Team 17 could have made Worms for the iPhone months and months ago, as it was pretty obvious that its most popular game of all time was ideally suited to the touchscreen portable. But the decision was taken to give the iPhone adaptation the same depth of development that any platform receives.
“It would have been easy to knock out Worms and put it out there, and it would have sold fine,” says producer Kelvin Aston. “But we’ve taken our time and done it right. We’ve taken it very seriously, as we do with any platform.”
Code junkies out there will be interested to hear this is essentially the PS3 version of Worms, with one or two special effects removed but much the same engine providing the game’s beating heart, which is no small feat.
“We took the shaders out, but it’s still got the water in there, it’s still got the particle system in there, the wind system is in there, essentially this is the PS3 version,” explains lead programmer Matt Bishop. “OpenGL is what we’re used to working on, and a lot of our renderer on PS3, syntax-wise, was pretty much the same, and we also had our underlying engine which just needed porting to the Mac.”
Wrestling with controls
Although Worms has seen pretty much every type of controller to date - from mouse and keyboard to Wii-mote - a great deal of time and effort has been ploughed into usability tests to ensure the touchscreen-only edition is just as accessible as always.
To begin with, aspects such as the infamous ninja-rope and jetpack caused significant problems, but by drafting in kids from the local school and applying Team 17’s own ‘QI’ tests, nothing has had to be left out of iPhone Worms for want of an accessible control system.
“It’s been really helpful putting Worms through our strict usability tests,” Aston says. “There’s so many things you just can’t think of on paper. Like the jet pack controls we originally had, which used the screen edges to control the worm as you do on the ground.
"During tests, players were putting two fingers on the screen at the same time, but that triggered the camera controls, so we had to add in lots of background systems to lock the camera during certain events! Worms looks really simple on the surface, but there’s so much going on under the hood that the player never knows about!” he laughs.
Moving worms about the screen before taking their shot is as simple as touching the sides of the screen, while tapping on the worm has them jumping and back-flipping. Guiding weapons uses a clear and easy aiming reticle, accompanied by a single Fire button to detonate, fire and perform whatever task that particular system requires.
The multi-touch system comes into use for camera controls, allowing for scrolling and pinch and pull zoom. Regardless of the tutorial, it’s a surprisingly ‘pick up and play’ game that any half-experienced iPhone user will be leaping into within minutes.
Beginners welcome, Apple involved
But this isn’t just a game for the hardcore Worms fans. Help and advice is woven throughout the iPhone version, explaining the basics of play, right down to an individual description and application of all the weapons.
The purpose here is to ensure that any newcomers to the franchise will find the game as easy to get into as someone who first played it on the Amiga.
Apple has been involved from an early stage, when the team took Worms to the head office to demonstrate its functions, such as being able to play your own MP3s during the game, despite the initial release being build on the 2.2.1 operating system, rather than the new 3.0.
“Apple were doing backflips over the game. They were really impressed, but they said to us ‘Oh, you should have done it where you can play your own MP3s”, and we said, ‘You mean like this!’ They were just blown away,” Aston tells us.
Indeed, Apple even requested Team 17 attend the Worldwide Developers Conference to use Worms as a showcase for iPhone gaming, but the developer was keen to ensure the first glance of iPhone Worms was a full-on addition to the franchise, not just another quick conversion novelty.
The initial release, which was submitted to the App Store yesterday, will include pass-to-play multiplayer along with a host of different CPU teams to face off against, who range in difficulty, temperament and intelligence.
The famous Worms speech banks have also been fully re-recorded, including US Sports, Scousers, Angry Scots, Soul Man, Cyber Worms and more unlockable voices as you progress (alongside regionalised languages).
It’s undeniably appealing to see an iPhone game development which isn’t planning on firing out bug fixes after release, but has gone through the same level of quality control that a boxed retail game would receive, so slither over onto the edge of your seat for the game’s imminent App Store release.
We’ll also have lots more iPhone Worms info for you throughout the rest of the week, so stay tuned.