Interview: Rocket Riot Windows Phone 7 game

After taking a closer look at Ilomilo a few weeks ago and decided to setup a similar interview with Codeglue, the developers of Rocket Riot for Windows Phone 7. Rocket Riot is originally an Xbox Live Arcade game developed in XNA for the XBOX 360. This is why thought that it would be interesting to know more about the development process and the Windows Phone 7 specific features of the game.

1) Can you introduce yourself and your company CodeGlue and give us a short history on what you have developed on mobile and Xbox Live Arcade?

Hi, my name is Peter de Jong, I’m one of the co-founders of Codeglue. Codeglue is a small Dutch game development studio based in the city center of Rotterdam. Initially we started out developing games for mobile phones but a few years ago we also picked up developing games for consoles. Some of the games we’ve developed include Hydrotilt for iPhone, which has a cool level editor and Rocket Riot for Xbox LIVE Arcade, which won a Dutch Game Award for Best Visual Design last year.

2) Rocket Riot, which has already been released on Xbox Live Arcade, is going to be one of the flagship Xbox Live launch titles on Windows Phone 7 this fall. Can you tell us what the game is all about?

The game is about Blockbeard, an evil pirate who has a jetpack instead of legs, who has been imprisoned. He escapes and to get revenge, he steals everybody else’s legs. A professor invents a jetpack for you as well, hands you a bazooka and tells you to hunt down Blockbeard. From then on, it’s all-out jetpack bazooka action. You could say it’s a rocket riot…

3) Rock Riot is originally a XBLA game. What made you decide to port it to Windows Phone 7? I guess that the XNA platform played a big part in this decision?

We knew the Windows Phone 7 platform was going to be introduced later this year, so in March we set up a meeting with Microsoft during the GDC in San Francisco. That’s where we learnt that Microsoft was looking for games for their new platform and they asked us to pitch our games. For us Rocket Riot made the most sense to pitch because it already was developed using XNA. I think it made sense to Microsoft as well as they gave it green light pretty quickly after that.

4) How long didn’t take to port the Xbox360 version to Windows Phone 7? Did you encounter any obstacles (shader support, polycount restrictions etc..)?

It took us about 4 months to port the game to this new platform. Most of the time was spent on optimizing the game for this new platform (Although the phones are very powerful, it’s not an Xbox 360). On the Xbox we used a lot of custom shaders to do all kinds of neat tricks, but these shaders are not available on WP7. So we had to use the built-in shaders instead, which in the end did the trick as well. We also had to deal with polycount restrictions. In order to get the same insane amount of particles on screen as on the Xbox 360, we changed the 3D cube particles into pre-rendered sprites on WP7 (we hope nobody can see the difference). We felt it was really important not to cut down on the particle count, because this is why the game feels so good and explosive. Trying out control schemes took quite some time as well. We ended up including three different schemes, so we hope to have one to everybody’s liking.

5) Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 is a hotly anticipated feature that many users can’t wait to play with. Does Rocket Riot feature achievements or any other Live integration? Is Multiplayer a feature that we can expect to see in a future version of the game?

Naturally we will have achievements in the game. The fact that you can sign in on a phone with your Xbox LIVE account and earn achievements with mobile games is one of the coolest features of Windows Phone 7 we think. Unlike the XBLA version of the game the WP7 version of the game will not have any multiplayer modes because of technology restrictions. That said, we will have “challenges” for this game in a later update. With challenges you can compete with your friends for the best score for a level that you have selected.

6) As we have seen the hands-on videos, the game is controlled via the touch-screen. Did you think about implementing keyboard support (for the WP7 devices that will feature hardware keyboards)?

We don’t think you want to play Rocket Riot with a keyboard. Controlling the jetpack would be ok but shooting rockets really needs to be done with an analog stick or the touch screen. When things get hectic (and they do get hectic pretty quickly) nobody will even want to use a hardware keyboard. The original game was a twin-stick shooter so touch-screen was the best solution for porting the game to a mobile device.

7) Will you make available trial version of Rocket Riot in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace ?

Yes, Rocket Riot will have a trial version! We’ve hand picked 5 cool levels, so you can try those first (when in doubt). If you like it you can buy the full game from within the trial, which is a pretty sweet. In the full game you get 48 levels and regular new updates for the game, like e.g. the feature where you can challenge your friends.

8) Can we expect to see more games from you on Windows Phone 7 in the future?

Yes! We have a lot of great ideas and a history in mobile development so WP7 is a great additional platform for us to work on. Especially the cross platform possibilities between an XBLA game and a WP7 game is very interesting we think. We’ll be hatching on some ideas that will leverage both platforms the next couple of weeks.

9) Is there anything else you would like to say about Windows Phone 7 and the development pipeline for the mobile version of Rocket Riot?

Personally I like the new WP7 OS a lot. It’s probably the most innovative mobile OS out there. I can’t wait to get a my hands on the first HTC device with WP7 on it!
We were already quite familiair with the XNA environment from our Xbox 360 development experience so this helped us a lot developing Rocket Riot for WP7. XNA does such a great job abstracting the hardware that we could put most of our focus on creating the game itself (a big thank you to the XNA dev. team!).