Earthcore: Building Mobile Games
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by Catalyst
17 hours ago

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Earthcore: Building Mobile Games
12 October, 2015
Interview

Unity 5 is a great engine for creating mobile games. It provides developers with a whole bunch of different tools, that help t build games faster and monetize them in a much more effective manner. We’ve talked with the creators of the new online card game Earthcore: Shattered Elements and discussed the way Unity helped them during the development.

Introduction

Tequila Games is based in Wroclaw, a beautiful city in southern Poland. We’ve started working on mobile games back in the dark ages of feature phones. We used to focus on casual free-to-play games, such as Fantasy Kingdom Defense and the BattleFriends series. Earthcore: Shattered Elements is our first title developed for a more advanced audience and we couldn’t be prouder of it.

Mobile market is constantly changing. One day everybody follows a particular business model and then, out of nowhere, Crossy Road comes out and everything changes. I’m sure there will be many similar game-changers in the near future, completely changing the face of free-to-play mobile gaming. That’s what makes this the perfect time to produce new titles as the market is hungry for innovation.

About Earthcore: Shattered Elements

04_card_crafting

Earthcore is a dynamic collectible card game with unique crafting mechanic, allowing players to create their own cards. The basic gameplay revolves around three elements that influence each other in an intuitive way. Fire cards burn Earth cards, Earth absorbs Water and Water extinguishes Fire.

While the core mechanics are relatively simple, each card has an unique skill which can completely change the situation on the battlefield. The rules are completely original, not based on any existing card game or RPG system

Using Unity


We’ve already had a lot of experience with Unity, having developed no less than four different games using it (not counting Earthcore). We are very comfortable with the engine.

If I were to pick just one of Unity’s many virtues to commend, it would be the swiftness with which we can test and release our games for different platforms. Back in the day, porting was a major headache for us. Today, thanks to Unity, we have the game working on most of Android and iOS devices under the sun, with full cross-platform compatibility to boot.

Building Prototypes

Earthcore_Wall

Earthcore began as a simple rock-paper-scissors game and didn’t turn into a card game until many prototypes later. We kept adding more mechanics to make the experience not only more fun but also deeper. Of course, some things had to be cut out as well. This process allowed us to construct the best possible version of the game. It took time, as each major milestone had to be extensively playtested and we were never quite sure what the feedback will be. That being said, such an approach had a big impact on the quality of the final product and was definitely worth it.

Monetization

Earthcore is mostly supported by sales of limited booster packs. However, since we want the game to be truly free-to-play, those limited boosters differ from regular ones mostly by higher probability for specific cards. Still, all cards can be randomly drawn from any pack, even the least expensive regular one. By choosing to buy limited boosters, players pay for convenience, not advantage.

Earthcore’s most innovative feature, Card Crafting, allows players to add skills to special Hero cards, thus creating their own unique tactics. This process takes time but can be sped up with Diamonds, the game’s premium currency.

Finally, players may purchase exclusive Avatars which serve a purely cosmetic purpose.

In-app Store

Earthcore_Sage

The most important thing while building an in-app store is to make the player understand the in-game value of whatever you’re selling and make sure to clearly explain the difference between different products. Of course, a clean but attractive design of the store is very important. You want your purchasable goods to look inviting – consider adding animation to make them appear even more impressive. But above all of that, just be confident that you are selling things that players have an actual incentive to buy.

Creating VFX

We are working with a number of talented animators with past experience in movies and TV. At the beginning, we are making a number of alternate mockups in Adobe After Effects. Then, once we choose the version that’s both good looking and technically feasible, the animators switch to Unity and recreate the effect in the engine. This part of the process usually requires very little support from the programmers.

Of course, there are many challenges that we have to face on a daily basis, mostly related to memory limitations on mobile devices. However, we are committed to overcoming those restraints and make Earthcore look beautiful regardless of the platform.

The Cross-platform future

Games have never been bigger and the tools for creating them are both accessible and widely available. I am confident that the industry is not going anywhere but forward. If I were to make a prediction for the future, I’d say that as time goes by, more titles will be cross-platform, making one’s choice of games much less dependent on the platform than it is today. I presume that productions of the future will be playable on everything, from mobile phones to smart TVs, and players will be able to switch freely between platforms without losing progress. Some services already work this way, for example Facebook or Netflix. I’m sure the games industry will follow a similar path sooner rather than later.

Radek Smektala, Earthcore: Shattered Elements

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