We recently had a chance to conduct a quick interview with Jake Kazdal of 17-BIT, the creators of the much hyped, turn based strategy game Skulls of the Shogun. Jake told us about his experiences with working on the game, his stance on Windows Phone as a gaming platform, and gave us some hints as to what the future holds for Skulls of the Shogun and 17-BIT.
You’ve been working on three different versions of the game pretty much simultaneously. Have you had any big challenges with this development strategy?
We’ve had to spend a lot of time tuning the 3 different UI’s into account, while developing all three simultaneously. I would prefer to do one at a time next game!
What specific things did you have to consider when designing the Windows Phone version?
We were surprised with the performance, it was much less optimization than we would have forecast. The textures had to be resized lower, but because the resolution of the screen is lower you really can’t tell. A few of our shaders had to be redone but overall its basically the exact same game as the PC/XBLA version!
What are your thoughts on Windows Phone as a platform for video games and game development?
Microsoft is taking the multi-screen approach very seriously, and we’re proud to be part of that first wave. I think the future of the Windows 8 phone being very easy to work cross platform with Xbox and Win 8 will mean more great, console-like experiences on phone. My biggest dream is for Microsoft to release a “Gamers Phone” that has buttons, dpads and access to XBLA! That would be the go-to gaming experience for me over everything!
How are you planning on supporting the game after the launch? Should we expect DLC or possible balance patches?
We spent the majority of this year working on the Windows 8 version during the time we would have originally liked to have worked on DLC. We will definitely be doing balance patches, but are unsure of DLC at this time.
What kind of DLC were you originally planning on creating? Perhaps new campaigns, levels, extra units?
We would like to do co-op missions, and horde-mode style encounters. Another monk is on the drawing boards but time will tell if we’ll get him in there. At some point in the future I would love to make a sequel, after a few action games!
What do you think has been your greatest triumph during development? Meaning, the moment that made you go: “Yes, this is actually going to work!”
Actually, it was one of the very first nights working on the game, my friend Brian and I had scanned in a bunch of my brainstorm sketches into Photoshop, and played the first playable prototype in Photoshop, with dice and we had an amazing time. I knew from the start this was the right direction!
During development, the game is obviously in a constant state of flux. Has the very basic idea of the game changed in any significant or interesting ways from the early prototypes?
We had some pretty wacky prototypes, one where you moved each type of character per round (all archers, then all infantry etc) we tried as few as 3 units moving per round, and as many as 7. That being said, the basic vision of the game has been pretty consistent throughout.
What is 17-BIT’s main game design philosophy?
Recreating the best of 16-BIT gameplay, updated with modern horsepower, physics and Artificial Intelligence!
A very worthy goal. Which particular games from the 16-BIT era have influenced your game design the most?
Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Shining Force, Secret of Mana, Zelda LttP, all stand out as having influence on this particular title!
Thanks a lot, Jake!
Skulls of the Shogun will be available on Windows Phone 7, Microsoft Surface, XBLA and Windows 8. The game is planned as a launch title for Windows 8, so expect it to be released on all the platforms late October 2012.