This might be a no-brainer, but it seems we haven’t seen the last of Infinity Blade, the highly popular and well-received iOS game that pushes the envelope for the iPhone’s graphical capabilities, and the first iOS title to use the powerful Unreal Engine 3.
During a talk given at Game Developers Conference 2011, Creative Director Donald Mustard of Infinity Blade developer ChAIR said the company is “very interested in” Infinity Blade, although he wouldn’t come out and say the game would receive a sequel.
“Obviously there’s marketing considerations, but when it comes to sequels, we ask ourselves, ‘Is there more in this genre we want to say?’” Mustard said. “We’re very interested in exploring Infinity Blade, and Shadow Complex (a ChAIR title for Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade), further.”
After the strong reception Infinity Blade received, it would probably be more strange if ChAIR and publisher Epic Games didn’t push on and create another title in the series. A big content update is coming out “soon” for the title, Mustard said, which will further the game’s narrative and play up the science fiction undertones touched on by Infinity Blade’s ending. But the focus of Mustard’s talk at GDC wasn’t the future of Infinity Blade -- it was the past.
The game came about in just five months, Mustard said: a somewhat insane turnaround, given how much development usually goes into games using Unreal Engine 3, which, up until that point, hadn’t been available for mobile games. The speed with which ChAIR had to turn around the game affected the developer’s design choices, as did the nature of Infinity Blade itself.
Mustard said the “hook” of Infinity Blade was the graphics -- it was the thing that would make players look twice at the game, and it required a big investment of time and money. It worked out pretty well, though, because the ChAIR determined right away that it wanted to do a sword-fighting game, and it figured out what would be the game’s central concept very early.
The game boiled down to trying to parry sword-fighting blows from enemies by swiping the iPhone’s screen in the opposite direction of the attack. Early builds of the game were ready within 10 days of getting the assignment from Epic, Mustard said, and even early on it was addictive, with members of ChAIR’s staff coming back for more.
“We realized if we could do that, our game will be fun,” he said.
But the fast turnaround time meant a lot of ideas that initially seemed like they would be fun had to be left out.
“We realized if we wanted the kind of graphic fidelity we did, we had to cut out a lot of content,” Mustard said. “We were going to have all these mini-games between fights that would use the controls uniquely. You’d shoot an arrow at a dragon, or you’d use a grappling hook to climb a wall. But we started to look at it and were like, ‘Do you need to fire a bow and arrow? Nope. Do you need to climb a wall? No.’”
Part of the justification for the cuts of the mini-games between sword battles was that they didn’t add to the core experience, and ChAIR wanted all the elements of the game to build on one another.
And a major part of what Mustard said made the game work so well was that it was a simple concept, but required the player to be skillful to master. The mini-games didn’t add to that, but Infinity Blade’s loot system, the gathering and purchasing of powerful weapons and armor to strengthen the player’s character, did -- although, as Mustard admitted, it was a bit disingenuous.
“We kind of trick the player into thinking they’re getting better and better loot over time, but you’re really leveling up as a player -- you’re gaining more skill,” Mustard said. “You could beat the Godking (Infinity Blade’s final enemy) your first time out. There’s nothing stopping you.”
But the desire to get better keeps players coming back, and ChAIR plans to keep supporting the game since it has struck a chord with so may players. It sounds like ChAIR has more to “say” on Infinity Blade -- and they’ll probably do so in Infinity Blade 2 before too long.