For those of you reading who don’t already know, Battle of Titans is the ambitious mobile mech title by indie developer Red Button, led by the talented and creative Nikolay Karpov. Karpov helped create another game you may have heard of, War Robots for developer Pixonic.
Nikolay, Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. Obviously War Robots was a major project and accomplishment. But that was not your first project by any means. What other games have you created?
My first mobile game was Bug Village with GLU mobile. I was a game designer for that project, which I joined near to its launch and prepared three major updates for. After that we started with Indestructible. I was lead game designer for that project. It’s was a really cool game and project and I still miss it.
After Indestructible I moved to Pixonic and started work on their new IP RnD [intellectual property research and development].
How did you come to be a video game developer? Was this type of work something you grew up wanting to do, or was it an unexpected opportunity?
I’m a metal physicist, by training, but with unusual hobbies. I was a Dungeons & Dragons game master for four years. I really enjoy module and world creation processes. Then I made some board games with friends for fun. After university I sent my resume to all of the main game development studios in Moscow and began working with Akella.
What else is there about you that we should know? Do you have any other hobbies or passions you would like to share?
I have two sons and they are my main passion! Anyway, the most important thing about hobbies is this: When your hobby becomes your job, you no longer have a hobby! So after I became a game developer I decided to take up snowboarding.
Something that I think a lot of players will want to know, and I would be remiss if I didn’t ask is, what is different about Battle of Titans compared to War Robots? Both games obviously belong in the mech, or giant robot genre. What sets Battle of Titans apart, not just from War Robots but other titles and franchises?
A good rule of business is that if something is not broken then don’t fix it! If something is generating revenue don’t mess with it and risk breaking it. That is part of the reasoning for Battle of Titans after Walking War Robots (WWR). The same ideas about gameplay are present behind both games. It’s something like being an auteur for mech games. I have more ideas that I want to see come to life in this genre and while they may not all be the best in terms of monetization, I want to at least try them. WWR had a strong formula – simple fun PVP matches with mechs and the potential for mastering by skill. But we want more.
So, here are some of the differences, step by step.
BoT features a completely free-moving camera with simple, but precise aiming. This is really challenging to successfully execute in a mobile game. Another big difference and improvement is detailed mech destruction by body part with the ability of players to aim at specific parts. We like these features a lot, but we are also aware that incorporating them moves the game toward being more of a hardcore experience.
The slots system with interchangeable backpacks is another example. We are offering more opportunities for player choice in configuration and moving away from more casual or preset choices.
The upgrade system is somewhat of an experiment for me as the producer of BoT. It’s new and so also risky.
Battle of Titans is currently in a second round of beta testing. From previous statements, a release date for iOS devices in fall or winter has been anticipated. Do you have a firm release date for iOS at this time?
I think Autumn is a good time for release.
NOTE: After this interview and before publishing we learned that the intended soft launch for iOS will be November 25th.
Approximately what amount of work remains to be completed before Battle of Titans is ready for launch?
At this moment the core game is ready for release, but we are considering some additional improvements. PvP (team death) matches are good for starting out, but objective based missions are more interesting to me. I don’t want to include beacon control. It is too much like WWR and we could add the feature in about a day’s work if we wanted to. I would like to add some points of interest and maybe some randomness from match to match.
We are finishing one new location which we have released a handful of screenshots from. It may be ready for implementation in our next version of closed beta testing. Different weapons for backpack slots are something else I would like to add soon. At this moment we have only one weapon per backpack slot class, light, medium and heavy. One more for each class would be enough variety for release.
What do you have in mind for points of interests?
Nothing is certain yet, but we are looking at features like repair bases, radar stations and anti-aircraft batteries that would affect the match in favor of the controlling team.
Those would be interesting elements for sure. What about the function of the other special ability back packs that you mentioned?
Again, these are ideas that are still evolving so they may appear quite different in their final form. We are considering a light backpack that can direct an orbital strike, a medium that will deploy a defensive anti-rocket system and a heavy backpack that will provide an energy shield to protect its user and nearby team members.
Earlier I mentioned iOS as your initial release platform. I had better ask about Android or I will risk receiving threatening letters from gamers who use that operating system exclusively! Anyone who has perused the comments on Battle of Titans official Facebook page will know that a significant number of your followers are looking forward to a promised future release for android devices. Can you explain why Battle of Titans is not being developed for both platforms simultaneously?
It’s all about resources and the ability to simultaneously develop both versions. Frankly it would get really expensive for us and not be effective. First we need a stable version for one platform, and then we can add support for another.
Would a release for Android come more quickly if you were building it for that system first?
I don’t think so.
How long do you anticipate work to take for a conversion to Android after the initial iOS version ships?
Three to six months.
One aspect of mobile gaming that I personally enjoy, as I’m sure many others do, is a natural connectivity with other players. Is it likely that Battle of Titans will be a cross platform game, allowing friends with iOS and Android devices to play on the same servers?
It will be two different platforms and if we were to make one battleground server for both we would need much more time for every release. I think it is more likely that we might be able to set up iOS vs Android events during periods when both platforms are on the same version.
Back to the launch of Battle of Titans itself, what can players anticipating its release look forward to in the initial version? We have seen some gorgeous screenshots of a desert map and images of a flying titan that looks like it might transform somehow. Is there anything else planned?
I’m always in search for game changers, things that could surprise you and make you say ‘Wow this changes everything’. Like the physical shield did in WWR. By the way I think we could implement something similar in BoT. Previously, I thought that it would not suit us, because of free aiming, but now I see that light titans may need something like it.
Battle of Titans is built on Unreal Engine 4. What possibilities does this open up for you that other engines don’t allow?
While Unreal Engine 4 requires a lot of work it has awesome graphics capabilities and visual programming features.
Something that caught my eye from the earliest public statements that Red Button made was a discussion that mentioned the possibility of destructible environments. In a game with mechs, destructible environments feel like an obvious feature to include, but for mobile devices may understandably be hard to achieve. Where does the possibility of some form of destructible environments stand in Battle of Titans at the moment, and what are your plans for the future in this regard?
BoT as a game, has lots to do with destruction. Players need to be a more efficient destroyer than opponents in order to win. We are planning greater support for the visual destructive effects of the titans. Technically this task is already done, but we need more scripting work. Object destruction is a different story, but we are looking for ways this might be achieved.
Another topic that was also only briefly mentioned in early posts but that is very near and dear to my own heart, as I know it is for a good number of gamers, is narrative. Has a background or setting for Battle of Titans been decided on? If not do you have a general direction you are interested in that you can share?
BoT is set in a sci-fi and somewhat post-apocalyptic reality, but without many of the typical assumptions that go with that phrase and genre. The initial setting is that mercenaries and enclaves of humanity are fighting each other for resources, after Earth has been defeated and had supplies cut off by its colonies like Mars and Venus, etc. The colonies separately control important territory on Earth, collectively controlling about ten percent of the planet’s land space. Each Player is a free mercenary and works for some of the independent enclaves.
I’m planning to add a new faction to help progress a narrative with an “Earth reconquista” of sorts, after the initial game has been released long enough. I’m envisioning an event in which clans are fighting for dominance with the ability to conquer each other. The event could end when a significant majority of clans are conquered by one clan, resulting in a new faction. Ideally a new faction would receive something unique for every aspect of play, battle abilities, visual style, and possibly an upgrade system.
How do you plan to incorporate player alliances and even factions into the Battle of Titans universe?
We are considering starting with a primitive friends list, and then would evolve it into clans, alliances and the “Earth reconquista” event.
The addition of AI-controlled bots during beta testing has lead to speculation that a single player or campaign mode might be in the works. Is there anything to this?
Only after we accumulate enough resources for it. A good single-player campaign is really expensive in terms of content production.
What games or movies inspire you creatively?
Robot Jox – it was the first movie I visited without my parents. Mechwarrior 1 & 2 – for fun and the lore, not so much the controls. And Mechcommander – provided good immersion in the game universe.
Are there any projects you are following now, or games you are into that we should check out while we wait for Battle of Titans?
I’m playing some team-based hardcore games with friends and some strategy games for PvP fun. For now my shortlist is Arma 3 with the RHS mod, Stellaris (my goodness it’s like drugs and I need to be dosed), and Starcraft Remastered for nostalgia.
Since conducting this interview, Red Button has announced the launch of an Initial Coin Offering which will run from October 29th through November 22nd, just days before Battle of Titan’s soft launch. If you are interested in learning more you can check out the details for yourself at their official site. With the almost daily news and anouncemnts coming from Red Button, we will be sure to have more to share with you soon, so follow MECH*SPECTRUM to stay up to date and in the loop.