PhoneRPT spoke with Juha Pellinen, the sole programmer of iPhone, iPad and iPod game Ant Raid, developed by Prank Entertainment.
What does the latest Ant Raid bring?
Ant Raid brings cheerful cartoon action with light-weight strategy game elements. It has evolved since the first version by localization support, including 8 language translations. Additionally we added “SmartBombs” to the game in form of in-app purchases, which are meant to help the less-seasoned players who found some of the levels too demanding.
Review score medians listing site Metacritic ranked Ant Raid as the 8th best iPad game of 2011. Also, the iPhone version of the game was just released. Initially we designed Ant Raid to be iPad exclusive, but during the development of the game we saw that it could actually work on the smaller screen as well. We are excited that it turned out to be equally enjoyable on both platforms.
How is it different from your competitors?
Usually Ant Raid is compared to traditional RTS games, but also to a Nintendo GameCube game called Pikmin. We are really happy to be compared to such a great game and it was definitely one of our references when making the game. Our aim was to make an RTS-type-of game which would appeal to a more casual audience. We designed the game to be much lighter than those traditional RTS games and concentrated more on frantic action than micro-management of your resources. Also, Ant Raid's unique controlling mechanism was developed specifically for touch screen devices and we wanted it to feel intuitive and easy to grasp for our target audience.
What platforms does the game currently support? Will you be developing it for any other operating systems?
Ant Raid currently supports iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. We have discussed about different options for additional platforms, but haven’t made any decisions yet. The most appealing platforms for us so far have been Android, PC and Mac. Expanding the game to new platforms currently depends on the success of the iPhone and iPad versions in App Store.
How did Prank Entertainment get the idea for this app?
Our CEO Mikko Pernu presented the original idea in late 2009. iPad was just announced and our goal was to create a simple strategy game for the upcoming platform. Ants and invading enemies are the basic elements that have stayed since the beginning. The prototype for the game was developed in just a few days and the production started soon after. A lot of small details in the game design evolved quite a bit during the development. For example, the ants weren't pink at first and controlling mechanism was constantly under iteration. We originally also tried line-drawing controls, but ditched the idea as it didn’t feel snappy and fast-paced enough for this type of game.
What can your users expect in future versions of Ant Raid?
There aren’t any specific plans set for future versions yet. Our aim was to release the iPhone version, see what happens with it and then decide what to do next. Currently we are working on an outsourcing project for one of the biggest game companies here in Finland. But what happens after we’ve finished that is still an open matter.
What do you as a programmer specifically do at Prank Entertainment ?
Currently I’m the one and only programmer in our small 5-person team. My title is Technical Director and I’m responsible for making technical decisions and implementations for our in-house and subcontracting projects. I’m working closely together with the team and providing support in different technical matters.
For Ant Raid I built the technology from ground-up including the game engine and logic. It turned out to be quite a huge amount of work in the end, but it was also great for learning. Due to the limited resources in our small team, in our future projects we most likely will be using a 3rd party game engine and currently Unity seems like the most attractive option. In fact we are already working with it and it feels pretty great!
In your opinion, what smartphone operating systems will rise and fall in the future? Windows Phone is interesting because of Nokia and its upcoming WP7 devices. They have received some nice reviews and people seem to be quite interested of them. From a game development perspective it has pretty nice development tools and marketplace. It’s interesting to see will Microsoft and Nokia challenge Apple and its App Store in the future. Sadly, Unity has announced not to support Windows Phone 7 which makes it a bit less appealing platform for us.
I wouldn’t want to start predicting failures of any certain operating systems, but currently Apple seems to be beating other platforms with App Store. I would really like to see other manufacturers to put more effort on their own marketplaces too and give us developers more options and possibilities. Standing out in App Store as a small indie developer has been quite challenging for a while already. All-in-all the future of mobile platforms seems quite bright in my opinion and there is room for competition. I just hope the manufacturers will do their best in keeping the device fragmentation to a minimal, since small developers like us cannot afford a shelf full of phones and a room full of QA people. It will be interesting to see how powerful the next generation smartphones will be!