Interview With Polar Bird Studio’s Brian Hobbs & Paul Dumas

On that note, it looks like The Way We Roll will have a bit of a non-traditional approach to player achievements, especially considering how the genre usually handles them. Tell us a little about that aspect of the game.

Brian: The whole idea of achievements in a lot of games cracks me up. “Here’s a series of very difficult and often tedious tasks for you to do. If you do them, you’ll get a little box that comes down from the sky letting you know that you did them. You also get some points, and if you get enough points, you’ll be surrounded by screaming fans as you raise your trophy high. No wait, that’s the Super Bowl I’m thinking of. Actually, your points do nothing except allow you to brag to all your friends about how little you did that weekend.”

Now, part of this futility is just ingrained in the nature of spending an unbalanced amount of time in a virtual world. But we did want to include a little more reward for doing the challenging things in the game. For example, for getting all of the “cores” in a world, the player is rewarded with a bonus world. These worlds, although smaller than the worlds of the main storyline, provide new gameplay experiences, puzzle elements that didn’t make it into the main worlds, and even some further insight into the story at large. For getting all of the stars in a world, the player will receive a bonus mini-game, some kind of simple high-scoring game that we made just for fun.

Although the majority of players may not even get to that level of completion, we feel like it provides something more substantial to motivate them than a handful of digits to add to the pile.

Did Paul end up building a game engine entirely from scratch for The Way We Roll? Did anything on the technical side present an unexpected challenge, or is there anything you guys are really proud of implementing that players might not pick up on?

Paul: Yes, the engine is purely from scratch, which was a double-edged sword, in a way. While I was able to customize every aspect and feature, I also had no easy starting points. Everything in code was done by hand, so to speak.

An early challenge was being forced to switch platforms midway through development. We were using an SDK called DragonFire, which promised simple 2D iPhone game development on a Windows PC using C++. However, upon receiving our first build, it became clear that developing “second-hand,” as it were, was not going to meet the needs of our project. We scrounged together some money, bought a Mac, and never looked back.

What are your feelings on the controversial subject of In-App Purchases? If you ever include them in The Way We Roll, how would you skirt the fine line between your revenue needs and the concerns of IAP opponents?

Brian: What I think the IAP opponents are so reactionary against, and reasonably so, are the bait-and-switch tactics, the pay walls, the purposeful imbalance of the game to make you need to buy something just to make the game fun, the constant nagging after every few minutes that you should really buy something…all of that stuff is frustrating, annoying, and can downright ruin an otherwise good game. Unfortunately, it’s all too common on the App Store. Because of that, a lot of players have taken the approach that if we got rid of them entirely, we could be rid of the problem. That’s true.

But the other side of the coin is that, oftentimes, for a developer to sustain himself on the rock-bottom-pricing demands of the App Store, particularly as the market continues to oversaturate, he needs to, you know, actually charge people for his time and effort. IAP can be a legitimate way to do that, if done in a straightforward and honest way that doesn’t seek to exploit the player.

As for our game, we will release with no In-App Purchases. We also plan to provide free updates that will expand the main game without requiring any additional payment. However, we are also considering the possibility of adding an In-App Purchase or two later on that will allow for the player who’s interested in playing casually through the game, and wants to experience the story, but doesn’t want to solve every puzzle, to get some help and the ability to unlock some of the bonus stuff for a charge. However, we wouldn’t nag the player about it, nor would we make the game purposely harder and more tedious than intended just to convince them to buy it.

Finally, have you settled on a range for the game’s release date yet? Anything in the pipeline for updates already?

Brian: Shooting for a June release, but don’t have an exact date. As for updates, I have already spent some time in the design of the next set of levels, which will effectively double the length of the game. We also have a pretty specific number of worlds that we plan to release, in order to complete the main story. We are excited about the release of the game, and hope players will enjoy the challenges we offer, and the story we present.

Big thanks to Brian and Paul for taking the time out to answer our questions about The Way We Roll. Here’s their website again, plus the Polar Bird Facebook page, so you can keep track of the latest news. Now let’s roll some preview footage!