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Interview: Playdek and AEG, new Nightfall screens

Brad Cummings
United States
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Recently I had the opportunity to speak with George Rothrock and Gary Weis of Playdek, and Todd Rowland of AEG. We were able to talk about all things Nightfall and also got some updates on Playdek’s other offerings (these were included in a news post previously). I hope you enjoy the interview and look forward for more updates from Playdek in the near future.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Brad: Why was Nightfall chosen to be the first collaboration between AEG and Playdek?

Todd: From our end we saw nightfall being a unique port over the iOS because it is quite different than most other deck building games because it is so competitive. We had seen what Playdek had done in the past and we were impressed with it. We thought it would make a great fit with them.

Brad: George, Gary, anything to add?

Gary: Thundstone was unavailable. [Laughing] The guys who have done Thunderstone got to AEG in front of us, going in we were focused on that one. We were aware of Nightfall but it actually hadn’t been released at the time we started talking with them. Once we got a hold of it we felt it was a perfect fit for this platform. It is a deck building game with a little more interaction to it and some of the trappings are similar to Magic the Gathering and will be more familiar with the casual-esque gamer. We felt that it would be an attractive proposition for us.
Brad: Was the genre of Nightfall a factor in the choice of developing it?

Todd: In developing the game, yes, it was one of the factors. We wanted to do something a little different than the traditional fantasy setting that seems to come to games of this type.

George: For us on the iOS end, we looked at all the early projects in the early stage for games that we like. Like Gary said we originally approached them about Thunderstone but we also were interested in the partnership, AEG being a great company. And the theme itself and the idea is great.

Brad: Will you be leveraging the theme in the promotion of Nightfall? Ascension did not have a strong marketable theme, like Nightfall does.

George: We are looking at that. We are evolving our promotion and marketing strategy as you can tell. We are working on our dates and being more communicative with the community. It certainly helps working with pros like Todd.
Gary: I don’t think our marketing strategy includes banner ads on Twilight fan sites however.

Todd: No, but we have reached out to some slightly more Goth communities with promotion of Nightfall originally and we may do that again because it played right in to the things they liked.

George: I would say played into their wheel house but I think played in to their open grave may be a better analogy.

Todd: Their satin covered couch den.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Brad: It seems like with each Playdek release we get a new or improved feature. With Food Fight it was the campaign mode, and with Return of the Fallen it was the improved multiplayer functions. What are the unique additions in Nightfall?

George: Before I kick it over to Todd and Gary, I want to be clear that Matt Hyra and Cyrptozoic were the drivers of campaign mode in Food Fight very early on. We all identified that doing something unique would be good, but we need to give them props as well, they were there doing the lions share of the work.

As far as Nightfall goes, we have those features as well. You are actually going to see the return of a couple of features that didn’t make it in to Food Fight. Timers in online games and a now public multiplayer profile. In Ascension: ROTF you could see your profile of how well you have done online, including your forfeits. Now that is public for other people to see your record as well.
Todd: In my play of the beta version we have been playing around the office now, I can’t say too much. But I can tell you that visually it is outstanding, the UI you have to play this game. The thing is with most of these card games is that there is a lot of information to keep up with, there is a lot of information on the board and in your hand, and when you increase the number of players it just goes up exponentially. They have come up with some really slick new methods of communicating the information and compartmentalizing it for you that have been really impressive to me, having played their prior releases as well.

George: Thank you Todd. There are a certain number of improvements to our engine and our pipeline and we hope the comes across in what we have done visually with Nightfall. We wanted it to have its own feel and character because we thought the comparisons with our previous projects would be unfair. We needed to give nightfall a unique treatment because the IP is unique and it is a big world with expansions.

Todd: I completely agree with them and i saw many of the useful and innovative things they have implemented in previous versions. What I appreciate in some of those cases is that they are not too far off what you have experienced, so if you have played other Playdek games you are not going to be lost finding your way around this one.

Gary: The art pipeline we have in place now is the big innovation. It puts more control in the hands of the artist. We didn’t really have that in Ascension, I was putting art in by hand to get that one together. It allows us to finish things a lot faster. I think what we have seen here in terms of release schedule from us has been held up. We are adding more team members on our end so we can do more games in parallel. With the distance of Food Fight, Nightfall, Summoners Wars, Storm of Souls, and Agricola, you will start to see them coming faster because we are building a better path. We will maintain the same quality level but it won’t take the 5 1/2 months between Ascension and Return of the Fallen. And then one of the things we saw in Food Fight is the simultaneous asynchronous. When you are drafting a Nightfall game you will have the ability to make every choice available to you instead of having to wait for everyone to draft the first round and then move on to the next round of drafting. The draft is only 4 cards deep in Nightfall so it may not be that big of deal but it gets you to the point where you are playing chain cards and getting minions in to play that much faster. When you come to play you will have 2 or 3 choices queued up for you. That was kind of a big improvement with us in Food Fight. That is one of the technologies we were able to add in because we have our own asynchronous solution and it isn’t possible to do with Game Center.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Brad: What have you learned in previous Playdek releases that has been applied to Nightfall?

George: There are so many little things. I am constantly making notes for myself. As Gary mentioned earlier both our pipeline as we continue to build games and continue to think about new features and new ways to present, we obviously are developing our sophistication in bringing these things out, to things like the hidden challenges such as with a game like Nightfall where its draft element is significant to the setup to the play. It is your first opportunity to set up yourself in a position to win and give your opponent a handicap. Gary’s solution for this, simultaneous asynchronous play, had to be outside the box thinking, in order to do justice to the game and to the experience. And really its looking in the corners and finding these behind the scenes ways to really improve the play that we hope will get to the players. Maybe they will never notice but benefit. Really it is a more sophisticated way of looking at the games themselves and making that transition in a satisfactory way.

Brad: Are expansion planned for the Nightfall app? Promo cards?

Gary: The three promo cards that were released alongside the first set of Nightfall, will be available in the app as unlockables. I think we will continue that plan as we release each expansion, they each have three promos and we will find interesting ways to include those for players to unlock them. Once a player has unlocked them they can create a game online and anyone that joins that game online can play with those cards even if they have not unlocked them themselves. I guess I answered the question, yes we are. We are keeping an eye on AEG as they release sets, they are the sixth set I believe. Keeping track of that so that we are aware of what is coming down the pipe. No real schedule or promise on what the release dates will be. Even Martial Law adds some mechanics that are going to take some ironing out both from a UI and a player’s perspective and from the AI standpoint.
George: We are definitely committed to the partnership with AEG and interested in supporting the game for a long time to come.
Todd: That’s good to hear.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Brad: What are the future plans for the partnership with Playdek and AEG?

Todd: We have several things in line. I am not going to announce anything for Playdek before they are prepared or in the case of at least one, before we are even prepared to announce it is coming, but we do have several other projects lined up for the future following the Nightfall release. It has really been great working with them. They have been great partners.

George: We are looking at doing some more formal announcements. You might see announcements as early as come PAX East. But just as Todd said, we’ve got a number of things in the pipe and we are excited to be working on all of them.

Brad: I spoke recently to a publisher who felt that digital games are hurting the board game industry. Todd what are your thoughts on this?

Todd: I completely don’t agree with his assessment at all. I think it is two fold:
To address gaming struggling because of digital things, if you put out a quality product, gamers are going to want to play it. Video games exist, but it does not stop board gamers from playing board games.

As for bringing products to digital, almost all the data that we have seen shows that it is extremely beneficial. It can often times track back to increasing interest in the line even to people who have never heard of it and increase sales of the physical. Also there is increased benefit from working with online games. The toolbox created by online game development in some cases can be taken internally and used for play testing of new games, making it a much easier process. I don’t agree with that statement at all.
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