To celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the charming fantasy RPG BattleHand, we sat down with the extremely talented development team behind the game, Another Place Productions, to discuss inspiration, process, and, of course, BattleHand!
The London-based indie development studio started surprisingly enough at Lionhead Studios when the 3 founders, who were working on the Fable franchise, decided to create their own games. After forming in 2012, they quickly realized that developing mobile games would give them more freedom to take risks and innovate.
Their latest mobile game, BattleHand, is a return to their fantasy roots where players enter the world of FellCrest to rescue the kingdom from darkness. And after 1 year, the game is still going strong!
Q. BattleHand is celebrating its 1-year anniversary today! It’s amazing how quickly the year flew by, and we’re super excited to say that not only was BattleHand chosen as an Apple Editor’s Choice title at launch, but Apple also just included it in its Best of App Store 2016! How did the team react when you found out?
A. It’s a huge achievement and we are SUPER excited! We’re extremely proud for BattleHand to be acknowledged like that, and it’s a privilege to be listed with some amazing titles that we love playing too!
Q. It was the first and still only 1 of 2 games we’ve published to get the Editor's Choice nod (The Trail being the second)! Did being an Apple Editor’s Choice game affect BattleHand?
A. We always intend to create the best games we can, but being an Apple Editor’s Choice certainly sets a standard. It is a great honour for any developer and only spurs you on to get better and better.
Q. The game reached 2 million downloads back in April. How did the team celebrate the milestone?
A. We were working on releasing Red, our first new Hero since launch, at the time! Passing the milestone then only made us more eager to deliver more awesome content and features to the 2M BattleHand fans out there!
Q. And were there any other big milestones that compared or exceeded the 2 million download mark?
A. Releasing Guild Wars was a massive milestone for us. It took a huge effort for the team and we were delighted with the result for players. Bringing some social competitiveness to the game whilst keeping the fun aspect of BattleHand was what the game needed. It felt like launching the game again to a degree!
Q. How did you approach creating a fantasy universe for BattleHand? Did you try and diversify your world from other popular fantasy franchises?
A. The world of FellCrest is essentially a jocular love letter to Dungeons & Dragons and the early fantasy worlds that many of the team grew up on. We wanted to embrace a lot of the familiar tropes and characteristics of board games and fantasy books and add our own unique twist of humour and charm to it, as well as a unique visual style. Like any parody or homage, pulling away from the source material too far can burst the bubble, so we made sure that we were innovating in the right places.
Q. Who is the team's favorite character in BattleHand and why?
A. We each have our own favourites, but we do all have a soft spot for Peg! A new Hero is always exciting for us and we’d been saving the idea for the Kraken card for some time, plus her Ghost Ship trait is pretty awesome! Or maybe we just all want to be pirates!
Q. Several members of your team worked on the Fable franchise. What made you switch from that core/console experience to developing mobile games? And did you have trouble adjusting to the more casual audience/shorter game sessions?
A. We were very much driven to build game experiences that are relevant and can evolve by engaging with our players. Console is not the space for that, and those games also take far too long to make. Fable games, although for core players in principle, have always attracted a much larger, less "core" audience thanks to its charm, humour and infinite possibilities. It is very much with that in mind that we tackled working on mobile, and we think it worked!
Q. What game or entertainment property is your team most inspired by?
A. Visually, we looked at Don Bluth’s work on the classic '80s video game "Dragon’s Lair". This seemed like a suitable reference for our particularly "cartoonish" take on the genre and something that still looks fantastic today. Gameplay-wise, there is a heap of influence from Dungeons & Dragons and the classic JPRG’s like Final Fantasy. As a team, we’ve played everything in the RPG genre to be honest, but it was important that the mechanic and game design was built specifically for mobile, so we made sure we researched just as thoroughly in that area. And that list is endless!