If you pine for an uncomplicated but satisfying old skool blast-'em-up, Tank Hero could be just the game you're looking for.
That's not to say this arcade-action title for iOS, Android, and Ovi lacks depth. With pleasingly responsive touchscreen controls and each stage requiring a different strategy, it's a potent mix of the old and the new.
Clapfoot development duo Alkas Baybas and Mark Ng talked to us about what Tank Hero can offer gamers, future plans for the title, and what makes indie development great.
Pocket Gamer: Can you give us a brief summary of what Tank Hero is about, and what your main aims were when developing the game?
Clapfoot: In Tank Hero, you control a tank through various arenas, battling enemy tanks. You need to have fast reflexes and a good strategy to succeed.
We grew up in an era without save points and auto-aim. Failure was a huge part of gaming, but the challenge made victory that much more satisfying. Case in point: trying to jump over those spike pits in the original Prince of Persia was hard as hell, but you felt good when you finally made it. When creating Tank Hero, we wanted to recapture some of those aspects, while still keeping the game appropriate for a quick round at the bus stop.
What do you think sets Tank Hero apart from other arcade / action titles on the mobile devices?
Tank Hero is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Every level was designed with a specific weak point, and it’s up to the player to come up with a clever way to capitalize on that weak point to dominate and complete the level. It requires a good strategy and fast reflexes to get through the game, and we intentionally made it this way. We feel there was a need in the market for a challenging game, and after six million downloads and countless positive feedback, it seems we were right.
Were you inspired by any other games when developing Tank Hero? Parts of it feel a little like classic Atari 2600 title Combat.
We grew up playing classic tank games on Atari and Nintendo. In fact, our latest level pack for Tank Hero was inspired by Battle City for NES, which we played to death during our childhoods. At the same time, we did add our own twists to the game, such as teleport holes, mines, and a survival mode.
What are you personally most proud of in the game?
When making Tank Hero, we were sceptical about whether or not it would garner much attention. We didn’t want to make a game with 'viral' features or money-gouging in-app purchases for more lives or undeserved victories. The app markets are filled with games that employ questionable tactics to squeeze every last cent out of their users. We’re very proud that our title was successful simply because it was fun.
Do you think making simple yet addictive games such as Tank Hero is the way forward for indie developers on the App Store / Android Market?
Not really. The good thing about being an indie developer is that you don’t have to follow trends or please a board of directors. Indies can do whatever they want, and because of that, they’re capable of producing very compelling games regardless of whether they’re casual, hardcore, retro, or modern titles. Indies should just do what they want to do instead of what they’re told to do - we believe this is the way forward for indie devs.
Are there any differences between the iOS, Android, and Ovi versions of the game?
The iOS and Android versions of the game are pretty much equal in all respects, except achievements are integrated into OpenFeint on one platform (Android) and Game Center on the other (iOS). The Ovi version of the game, meanwhile, has all the same features bar achievements, with the graphics engine also slightly different.
Do you have anything planned in terms of updates for the game, such as a head-to-head multiplayer mode? Can you give us any in-depth details?
Yes, we have had an update in line for iOS that will bring an additional 40 levels to the game, as well as Game Center support for achievements. It should be released by the time this interview is published.
We get asked about adding a multiplayer option a lot by our users. People need to understand that it’s not just a simple matter of adding an extra mode to the game and calling it a day. It’s very important for us to do multiplayer the right way, and this means designing a game from the ground up with a focus on competitive or co-operative gameplay. At Clapfoot, we’ve had a lot of internal discussions about this feature and we’re really excited about making a full-blown multiplayer version of Tank Hero in the future.
Do you have any plans in place to bring the game to other mobile platforms, such as Windows Phone?
We’re not very confident in Windows Phone. While we think the OS is good from the user perspective, it is a real nightmare for indies. Microsoft has chosen not to support open / standard tools like OpenGL and native C/C++ compilers. This means that developers are either forced to make games exclusive to Windows Phone or spend twice as much development time rewriting their code for XNA. Combine that with the fact that Windows Phone currently has a very small user base and there is little incentive for indies to work with them.
Having said that, we’re very excited to work with other emerging platforms and hardware such as webOS, PlayBook, and anything else that supports open tools.
Tank Hero on iOS is available now, priced at 69p / 99c / €0.79 [iTunes link]. A Lite version is also available [iTunes link]. The game is also available on Android for free [Android Market link] and Ovi for £1.50 [Ovi link]. Check out the Tank Hero gameplay trailer below.