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Pocket Geometry: Bizarre Creations On Geometry Wars Mobile

In this Gamasutra interview, we sat down with Bizarre Creations' Community And Web Lead Ben Ward, to find out more about Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, and how you bring a widescreen, dual-stick shooter down to a tiny-screen, number pad platform.
With the surprise announcement in early November that Sony BMG Music Entertainment would be publishing and developing a mobile version of the Xbox Live Arcade favorite Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, we sat down with Bizarre Creations' Community And Web Lead Ben Ward, to find out more about bringing the widescreen, dual-stick shooter down to a tiny-screen, number pad platform. Gamasutra: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us regarding Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile. Could you first let us know a bit about yourself, what your role has been on this project, and what you have worked on in the past? Ben Ward: No problem! My name is Ben Ward and I am the Community and Web Lead for Bizarre Creations. I basically handle anything that we’re doing online for the game as well as the fan base that we’ve accrued, compliments of the 360 Live Arcade version of the game. It’s all about interacting with fans, hearing what they like or don’t like, then coming back to the team and letting them know. I also handle some of the PR and Marketing across our other projects; currently Project Gotham Racing 4 for Microsoft, and The Club for SEGA. GS: Geometry Wars was noted by many Xbox 360 early adopters as one of the best reasons to own and play games on the console in its early goings. However, it’s quite a leap to go from a high end game console to a mobile phone. Why do you feel like the mobile platform represents a good fit for this game? BW: The simple controls and the style of the graphics were the main draws of bringing Geometry Wars to mobile. It’s one of those rare games that can appeal to hardcore gamers as well as casual; the Xbox 360 version has proven this. I think wireless games are still struggling to appeal to “real gamers”, so we thought it would be interesting to get Geometry Wars running on mobile and see how it is received in the community. It’s no secret that gamers of all types want something that they can grab and have a go for five minutes on a bus or train ride, and sometimes it is annoying to carry a phone as well as a DS or PSP. As mobile phone technology improves, you’ll continue to see combinations of technology like this I think... As far as quality and porting the game, we’ve been working with Sony BMG and developer Hardcore3D Wireless to keep the game faithful to the original. We know that the controls have to be perfect to do the game justice, so this is something we’ve concentrated on in Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile. GS: How has the collaboration between both Hardcore3D Wireless and Bizarre Creations worked on this project? What does each firm bring to the table? BW: Our mobile publisher Sony BMG brought Bizarre and Hardcore together, and it’s worked out nicely. We bring our familiarity with Geometry Wars; they bring the mobile programming expertise. We had a vision for how the game would be played on mobile devices, they made it a reality. At this point, we are testing the latest version of the game, ensuring that it meets the high standards which gamers will expect. I think it’s come together as a great game, and I’ll be watching the community closely to see if they agree! GS: Geometry Wars is all about fast reflexes and tight controls, especially as the game continues and more and more enemies fill the screen. How have these controls been duplicated for mobile phones considering the lack of analog joysticks? BW: Instead of looking at phones as simply lacking analog sticks, we looked at the advantages of mobile controls. The size of the platform and the ability to play games with only your thumb is very cool – the best arcade-style games are simple yet addictive. So we made some adjustments to make the controls intuitive and fun - basically, your ship will always be firing so you don’t need to worry about shooting while controlling your direction. To control the ship, you’ll use the arrow keys on the phone to aim yourself, and you can double-tap the center button to strafe. It takes about a minute before the controls feel natural. Of course, the game itself needed some adjustments to suit these new controls, as well as the graphics capabilities of the hardware. Some of the bad guys move differently to their Xbox 360 counterparts, and the size of the level and speed of the game has been tweaked to suit the mobile platform. GS: Has a list of list of compatible handsets and carriers been finalized yet for this game? BW: Not yet; this info will be released soon. We have every confidence in the Hardcore3D Wireless guys to get the game to reach a large audience. We want the game to be playable for as many people as possible. GS: It seems a bit odd that this game will be published by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, especially given Microsoft's history with the Geometry Wars name. How did this deal come together? BW: Actually, if it wasn’t for Sony BMG coming to us and proposing the idea of a mobile version of Geometry Wars, the game wouldn’t exist. Sony BMG is one of the leading digital content providers for mobile devices, so their ability to get content out via the carriers is unmatched. Mobile games are just a natural extension. GS: Can you delve a bit into the new features that will be introduced with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile, such as the various challenge modes, and what they offer? BW: The new content in Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile is the Challenge Modes; they give the player a chance to play the game for reasons other than general high-score gameplay. For example, Untouchable rewards you for not getting hit by any enemies, Survivor rewards you with points as you play continuously without dying, and Speed will set goals for certain points which you need to reach. I guess you could compare them to the Xbox 360 Achievements system, but with a bit more depth and variation. The player can post his best times or scores for each challenge on a local challenge list and a network leader board. GS: In a more general sense, how do you view the mobile gaming market? Where do you see its place among other, dedicated portable gaming platforms? BW: Well obviously the mobile market is not as well developed as traditional gaming mediums, both in terms of the games themselves, and the business model surrounding them. However, there is massive potential there which nobody has really tapped into yet... just look at the number of handsets which are in circulation around the world! I think games like Geometry Wars are suited to the mobile market really well. It has the same appeal as something like Snake or Tetris; a title which you can pick up and play, and it’s immediately fun. There’s no dialog to read, no complex controls to understand, and no cut scenes to skip. It’s gaming in its purist form, which virtually everyone can appreciate and enjoy. GS: What was the biggest hurdle the team had to overcome in bringing Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile to reality and how was it overcome? BW: There were many potential issues, but I think between Sony BMG and the Hardcore3D Wireless guys we’ve successfully solved most if not all of them. Firstly, the graphics. They had to be in the Geometry Wars style, but obviously having the insane number of particles which you see in the Xbox 360 version was out of the question on the mobile. However, clever prioritizing of the graphics we had meant that the style could be maintained, and you still get a good impression of the craziness which Geometry Wars is famous for! The second problem was ensuring that the controls matched the gameplay as much as possible. With the one directional controller instead of two, we knew that the game was going to have to be adjusted to accommodate this. Fortunately we were all on the same wavelength, and have done a great job of making sure the controls complemented the gameplay, not get in its way. GS: Thank you so much for your time today. Is there anything you would like to add? BW: We’re interested in seeing the reaction to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile. Give it a try, and let us know what you think on our forums. See you there!

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