Interview Exclusive: IGM Chats With Cascadia Games

Game Dock

I love my console games. I grew up in a Nintendo world from the late 80′s, the Super Nintendo is my all time favourite system, and my ultimate dream is to own every console ever made. Why not, right?

Now I realise that seems a little odd saying that, considering I’m here amongst the mobile indie developers, but it will all become much clearer once you get your hands on Cascadia Games‘ GameDock, a device that will turn your Apple iOS device into a home console system. I first learnt of the device during its recent Kickstarter campaign, something we wrote about here on IGM back in July, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

A few things have changed since July. The kickstarter was a resounding success, Apple have launched a whole new iOS device range, and Chris Jorgensen and the team is on the verge of launching not just a new piece of hardware, but a new game too. So in the midst of all this, I thought I’d ask some deep and meaningful questions, to see what’s really going on over there in Cascadia Games. Unfortunately, the deep and meaningful questions were a little too deep, so instead I asked Chris the following just as important questions:

Were you surprised by the response to the GameDock’s Kickstarter campaign or was it something you always knew would come to fruition no matter what?

Just from personal experience and observing other similar projects on Kickstarter, I figured we could get about $50k in funding. The fact that we came so close to that number, especially considering that we had so much unexpected media coverage, was a surprise.

Since achieving your funding goal on Kickstarter, has there been any specific changes or updates to the design of the GameDock that you’ve been able to introduce? Or any new ideas?

As far as hardware goes, most of the changes have been to the circuit board. We’ve swapped out a few components and changed its layout a couple of times as we’ve prepped it for production. The aesthetics of the case itself continue to evolve as well. If anything, however, we’ve gotten more conservative as things progress as the primary goal is to make a quality product and get it done according to the timeline we promised. There isn’t a lot of room for improvisation.

How different is the experience of developing a piece of hardware to that of developing a game?

It’s more expensive, for starters, because you’re not just paying for labor. The one-time costs are bigger. A mold for the plastic dock cases, for example, will likely cost over $10,000 by itself. That alone is higher than any contractor budget I’ve had on an app to date.

The order of events is a little more rigid as well. With software, I can plug in placeholder art or audio, for example, while I get the code in place. It doesn’t matter in which order finished bits arrive. But with hardware, for example, I can’t start producing the cases until I have a finished circuit board. And I can’t order boxes without having finished cases. I can’t get final box art until I have the box dimensions, etc, etc. So it takes a lot of iterations with slowly better approximations to make progress.

What was your first thought when Apple unveiled the Lightning Connector for the iPhone 5?

We expected it would happen, so we didn’t have a huge reaction one way or another. There was some disappointment, however, when we learned that the Lighting-to-30-pin adapter won’t support video. It basically means folks who get a GameDock will have to plug in their iPhone 5 separately into their TV. Of course, they’ll still be able to play games since the controls are sent via blue-tooth, but in the short term it means they won’t have the convenience of docking their phone while they play. Otherwise, it’s a neat connector. And there’s a chance they may be less expensive to use than the 30-pins, which would be great.

Will you be adapting the GameDock to the new connector ASAP or is it a wait and see mentality?

We’re in wait-and-see mode, but it’s not due to the connector. It depends on demand for the GameDock and what changes we might need for another model beyond just the connector.

While the iPhone and iOS are still a large chunk of the market, Android users are growing by the day. Are there plans to create alternative versions for those users without an iOS device in the future?

We’ve talked about it, but we don’t have any firm plans yet. To our knowledge, iOS is still where game developers make most of their money in mobile. Once we’ve established ourselves there, we will look at other devices.

Personally, how much has your own development style evolved from the early days?

I spend less time on things like art, audio, level design, etc, and more on the code and project management. The projects are bigger but better planned. I have more help, which is nice. I’m much less in a rush to get something out and more interested in making sure what we do is as good as it can be. In fact, I’ve been slowly pulling my older apps out of the iOS App Store to make sure there’s consistent quality from Cascadia Games.

Has the response to the Torque 2D Kit been as expected? Are there plans to refine or expand upon it?

The response has been great. In the early years of Cascadia Games, it was the primary revenue source. GarageGames has always been very supportive of it and about a half dozen games have been published using at least some of its code. I do plan on updating it. It just depends on the GarageGames’ engine release schedule. If their current engines haven’t been replaced by early next year, the kit will get some of the features from Wacky Wheels. If they have a new engine by then, I’ll rewrite it from the ground up.

For those of us who grew up with it, Wacky Wheels is a classic PC racer. What made you decide to bring back such a franchise? How did it all come about?

I’ve always loved the “mode 7” racing genre. I think it died too soon as folks jumped onto the 3D ship. I think it has a different feel than true 3D that makes it unique and fun in its own right. I didn’t like how Konami updated its Krazy Racers game to 3D for the iPhone, for example. It lost its pacing and intensity.

I had wanted to do a new kart racing game for awhile. But nothing quite struck me as a worthy idea. I took a lot of flak for releasing Cascadia Kart, which many folks felt was too similar to Zombie Karts. I didn’t want to crank out something that felt cookie-cutter. I was waiting for something that clearly was a strong, original game in its own right.

Wacky Wheels always stood out to me as a great example of how to do a kart game well. And the idea of releasing a game with a known brand was a new and interesting one for me. So I wrote 3D Realms and asked if I could license it. They said “Okay.” We put together an agreement and that was it.

a preview screenshot

What issues were involved in creating a game based on an existing IP compared to an original idea such as Cavorite?

There’s going to be a set of expectations that comes with an existing IP. So I’ve been very hesitant to share progress with anyone, much more than usual, and maybe a little bit more picky with what everyone produces. Everything needs to be well thought out since any change from the original needs to be justifiably for the better.

If you had the chance, what other classic franchise(s) would you love to revisit?

Without a doubt, Commander Keen is number one. Someone start petitioning id Software so I can make that happen!

So what’s next for Cascadia?

In the short term, obviously, Wacky Wheels and the GameDock need to be done right. Their levels of success will set the course going forward. With that said, we’ve been sitting on a really clever Gameboy style game that we’re excited about but haven’t been able to get to yet. And, of course, Dr. Cavor will be back. We’re still deciding between a couple different routes to take that humble little franchise.

There you go folks. A big thanks to Chris and Cascadia Games for taking the time out to answer all the above. Keep it locked to IGM as, being a Wacky Wheels fan of old, you can be sure I’ll be keeping a close eye on its development and the upcoming launch of the GameDock with it! And for more on both projects, be sure to visit the official Cascadia Games website.

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