One of the areas we'll be following closely in the coming months is Google's new Android platform for smartphones, which at GDC Mobile last month was eliciting a lot of enthusiasm from mobile developers.
Some have got their Android on already, though, and are developing games for the platform. One example is Parallel Kingdom, a medieval-themed MMORPG game that'll include GPS-powered location features.
It's due out later this year, soon after the first Android phones go on sale, although an iPhone version is also in the works. We asked Justin Beck, CEO of Parallel Kingdom (the company), some questions to find out more.
Pocket Gamer: How did you get started on Parallel Kingdom – what was the inspiration, and how long have you been working on it?
Justin Beck: We've been working on Parallel Kingdom for four months now. The original idea came from a brainstorm about gaming in the future. It started out by discussing mobile gaming for cell phones, then the discussion turned to GPS with the question, "Is there any cool game play we could build using GPS?" After a few more hours of conversation out came Parallel Kingdom and it just stuck.
What level of 'hardcoreness' is it? Is this a game that's aimed at MMORPG veterans, or is it more casual with a wider audience in mind? How has that affected the game itself?
Parallel Kingdom will mostly be played in a casual style with the ability to dig deep into the game. Since it's on the cellphone, you will be able to flip your phone open and check on your stuff, or invoke a few actions. We're working hard to make sure you can still play Parallel Kingdom no matter how busy you are.
Parallel Kingdom really provides quite a mix between game genres which really yields an interesting game play. Parallel Kingdom is really a mix between, a treasure hunt, questing in regular online RPGs, a real-time strategy, and an online people game like Utopia.com.
How do the GPS aspects work? How are you tackling the problem that people might not be within range of anyone else who owns the game?
We want to find some balance between leveraging the location game play of Parallel Kingdom without forcing players to move to do every little thing, which could get annoying quickly.
The GPS controls what part of a neighbourhood you are in and from that location you can then move your character within a couple block radius of your actual location. Giving you the freedom to explore while still being completely location based.
Not all of the game dynamics in Parallel Kingdom require other people to be immediately present, so there is still quite a bit of game play for those who don't have any other players right near them.
Gameplay will be quite different depending on your location, for example: New York vs South Dakota. This will make Parallel Kingdom fascinating, especially for travellers. We're excited to see what comes from it.
What are your thoughts on Android as a platform for mobile games? Is it nice to work with, and how much potential does it have for innovative games?
Android provides a great opportunity for game developers and all developers alike; some of Android's biggest selling points are the location based services, the ease of building a UI, and the services model that allows your application to run in the background.
Like any young platform there are quarks that need to be ironed out. The biggest missing part is physical devices to test with, since there are none, this has been the hardest part of development to date, but that too will eventually go away.
Are you looking at any other mobile platforms for the game? For example, N-Gage, Symbian, iPhone…
As the mobile market continues to grow and develop we'll see how the platform competition turns out. Right now Parallel Kingdom is working with iPhone and Android platform, but we'll see what happens.
Our thanks to Justin for his time. Check out the official website for more info on the game but, rest assured, we'll be following its progress, too.