John Carmack is a bonafide games-industry legend, having been part of the team responsible for inventing the first-person shooter game – a line stretching through Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, as well as their assorted sequels.
These days though, he's also working on mobile games. Carmack was involved with last year's Doom RPG, which transformed Doom into a semi-turn-based RPG game to take into account the strengths (and weaknesses) of mobile. More recently, he's been working on Orcs & Elves, which applies a revamped version of the Doom RPG engine to the fantasy genre.
So why did Carmack decide to go mobile? Frustration, basically.
"It was mostly indignation at the crappy games I saw on my phone," John Carmack told us. "There were so many awful side-scrolling games, which is a genre that I love, and I was just looking at them thinking this is pathetic and wrong."
However since working on Doom RPG, Carmack says he's also fallen in love with the shorter development cycles of the mobile industry, pointing out that while Doom 3 on PC took three years to develop, Doom RPG on mobile was done within six months, leaving him free to move onto the next thing – in this case Orcs & Elves.
"When we were working on Doom RPG, I kept saying that someone should do a traditional fantasy orcs and elves game on here, and a couple of people independently said that was a great idea," he says. "And then we realised that Orcs & Elves is a pretty good name for a game. It's a little cheesy, but we ran it by the trademarks officials, and it came back pretty clean, so we figured why not?"
You might think that Orcs & Elves will be something of a niche title; while RPG games sell in their millions on PC and console, they're still very much something that gamers play, rather than the hugely-varying demographic of people who own mobile phones. However, Carmack says he doesn't want the game to be too narrow in focus.
"We wanted to make a game that anybody who watched Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter would understand," he says. "It's not about managing a party of six characters and shuffling your weapons between them, or any of that stuff. Many people love that style of game, but it's not suited for the mobile phone, and it's not a really broad interest thing."
Orcs & Elves has also been designed from the ground up for the limitations of mobile handsets, particularly the keypad.
"We've got this really simple interface that we pioneered with Doom RPG, which I honestly think is going to become a common style of gameplay on the mobile phone," Carmack predicts. "We wanted something that would play well with one hand, so it's not fighting the cellphone like so many games are."
Check back on Monday for Part Two of our interview, where Carmack talks development hassles, the potential of mobile connectivity, and plans for Orcs & Elves sequels. (Click 'Track It!' above to be reminded over email!) Take me to part 2>>
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