Chair Entertainment was relatively quiet about their future plans after completing work on "Shadow Complex." That changed a couple of months ago, when the developer revealed that they're working on the first Unreal-engine game for the iOS platform, which they were then calling "Project Sword." The official name has now been set as "Infinity Blade," and Chair's Creative Director, Donald Mustard, spoke with us for a few minutes about what to expect.
Infinity Blade =/= Epic Citadel
First of all, "Infinity Blade" is not "Epic Citadel," the free tech demo that was released on the same day as the "Project Sword" announcement. There's been some confusion between the two, given the similar medieval fantasy themes, but Mustard confirmed that the castle featured in "Infinity Blade" is completely different than the one in "Epic Citadel." There's also, you know, actual gameplay in "Infinity Blade," whereas "Epic Citadel" just had people wandering around an empty castle.
Mustard's goal with "Infinity Blade is to "make a real sword fighting game. A game where it's not just mashing buttons or pressing A to unleash an attack." On the iPhone and iPad, Mustard and his team found an ideal platform for the concept. "It'd be perfect to use this touch screen to where, basically, I swipe on the screen, and I've got this dude who swipes with me. We can actually make a sword fighting game where, if an attack is coming in at a funky angle, I can swipe my sword into it and parry the attack away."
A Blend Of Karateka, Dragon's Lair And Punch-Out
There's more going on in this game than just sword fighting, though. Mustard describes "Infinity Blade" as "a blend between 'Karateka,' 'Dragon's Lair,' 'Punch-Out,' with a whole bunch of other 'Chair-ness' thrown into it." By Chair-ness, he's referring to exploration, which is something that was heavily emphasized in "Shadow Complex." Players will be able to explore the dungeon between battles, finding gold, equipment and potions to help them in their quest.
That's a lot to manage on a small iPhone screen, but the developers mantra for "Infinity Blade" was to keep things simple, saying that "the entire game needs to be controlled with one finger." For sword fighting, this is easy to imagine: Swipe to swing your sword, tap to block an attack. Exploration, however, is a bit trickier.
Exploring the castle is where the comparisons to "Dragon's Lair" come in:
"With your finger, you can look around, and there are different touch points in the environment, and when I click the point, I see cool cinematic shots of my character moving through the environment. While he's doing that, if I see other branches, I can click on those. If I see treasure I can click on it. It's almost like the 'picking up the sunshine' feel of 'Plants vs. Zombies.' It's pretty different, but I think it's cool for the device."
I asked if it worked like "Myst," and Mustard confirmed that it was close, but more active than "Myst" in that you can change paths and pick up items as you're moving from one point to the next, almost like you would in a light gun game like "Time Crisis" or "Area 51."
Players will also be pleased to know that after "Infinity Blade" launches sometime this holiday season, Chair will be supporting the game with a bunch of free updates. "The coolest thing about iPhone games is that they're so easy to update and add more content for free," said Mustard. "On the console side of things, it's not easy to be like 'Let's add five new swords to the game!' It has to go through a whole certification process, it costs a lot of money...it's really not conducive to giving users a lot of content frequently."
Games on the App Store, on the other hand, are much easier to update, as evidenced by titles like "Pocket God" and "Doodle Jump," which have seen dozens of updates since launch. Mustard sees a similar output for "Infinity Blade":
"It's going to be like a constant stream of 'Here's a couple new new swords, here's some new shields, here's a new helmet, here's multiplayer, here's a whole new part of the castle to explore, here's a whole new series of enemies. We have a lot of stuff planned to release post-launch, which is awesome! I love it. That's what I always want as a gamer: Gimme more content. And as a designer and a developer, that's what we want to do, too. We're always like "Oh, if we could just add this or this."
As for pricing, Mustard said that the current plan is for post-release content "all being free...at least for the near-term. You bought the game, so here's the content." He doesn't rule out the possibility of premium content down the line, however. The game's initial price is still being determined.
Although I haven't had to the chance to play "Infinity Blade," I'm definitely curious to see what Chair is able to come up with on the iPhone and iPad. Mustard is clearly a big fan of the iOS platform, and it's not often that a major developer sets its sights on the mobile games space.