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Q&A: Anna Kang On Orcs & Elves II

Games On Deck talks to Id Mobile's Anna Kang in depth about Orcs & Elves II, the recently released mobile sequel to the original Orcs & Elves, discussing the new additions, the differences between developing for DS and Mobile, and more.
Title Games On Deck talks to Id Mobile's Anna Kang in depth about Orcs & Elves II, the recently released mobile sequel to the original Orcs & Elves, discussing the new additions, the differences between developing for DS and Mobile, and more.

Games On Deck: First I'd like to understand something exactly - has Fountainhead Entertainment "become" id Mobile? If so, what differences does that make, if not, how will the two entities interact?

Anna Kang: I guess you can say that Fountainhead has become id Mobile. A more accurate account would be to say that id Software and Fountainhead Entertainment joined to create the id Mobile division. The interaction between id Software and id Mobile will be the same as that of a parent company and a subsidiary. As id Mobile, the Fountainhead team will have the benefit of working with id Software as a team member rather than a customer.

GOD: Introduce us to Orcs & Elves 2 - what's new in the franchise?

AK: Orcs & Elves 2 is a new adventure that picks up shortly after the Mount Zharrkarag/King Brahm saga comes to a close. However, this time, you play as a thief (Valin) who has stolen the magic wand (Ellon) in an effort to aid your town (Sol) from siege. Since the attack on King Brahm's Citadel, powerful evil forces have been trying to overtake parts of the Lands. As Valin, you traverse towns, forests, and caverns in an effort to quickly make it back to Sol with Ellon to help your people. Though the signature O&E combat is still in place, we've introduced thieving, lock-picking, geyser jumping, tree house climbing, jail time spending, back-stabbing, and an elf-friendly mouse familiar by the name of Bob.

GOD: Can you talk a little about the mouse familiar? It's an interesting design choice.

AK: John and I have had an interesting history in some of our game-design discussions. I'll always try to smuggle in a friendly furry creature into our games but John is usually reluctant. I fought hard to bring the hell-hound as a controllable weapon buddy in DoomRPG and with its success/popularity, I had less resistance in bringing the mouse familiar to O&E 2.

Since you play as a thief, the idea of having a familiar to sneak around and steal for you seemed a natural and interesting course to take. The familiar is a lot of fun but we had to do a lot of work to make him "playable" and in the end we had to scrap a lot of cool ideas to make it work. Thus far, everyone who has played the game seems smitten with the mouse familiar and want more "Bob" time.

GOD: What role did you play in the development of the title?

AK: I produce, write, and design. I come up with the stories, major plot, create antagonists/protagonists and other primary characters, and provide direction on how the game will play from beginning to end. Though I take the role of lead designer, I don't physically create the levels myself. The process has been that I design the game from a pen & paper sort of way, hand the ideas to my team and together we expand upon it and create a better version of what we started with. It's cool when I can sit down, present my ideas, then have a great brain-storming session on what can work, what can't, how we can make the game better, etc., etc. - John will bring up brilliant ideas that remind me of why he's such a great dungeon master and why he's a game god... I tend to forget this part due the husband and wife thing.

GOD: How big was the team working on Orcs & Elves 2?

AK: The O&E 2 team consisted of 1 level designer, 1 artists, 1 designer/artist, and 2 programmers.

GOD: You were working on Orcs & Elves 2 at the same time as Orcs & Elves for Nintendo DS. What differences do you find in developing for portable systems from developing for mobile? Do you have a preference?

AK: The cool thing about working on a dedicated gaming system like the DS is the certainty of what you're dealing with - the hardware is not going to change and the hardware was built for games. There's a really neat aspect to working on a dedicated platform like that. What I like about working on cell phones is knowing that you are developing for a potential audience of billions - a cell phone is so ubiquitous it's just an exciting place to be. From a theoretical perspective, I really like developing for the cell phone market - there's a challenge there that feels like a new frontier being tackled and the potential is incredible. From a real-life development perspective, it's nicer to develop in a platform where the hardware was made for gaming.

GOD: Do you have any interest in developing multiplayer titles for mobile?

AK: Very much! It's something that we have been thinking about for years but I don't believe the industry is ready for it right now.

GOD: What about full 3D?

AK: Full 3D is very nice but on cell phones today, I'm not sure if the effort justifiable right now.

GOD: Can you give us any details on Wolfenstien for mobile, or how it's going to play?

AK: Umm, well, it's going to be really cool and heck of a lot of fun! We're having a lot of fun with it so we're pretty confident both old fans and potential new fans alike will get a "kick" out of what we're doing with it. Other than that, you'll have to wait till it's done.

GOD: What are your thoughts on the mobile industry right now in general?

AK: Wonderful things seem to be happening. What Nokia and Qualcomm are doing is great and hopefully by next year the very low-end phones will disappear off the face of the earth (one can hope). What Apple has done with the iPhone is cool but there's a lot to be desired from a game development point of view. If things go well, we will have better and more varied distribution channels for games, porting issues will be greatly improved, and carriers will ameliorate the way they view/support/handle games.

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