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GDC 2010: Real Racing and Flight Control on the iPad with Firemint

We got to sit down with Australian developer Firemint here at the Game Developers Conference 2010 in San Francisco -- it's a mobile game developer who hit it big last year with the very popular iPhone game Flight Control, and while it used to make mobile games for just a handful of larger game publishers like EA, the company is now trying to cement a reputation for making a smaller stable of high quality App Store games. "We like to joke that we went from ten customers to ten million," community manager Alexandra Peters told us.

She also showed us their second game, Real Racing, which has been winning all kinds of awards even in the crowded accelerometer racing game genre, and talked with us both about Flight Control HD (their upcoming "soon after launch" title for the iPad) as well as what's next for the company.

Real Racing was impressive for an iPhone racing game. While the accelerometer-as-steering is basically a cliche in iPhone games at this point, Real Racing pulls it off pretty well by focusing on that -- depending on the settings, you can simply let the car accelerate and even break on its own, and just focus on hitting the curves while driving 48 different cars around the game's 12 tracks, or actually jump in and control the car yourself.

We only got to drive a few laps, but the game's crystal-clear presentation got us interested enough to want to play more. The game is currently $4.99 in the App Store, but there is an interesting lite version to try as well -- Volkswagen actually approached Firemint after the success of the game and commissioned an "adverware" version to release on the App Store. It's there to try -- unfortunately, the content is a little light for a game with so many ads, but it's one of the better integration models for in-game ads I've ever seen, and the extra commission for Firemint certainly help offset the costs of development for a free game.

Firemint also told us about the version of Flight Control they're working on for the iPad. It will be called Flight Control HD, and of course it'll make use of the bigger touchscreen, but like most developers, Firemint hasn't had an actual iPad dev device to work with -- they've only got the game running in the iPad SDK simulation. Peters said the iPad makes for a "very personal and very immersive experience," so they're hoping to take advantage of that with Flight Control HD -- they've even set up a Wacom tablet to test the larger control scheme out. And they're hoping the game comes out soon after the iPad's launch on April 3rd, so look for it then.

Other than that, Firemint also has two other games in development, still under wraps. The first will be coming out later this year, and the other one is definitely the biggest iPhone project they've ever done (we got the impression that it would be a larger, 3D action project) that will be out sometime in 2011. We asked them if those games were planned for the iPhone or the iPad, and they told us while they were currently working on both of them for the iPhone, "we'll have to wait and see" on the iPad.

All in all, Firemint seems to be a company that has really taken advantage of the opportunities in the App Store, and grown both their reputation and their repetoire thanks to Apple's platform. Flight Control and Real Racing have both been excellent examples of their "just a few good games" philosophy, and we can't wait to see what they do with other titles and the iPad.

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