We here at New Gamer Nation had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to sit down with the President/CEO of Logic Factory, Mr. Todd Templeman. Logic Factory was responsible for such games as Ascendancy and The Tone Rebellion but most recently the company ported Ascendancy to the iOS with all new features and updates for the touch interface. We wanted to learn more about their most recent efforts and found they have been busy! So without further ado we present Mr. Todd Templeman.
NGN: The original Ascendancy was released in 1995, now 16 years later, why did you decide the time was right to re-release the game?
TT: It was simple for us. All of our developers had become so enthralled with their iPhones that my brother, Jason, and I agreed one day we’d be crazy not to shift gears and start developing on them. We’d all been using Intel based Macs with windows installed on separate drives for years, and they’d been running with more stability than any machines we’d ever used before. It was full circle for us, having started with Pong and then Atari, but then getting swept away into a whole new passion by getting our hands on a pair of Apple II+s when we were kids. We’re thrilled to be working on an Apple platform again.
NGN: What was it about the iPad / iPhone that made you want to port the game to that device?
TT: Some of the guys might answer for themselves differently, but for me, I mostly just noticed that for more than a year, whenever I visited the studio or chatted with the team, they wouldn’t freakin’ shut up about their dammed iPhones! Before the first iPhone came out I had been bouncing between several of the well known smartphone brands, and just out of weird timing I was the last in the company to make the switch. I think people are already forgetting just how innovative and well-designed the iPhone was from day one; they’re so used to it now, and all the other touch screen competitors that I suppose it’s easy to think it’s normal. Game designers must be by their nature, interface junkies. Even before the iPhone came out I remember my brother telling me how blown away he was with the first iPod designs. He’d show me his old MP3 player and the multitude of buttons on the front, back, and all four side panels, and then say, “Look at this iPod instead. Jobs and his people put a single button in the middle and a touch sensitive wheel around it. That is design.” So, in answer to your question, when the App Store showed an independent developer like us that we could have a straight path to quality and customers, without going through the insane hoops of the old-style publisher contracts, it was not only an easy choice, but one that made every last one of us feel more free than we had in a long time. That may sound as if I’m overstating things, but this is our career. It’s hard to describe the amount of hours we put into our work.
NGN: What were some of the challenges you faced while porting your game to the iOS platform? How did you overcome them?
TT: I could get more specific detail from some of our specialists, but I remember the overall feeling that the team had never worked on a platform that was more straightforward. I would have to say that I think Jason designed an interface for the small iPhone screen, from what once was a computer monitor game, in a way that I think is astonishing. I know some other games have been ported and I’m biased, but to be able to play Ascendancy while I’m lying on my back, basically using just my thumb to get everything in the game done … you wouldn’t have convinced me it was even possible. I helped test Ascendancy from the earliest stages, both for the computers and for the iOS platform, and I may have spent even more time playing it than anyone else on the planet, so those times when I needed to put in another couple of hours while the whole house was dark and it was already 2am, having the game in portrait on the iPhone in one hand with headphones on made it a joy.
NGN: Have you considered porting Ascendancy or another other Logic Factory game to any other platforms such as Android? Why or why not?
TT: We will consider an Android port, maybe. The first consideration is that we all enjoy focusing on content. Supporting more than one platform will inevitably distract from that. Secondly, even though we’ve never talked with Apple about it, you may be able to tell that we’re not at all averse to the idea of being exclusive. But, that conflicts with our desire to see everyone who wants a chance be able to play our games. Ascendancy is in the process of evolving. We do so much testing just on the various generations and screen sizes of iPod touches, iPhones, and iPads, that the idea of testing for so many Android devices from a wide range of hardware providers is daunting. Doing that for multiple updates along the way makes it too much, at least for now. So the plan is, let’s get Ascendancy as it exists right now to a stage where it makes very little sense to try to improve it further. That will take awhile. We have a long wish-list of elements we think would be perfect in the game, and we’ve already added the ship design library, long-range ship movement ordering, and other new features to the iOS version that never existed before. But when we call this a wrap, and move on to the next game we’ve been designing for some time, and Ascendancy 2, then it could be perfect timing to port the original classic version to every viable platform out there. Who knows? In the meantime we may find some things happen on the Android platform that make it irresistible to us, but for now we’re sticking purely with iOS.
NGN: How have the updates and revamps to Ascendancy been received by the fans?
TT: Being in touch with fans who email us every day from all over the world has been a joy. I don’t know how it is for every developer, but our fans are the most warm and enthusiastic people we could ever have hoped to have. I know that sounds like I’m blowing smoke, and I don’t know what I would say if we had a large percentage of the more flame-ish brand of emails, but we consider ourselves incredibly lucky. Old fans familiar with Ascendancy have told us that the game still feels like what they loved, but has in some ways crossed the line into feeling like an action game, even though it is turn-based strategy. I think the ability to touch, spin, zoom the starmap without all the old mouse clicks, and watching some of the new display icons that percolate up to show how resources management is going in the galaxy has added something new to the experience. And there’s more to come.
NGN: Were there any fan suggestions that you wish you implemented into the new build? Did fan feedback have an impact on the new build? If so, can you provide an example or two?
TT: Fan feedback has had an impact on how we prioritize, definitely. I would say that we’ve spent so much time pondering the possibilities that we have not yet received a recommendation from anyone in the world that was completely new to us. There’s no way we’ve thought of every possibility, but sometimes it feels like it. But we definitely put in the long-range ship ordering and the ship design library based on how many fan requests we received, and, certainly, the do-ability based on time. So the overall wish list has been pretty much set for a long time, but the things that make it to the top are often fan-driven.
NGN: Open forum time, the stage is yours. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the New Gamer Nation audience?
TT: Thanks for the chance to get on a soap box. All I would like to say to the world out there is you’re going to be surprised what you see come out of this new generation of gaming. The old barriers to creativity and quality have been torn down. New ones are coming up, such as the price points and price wars going on in the app gaming environment. But compared to the way things used to be, hold on to your hats. That said, we see some very disturbing trends that are going to create serious backlash. Some multi-billion dollar gaming companies are devoting their entire business plans to microtransaction design that forces gamers to pay for things that by rights are just part of gameplay. Younger kids who are snapping these things up, and new gamers who never got into the mix before, don’t see this as a rip off. Maybe it’s not. There is some argument in certain kinds of narrow areas that I could see this business model simply falling legitimately out of design. But let’s not kid ourselves. What’s going on is pure crap, and it will come back to bite the industry in every major territory in the world, probably especially China. Secondly, the shill marketing campaigns I have been offered and which I see going on all the time make me see red. No. It is not okay to bribe young kids to “get the word out” about a new game, so they can all go dump five thousand completely brainless, phony five star reviews on it. And, yes, that’s what you’re doing when you try to get developers to insert a widget into their code so that your social network layer pops up in the middle of gameplay to offer ten “free” giveaways and in-game currency discounts. You’re being a sleaze bag when you do it. If you can look in the mirror and live with yourself, okay, there are many indie developers out there like us more than happy to bury you with quality. Just don’t pretend Apple is somehow being anti-competitive when they stomp you. Phew! That felt good. From the day we launched Ascendancy on the iOS we’ve had a phrase on our home page. Just Play. It means no in-game ads will run in our games. You will not get a non-game pop up asking you to review Ascendancy or steering you to another game, because that ruins the mood of gameplay. And we will not charge you a penny or a dollar for an in-game item that you should be acquiring through the fun and challenge of gameplay. Just enjoy playing our games, please. And we know there are other indies out there who feel and behave exactly the same way. I haven’t said this before publicly, but if they wanted to use the “Just Play” phrase, we would be delighted and honored, and don’t want or deserve any extra credit for it.
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen. We would like to thank Mr. Templman and the Logic Factory for their time and we hope you all enjoyed reading our interview. Stay tuned for more interviews and exclusive chat with the companies that make the games that you love.