Mass Effect: Infiltrator interview: IronMonkey Studios design director, Jarrad Trudgen
- — 07 March, 2012 13:26
IronMonkey Studios design director, Jarrad Trudgen
Before Jarrad Trudgen became a design director at IronMonkey Studios in 2009, he spent several years growing his game development skills at several high profile studios in Australia. He started by working on racing games at Ratbag Games in Adelaide, did a stint at Team Bondi in Sydney as they worked on the seminal L.A. Noire, and finally ended up at Pandemic Studios’ Brisbane office doing action games. Now settled into his role at IronMonkey, Trudgen feel it is “great to be in the same studio for more than a couple of years.” PC World Games sat down with him for a one-on-one interview at the recent EA Mass Effect 3 media event to discuss IronMonkey's upcoming iOS game, Mass Effect: Infiltrator
IronMonkey Studios has quickly grown to become a prolific iOS developer. Why iOS and not other platforms such as PC and consoles?
IronMonkey Studios design director, Jarrad Trudgen (JT): IronMonkey was started in 2005 to fill a gap in the market for high quality mobile games. The studio developed a lot of expertise at successfully translating large sophisticated designs to less powerful hardware. With the introduction of the Apple App Store and the rapid growth of the smart phone and tablet market, it was a natural progression for the studio to focus on iOS. We've also recently started supporting the Android platform.
IronMonkey Studios has worked on several games in Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed series for iOS. What do you feel iOS devices have added to the Need for Speed experience?
JT: Need for Speed is a great fit for iOS. Tilting the device to steer is such a natural emulation of handling a real steering wheel that players from all walks feel right at home straight away. Holding an iPad at a mere arm's length from your eyes gives an incredible sense of immersion and speed, and if you switch to the first person view it's one of the closest experiences to actually being behind the wheel you can get.
What were the challenges in replicating the console game experience on iOS devices?
JT: The challenge is always in trying to add new features as soon as we can find a way to make it work with the hardware. For example, over the years we've evolved Need for Speed from a racer on flat tracks to a full physics based driving model with track elevation. We're always looking to keep the latest iteration as a cutting edge racing experience that pushes each generation of devices to its limits.
IronMonkey Studios also released Simpsons: The Arcade Game on iOS. How was it like working on such a famous property?
JT: I used to play the old The Simpsons Arcade Game by Konami in the arcades, so it was pretty cool to work on a title that was using that game as direct inspiration. There are a lot of people involved in that license now and understandably a lot of approval processes and sign offs required. I still didn't get to meet [Simpsons creator] Matt Groening, though.
You guys also had the opportunity to work on the mobile versions of EA's marquee original IP, Mirror's Edge. What approach did IronMonkey take when creating this game?
JT: We don't do straight ports of games, instead, we look at the anatomy of the console game, identify its core design pillars and then decide how to best translate those to the platform we're working on. For example, Mirror's Edge is all about fluid, flowing movement. When you string together a sequence of slides and jumps it's a real rush. We decided to switch to a 2.5D perspective and use a simple swipe gesture based control scheme to nail these core elements.
IronMonkey Studios also created the mobile version of Dead Space. What was the approach for that game?
JT: Dead Space was more a case of deciding to go all out in replicating a console experience on mobile. We didn't really change any of the features of the core experience, as it was more about the execution. It included making countless tweaks to controls, combat, pacing, level design, asset creation, memory management, AI handling, engine infrastructure, and so on. Just basically building everything from the ground up for the specific devices and making smart decisions to wring every bit of performance out of them we could get.
In particular, Dead Space has some of the most impressive graphics seen on an iOS device. How did the development team manage to achieve such graphics from the hardware?
JT: The simple answer is that we have very talented engineers and artists. Our art pipeline for games like Dead Space and Mass Effect: Infiltrator on iOS is pretty much the same as making high resolution assets for console games.
IronMonkey Studios now had the opportunity to work on the Mass Effect franchise with Infiltrator. How did the idea of a portable Mass Effect game come about?
JT: Well, Bioware had already experimented with a foray onto the Apple App Store with Mass Effect Galaxy that launched alongside Mass Effect 2. They learnt a lot from that experience and decided they wanted to do something closer to the core experience next time. We approached them, and I think off the back of what we achieved with Dead Space, they gave us the gig.
What feature of Mass Effect: Infiltrator are you most impressed with?
JT: I'm most proud of our cover system and particularly the ability to switch between pieces of cover with simple swipe gestures. We want our games to be accessible to a range of players without sacrificing gameplay depth so we developed this feature where players can swipe to vault and roll from cover to cover and easily navigate the environments in style.
How about story wise?
JT: I'm also incredibly proud of our lead character, Randall Ezno. He's an absolute bad-ass and voiced by the very talented Jay Franke, who was the voice of J.C. Denton in the original Deus Ex games. We have a strong narrative that runs through the game and our designer/writer, Gil Maclean, did a phenomenal job on the script.
Beyond Mass Effect: Infiltrator, what do you guys have planned next?
JT: Next up is the Android version of Infiltrator which I don't have a date for yet but is already in the works. We have some really exciting stuff coming up after that, too, but I can't announce anything right now.
You must get this request a lot, but any chance of a Dead Space 2 game?
JT: We are not currently developing another Dead Space game for iOS.
If there was any EA property, current or past, that you would like to turn into an iOS game, which one would it be?
JT: I've always wanted to do an update of Road Rash using our Need For Speed engine. I have fond memories of playing that game at a friend's house on his Sega Mega Drive. I really like vehicular combat and I have some ideas on how I think a game like that could control really well on touch screens.
Want to read other video game interviews with key figures from Sony, Microsoft and more? Then check out PC World's complete interview archive.