Bringing a popular PC title to the iPhone is hard work, and nobody knows this better than Igor Elovikov. VP of Production at Playrix, Elovikov’s company recently made the bold decision to bring their popular PC title Call of Atlantis to the iPhone, despite seeing many of their contemporaries in the casual world struggle in doing the exact same thing. We recently sat down with Igor to discuss why things went right, what they’ve learned from their first in-house port, and what they’re planning for the future. In what ways was developing Call of Atlantis on the iPhone different than on the PC? What changes did you immediately know you’d have to make when developing for such a wildly different platform? Look at the size of the iPhone screen and you’ll immediately realize that you won’t be able to squeeze in all the levels of the original PC title in there. Thus, the boards with tiles were reduced in size right away: players have to be able to clearly distinguish the different tiles on the screen, otherwise the game won’t make any sense. The iPhone’s touchscreen can’t have the same game controls, so it dictated the rules for designing a different gameplay. The I-Spy levels from the original version didn’t make it to the iPhone version due to the same reasons. What would you say is essential for a successful PC to the iPhone port? One of the most essential things is understanding that there is no one universal magic formula for creating a great port. There are some factors that matter, though. Your original game has to be successful. Players have to like it, and for a good reason: graphics, addictive gameplay, story line, amusing characters – anything that makes the title special for a whole lot of people. Some casual genres simply can’t be carried over to iPhone. The best example would be hidden object games, the number one by popularity among most of the casual gamers out there. So, if you have a great game with a potential to be ported to iPhone, what you have to do is keep it special and fun and adjust it for the touchscreen – scale it down to fit and add appropriate touchscreen game controls. PC iPhone Call of Atlantis isn’t the first Playrix PC title to be ported to the iPhone, but it is the first time Playrix has handled the port themselves. Why involve other developers in the process for your first two releases? And why did you decide to bring development in-house for Call of Atlantis? Our first two ports were executed by external developers, that’s true. It seemed like a good business solution back in those days. We didn’t have the necessary resources nor intentions to prioritize this direction (turning our own titles to iPhone apps, that is). We can’t say that we are drastically unhappy with how these adaptations turned out. Rather, it wasn’t a good time for us back then to embark on this journey. And now it sure is. We have the resources, and we have a way better understanding of the iPhone market. Moreover, the market itself has expanded considerably since the launch of 4 Elements and The Rise of Atlantis, our first two external porting experiences. We created our first iPhone app, it took some time, but from now on it will be easier and faster, without compromising the quality of course. Many processes got optimized along the way and we are ready for the new horizons. In about a month we are launching our first iPad game. The App Store is flooded with match-3 releases. Were you worried that it would be hard to stick out in the crowd? In a way, yes. Especially due to the fact that the success or failure of an iPhone app is still somewhat hard to predict. Downloadable casual games marketing strategies don’t exactly work for iPhone marketing, for instance. But the good news is that it really does depend on the quality of your product. If it’s a great, well-crafted game with beautiful graphics it’s bound to stand out from the crowd. We did everything we could in this regard to make Call of Atlantis for iPhone special. Everyone should see for themselves, but so far we’ve been enjoying great reviews. PC iPhone Can we expect to see other Playrix titles like Fishdom or Royal Envoy get a similar re-imagining for the iPhone in the near future? Absolutely. One of our titles, Around the World in 80 Days, is almost ready and will set sail on the App Store soon. Fishdom and Royal Envoy are next in line, as a matter of fact. It’s worth mentioning that these games will move away much further from their mother titles. The “iFishdom” (that’s a code name for the app in the works) will focus on aquarium simulation, much like the Facebook adaptation of the game. No match-3 planned, which is, as you may see, pretty radical of a re-imagining. Royal Envoy will be modified as well, and will undergo some game mechanics changes. I guess you could tell by now that what we have in mind for these two games is not exactly porting them in a classical sense. Initial concepts will be there, but basically, when they’re out on the iPhone, you’ll see some new and quite different games. Looking back at the transition from PC to iPhone, is there anything you would have done differently? What have you learned from the process that you’ll apply to future Playrix iPhone experiences? Keeping in mind that it’s our pilot project for the iPhone, there are definitely a lot of things we’ve learned along the way. All in all with Call of Atlantis we tried to recreate the PC title on the iPhone. We were even using parts of old PC codes when programming the game for iPhone. Now we are staying away from this completely and each time we are developing a game from scratch. We understood that there’s no need to be afraid of introducing change to the game, even if it may look too radical. We’ll definitely look into experimenting more with game design. Another important thing, we’ll create our future PC titles with the iPhone (and other platforms) in mind, so that all the adaptations of one game are united under one vision. If you could recommend any match-3 game on the iPhone that isn’t a Playrix game, what would it be? Bejeweled. This long-liver is so good and simple, and such a well-established brand, that nothing could have possibly stood in the way of its success on the iPhone. Playrix Entertainment is a veteran developer of casual games, having been responsible for a variety of titles since the company’s inception in 2004. Call of Atlantis is the first iPhone title they’ve developed in-house. To learn more about Playrix, visit www.playrix.com.
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