Indie Game Developer Interview: Zen Wars Developer Patrick Wolowicz of subzero.eu

Liv Games and Subzero.eu’s Tower Defense game for iOS devices, Zen Wars, is a well-like games by us here over at Nineoverten.com (check it out over here). The game isn’t like many other TD games out there, and instead focused on sieges and defending against hordes of pesky samurai. Here we have today on our Indie Game Developer Interview Segment is Patrick Wolowicz, who made Zen Wars during his spare time. We pick his brains on the experience of developing Zen Wars and what else is there on the development pipeline:

Nine Over Ten 9/10: Tell us more about yourselves and how you started developing mobile games? What were the challenges that you faced along the way?

Patrick Wolowicz – Subzero.eu: subzero.eu software is actually just me (Patrick Wolowicz). I usually develop iOS software for third parties, but I had always wanted to do a game, so I worked Zen Wars in my free time. One of the biggest challenges was staying motivated and not dropping the project completely when I had other work to do. Zen Wars was a two year project and I had to put it on the back burner a couple of times when clients needed things done.

One of the mantras I picked up was to write at least one line of code a day. This forces you to open up the project files at least once a day and you usually end up writing more than one line of code. It just keeps you going.

The game art was created by panzerflakes.com. They’re a company specialized in supporting indie devs such as me with what ever assets they are missing in their projects. I was desperately looking an artist and so contacted Jakub Riedel from Panzer Flakes. I told him what I needed and Panzer Flakes drew me up some concept art. His team sketched up some concept art and it matched what I had in mind perfectly. The result is the great and unique look Zen Wars has today.

Liv Games jumped aboard in the final stretch and are helping me take care of publishing. Orian Livnat from Liv Games had initially asked me to help out with the development of Legendary Wars, but unfortunately I was already in the middle of Zen Wars so I had to decline; I was only able to help out on a consultant basis.

When Zen Wars was close to being done I needed someone to take care of contacting news sites, reviewers and answering press requests as well as consulting with me on when and how to launch Zen Wars. Orian and I got in contact and we quickly established that Liv Games was looking for a great game they were willing to spend time on publishing and I was looking for an indie friendly publisher to help me out. It was a perfect match! Without Liv Games Zen Wars wouldn’t be where it is today.


9/10: What was the idea behind Zen Wars?

PW: The idea behind Zen Wars was to create a simple but deep fun game with a focus on the multiplayer part of the game. I’ve done what I can to keep the game accessible but at the end Zen Wars isn’t a casual game, it’s a strategy game, it’s not designed to be easy. Most players are doing just fine, there is however a small of group of players that think the Zen Wars time limits and the difficult build pieces annoying. To me that is what makes the game what it is.

Lets imagine for a second that I removed this and created a game I like to call “Hello Kitty Wars”. Hello Kitty Wars has no timers, it waits until your done with repairing and then asks you to proceed. Still having difficulties? Press the Hello Kitty button and you get to pick the wall piece to place. When done the shooting phase starts where the enemies don’t move so that you can’t miss them. Oh and multiplayer mode is great too. No timers, no cannons, you just build as long as you want to and then democratically vote on who built the nicest fortress! Hello Kitty Wars, coming soon!

Seriously though, Zen Wars is about timers, frantic building, not always getting the perfect build piece you need, and good aiming. It’s a skill game, not an easy game, and that makes the sense of achievement so much greater when you actually complete a level.

All that said however, I know that the background of people wanting to play Zen Wars may be different, which is why I’m working on three difficulty settings so each player can play the difficulty he or she needs. Want an easy experience? Play the easy mode. Think you can handle anything? Try the legendary mode. All coming soon!

9/10: How has the response been to Zen Wars on the iTunes App Store and are there any plans for a sequel/updates?

PW: The response has been great, I’m thrilled to see thousands of people enjoying Zen Wars at the moment. Many of them are still working their way through the campaign. A part of them have finished the game and are starting to compete for the top spots of the survival leaderboard and the multiplayer ranking. Hundreds of multiplayer games have been played already, and we only went live last Thursday! We have noticed however that some people are having troubles finding players online. An update has been submitted to Apple to help these players.

As for future updates: As said, I’m working on adding difficulties to the campaign mode, adding more weapons to the game and working on an iPad update which will add a few iPad only features which I’m not ready to share yet, but I think people will love (and you’ll no longer have to shake the iPad to bring out the menu, yeay!).  I’m also very interested in hearing what people want me to add (e.g. via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zenwars).

9/10: Could you share with us a little on what you’ll be working on next?

PW: I’m currently focused on adding features to Zen Wars to keep the players happy. Liv Games is busy working on a big update for their Legendary Wars game which is looking cool too. As you see both companies are dedicated to their fans, as most indie developers and publishers are. Liv Games and me are also working on a few Zen Wars tournaments with actual prizes, so you guys better start practicing for a chance to win :).

9/10: What are your view on iOS games piracy and how has that affected the sale of your game(s)?

PW: Piracy is always an issue with software development. There are thousands of players playing pirated copies of Zen Wars so it’s an issue that is affecting me too. I’m a developer, I live off what I earn through sales. Of course I’d love to see less or no piracy. But there is a limit of what I’d be willing to do to reduce piracy: Developers or publishers such as Ubisoft add piracy protection that quits your single player game if your internet connection breaks down. I find this unacceptable. Crackers remove this protection fairly quickly and that leaves paying customers in a situation where their paid version of the game offers less functionality than the free pirated versions.

And have you seen the anti piracy adverts lately? Lets not get carried away here. If someone pirates a copy of Zen Wars then he’s not taking it away from someone else. It’s information. It can be replicated for free. So comparing it with hard crime is crazy if you ask me. No-one has stolen thousands of dollars from me, what they have taken is the potential of me making that money and improving Zen Wars, but that’s still not the same as physically stealing money off me.

Zen Wars is 99 cents. Less than a flavored coffee. If someone _really_ can’t afford that then that person needs more help then I do anyway. I’m not for piracy but its something that we developers have to live with and not go crazy about, and piracy prevention should not be at the expense of paying customers.

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