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Interview with Tommy Forslund from Polarbit

Is the iPhone a real handheld device? Polarbit developed and develops games for mobiles and the iPhone/iPod touch. They did some wellknown franchises in the past like Fifa 06 or shortly the cart game “Crash Bandicoot Nitro Cart 3d” for iPhone. Hence we asked Tommy Forslund whether he thinks the iPhone has the potential for suiting harcore gamer’s needs, or is it just another mobile?!

Alexander Trust: Polarbit developed the franchise title Crash Bandicoot Nitro Cart. What was it like to develop a game with the globally known “Crash Bandicoot”? Do you think that Crash became as famous as Super Mario or Sonic over the years?

Tommy Forslund: It was a lot of fun working on an established and beloved IP such as Crash, with a major publisher such as Vivendi. There’s an entire frachise of previous titles to consider, which makes for a nice challenge.

Mario is difficult to touch in terms of fame. He’s been around for almost thirty years and is the mascot/spokesperson for the most successful console manufacturer in history. But barring Mario and maybe Lara Croft, I think Crash can go head-to-head with most video game personalities in terms of brand name recognition.

Alexander Trust: Will Polarbit develop further franchise titles with Crash for the iPhone/iPod touch?

Tommy Forslund: This is not something we can comment on at this point. Time will tell.

Alexander Trust: Nintendo made the decision not to compete with the other manufacturerers of console hardware. Instead they chose a way that widened the path of casual games for the whole video games industry. Do you think that the iPhone is predestined to take steps in the same direction? Or does it provide capabilities for hardcore gamers as well?

Tommy Forslund: I think this is entirely up to game developers. Handheld and mobile gaming in general is by necessity geared towards the casual segment – the hardcore part of the potential customer-base is only a small percentage. That said, there is certainly room also for more “hardcore” type titles. Even if there will be a lot of puzzle and related games, we’ll be seeing FPS, strategy and RPG titles as the platform matures.

Alexander Trust: We either could have asked it like that: Do you think that the iPhone is more likely to be a mobile or a handheld?

Tommy Forslund: It’s first and foremost a mobile – but the line between the two concepts is blurring more and more. There’s no reason it can’t be both – as well as a media player, camera and so on. Gadget convergance is a trend that won’t end anytime soon.

Alexander Trust: What kind of games are you likely to produce for the iPhone/iPod Touch? Are they more hardcore or casual games?

Tommy Forslund: As far as mobile game developers go, we are definitely among the hardcore. However, we are also strongly comitted to making games that are accessible to users, regardless of gaming background.
Any game needs to have a clear element of challenge in them, while not causing the players to smash their faces bloody in frustration over lack of progress. This is acutally a big challenge in developing for mobiles, since the potential customer base is A) very large and B) extremely diverse. How do we make a game, for example, that appeals to both my mother who has only played some simple pre-installed puzzle games, and my nephew, who was practically born with an X-box controller in his hand?

Alexander Trust: Let’s say it this way: Apple’s instructions on what developers can produce for the App Store and publish through it are somehow conservative. Did you ever have any problems with some of your games so that you had to modify them before they got published?

Tommy Forslund: No. If anything, Apple has a rather relaxed view of content and screening for a mobile software vendor. I know that some application developers have had some of issues, but I don’t think it is a matter of content and subject matter, but rather of application functionality.

Alexander Trust: Do you think that the iPhone’s accelerometer control mechanism is rather a blessing or a curse?

Tommy Forslund: Any well-implemented, functional feature is a blessing, and the accelerometer in the iPhone is very nice in terms of both quality and design.

Being mobile developers, and quite experienced, we are used to working with devices with varying control mechanisms and layouts. It’s a well known condition of the mobile market and something you just have to accept.

Alexander Trust: And of course, do you think that developing for the iPhone is a profitable business? How much importance do you attach to the iPhone and App Store in general?

Tommy Forslund: It is still early days for the AppStore yet. We believe that there is a lot of potential in the platform, and that it represents a huge opportunity for independant developers.

Alexander Trust: You did a lot of racing games in the past. What kind of game is next in your pipeline?

Tommy Forslund: We have two games under development for the iPhone.

Wave Blazer, which is a boat racing game, and Armageddon Squadron which is an arcade flight-sim / shoot’em-up. Both are very well suited for the iPhone and will make use of accelerometer, touchscreen, Wireless networking and so on. Something we definitely want to enable is remote multiplayer.

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