and armor. In addition there are several specialists, from medics to Delta Force units, who you can take along for a mission. If you lose soldiers during the mission you can call in airborne reinforcements.

Troopers gain experience from missions and then level up, i.e., get promoted. Higher-ranking troopers are more deadly and they can take a lot more punishment than rookies. Keeping your troopers alive is a key element in the game. But war is hell and many of them are not going to make it!

Did the team research a particular war or draw on any personal military experience for inspiration when it came to designing Tiny Troopers’  missions, equipment and environments?

We didn’t want to make it any specific war, but one can clearly see that the context for Tiny Troopers are the contemporary wars from Somalia to Iraq to Afghanistan. We wouldn’t say that any war is inspiration for us though. We are a Finnish company so everyone has done their compulsory military service, but luckily Finland has not been in a war since 1944.

What work remains to be done on Tiny Troopers before release? Do you have a release date and/or price range in mind yet?

Many would consider the game to be ready for launch but we are starting one last round of extensive testing in a few weeks. Release will be in Q2. Price range has not been decided yet.

Our thanks goes to Kim Soares, Kukouri Mobile CEO, for answering our questions about Tiny Troopers, and to Chris Carver for facilitating. Don’t forget to check out our hands-on preview, and keep an eye on Kukouri’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed for that release date once it’s announced!