It’s no secret that even the most popular online freemium games these days would be better off having mobile versions as well. To get there, developers really only have two choices: either go multi-platform from the start, or see what works online first and bring the IP to mobile once it’s already established.
The latter method has worked well for companies like King, allowing them to know that games like “Candy Crush Saga” were already hits before they ever started taking over phones and tablets. But as mobile gamers become more sophisticated, it often takes more than a straight port to keep them playing.
That’s something that Kabam kept firmly in mind when deciding how best to leverage the audience of 15 million players it had built up with “Dragons of Atlantis.” Knowing that it wanted a game that would appeal to online veterans and newcomers alike, the company took the time to build “Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon” from the ground up.
To get some insight into the challenges and rewards of tackling the online to mobile transition this way, GameSided got Eddie Hsu, Producer of “Heirs of the Dragon,” to share some of his thoughts:
GameSided: What was the most challenging aspect of taking “Dragons of Atlantis” to mobile?
Hsu: As a franchise, “Dragons of Atlantis” has been played by over 15 million people worldwide who love the deep and engaging gameplay of the web version. I think our biggest challenge was striking a balance between maintaining the spirit of the franchise through gameplay, player dynamics, and lore of the web version, while innovating on new features specific for the mobile platform.
GS: What lessons did you learn from the web-based game that helped in creating the new game?
Hsu: Three major ones:
- Don’t underestimate the importance of executing on good UI design and user experience flow.
- Alliances and social interactions form the core of the “Dragons of Atlantis” experience.
- Awesome, badass dragons are also core to the “Dragons of Atlantis” experience, and we’re constantly developing more ways to allow players to customize and interact with their dragons. Our new Dragon Armor loot system ensures that no two dragons are alike, and we’re working on a feature that will allow players to pit their dragons against each other in combat.
GS: When taking a popular web-based game to mobile, what is the most important aspect to get right – is it the controls, the UI in general, or something people might not expect?
Hsu: UI is definitely something that’s really hard to get right. A lot of designs that work great on the web don’t necessarily translate to mobile quite the same way. To give an example, many web-based games have mouse-over tooltips for context.
On mobile, finding the space to place this information on a small screen often has far reaching consequences on UI design. We designed the UI for “Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon” specifically for mobile devices from the ground up, and at each step in the drafting process, we would ask ourselves “would this make sense for a user who’s familiar with the iOS/Android UI?” In many cases, we’ll have to scrap the the idea and go back to the drawing board if we decide that we’re deviating too much from mobile OS UI best practices.
GS: How accessible is the new game to players who haven’t tried the prior game? And conversely, will experienced players of the prior game be rewarded for their experience there?
Hsu: A good alliance is at the crux of engaging players, and we made the recruitment of new players into alliances one of our goals early on. We’ve added an alliance matchmaking system which pairs new players with open alliances based on their play styles, and we encourage alliances to take on, mentor, and grow with new players. “Dragons of Atlantis” has always had a vibrant community of players willing to help out people new to the game, and we’ve added a number of improvements to our chat system as well. Regardless of if they decide to join an alliance, all new players are afforded seven days of protection from attacks; during that time, players who follow the recommended quest line should find themselves in a pretty good position by the time they leave protection.
Veterans of “Dragons of Atlantis” will be happy to know that most of their combat and build strategies from the web game will still be viable in the mobile incarnations—with a few surprises here and there!
GS: What new features are in the upcoming game that might only be possible because it’s on mobile?
Hsu: We’re launching with global leaderboards, challenges, and a whole smorgasbord of achievement with full integration on both iOS Game Center and Google Play Games, so players will be able to see how they match up. We’re also able to dynamically notify the player when construction and training tasks are complete through push notifications. Finally, we’re got a few ideas with mobile cameras and gyroscopes that we’re playing around with, so stay tuned!
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