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TUAW Interview: Danielle Cassley of Aurora Feint (more)




So since the iPhone has started, I am a huge World of Warcraft fan, I'm a huge MMO fan, and since the iPhone has come out, the thing that's been kind of in the back of my mind is what you guys have said, that an MMO is where it's at. People are playing alone, but they want to be around other people as they play. But I still personally, and I don't mean this as an insult or anything, I don't think that we've seen a really integrated, full MMO. Even the stuff that you've done with The Arena is still asynchronous, it's kind of a message-based more than a synchronous MMO, right?

Right. Actually, I talked about this at South by Southwest and a few other multiplayer things I've been doing recently. But I actually think that as far as multiplayer goes on the iPhone, I think that asynchronous will be what ends up winning out.

Well yeah, that's my question there. Do you think that we will go to a Warcraft-type of constantly connected playing with other people, or is OpenFeint pretty much as good as it gets on the iPhone? What do you think about that?

I think that as far as massively multiplayer goes, and even just multiplayer, you're going to see a lot of local area network stuff, where you're actually sitting next to somebody and you can tell what their current state of being is. I think games like that could potentially be popular. But as far as over wireless, and over the Edge and things like that, I think you're going to see asynchronous is what ends up hitting home. And the reason for that is, imagine if you were playing World of Warcraft, and you were in a huge thing and one of your buddies that is like the most important just decides to get up and leave. He gets a telephone call from his grandma. Having those people around, I don't think you can depend up on it with an iPhone, or an iPod touch. The network is not always there, it's supposed to be always there, but it's not always there. There's the case of the telephone call, there's the case of, I'm finished with my coffee now, what am I going to do. I don't think that the use case for the iPhone is really fit for your typical World of Warcraft. I think that the asynchronous game is going to work. But I think that where we are at, right now, with The Arena, is only about an eighth, maybe a quarter of where we plan to go with it. We have a ton of ideas about how to blow asynchronous multiplayer out so that it feels even more realtime than what we've done in the current game. And how to have some sort of ghosting environment where you really don't know whether someone is playing behind that character or not. And maybe potentially have it be synchronous play, but where if you leave, a ghost takes over. We have a lot of really good ideas about where it's going to go, but in the long run, I think asynchronous is going to be the key to success for multiplayer games.

And obviously, when you start talking about local play, and things like that, you can look at iPhone 3.0 and the things that Apple has coming out in the API. Have you downloaded the new SDK -- is there anything in there that you saw during the presentation or in the SDK that really stuck out and said "yes, that's for us, that's what we're looking for, that we're interested in"?

At this point, because we've been, for the last couple of weeks, between GDC and our launch of OpenFeint, we haven't had the time to actually sit down and play with the SDK itself, but we know what's going on with it, and using it. And I think that when we found out about that, we were jumping for joy. The combination of having push notifications and microtransactions at the same time, it opens up a lot of doors. It opens up a lot of doors for OpenFeint as a platform, and it also opens up a lot of doors for Aurora Feint the MMO. The first thing that comes to mind for everybody with microtransactions is virtual goods. And I just think we have tons of ideas -- I don't want to say too many because, you know, it's our next thing.

Sure, that's fine.

Aurora Feint III should be out by probably in quarter 4 of this year.

Well there you go, all right. Good enough for me. You said before that you played Final Fantasy -- are you a gamer, what other games are you interested in right now?

I have a PS3, I have not gotten my Xbox yet, mostly just financially I haven't decided that that's what I want to throw my money into, considering we are so busy here at Aurora Feint that I don't think any of us have played games in the past few months. I think the last game that I really sat down to play was Legend of Zelda on the Wii, and that was ages ago, so at this point, I haven't played anything lately.

Are there other iPhone games that you'd like to call out that you think are really worth mentioning as games that you like?

You know, I have problems with iPhone games just because I spend so much time playing iPhone games already as is. But I really like the games that spend time to make sure they're high-quality. Flight Control is the big thing right now -- everyone in our office is playing Flight Control, it's going to become some sort of a competition, I'm sure. I really like the production quality of Word Fu, and it's a really simple, casual game, I think it works for the iPhone. Let's see, what else. I think that's really it. I've played through the hidden picture stuff, just because it's mindless, I like that kind of thing.

Cool. So now you're going to release Arena Daemons. Tell us what's new with this release -- is it an update to the original game, is it another spinoff, what's Arena Daemons?

Arena Daemons is an update to the Arena game. And what Arena Daemons does is it basically adds additional incentive for people to want to battle in the Arena. And so what happens is now when you battle in the Arena you get honor points if you beat the other players. If you're offline, your ghost continues to play other players as well, and when you go beat someone else you also get honor points, so you get honor points both ways. Honor points can be used to buy daemons, and daemons are these creatures that you can take into the battlegrounds with you, and they basically have these different qualities that allow you to play the game and to have special passive abilities that make it easier to beat the other players and give you more honor points. Each of the different characters has like a different skill -- there's one where, when he attacks, all of the blocks light up, so it ends up being such that you want to keep rotating the song, so that you can get long chains. We have bonuses to taking out certain colors, so there's a mana orb at the top and if you have one of the daemons with the mana orb, if you take out the color of the mana orb, you get more points. We've added news levels of strategy, and a whole new level of combat for people to work through in the Arena.

And is it a free update to the Arena?

Free update.

Free update, perfect. And that'll be on the App Store soon, hopefully by the time this goes live. And then what's next for Aurora Feint -- you said Aurora Feint III will be out this year, are there any other plans for this year that you can talk about?

This year we'll just be working heavily on Aurora Feint III and we'll be working heavily on OpenFeint. I think those are kind of the two big it things that we have going for us this year.

Cool. I asked on Twitter if there were any questions for you, and I got a question from @linducker. He wants to know if you have plans to do a singleplayer story mode.

Singleplayer story mode? We have, Jason and I, since day one, actually, before we even started programming the game came up with this way cool elaborate story behind Aurora Feint, and we've been waiting and waiting and waiting for us to actually be able to put that in to one of our updates, and I think that it will actually probably end up coming out in a multiplayer game, not in a singleplayer game, but yeah there will be a story mode, there will be the ability to work your way through a story, but it'll be in a multiplayer environment, not a singleplayer environment.

And does that have to do with the little girl who is living in two worlds?

Yes, the little girl who falls into a coma, and is now in her dream world. And everything is kind of like -- imagine that the creatures that you're playing with, which you'll find out are the id, the ego, and the super ego, are her little subconscious. It's one of those elaborate game stories that somebody sat down and put a lot of effort into.

Sounds exciting. Thanks for chatting.

Thank you.

So since the iPhone has started, I am a huge World of Warcraft fan, I'm a huge MMO fan, and since the iPhone has come out, the thing...