Q & A With OpenFeint’s Founder Jason Citron and He Discusses Fates Forever In Depth

By: Louis Edwards

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Recently, Jason Citron, founder of OpenFeint, gave us an early look at Fates Forever – the first game from his tablet-only company, Hammer & Chisel.

Jason took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions that we know are on everyone’s mind.

 

Fates Forever is a reinterpretation of the world’s most popular hardcore game, League of Legends, reimagined as tablet-only. Designed solely to be experienced on tablets, not smartphones or PCs, the game employs unique mechanics never before used in the genre. For the first time, players will be able to literally touch their heroes and execute fun and visceral special moves not possible with a keyboard and mouse.

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Citron believes that touchscreen devices, especially tablets, are replacing consoles as the primary medium for strategic and competitive gaming. The game developer community is following Citron in his post-PC ambitions. In a poll taken during the 2013 Game Developers Conference last March, 58 percent of gaming professionals said they plan to release their next game on a tablet or smartphone. About 11 percent said they’d develop on the Xbox One and around the same amount intend to develop on the PlayStation 4.

First we would like to say thank you to Jason for taking the time to answer us, in depth, on every topic. Much appreciated.


TerminalGamer: You say your new game is League of Legends reimagined:

Will there be any cross-over terminology as far as moves and characters or will this be a brand new experience?

Jason Citron: Fates Forever will include all original characters, abilities, and artwork. The basic structure of the game is similar to the Twisted Treeline map from League. We haven’t “dumbed” down the game at all for tablets. It’s the full blown, complex MOBA that people love to play on their PC but reinterpreted with new touch controls. For example, our launch map contains two lanes, creep waves, a jungle, and two king-of-the-hill points.

The backstory of how we came to make the game is actually interesting. We were playing around with a few other concepts and trying to come up with a hypothesis for how great games are made. There’s the notion on one hand that great games just appear out of nowhere. But I actually think most great games are reinterpretations of previous games but with new UI. Nintendo is a master at this. They have reinvented the notion of “walking and avoid stuff” so many times: first with a joystick, then a dpad, then shoulder buttons, then an analog stick, then with a pointer. Halo and Goldeneye, arguably two of the best FPS games on consoles, were reinterpretations of PC FPS games. It occurred to me that we should look around and find a game that would be incredible if reinterpreted on a large touch screen. A MOBA seemed like an obvious fit. So in Fates Forever, what we’ve done is replaced all the skillshots with touch gestures. Instead of using your mouse to aim a projectile you flick your hero, or draw a line, to pull of the move. And it turns out… it’s really fun!

TG: Will the new game share the same game types?

Jason: For now we are starting with the 3v3 game since we thought it was better suited to slightly shorter sessions. We’ve reduced play time from 30 minutes down to 15 minutes for each game session. Eventually we expect to add more game modes like the usual 3 lane 5v5 and possibly even ARAM. However we’ll make a point to have sessions be about half as long as their PC counterparts.

TG: Will there be a dedicated friends list with invite features?

Jason: Indeed! I don’t know if we’ll have this feature when we launch but we intend to have social features tailored for group based online play. We’re also going to be proactively introducing features that will help keep the community in check: things like honor and flagging.

TG: While we know this will be a tablet only game, will there be any companion apps for smart phones or PCs to track and/or communicate with friends and such?

Jason: This is an awesome idea. We’ve been kicking around some concepts internally but have not committed to any yet. We really want the development of Fates Forever to be guided by our community, so we’re actively taking feature suggestions that we intend to build. Really build. Not just give lip service about. We are going to have a section of the game called The Forge, where we’ll source ideas from the community. Some of our initial hero ideas actually came from other people on Reddit!

Jason’s Question: What sort of companion app features would you like to see?

TG: We, like most gamers, are stat happy. We would love to see a companion app that we can use to track not only our stats, but track our friends (and enemies) as well. Keeping track of all things related to the game would be a plus as well

TG: How many team members do you currently have working on the project?

Jason: We have 6 full time craftsman: 4 engineers, 1 artist, and a game designer. We have LOTS of contractors (some of which are full time) contributing as well. All in all we’re probably close to 20 people. One of the things I realized was that great games are made by great people. So rather than hiring a ton of people, we’ve created this culture around quality of craftsmanship. We’ve only hired incredibly high quality people who ooze passion for what they do. The type of person that comes to work at H&C is the kind of person who loves their craft so much that they do it in their spare time anyway. I’m sure you’ve met these people before: lots of side projects, coding on the weekends, painting in the evening. That inner desire for crafting is what drives us to make great games.

TG: How much disc space will be used?

Jason: Right now the build is about 130MB, but as we add more heroes and maps I expect it’ll get much much bigger. We have full retina support for all the assets too. Since our game is tablet-only we have no qualms with making it use a hefty amount of space.

TG: Will there be any offline modes for practicing/tutorials/leveling up?

Jason: We don’t have any immediate plans for this, but if people want it I certainly could imagine some cool things to do.

TG: What’s your favorite beer?

Jason: Hahaha. Well, as I type this I’m drinking a Trippel Ale. My drink is really Blue Bottle Coffee though. It’s the only way to get up after a late night coding… ;-)

TG: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I’ll have to try that Trippel Ale the next time I’m at the bar.


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About Hammer & Chisel:

Started by OpenFeint Founder, Jason Citron, Hammer & Chisel is building core games for gamers exclusively on tablets. Based out of San Francisco, the company is funded and is hiring.

Hammer & Chisel was first announced last July when it closed $1.1 million in funding from top Silicon Valley investors including YouWeb, Accel Partners, and General Catalyst Partners. For the past year Citron and team have been building Fates Forever from the ground up, and intend to launch this summer.

Hammer & Chisel’s goal is to be the Blizzard of the post-PC era. To do this, the company is creating a hardcore gaming experience designed exclusively for tablets. Fates Forever combines respectful, modern monetization techniques with traditional, deep game design. The game takes advantage of the unique characteristics of touchscreens and pushes the limits of what’s possible on a tablet. For example, one character’s special move is triggered using a swipe mechanic. Another character uses flicking gestures to activate its special moves.

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